Is There Cancer on Mars?





Giovanni Parmigiani (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health)
Freshman Seminar 52J     4 credits (spring term)       Enrollment:  Limited to 12

In 2021, a special committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) convened to “review and assess NASA's processes for long-term risk assessment and management for currently anticipated crewed missions with respect to cancer due to exposure to space radiation”.  This is timely for two reasons: first, NASA is studying a manned mission to planet Mars; second, several initiatives are competing to launch civilian space travel, for which NASA’s standards may be relevant guidelines.

This seminar will mimic, using the committee’s report and the extensive public documents available, the task of the NASEM committee. Students will review relevant evidence and then debate controversial topics including how to convert scientific evidence into risk management strategies, approaches for managing and communicating knowledge gaps, and equity issues related to potential sex differences in the effects of radiation.

Each student will 1) individually, contribute one review including an oral presentation, and a one-page executive summary that will serve as a reference for the class’ subsequent work; 2) in pairs, prepare and lead a debate session and write a brief two-page report summarizing the points raised.

See also: Spring 2023