NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
Fundamentals of Aerospace Medicine: Cosmic RadiationCosmic rays were discovered in 1911 by the Austrian physicist, Victor Hess. The planet earth is continuously bathed in high-energy galactic cosmic ionizing radiation (GCR), emanating from outside the solar system, and sporadically exposed to bursts of energetic particles from the sun referred to as solar particle events (SPEs). The main source of GCR is believed to be supernovae (exploding stars), while occasionally a disturbance in the sun's atmosphere (solar flare or coronal mass ejection) leads to a surge of radiation particles with sufficient energy to penetrate the earth's magnetic field and enter the atmosphere. The inhabitants of planet earth gain protection from the effects of cosmic radiation from the earth s magnetic field and the atmosphere, as well as from the sun's magnetic field and solar wind. These protective effects extend to the occupants of aircraft flying within the earth s atmosphere, although the effects can be complex for aircraft flying at high altitudes and high latitudes. Travellers in space do not have the benefit of this protection and are exposed to an ionizing radiation field very different in magnitude and quality from the exposure of individuals flying in commercial airliners. The higher amounts and distinct types of radiation qualities in space lead to a large need for understanding the biological effects of space radiation. It is recognized that although there are many overlaps between the aviation and the space environments, there are large differences in radiation dosimetry, risks and protection for airline crew members, passengers and astronauts. These differences impact the application of radiation protection principles of risk justification, limitation, and the principle of as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA). This chapter accordingly is divided into three major sections, the first dealing with the basic physics and health risks, the second with the commercial airline experience, and the third with the aspects of cosmic radiation appertaining to space travel including future considerations.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Johnson Space Center
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Bagshaw, Michael
(Kings Coll. London, United Kingdom)
Cucionotta, Francis A.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
August 23, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2007
Subject Category
Aerospace Medicine
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
No Preview Available