The 12 human beings who have walked on the moon were all bombarded by radiation roughly 200 times what we experience here on Earth, reports Adam Mann for Science. That’s two to three times what astronauts experience aboard the International Space Station, explains Marcia Dunn for the Associated Press (AP), suggesting that any long term human presence on the moon will require shelters with thick walls capable of blocking the radiation.
Despite the fact that the measurements, which come courtesy of China’s Chang’e-4 lunar lander, are quite high compared to what we experience on Earth, the data is quite useful for protecting future moonwalkers. According to Science, the levels of radiation at the lunar surface wouldn’t be expected to increase the risk of NASA astronauts developing cancer by more than 3 percent—a risk threshold the agency is legally required to keep its astronauts’ activities safely below.
“This is an immense achievement in the sense that now we have a data set which we can use to benchmark our radiation” and to assess the risk posed to humans on the moon, Thomas Berger, a physicist with the German Space Agency’s medicine institute, tells the AP.
Some forms of radiation, which is electromagnetic energy emitted in forms like heat, visible light, X-rays and radio waves, can mess with the cells inside the human body by breaking up the atoms and molecules they’re made of. On Earth, most people are familiar with ultraviolet radiation’s harmful effects on our skin, but in space, astronauts are also subjected to galactic cosmic rays, accelerated solar particles, neutrons and gamma rays, according to the research published this week in the journal Science Advances. This material can damage our DNA and lead to increased incidences of cancer or contribute to other health problems such as