Monday, June 10, 2013

Travelers to Mars face a lifetime of radiation




Hi.  Jonny Nichols, King of Nothing.
Are you like me?  No reason to live?  Consider living on Mars.

That is if NASA can get that pesky issue of radiation solved.

Data from the Curiosity rover shows that the amount of radiation that astronauts would face on Mars is far higher than originally believed.   As stated in the NASA study, occupants of Mars would face twice as much radiation from cosmic rays and solar flares as they would if they received a full-body CT scan once a week for a year.  That's a lotta rads.  Therefore, given the amount of work that astronauts would be required to do on the Martian surface, it wouldn't be long before someone racked up a dangerous level of radiation exposure.  That means considerable damage to human DNA and especially to soft tissues such as (ouch!) reproductive organs.

America's space agency is undaunted, however.  This conundrum merely requires the development of technologies that don't yet exist.  And it's not like we haven't done it before with say...I dunno...the entire Apollo program.   We're talking about things like new radiation shielding and spacesuits that would allow for the crew to undertake the external duties necessary.  Who knows?  Rad-shielded sleeping bags and jammies might be in the offing as well.

I would also venture to guess that any mission to Mars would require protecting much more than the crew itself.  Supplies such as foodstuffs (whether brought with or grown on planet) would likewise require this radiation shielding.  Now mind you, I'm just thinking out loud, but how much energy would it take to generate a magnetic field?  After all, that sort of thing is exactly what keeps us safe from solar radiation on Earth.  Then again, people would still need to construct such a generator device on the exposed surface of Mars, so that brings us right back around to the question of protecting a crew. 

Unless of course automated craft go in first and begin to remote assembly.  Such a method has already been suggested for 3D printers and the Moon.  Would this work here?  I suppose it's about as feasible as any other suggestion right about now.  No way to tell until we play out a few experimental runs a bit closer to home.  We might find something that works.  See?  Now that was rather optimistic for a codger like me.

Me?  I'd like an RV built for Mars...one that is completely radiation shielded, of course.  I can imagine rocking that bitch around Cydonia, finding monuments and laughing back to Earth with a hearty "hahahaha! Told you!"

But not really.


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