NASA Space Radiation Laboratory
|Research type||Nuclear physics, material physics and chemistry, environmental and biological research|
|Budget||$34 million USD|
|Location||Upton, New York|
|Campus||21 km2 (5,265 acres)|
|Operating agency||Brookhaven Science Associates, LLC|
The NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL, previously called Booster Applications Facility), is a United States national laboratory and part of the Brookhaven National Laboratory, located in Upton, New York on Long Island. It is dedicated to learn about the possible risks to human beings exposed to cosmic radiation.
Although Brookhaven Lab researchers and their colleagues used beams of heavy ions for radiobiology research at another Brookhaven accelerator from 1995, the NSRL became operational during summer 2003, and over 75 experimenters from some 20 institutions from the U.S. and abroad have taken part on radiobiology research. Jointly managed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the facility employs beams of heavy ions extracted from Brookhaven’s Booster accelerator that are then used to simulate the Cosmic rays found in space. NSRL also features its own beam line dedicated to radiobiology research, as well as specimen-preparation areas.
Since astronauts are spending more time in outer space, they are receiving more exposure to ionizing radiation, a stream of particles that, when passing through a body, has enough energy to cause the atoms and molecules within that substance to become an ion. By directly or indirectly ionizing and thus damaging the components of living cells, including genetic material called DNA, ionizing radiation may cause changes in cells' ability to carry out repair and reproduction. This may lead to mutations, which, in turn, may result in tumors, cancer, genetic defects in offspring, or death.
Although the spacecraft itself somewhat reduces radiation exposure, it does not completely shield astronauts from galactic cosmic rays, which are highly energetic heavy ions, or from solar energetic particles, which primarily are energetic protons. By one NASA estimate, for each year that astronauts spend in deep space, about one-third of their DNA will be hit directly by heavy ions.
NSRL researchers employ the unique Alternating Gradient Synchrotron to irradiate a variety of biological specimens, tissues, and cells, as well as DNA in solution. Other experimenters use industrial materials as samples, studying their suitability for space suits and spacecraft shielding. In increasing knowledge of the effects of cosmic radiation, NSRL studies may expand the understanding of the link between ionizing radiation and aging or neuro-degeneration, as well as cancer. In aiming to limit the damage to healthy tissue by ionization, NSRL research may also lead to improvements in cancer radiation treatments.
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- "New NASA Facility Will Help Protect Space Crews From Radiation". Science Daily. October 15, 2003. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
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- The Health Risks of Extraterrestrial Environments - an encyclopedia managed by 'Space Research Association Division of Space Life Sciences' and NASA encyclopedia.