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A voyage to Mars: Space radiation, aging, and nutrition


On exploratory class missions, such as a voyage to Mars, astronauts will be exposed to doses and types of radiation that are not experienced in low earth orbit where the space shuttle and International Space Station operate. Astronauts who participate in exploratory class missions outside the magnetic field of the earth will be exposed to galactic cosmic rays which are composed of alpha particles, protons and particles of high energy and charge. Exposure to cosmic rays produces changes in neuronal and behavioral functioning which are characteristic of aged organisms. As has been observed with aging, maintaining rats on antioxidant berry diets can prevent/ameliorate the radiation-induced changes in neural and behavioral function. As such, these diets have the potential to provide protection to astronauts from the deleterious effects of exposure to space radiation.