Broadcast 3409 Dr. Christopher Morrison and Dr. Marcelo Vasquez

The Space Foundation Conference

10 Nov 2019 Dr. Christopher Morrison, Dr. Marcelo Vazquez
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Guests:  Dr. Christopher (Chris) Morrison, Dr. Marcelo Vasquez:  Topics:  Space radiation & human spaceflight, medical radiation experiments for human spaceflight, alternative experiment ideas for better data collection.

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We welcomed both Dr. Chris Morrison and Dr. Marcelo Vasquez to the program for a two hour comprehensive discussion on space radiation and human spaceflight and radiation medical experiments used for human spaceflight simulation.  We started the program with an introduction to the subject by Dr. Morrison which covered the basics of space radiation, human spaceflight radiation risks, the medical experimentation models used for simulating human spaceflight radiation impact using rodent models and more.  After Chris provided us with a lengthy and comprehensive overview of the issues and concerns, Dr. Vasquez addressed the issues from a different perspective since he is an MD and sees the issues as part of biology, not just physics or science.  In fact, Chris and Marcelo had a most interesting discussion about how radiation is perceived and dealt with as Marcelo said throughout the program that you cannot just look at radiation effects on the body alone. He said it was a component of many adverse consequences and attacks to the body, including mental, microgravity, vision, central nervous systems disorders, and other problems experience by those embracing long duration spaceflight.  He said the effects of radiation needed to be see in the context of the complex biological systems of the human body.  This discussion then led to both Chris and Marcelo talking about the various models used for research and the pros and cons of these methods.  Pay particular attention to the math model, the physics model and some of the other research models used by radiation researchers.  Part of this discussion focused on DNA changes resulting from all of the human spaceflight issues including not just radiation but a comprehensive view, not just as a standalone look at radiation as the sole problem.

We had several emails and callers throughout the two hour program.  Listeners had questions and suggestions for both guests they freely offered ideas for countermeasure research activities.  We also talked about cancer risks and then later in the show, I asked about the possibility of taking cancer treating equipment to Mars to treat Martian "residents" for cancers they may develop right there on Mars.  Note what Marcelo had to say in response to my question.  Hint:  What will cancer treatment and equipment look like in 20-30 years and what actually would be needed to treat cancer for a patient living on Mars. 

Throughout the discussion another often discussed topic was that of Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR).  We discussed their frequency, how they work, the effect on the body and how to protect against them.  We compared the GCR environment for the Moon and then for Mars plus inside the spaceship during transportation.  Solar events were discussed, including very large and dangerous coronal mass ejections (CME).  Our guests talked about the risks and potential damage of a Carrington like event happening as opposed to a more traditional CME event.  Our guests talked about solar event warning times on the Moon and Mars, getting to shelter and what may comprise a shelter if you are away from your home underground base. Listeners offered ideas as to mobile shelters.  Let us know what you think.  Yes, let us know by posting on our blog.

Another important and overriding theme of the discussion was that more research was needed but it needed to be more effective, more efficient and not based on the current research models which don't typically evenly represent the space environment.  For example, we talked about doing research on an accelerator such as Brookhaven and why it would be next to impossible to tie it up for say a typical Mars transit mission lasting 6-9 months.  At this point in the discussion, the alternative of using specially outfitted Starships to do extended spacetime rodent research on these issues was talked about.  Also the idea of using specially constructed payloads for such research.  Listen to the cost assumptions and how they compared to terrestrial time costs on an accelerator.  Callers talked about these possible new research method plus the actual possibility that something like this could be done though our guests did not think such ideas has been proposed or worked with the policy makers.  SLS competitive issues were brought up should the government have an interest in doing this type of in space research.  Our guests suggested using a large subject test base plus other controls.  Don't miss these discussions which were scattered throughout the entire discussion.

Robotics and AI were brought up as a way of helping to study and develop radiation countermeasures.  One listener even asked if an advanced human-like robot could be made and studied for simulated radiation risks to humans in spaceflight.  Marcelo said we were not nearly that advanced but don't miss all of what he said in response to this question as it will give you a good idea of our present day TRL for simulating human radiation risks using spaceflight robots. 

Other topics and issues focus on terrestrial accelerator issues and concerns, other solar particle events, private sector research capabilities, and using different types of research animals.  No other animals seemed plausible so it looks like mice are it.  Don't miss what our guests said about using some of the specific animals being asked about.  Political issues were mentioned as they focused on a sort of competition with the government funded SLS and say the Starship as that type of competition might skew funding options.  Toward the end of the program we talked about current day countermeasures such as taking pills or doing something else.  Unfortunately, realistic and effective countermeasures are far from being available or being that effective for space travel types of radiation exposure. 

During our two hour discussion, many other topics, facts, scientific and biologic comments were put forth.  This summary is meant to be a simple representation of today's program but by no means is it meant to be a comprehensive summary of what the three of us talked about during the two hour broadcast.  If this topic is of interest to you, I urge you to listen carefully to the full two hour program.  If you have questions, comments and/or suggestions, please post them on the blog.  I can also put your in touch with both guests.

Please post comments/question on TSS blog for this show.  I will make sure our guests see your posts on our blog. 

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