NASA will fund a dozen new research proposals to better understand and reduce the risks that crews of future moon and Mars missions could face from space radiation. The total potential value of the selected proposals is approximately $14 million.

The health risks of radiation during space travel may include cancer, degenerative tissue damage — including damage to the central nervous system — and acute radiation sickness. The new research may help in the development of effective shielding or biological countermeasures for radiation exposure.

The research is part of NASA’s Space Radiation Program. The goal of the program is to assure astronauts can safely live and work in the space radiation environment, anywhere, anytime. Space radiation is different from forms of radiation encountered on Earth. Radiation in space consists of high-energy protons, heavy ions and secondary byproducts created when the protons and heavy ions pass through spacecraft shielding and human tissue.

Since the data available on human exposure to these radiation types are limited, the risks of exposure are derived from an understanding based on radiation physics and radiation biology. The more research data collected, the more confident NASA can be that astronauts will be protected.

The 12 new research areas were selected by the Space Radiation Program from 82 proposals received in response to a NASA Research Announcement. All of the proposals were peer-reviewed by scientific and technical experts from academia, government, and industry.

The selected principal investigators, their organizations, and their proposal titles are:

  • Edouard Azzam, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, N.J., The Role of Gap-Junction Communication and Oxidative Metabolism in the Biological Effects of Space Radiation
  • Susan Bailey, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo., Telomeric Proteins in the Radiation/DNA Damage Response
  • Richard Britten, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Va., Proteomic Aided Investigation of the Mechanistic Basis For HZE-Induced Cognitive Impairment and the Development of Diagnostic Biomarkers
  • David Chen, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Mechanisms of the Repair of HZE-Induced DNA Double-Strand Breaks in Human Cells
  • Albert Fornace, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mouse Models Approach for Intestinal Tumorigenesis Estimates by Space Radiation
  • Kathryn Held, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Mechanisms for Induction of Bystander Effects by High Energy Particles in Cells and Tissues
  • Fiorenza Ianzini, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, Role of High-LET Radiation-Induced Mitotic Catastrophe in Mutagenesis: Implication for Carcinogenesis
  • Amy Kronenberg, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif., Comparative Analysis of Charged Particle-Induced Autosomal Mutations in Murine Tissues and Cells
  • Bernard Rabin, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, Neurochemical and Behavioral Effects of Exposure to Heavy Particles
  • John Redpath, University of California Irvine, Irvine, Calif., High Energy Proton Dose-Rate and Mixed Field Effects on Neoplastic Transformation in vitro
  • Jerry Shay, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Risk Assessment of Space Radiation-Enhanced Colon Tumorigenesis
  • Betsy Sutherland, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Long Island, N.Y., DNA Damage Clusters in Human Cell Transformation Induced by Single or Multiple Space Radiation Ion Exposures

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