Broadcast 2960 Dr. Frank Cucinotta

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Guest:  Dr. Francis (Frank) Cucinotta;  Topics: Radiation and cancer risk for humans to Mars, the Moon, plus possible mitigation strategies.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding specific Space Show programs & guest(s) to the Space Show blog which is part of archived program on our website,  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See   

We welcomed Dr. Frank Cucinotta back to the show to discuss his recently reviewed and published paper, " Non-Targeted Effects Models Predict Significantly Higher Mars Mission Cancer Risk than Targeted Effects Models."  You can download and read the paper at  During the first segment of our 1 hour 46 minute one segment program, Dr. Cucinotta first introduced us to his paper, the Federal Codes of Regulation regarding radiation exposure for humans and then he discussed mortality rates.  He included a discussion about radiation issues on the ISS.  Be sure to listen to this early mini-discussion, especially the stats pertaining to risk and mortality rates.

Our guest provided galactic cosmic ray (GCR) information and levels, talked about heavy ions, and problems with the data.  He mentioned age related issues.  The older one is, the less risk but the big change comes past 80 years of age. I asked him about those talking about children, having kids, all on a space settlement.  Our guest shared the statistical information with us for the damage done to kids, babies and especially in-utero for fetus development based on past radiation studies.  Don't miss what he said about the rhetoric for soon to happen space settlement, Mars trips, families in space and more based on one of my sarcastic comments about this rhetoric.  Our guest corrected me and just said folks were ignorant of the facts. 

BJohn from Sweden sent in multiple questions during today's program.  His first question dealt with the experimental approach to getting needed data as compared to just going to Mars to get the data more or less real time.  Don't miss how our guest responded to this question.

Our guest talked about DNA radiation damage, mice as the model issues, and said using mice to study cognitive issues was a greater leap though he said that there were some similarities with humans regarding hippocampus issues.  Again, don't miss what was said about this.  Our guest then talked about DNA damage including single strand breaks, double strand breaks, both of which can self-correct over time through metabolism.  He then mentioned complex breaks resulting from ionized radiation and said that this typically leads to a mis-repair.  This causes serious problems.

Shielding possibilities were a big part of tonight's discussion.  This was a thorough discussion of all types of shielding possibilities, materials, protection from various types of radiation and more.  One take away was that magnetic shielding is not at this time a plausibility. New materials or unobtanium are simply nonexistent.  He said we have known about shielding materials and their properties for a long time.  He took us through the various types of shielding, what they can shield from, how much of this or that material would be needed and he stressed that even a meter thickness of a shielding material represents a large mass and would be costly to lift and take into space.  For sure don't miss what our guest said about shielding materials, development, issues, and capabilities. 

Throughout the program BJohn asked several more questions.  We talked about possible animal experiments in deep space and the use of other animals rather than mice.  Frank told us how difficult it was to use animals for research and said radiation experimentation was a big issue causing PETA to rise up in anger and protests. He told us a PETA story.  He also talked about cost issues with animal experimentation, especially for deep space.

John from Ft. Worth called to talk about solar radiation, GCRs,  and he even suggested that maybe the best approach to all of this would be to focus on curing the cancer and the medical problems rather than trying to mitigate the risk.  Don't miss what Frank said about this strategy.  Ethical issues were address in more detail as well. Our guest then cited an experience from STS 28.

Carl in Tucson asked him about the Dr. Bob Zubrin comments attacking the work of our guest and his paper. If you want to read what Dr. Zubrin said, you can find his commentary here:  Dr. Cucinotta was familiar with the Zubrin commentary and took us through Bob's arguments, refuting them one by one.  He especially focused on the issue of citations for credible experiments plus he showed why he was saying Bob did not understand the dose rate issues.  He had other comments on the Zubrin article so don't miss this discussion.  Let us know what you think by posting on TSS blog.

Dave called to talk about the US Navy and military experience with radiation, nuclear power, and more.  He thought the military and especially the Navy were good models for safely dealing with radiation.  He also pointed out how the military used goggles to protect against cataracts but that on the ISS no such goggle were used.  Our guest addressed what Dave was saying with the military but also said that beta rays were only a small part of radiation issues on the ISS.

Dr. Doug sent in several emails plus later near the end of the show he called us.  I read his three emails and blog posts on air, then he called looking for a more current graph to use in his radiation analysis.  Kim from Mexico called, then we talked about radiation on a lunar hab, including the transportation time to the Moon as compared to Mars.  Don't miss what our guest said about the Moon when compared to Mars.

Another topic we talked about before the end of the show was radiation research with other space agencies.  Several times our guest talked about declines in NASA and US radiation research and funding leading to fewer grants. He said China was becoming the global leader in this area.  Don't miss what he said about this, especially the US decline, the funding reductions and more.  Before the show ended, I asked our guest if it was possible to extrapolate from his research and what he knows about the problem and our TRLs for mitigation a timeline for human Mars mission.  He said maybe 10-15 years but it would depend on how much risk one was willing to accept.  Defining an accurate risk level for people to consider accepting was important and needs to be detailed before anyone signs off on a Mars trip.  Before the show ended, we mentioned cognitive studies with mice.  He again said central nervous systems studies were more of a reach and today not that well defined as were the topics discussed this evening.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this show.  You can reach Dr. Cucinotta through me, his paper, and his faculty page at the University of Nevada Las Vegas website.




Frank's reviewed & published HSF radiation study

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01 Aug 2017 Dr. Francis Cucinotta
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