This could certainly be useful in martian and lunar settlements, and perhaps moreso on the way to and from them – Researchers successfully treat previously lethal doses of radiation:
“The fact that this treatment can be administered up to a day after radiation exposure is so important,” said Millie Donlon, DARPA’s program manager for this effort. “This is because most of the existing treatments we have require they be administered within hours of exposure to potentially lethal radiation – something that might not always be possible in the confusion that would likely follow such an exposure event.”
The treatment – a combination of two readily-available and stockpileable pharmaceuticals – increases in mice the survival rate from a normally lethal dose to 80%, and there are indications it could be even more effective in humans. Note that it appears to treat only the immediate effects (“radiation sickness”) and there’s no mention of whether it reduces rates of long-term medical problems stemming from the exposure, such as cancers. Of course, one mustn’t be too greedy — I’m sure someone exposed to a lethal dose of radiation would consider the potential for cancer later in life an okay tradeoff to not dying a rapid and horrible death.
What might come of this discovery, if it does work as indicated?
- Long-term space activities outside LEO (including transportation to and from deep space destinations) might be perceived as less risky if solar flares or other high-exposure events are less of a problem;
- Spacecraft, stations, and surface facilities could be made simpler and lighter – if it’s accurate to consider this treatment as effectively raising the lethal dose (and again ignoring the long-term consequences in favor of short-term survival), structural countermeasures for extreme events don’t need to block quite as much radiation, and lighter or larger “storm cellars” become possible;
- Nuclear power accidents become less hysteria-inducing (but then so might nuclear weapons use – c.f. Michael F. Flynn’s The Washer at the Ford)
Apparently, Resveratrol also has some anti-rad properties.