Radiation Aging - The Deadly Years In Space
NASA recently released an article on the effects of radiation during far journeys in space. This problem does not really arise for astronauts in close orbit around the Earth, due to the protection offered by Earth's strong magnetic field.
Cosmic rays can damage an astronaut's telomeres - tiny molecular strands that cap the ends of DNA. Telomeres shorten each time a cell divides. Eventually, the telomeres are too short, and the cell cannot successfully divide - a state called "replicative senescence." The loss of telomeres is thus associated with aging; they also appear to be a natural defence against out-of-control cell growth, as occurs in cancer.
(Telomeres cap the ends of human chomosomes)
One theory of aging holds that the lack of new, whole cells causes the usual signs of aging; wrinkled skin, weakened immune system and so forth. If, as is planned, manned ships are sent to Mars, this problem will need to be solved.
(Dr. McCoy - a really old country doctor)
It turns out that science fiction writers have been thinking about this problem. In the The Deadly Years, an episode that aired on 08-Dec-1967, the Enterprise is sent to investigate a problem on the experimental colony Gamma Hydra 4. Mysteriously, virtually all of the colonists have died prematurely - of highly accelerated aging. The only real anomaly that Spock can find is that the planet recently passed through the tail of a unique comet, which showers the planet with low energy radiation. Not surprisingly, Spock and McCoy find an antidote before the end of the episode - adrenalin.
Few of Dr. McCoy's "medical miracles" have been adopted by NASA (go figure!). However, Richard Wilkins, director of NASA's Center for Applied Radiation Research at Prairie View A & M University in Texas has conducted a study into liquid shield approaches. As he puts it
"In most [mission] scenarios, you need liquid hydrogen for fuel and you need water. And these are all considered materials that are particularly good for cosmic ray shielding."
Using fuel or water as shielding from radiation was originally suggested by science fiction writer John W. Campbell in 1936 (read more about NASA's New Radiation Shielding First Proposed By John W. Campbell).
Read what NASA says about radiation and aging; Trek fans will enjoy a blast from the past in Eric's excruciatingly detailed plot summary for The Deadly Years. Thanks to Winchell Chung for the tip and the sf reference.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/23/2006)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 4 )
Related News Stories -
You'll Regrow That Limb, One Day
'... forcing the energy transfer which allowed him to regrow his lost fingers.' - Frank Herbert, 1972.
First 3D Printed Human Corneas From Stem Cells
Just what we need! Lots of spare parts.
Nanorobots Roam Your Bloodstream, Cleaning It
Too bad they won't have lasers, though...
MIT Ampli Blocks Build Biomedical Devices
Damn it Spock, I'm a doctor not an engineer!
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
LA Subway Scanner, As Seen In 'Total Recall'
'I'm afraid to tell you this Mr. Quaid, but you have suffered a schizoed embolism...'
Sion Electric Car Covered With Solar Panels
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'
PAL-V Liberty Flying Helicopter Car
'...lifted themselves to skimming flight upon whirling helicopters."
Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
'Twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space.'
DIY Autonomous Robot Detects Trash
'The search-bug detached itself and rolled forward.'
Ancient Russian Walking Excavator Would Be Perfect RV
I don't need it to go fast, it just needs to amble along.
ELROI Satellite 'License Plate'
Robert Heinlein was thinking about this in 1941.
When Robots Beg For Their Lives
"Just what do you think you're doing... Dave.'
Do You Still Want A Folding Screen Phone?
'A paper thin polycarbon screen unfurled...'
'Snapchat Dysmorphia' Now A Thing, Say Plastic Surgeons
'The program raced up the screen one scan line at a time, subtly smoothing, deleting and coloring.'
Quiet Electric Cars Law Finalized By US Transportation Department
'... a sound tape to supply the noise'
Drone Assassin Fails To Kill Venezuelan President
'The spotter descends, and we think it searches the vicinity, looking for the victim's face...'
Stick-On Tape Speakers, As Predicted By Bruce Sterling
Flexible tape speakers, someday.
Bezos Invites You To New Life In Off-World Colonies
'A new life awaits you!'
Amazon's Rekognition System Sees Criminals In Congress
'... the imprint of her image on the telephoto cell.'
Build Your Own Space Suit For Cheap
'I'm going to pump the air from this room... so that the interior will be like airless and pressure-less space.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories