The effects of radiation on the cell, the fundamental unit of a biological system, can be compared with its effects on the electronic system equivalent, the integrated circuit. In the terminology of electronics, incident radiation could cause a “single event upset” that might go completely unnoticed but could also trigger an undesirable software response, shut down that component, or devastate the hardware through a short circuit or power surge, depending on the location and activity of the component that was hit. The same is true of ionizing radiation events in the cell. The ionized molecule could be immediately neutralized by a cytoplasmic antioxidant molecule, or it could produce a nuclear DNA point mutation in a non-coding region of the genome. It could trigger a chain reaction of ionization events or a DNA single-strand break (SSB) that might lead to mutation or a double-strand break (DSB) leading to cell death. The uncertainties associated with the effects of ionizing radiation and its risks to human health are still quite high.

This chapter will review how the space environment differs from that on the surface of Earth and review current knowledge of space radiation. Also included are descriptions of the key areas of research needed to reduce the level of uncertainty associated with space travel and strategies to mitigate the inherent risks associated with human exposure to space radiation.


International Space Station Space Flight Linear Energy Transfer Relative Biological Effectiveness Lunar Regolith 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey A. Jones
    • 1
  • Fathi Karouia
    • 2
  1. 1.NASA Johnson Space CenterHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biology and BiochemistryUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA

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