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Building 134
P.O. Box 5000
Upton, NY 11973-5000
phone 631 344-2345
fax 631 344-3368

managed for the U.S. Department of Energy
by Brookhaven Science Associates, a company
founded by Stony Brook University and Battelle

News Release

Number: 03-74
Released: October 14, 2003
Contact: Pete Genzer, 631 344-3174 or  Mona S. Rowe, 631 344-5056

Note: Archived video of the NSRL dedication is available here in RealPlayer format.

NASA and DOE Dedicate New NASA Facility at Brookhaven Lab

UPTON, NY - National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Chief of Staff John Schumacher and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science Director Raymond Orbach joined Brookhaven National Laboratory Director Praveen Chaudhari and invited guests today in a ceremony to mark the opening of the new NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at Brookhaven.

“The NASA Space Radiation Laboratory Facility will play a key role in our ability to expand our human exploration horizons throughout the solar system, as the second century of flight unfolds,” said NASA Chief of Staff Schumacher.

“A strong partnership between NASA and DOE’s Office of Science made possible the construction of this cutting-edge facility,” said Office of Science Director Orbach. “We look forward to years of productive and collaborative science here.”

The $34-million facility, jointly managed during a four-year construction project by the DOE’s Office of Science and NASA’s Johnson Space Center, is one of the few places in the world that can simulate the harsh cosmic and solar radiation environment found in space. The new facility employs beams of heavy ions extracted from Brookhaven’s Booster accelerator, the best in the United States for radiobiology studies. The NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL) features its own beam line dedicated to radiobiology research, as well as state-of-the-art specimen-preparation areas.

Scientists from NASA, from national laboratories and institutes in the U.S. and Europe, and from universities in the U.S., Europe, and Japan will use NSRL.

“Brookhaven welcomes national and international users to this unique facility, where scientists will have one of the best tools in the world to gain a better understanding of how to protect space travelers who venture beyond the protection of the Earth's atmosphere and geomagnetic field, shielded only by their spacecraft and spacesuits,” said Brookhaven Lab Director Chaudhari.

Earth-based Research on Space-radiation Risks

Since astronauts are spending more time in space, they are receiving more exposure to ionizing radiation, a stream of particles that, when passing through a body, has enough energy to damage the components of living cells, including DNA. Ionizing radiation may cause changes in cells’ ability to carry out repair and reproduction. This may lead to mutations, which, in turn, may result in tumors, cancer, genetic defects in offspring, or death.

Although the spacecraft itself somewhat reduces radiation exposure, it does not completely shield astronauts from galactic cosmic rays, which are highly energetic heavy ions, or from solar particles, which are primarily energetic protons. By one NASA estimate, for each year that astronauts spend in deep space, about one-third of their DNA will be hit directly by heavy ions.

Within the NSRL target room, Brookhaven researchers and other NASA-sponsored scientists irradiate a variety of biological specimens, tissues, and cells, as well as DNA in solution. Other experimenters use industrial materials as samples, studying their suitability for spacesuits and spacecraft shielding.

In increasing knowledge of the effects of cosmic radiation, NSRL studies may expand the understanding of the link between ionizing radiation and aging or neuro-degeneration, as well as cancer. In aiming to limit the damage to healthy tissue by ionization, NSRL research may also lead to improvements in cancer radiation treatments.

Related Links:
> Full background information on the NSRL, including hi-resolution photos.
> NASA press release on this event