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Doses of radiation contracted by cosmonauts aboard spaceships overstated

October 21, 2014, 19:04 UTC+3 MOSCOW
This finding is crucial to the planning of protracted space flights, Dr. Vyacheslav Shurshakov from the Moscow-based Institute of Medical-Biological Problems says
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© EPA/NASA / ALEXANDER GERST/Archive

MOSCOW, October 21. /TASS/. Doses of radiation contracted by cosmonauts during orbital missions are smaller by a factor of several times that it was thought previously, suggest the results of the Matryoshka-R experiment held aboard the International Space Station (ISS) by scientists from different countries, including Russia, since 2004.

“This finding is crucial to the planning of protracted space flights,” Dr. Vyacheslav Shurshakov from the Moscow-based Institute of Medical-Biological Problems, one of the authors of the research, told TASS. "It means in practical terms we can fly longer and go further."

He admitted however that the doses of radiation the cosmonauts were subjected to were still large, and the problem of how to scale them down remained on the agenda.

In the course of the experiment, special mannequins were delivered to the ISS. They were made of polyurethane, which absorbs radiation in practically the same amounts as the human body does.

Ionizing radiation gauges were embedded in them. In the first phase of the experiment, the mannequins were installed on the outer surface of the ISS and placed in a tightly sealed container, the absorption parameters of which were equal to those of an EVA suit. In the next phase, they were placed inside the station. During the experiment the scientists measured the dose of radiation, which “affects critical bodily organs," Dr. Shurshakov said.

Co-authors of the research — researchers from Poland, Sweden, Germany, and Austria — recomputed the data then with the aid of Nundo computer model and received precise estimate of the radiation dose for each bodily organ.

The computations showed that the actual impact of radiation on critically important bodily organs was significantly smaller than shown by ordinary radiation warning devices.

“During a spacewalk, the real dose will be 15% smaller and inside the station it will be 100% smaller than the reading shown by the individual radiation damage monitors the cosmonauts have in the pockets of their spacesuits,” Dr. Shurshakov said.

Along with this, he said the data showed once again that the radiation dose the travelers to the Mars might contract was still overly high and it created a risk of cancer. In the wake of it, the experts will still have to look for ways of cutting it down or reducing the time of flight from the Earth to the Mars.

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