How Miniature Radiation Detectors Will Keep Astronauts Safe in Deep Space

There’s no doubt that space travel is a risky business. Even in low Earth orbit, today’s astronauts face potential mechanical failure and the mental strain of isolation. However, the future of space exploration lies beyond Earth’s protective magnetosphere, where an even bigger threat lurks in the form of heavy ion radiation. In just one day of interstellar space travel, for example, an astronaut will face radiation levels equal to a year’s worth of incidental radiation on Earth. This radiation can cause DNA to mutate and cells to die. To battle this invisible threat, NASA and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) awarded $11 million to seven United States’ universities this winter for the development of nano-scale biomedical technologies that detect, diagnose and battle radiation exposure, cancer, and other diseases at the cellular level.