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Ensemble Methodologies for Astronaut Cancer Risk Assessment in the face of Large UncertaintiesA new approach to NASA space radiation risk modeling has successfully extended the current NASA probabilistic cancer risk model to an ensemble framework able to consider sub-model parameter uncertainty (e.g. uncertainty in a radiation quality parameter) as well as model-form uncertainty associated with differing theoretical or empirical formalisms (e.g. combined dose-rate and radiation quality effects). Ensemble methodologies are already widely used in weather prediction, modeling of infectious disease outbreaks, and certain terrestrial radiation protection applications to better understand how uncertainty may influence risk decision-making. Applying ensemble methodologies to space radiation risk projections offers the potential to efficiently incorporate emerging research results, allow for the incorporation of future (including international) models, improve uncertainty quantification for underlying sub-models developed against sparse experimental data, and reduce the impact of subjective bias on risk projections. Moreover, risk forecasting across an ensemble of multiple predictive models can provide stakeholders additional information on risk acceptance if current health/medical standards cannot be met or the level of knowledge doesn’t permit a specific risk or exposure limit to be developed for future space exploration missions. In this work, ensemble risk projections implementing multiple sub-models of radiation quality, dose and dose-rate effectiveness factors, excess risk, and latency as ensemble members are presented. Initial consensus methods for ensemble model weights and correlations to account for individual model bias are discussed. In these analyses, the ensemble forecast compares well to results from NASA's current operational cancer risk projection model used to assess permissible exposure limits and permissible mission durations for astronauts. However, a large range of projected risk values are obtained at the upper 95th confidence level where models must extrapolate beyond available biological data sets; closer agreement is seen at the median + one sigma due to the inherent similarities in available models. Future work, including the addition of new models and methods for statistical correlation between predictive members are discussed to define alternate ways of thinking about risk and ‘acceptable’ uncertainty with respect to NASA’s current permissible exposure limits.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Langley Research Center
Document Type
Technical Publication (TP)
Lisa C. Simonsen
(Langley Research Center Hampton, Virginia, United States)
Tony C. Slaba
(Langley Research Center Hampton, Virginia, United States)
Date Acquired
October 14, 2020
Publication Date
October 1, 2020
Publication Information
Subject Category
Aerospace Medicine
Funding Number(s)
WBS: 651549
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
Technical Review
NASA Peer Committee
space radiation
permissible exposure limits
NASA cancer risk model
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