Quantification of the Impact of Space Radiation on the Human Brain in Preparation of a Human Exploration of Mars

Understanding the unique space environment and its biological effects is crucial for investigating the impact of space travel on astronauts, particularly as they venture beyond the low Earth orbit to destinations like the Moon and Mars. The work presented in this thesis is an effort to model, understand, and mitigate the potential risks of radiation that astronauts may be exposed to during a mission to outer space.
Our study begins by exploring the effects of deep-space radiation on various regions of the human brain and assessing shielding thicknesses to mitigate these impacts. We focus on Galactic Cosmic Rays and Solar Energetic Particles as the two main sources of high-energy radiation in deep space, which can pose significant health risks to astronauts. We provide dose deposit functions for particles such as protons, helium ions, heavier ions, and neutrons, assessing their effects on the human head.

Upon reaching the Martian surface, the radiation environment differs from deep space, making it crucial to understand it for astronauts' safety. Thus, we conducted GEANT4 simulations to understand radiation's directionality on the surface of Mars. The results show that the downward radiation dose on the Martian surface exhibits a weak dependence on the zenith angle θ. We calculated surface dose rates under various solar modulation potentials (Φ), revealing that weaker modulation potential results in higher dose rates. We validated our findings by comparing them with measurements from the Radiation Assessment Detector on the Curiosity rover and found a reasonable agreement between both. These findings are important for planning future human exploration of Mars, as they assist in estimating radiation shielding effectiveness with different regolith geometries and optimizing shielding designs for Martian habitats.


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