In a chilling statement, Nasa wrote: “Just above you, high-energy particles, called cosmic rays, are zooming in from outer space.
“These speedy particles crash wildly into molecules in the atmosphere, causing a chain reaction of particle decays.
“While we are largely protected from this radiation on the ground, up in the thin atmosphere of the stratosphere, these particles can affect humans and electronics alike.”
To study the effects of these cosmic rays, the space agency sent a giant helium-filled balloon into the stratosphere to measure cosmic radiation coming from the sun and interstellar space.
It found that because of their time spent in Earth’s upper atmosphere, aircrew are exposed to nearly double the radiation levels of us on the ground.
Exposure to cosmic radiation is also a concern for space travel too.
It added: “Learning how to protect humans from radiation exposure is a key step in future space exploration.”
Exposure to highly energetic charged particles – much like those found in the galactic cosmic rays that will bombard astronauts during extended spaceflights – caused significant long-term brain damage in test rodents.
This resulted in cognitive impairments and dementia.
Nasa said: “The results from RaD-X will be used to improve space weather models, like the Nowcast of Atmospheric Ionizing Radiation for Aviation Safety, or NAIRAS, model, which predicts radiation events.
“These predictions are used by commercial pilots to know when and where radiation levels are unsafe, allowing rerouting of aircraft in the affected region when necessary.”
THE SUN. UK