ISS spacemen: Are they safe from the dementia-like effects of the galactic cosmic rays

Is deep space off limits to man? Humans haven’t really been testing their limits, except for the short trips circumnavigating the Earth, walking on the moon, and staying on the International Space Station.

Hey, wait a minute, what about the last one? Is staying in the ISS for longer than 6 months safe for the astronauts? Will the ISS be able to protect the astronauts on their extended stay there?

What has been discussed so far is all relatively safer compared to Mars and the dangers posed by cosmic rays on the astronauts and other travelers.

“There is now cause for concern that cosmic rays can lead to cognitive deficiencies, and this effect is likely to occur in humans as well as rodents,” study co-author Charles Limoli, a radiation biologist and neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine, told

As NASA is preparing for the first manned spaceflight to Mars in twenty years or so, scientists are now apprehensive because of the possible effects cosmic rays might have on the brain tissues of astronauts as they are exposed to galactic radiation for a couple of years, the length of time of time it’ll take to travel from Earth to Mars. “NASA wants to make sure that astronaut minds are up to performing at the best of their capabilities,” Limoli said.


The more developed brain of human adults are highly resistant to radiations compared to other body parts such as our intestines and bone marrow, Limoli said. The reason for this is that brain cells are no longer differentiating, mostly. But it’s different with the bone marrows and the gut since they never stop dividing and developing. The danger here would be that some form of genetic abnormalities may occur.

Most research done on the side effects of deep space travel were done using X-rays and Gamma rays, which are forms of high energy lights. What has not been done yet is an actual test on galactic cosmic rays, products of exploding stars called supernovas.

Now, the answer to my question concerning the astronauts inside the ISS. They are safe. The ISS is still within the Erath’s atmosphere and under the protection of magnetosphere which is responsible in stopping cosmic rays from coming to us.

“Galactic cosmic rays don’t reach the surface of the Earth because the planet’s magnetosphere protects us,” Limoli said. “It’s one reason why we have life on Earth.”

Experiments were done at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York involving mice. Beams were used which are similar to galactic cosmic rays with oxygen and titanium ion components and sped up to two thirds of the normal speed.

The rats suffered cognitive deprivation and there was massive change in the structure of their brains particularly in the neuron’s synapse. It’s here where messages are received.




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