Leading space biologists and medical specialists from Russia, the US, Canada and other countries are working on a strategy aimed at mitigating the risks of radiation exposure during deep space exploration, according to a study published earlier this month in the journal Oncotarget.
Using the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) aboard the Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity rover, scientists made detailed measurements of the absorbed dose and dose equivalent from cosmic rays and solar energetic particles on the surface of the Red Planet. They found that a mission consisting of a 180-day cruise to Mars, a 500-day stay on Mars and a 180-day return flight to Earth would expose astronauts to a cumulative radiation dose of about 1.01 sieverts.
NASA sets a limit on the amount of radiation an astronaut can be exposed to during their career.
"Obviously, longer missions would not be acceptable for human in terms of cancer risk under current radioprotection guidelines," the study said.
According to Alexander Zhavoronkov, a professor at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, what hinders the work is that the scientific community lacks a unified research strategy that would help combine efforts and jointly find a solution to "making humanity a multi-planetary species, as Elon Musk put it in the journal New Space in 2016.
"In this article we offer a methodology of reaching a stronger radioresistance," Zhavoronkov said, according to RIA Novosti, "While working on the strategy, we brought together leading scientists from Russia, NASA, The European Space Agency, the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada and more than 25 other institutions globally."
Other methods suggested in the paper include prescribing astronauts drugs, such as amifostine, that protect against and treat radiation toxicity or using regenerative medicine to eliminate and substitute radiation-damaged cells.