, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 325-329
Date: 23 Apr 2010

Accepting space radiation risks

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The human exploration of space inevitably involves exposure to radiation. Associated with this exposure are multiple risks, i.e., probabilities that certain aspects of an astronaut’s health or performance will be degraded. The management of these risks requires that such probabilities be accurately predicted, that the actual exposures be verified, and that comprehensive records be maintained. Implicit in these actions is the fact that, at some point, a decision has been made to accept a certain level of risk. This paper examines ethical and practical considerations involved in arriving at a determination that risks are acceptable, roles that the parties involved may play, and obligations arising out of reliance on the informed consent paradigm seen as the basis for ethical radiation risk acceptance in space.

W. Schimmerling is retired from NASA/USRA.
This manuscript is based on a contribution given at the “Heavy Ions in Therapy and Space Symposium 2009”, 6–10 July 2009, Cologne (Germany). Some of the material presented here has been posted on a NASA web site providing introductory material on space radiation research (https://three.usra.edu/index.php/THREE).