Space Radiation Protection Countermeasures in Microgravity and Planetary Exploration Academic Article uri icon

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  • Background: Space radiation is one of the principal environmental factors limiting the human tolerance for space travel, and therefore a primary risk in need of mitigation strategies to enable crewed exploration of the solar system. Methods: We summarize the current state of knowledge regarding potential means to reduce the biological effects of space radiation. New countermeasure strategies for exploration-class missions are proposed, based on recent advances in nutrition, pharmacologic, and immune science. Results: Radiation protection can be categorized into (1) exposure-limiting: shielding and mission duration; (2) countermeasures: radioprotectors, radiomodulators, radiomitigators, and immune-modulation, and; (3) treatment and supportive care for the effects of radiation. Vehicle and mission design can augment the overall exposure. Testing in terrestrial laboratories and earth-based exposure facilities, as well as on the International Space Station (ISS), has demonstrated that dietary and pharmacologic countermeasures can be safe and effective. Immune system modulators are less robustly tested but show promise. Therapies for radiation prodromal syndrome may include pharmacologic agents; and autologous marrow for acute radiation syndrome (ARS). Conclusions: Current radiation protection technology is not yet optimized, but nevertheless offers substantial protection to crews based on Lunar or Mars design reference missions. With additional research and human testing, the space radiation risk can be further mitigated to allow for long-duration exploration of the solar system.


  • Montesinos, Carlos A
  • Khalid, Radina
  • Cristea, Octav
  • Greenberger, Joel S
  • Epperly, Michael W
  • Lemon, Jennifer A
  • Boreham, Douglas Robert
  • Popov, Dmitri
  • Gorthi, Gitika
  • Ramkumar, Nandita
  • Jones, Jeffrey A

publication date

  • August 14, 2021

published in