Guest: Dr. Michael Weil; Topics: Cancer, space radiation, radiation rates, mitigation, research directions and more.
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We welcomed Dr. Michael Weil to the show to discuss space radiation, GCRs and his new paper "Genomic mapping in outbred mice reveals overlap in genetic susceptibility for HZE ion-and y-ray-induced tumors" plus much more on the space radiation subject. Please be sure to open and follow along with the PPT on our blog Dr. Weil prepared for this discussion. There is a link to his paper referenced above on TSS blog for this program. Our program consisted of a one segment 95 minute in-depth technical discussion regarding many of the fundamental radiation, cancer, tumor and spaceflight issues faced by astronauts on a mission to Mars.
We started our program with a discussion of risk, acceptable risk and confidence intervals with a focus on the mission duration times for Mars human space flight. Our guest took us through the regulatory issues, permissible radiation doses, the 3% cancer rate and what that actually meant. We talked more about the 3% rate later in the program.
Our first caller was Robert from Houston. He wanted to talk about possible mission radiation solutions other than biological solutions. This led to a discussion about experimental bias, GCRs , post flight mission surveillance and related issues. We spent most of the first segment on these and other technical radiation issues and measurements, plus we addressed the standards used by other national space agencies.
Our guest prepared a Power Point slide presentation for our program and here he brought up slide #8. As mentioned above, I urge you to open up the PPT because we referred to it quite a bit during our program. Mike talked about slide #8 a lot, a slide that focused on career dose rates used by the different space agencies. Note the omission of China. Marshall gave us a call and brought up slide #7 which focused on different kinds of cancer through the use of a Table A3. Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR) came up so listen to what he said on the subject when referring to slide #1, Radiation Monitoring on Apollo XI. At this point, our guest talked about the Neil Armstrong ankle research which was represented on slide 1 which he explained in detail.
Mars was talked about in terms of a three year mission. At one point earlier in the program, he said to learn more about radiation BLEO, the Moon was good for that research He said no need to go to Mars to do that. Listen to his pro lunar argument. As for Mars, he said the surface dosage of radiation would be about half the deep space dosage for the flight due to the small amount of CO2 and a thin Martian atmosphere that offers some radiation protection.
Another topic focused on cells repairing radiation damage. Much was said on this topic, along with a discussion of some mitigation factors plus a question or two about older people and radiation. You don't want to miss any of this discussion. Ft. Worth John was our next caller. John wanted to talk about heavy ions and cell damage. This led to talking about shielding including the reality that too much of a certain kind of shielding can be more damaging than less shielding due to fragmentation. Don't miss this discussion explanation.
Several email questions were presented to our guest. Sharon wanted to know if a terrestrial cancer was the same as a space radiation induced cancer and if they would be treated the same with the same results. This brought up dogs getting cancer and vet pathology which he said was very common in the cancer and radiation study fields and in relationship to space radiation. Once again, don't miss this information. This led us to talking about mice used in the experiments plus other animals. Listen to what he said about using animals, controlling a space experiment with mice as compared to other animals . Mike was asked if there were robots or robotic experiments that could simulate human radiation issues in space. Listen to what our guest said about this. Hint: the robots have their own separate radiation issues.
Our guest introduced us to a new type of research referred to biometric tissues on a chip or Argon on a chip. Dr. Weil then spent time describing humanizing a mouse for experimentation. Check out this short discussion on humanizing mice for cancer and other radiation research: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanized_mouse.
As we were nearing the end of our discussion, Mars came up again with a focus on the major issue being the mission time and GCRs during spaceflight. We also talked about a surface space settlement and free space settlement radiation issues. Dr. Weil had lots to say about space and free space settlements, timelines, permanent inhabitants as compared to astronauts rotating in and out for specific time periods. In the end, he did not think permanent settlement was in our near future.
Near the program end, Judy sent in a note asking about overlapping issues with different human factors. As an example, Judy asked about microgravity problems enhancing radiation problems or similar types of concerns. Once again our guest had much to say based on Judy's question. I then asked about on the job radiation experiments, that is doing experiments during a real mission. Listen to what he said about that. He then offered an example of a proposal to do something like that but as you will hear, the proposal went nowhere. Toward the end, our guest went into more detail about the 3% rate by telling us the origins for the number. This was very interesting so don't miss it. I'm sure you will be as surprised by the origin story as I was. Before we ended, I asked if volunteers could override the regulations on dose limits and such. He said no but we had a short discussion about it. What do you think about being above to volunteer and override regulations. Post your thoughts on this on our blog.
Please post comments/questions on our blog for this show. You can reach Dr. Michael Weil through The Space Show or his faculty page at Colorado State University.