Related to this question: Could the void of space act as a good refrigerator for food in long journeys?

I don't have enough rep to comment and don't have the answer to this question but it feels to me that food that's been exposed to cosmic rays should be risky to consume.

  • $\begingroup$ Are there any concerns you have that aren't addressed on the corresponding Wikipedia article? $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 18 '18 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the info. If that's ok for you can you comment this in the other thread also? So the reason why the other question didn't mention radiation is because the food is safe to eat. $\endgroup$ – TheNaturalTanuki Dec 18 '18 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage: Since cosmic rays are high-energy nuclei, not gamma rays, electrons, or x-rays, and since their energy range is not as well-constrained, yes, there certainly are significant differences. Food irradiation can't produce new radioisotopes, but cosmic rays can. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Tuggy Dec 18 '18 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ @NathanTuggy Good point. I neglected the difference. I'm not sure there's a good answer to this yet: popsci.com/how-will-we-eat-on-mars#page-2. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 18 '18 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ The main risk is the exposure of a living human body to cosmic rays. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Dec 19 '18 at 14:31

In theory cosmic rays are more than capable of producing harmful by-products after colliding with food.

They are high energy and on impact can cause all sorts of exotic (and unhealthy) of of matter. These are called "cosmogenic nuclides" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmogenic_nuclide and include some pretty nasty things.

However its worth noting cosmic rays are relatively rare. We constantly ingesting these cosmogenic nuclides on earth. I doubt there would be a significant effect on food left in space.


This is not a definite answer as cosmic rays are different from irradiation but here is an element of response.

Food irradiation - Wikipedia

... all independent research, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have confirmed irradiation to be safe.

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    $\begingroup$ Nathan pointed out in the comments that more needs to be addressed than just the safety of food irradiated with the conventional means--cosmic rays are different. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 18 '18 at 21:34
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure how to proceed then. $\endgroup$ – TheNaturalTanuki Dec 20 '18 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ For now, I feel like your edit is good. As I mentioned in response to Nathan, I'm not sure there's a definite answer on this one yet. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 20 '18 at 14:59
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    $\begingroup$ Irradiation with x-ray or gamma will not induce radioactivity. However, cosmic rays are particles, they are quite capable of inducing a bit of radioactivity. I seriously doubt it would be an issue, though--the crew would take far more direct damage than damage from induced radioactivity. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Aug 22 '19 at 4:23

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