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Mars Explorers Face Huge Radiation Problem

timothy posted about a year ago | from the and-not-one-zagat-rated-restaurant dept.

Mars 283

astroengine writes "A radiation sensor inside NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows that even under the best-case scenario and behind shielding currently being designed for NASA's new deep-space capsule, future travelers will face a huge amount of radiation. The results, based on Curiosity's 253-day, 348-million-mile cruise to Mars, indicate an astronaut most likely would exceed the current U.S. lifetime radiation exposure limit during one round trip mission. "Even for the shortest of missions we are perilously close to the radiation career and health limits that we've established for our astronauts," NASA's chief medical officer Richard Williams told a National Academy of Sciences' medical committee on Thursday."

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283 comments

Okay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43864895)

That's nice. How about on-planet? If you're talking about a one-way trip, you've cut that exposure in half, so what's the exposure rate on the ground? Is it habitable, given a reasonable amount of shielding, or is it a pipe dream without some type of yet-to-be-invented magnetic shielding?

Re:Okay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865069)

Apparently, the radiation levels on the surface of Mars are roughly the same as low-Earth orbit. Definitely feasible, but you've still got to get past deep space, where you're trying to do in the space of a few meters what the Earth does with miles of atmosphere and a huge magnetic field. I'm honestly impressed that their designed shielding keeps radiation so (relatively) low.

Re:Okay (4, Informative)

Baloroth (2370816) | about a year ago | (#43865095)

Best source I can find is this [space.com] article, which lists the surface radiation as around .7 millisieverts a day, or around the same as low Earth Orbit (Mars atmosphere is extremely thin, so it doesn't give as much protection as Earth's does from cosmic rays). This is vastly more than people are exposed to on Earth, and could definitely pose long-term health risks for a colony or other one-way mission.

Re:Okay (2)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43865227)

Agreed, I wonder if there's something that can be done about the atmosphere itself. If not, this may all be for naught, as its not easily habitable if massive amounts of shielding are required to form even a basic settlement.

Re:Okay (5, Funny)

JWSmythe (446288) | about a year ago | (#43865975)

    Ya, there's something that can be done. The government is being very hush-hush about it. Until now, only those "in the know" have been told.

    Just under the surface of Mars is a vast quantity of water ice.

    In the Cydonia region of mars, there is an ancient pyramid. Deep within the pyramid is an alien device which will turn the water ice into a Earth-like breathable atmosphere.

    There is a catch though. There are agents already on-planet who will stop at nothing to keep you from activating the machine.

    It would take a madman to even consider it. More specifically, a madman who's mind has already been scrambled by a dramatically failed lobotomy. That man may be you.

Re:Okay (5, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year ago | (#43865307)

So limit outdoor activity, and bury the colony shelters so that you can leverage inxpensive dirt for shielding.

Say, with sandbags packed with martian regolith.

(With a solar sintering machine, and "refined 19th century tech*", you could produce all the glass fiber sandbags you could possibly ever want on mars.)

* 19th century version [blogspot.com]
*refined modern and cheap consumer version [blogspot.com]

[For the imagination impaired, you use the solar sintering machine to produce a small, stationary bead of melted glass from abundant martian regolith, use a steel mandril to pull several glass fiber pulls off that bead, thread them through some eye-hooks in a halfcircle around the bead, then thread them through one last eye-hook as a bundle, and then feed the bundle into the knitting machine. Turn the crank, and a continuous tube of knitted glass fiber gets pooped out. Cut the "sock" at desired lengths, and use more glass fiber in a handheld bag stitcher to close the end, and stuff them with martian regolith. You can then stack them up to make 1950s style bunkers around the the habitat structures, which will not only keep the wind off of them, but also provide radiation shielding on the cheap for the colony. The total equipment needed would be well under 20kg, and would allow unlimited sandbag production at the colony site.]

Re:Okay (2)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#43865593)

I would love to see this 20kg solar blast furnace capable of refining, producing, and weaving aluminosilicate glass fibers from Martian regolith.

Re:Okay (4, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year ago | (#43865833)

Solar sintering machine.
http://www.markuskayser.com/work/solarsinter/ [markuskayser.com]

Instead of attempting to use it as a 3d printer, you keep a fixed focal point, and simply melt the regolith into a small (US quarter sized) bead of hot glass.

You use a small metal mandril to pull glass fiber pulls off of that. The drawing of the glass shrinks the bead, but the sinter just makes more to replace it. Multiple pulls are made from the same bead, at different angles, then combined into a bundle.

Note how the 3d printer version fits in a suitcase.

Mars has 1/2 the solar irradiation as earth, so it will need a larger fresnel lens. Otherwise, same setup, minus the build table mechanics.

Re:Okay (4, Interesting)

roycepipkins (2936685) | about a year ago | (#43866039)

No need to fill sand bags or dig holes. Mars has big lava tubes and other caves that could be put to the task. It would probably be possible to take advantage of the cave walls themselves when building the habitat.

Re:Okay (4, Interesting)

Kreigaffe (765218) | about a year ago | (#43865881)

I don't care. Put me on that rock. Hell, I'll go tonight. Let's do this.

Get me there, let me walk on Mars. The rest is details, nothing that happens after taking a step on another planet could possibly ever matter to me ever again, and whatever was done, whatever was sacrificed, whatever the cost, it would be worth it. I don't care. Let's go.

Dig a hole (2)

Orp (6583) | about a year ago | (#43864897)

Piece of cake, right?

Re:Dig a hole (2)

Dan East (318230) | about a year ago | (#43865039)

Dig a hole in space?

The results, based on Curiosity's 253-day, 348-million-mile cruise to Mars

Re:Dig a hole (4, Funny)

Orp (6583) | about a year ago | (#43865243)

What, you expect me to RTFA?

Yes digging a hole in space is a dumb idea.

I have noting further of value to add to this conversation.

Re:Dig a hole (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#43865425)

Yes digging a hole in space is a dumb idea.

. . . not if it's a wormhole. It would help you get there faster, and skip the long space radiation part of the trip.

Assuming that wormholes are radiation free . . .

Re:Dig a hole (1)

sirsnork (530512) | about a year ago | (#43865607)

...... and real

Re:Dig a hole (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | about a year ago | (#43866035)

Lets not get into semantics of fact versus fiction.. Just because we've never seen a wormhole, and have no evidence one could even exist, doesn't mean that there isn't one..

You can replace wormhole with all kinds of things. It's a lot of fun. :)

Mutants. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43864905)

Won't this just turn people into mutants like in Total Recall?

Re:Mutants. (4, Funny)

rwise2112 (648849) | about a year ago | (#43864969)

Won't this just turn people into mutants like in Total Recall?

That's once they get their asses to Mars! Before that, they'll be in space, and they'll be more like the Fantastic 4.

Evolution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43864909)

Well then, if we send enough people to colonise the planet, some of them will be more likely to not die from radiation poisoning. Those ones get to reproduce and, over time, you select for radiation resistance.

Then after a few hundred generations we can ship them back to work inside our reactors without suffering any side effects!

Re:Evolution (1)

syntheticmemory (1232092) | about a year ago | (#43864999)

In the SNL skit "Pepsi Syndrome" the manager sent in the black cleaning lady to mop up the reactor spill. President Carter came to inspect the damage. Both of them grew to 50' in height and ran off together.

Re:Evolution (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#43865241)

Well then, if we send enough people to colonise the planet, some of them will be more likely to not die from radiation poisoning. Those ones get to reproduce and, over time, you select for radiation resistance.

Then after a few hundred generations we can ship them back to work inside our reactors without suffering any side effects!

Nope. It can be done in a single generation. Simply send the cyborg and organic astronauts both to Mars, the latter as more of a symbolic gesture really... There will no doubt be volunteers. The humans, heavily dosed with radiation and now sterile, can help establish the cyborg procreation instead. After the organics are dead, the cyborgs can continue to live on and establish a human colony on mars, for the good of mankind.

P.S. Your definition of "human" is probably out of date.

human - /'(h)yoo-maen/ :
Adjective

Of, relating to, or characteristic of people or human beings.
Noun
A human being, esp. a person as distinguished from an animal or (in science fiction) an alien.

We simply need sturdier bodies. Cybernetics isn't rocket science....

To Boldly Go... (4, Insightful)

CMYKjunkie (1594319) | about a year ago | (#43864917)

It's a shame so much of NASA's human exploration has been cut back. It's awesome scientific challenges like protecting astronauts on such a mission that would create untold breakthroughs in shielding tech and other fields. We need these challenges to advance our society! We need to reap the benefits. We need 21st Century TANG!!!!

Re: 21st Century TANG (1)

optikos (1187213) | about a year ago | (#43864943)

If 1960s TANG was orange-flavored, what flavor will 2020s TANG be?

Re: 21st Century TANG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865081)

If 1960s TANG was orange-flavored, what flavor will 2020s TANG be?

He was talking about poonTANG.

Re: 21st Century TANG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865989)

So, Asian?

Re:To Boldly Go... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865223)

IMHO, we as a species have already started our decline in being confined to this planet, and this solar system at best. I subscribe to the same belief summarized here: http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/11/13/191217/study-claims-human-intelligence-peaked-two-to-six-millennia-ago

Re:To Boldly Go... (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#43865317)

We need 21st Century TANG!!!!

Who needs Tang? If astronauts could somehow feed off radiation, we'd be all set, and solve the food problem, too!

"Hello, Houston? This is Mars Sprinter 3. We're all feeling hungry, so we're going to plop ourselves into the nuclear warp drive pool for a snack. Be back in a few minutes."

Re:To Boldly Go... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865367)

We need shielding tech? If it's one roundtrip = one lifetime radiation dose, well... how many round trips to Mars have you made lately? One's good enough to start.

Re:To Boldly Go... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865591)

We need these challenges to advance our society!

This is more escapism than desire to advance our society. Nobody needs to go to Mars to look for ways to advance society on Earth. There are already plenty of opportunities to be challenged.

Re:To Boldly Go... (5, Insightful)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#43865733)

It's a shame so much of NASA's human exploration has been cut back.

I wish I could agree, but I can't. I hate to say it because I grew up on the manned space program. As a kid I saw Neil Armstrong take the first steps on the moon (yes, that means I'm over 21) and thought what an historic moment it was. One of the things that we learned in those early days though is that people are fragile and manned space flight is horribly expensive. For a fraction of the price (10%?) you can send an unmanned mission. Frankly a lot of the support for manned space flight is that people want to see Buck Rogers, but almost all important scientific and practical work has been done by unmanned spacecraft. Please don't respond with examples of the work done in manned space flight. I know there's been some stuff, but it's tiny compared to the cost and what's been done unmanned. Also our ability to create robots (or whatever you want to call them) has increased dramatically since the early days.

Sure we could develop some cool tech for manned missions, but there are cheaper ways to do it. We could also create some cool robotic tech for unmanned missions. Before we send anybody to Mars, let's at least do an unmanned round trip.

Never send a man to do a robot's job.

wait... (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#43864919)

Didn't we just have a slashdot article about how US radiation limits are ridiculously low and need to be re-assessed?

Re:wait... (3, Informative)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#43864981)

No. We read an article about how US limits on radioactivity at Superfund sites are ridiculously low compared to the allowable exposure limits.

Re:wait... (1)

TWX (665546) | about a year ago | (#43866015)

Maybe NASA should take the lead on future Mars missions when it comes to developing safety for our Astronauts...

Re:wait... (1)

Scutter (18425) | about a year ago | (#43865051)

My personal limit is none. None radiation.

Re:wait... (3, Informative)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#43865097)

Uh oh. You're breathing in radioactive Carbon-14 right now. You better hold your breath...

Re:wait... (2)

cdrudge (68377) | about a year ago | (#43865137)

Well if he's breathing in radioactive Carbon-14 right now, shouldn't exhale and then not breath in?

Re:wait... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865229)

14C is not the problem - 40K in food is. You have a few thousand radioactive decay events in your body per second from 40K alone.

Re:wait... (3, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#43865371)

To get that, you'd need to be surrounded by a substance that was so black that you'd think to yourself "How much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black."

Re:wait... (2)

oodaloop (1229816) | about a year ago | (#43865419)

I hope that was just an attempt at being funny. You are surrounded by sources of radiation, from your TV, to bananas, to granite, to other people, to glow-in-the-dark stuff, and on and on.

Re:wait... (2)

goodmanj (234846) | about a year ago | (#43865109)

Astronauts play by different rules, because they're comparing the odds of cancer from radiation exposure against the odds of dying in a fiery rocket explosion. Their lifetime limit (1 Sv) is 1000 times the yearly limit for the general public.

Hitch a ride: (4, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#43864929)

Just find a small periodic asteroid going approx. the same way, or make one go the same way using the slingshot affect, bore a hole into it via robots and explosives, and then the "roidnauts" and their ship could hop in the hole when it passes by Earth.

Re:Hitch a ride: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865015)

Just find a small periodic asteroid going approx. the same way, or make one go the same way using the slingshot affect, bore a hole into it via robots and explosives, and then the "roidnauts" and their ship could hop in the hole when it passes by Earth.

Yes, NASA has plans like that for entering a hole. It's called 'Preparation H'.

The "Alan Parsons Project" is still in the works, though.

Re:Hitch a ride: (3, Informative)

tom17 (659054) | about a year ago | (#43865031)

Given that attaining suitable velocity to get there in a reasonable timeframe with manageable fuel loads is probably one of the big issues of Mars travel, how does hitching a ride become advantageous? The differential velocity between you and the space rock would be way too high to dock, and even if you could 'grapple' it, you would likely slow it down too much.

To match its speed to board it would require just as much energy as accelerating yourself to the required travelling velocity in the first place.

Maybe a grapple with a winch could be a solution so that you can grab it while the velocity difference is high and apply a braking force to the winch mechanism until your speed matches. Then you could slowly wind yourself in. Would have to be a very long winch though. We'd probably have space elevator tech as a prerequisite to this.

Re:Hitch a ride: (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#43865219)

It's a similar problem, but at a significantly different scale. You're probably looking at a few hundred miles worth of cable at a couple Gs, as compared to 25k miles averaging half a G. Still, if you can manage to put several hundred miles worth of high tensile cable into orbit to pull off this maneuver, surely you could just as easily use that payload for dense lead shielding on your spacecraft instead. What ever happened to the concept of lining your spacecraft with your water and waste stores to use as shielding?

Re:Hitch a ride: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865333)

I think what he was going for, was to find shielding that has conveniently already been accelerated to the appropriate velocity for injection into Mars orbit. That would be a workaround for the fact that the better the shielding, the more mass it has. When you're close enough to Mars to land in a short amount of time, you separate yourself from the asteroid, land, do science until the asteroid comes around again, and get back in. It's feasible that you could spend very little fuel actually changing the asteroid's velocity at all.

Re:Hitch a ride: (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#43865341)

Most of the equipment and even the landing capsule could be pre-shipped to Mars separately via unmanned vehicles on a leisure path. The lander(s) and perhaps some of the deceleration fuel packs/suppliers could be pre-parked in orbit around Mars. The deceleration fuel units would launch back out of orbit to help the incoming roidnauts.

Thus, the asteroid capsule would only have to carry the crew and trip sustenance supplies, not destination-related equipment, reducing the load that has to match the asteroid's trajectory.

Yes, it would all be a lot of fuel, but nobody said going to Mars was easy or cheap.

Re:Hitch a ride: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865115)

Like this?

http://www.space.com/3041-harnessing-asteroids-comets-travel-solar-system.html

And once you get there... (3, Informative)

Spillman (711713) | about a year ago | (#43864949)

... it's not going to be much better. Mars does not have a spinning core so no radiation belts to deflect evil radiation on the surface either. Surface exposure would have to be limited.

http://mars-one.com/en/faq-en/19-faq-health/185-will-the-astronauts-suffer-from-radiation [mars-one.com]

However, I would still go. I mean, if we can actually get people to Mars, we shoudl have no problem getting around the radiation problem.

Re:And once you get there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865187)

It's going to be at least half as much radiation because mars will be between you and the sun at night.

Re:And once you get there... (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#43865347)

What about all that cosmic radiation? Watch out for those pesky oh-my-god particles....

Re:And once you get there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865457)

This article does not quantify the radiation on the surface, only along the trip.

underground alternative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43864963)

Or a cave perhaps? I was thinking about once they get to Mars; shelter could be found in the environment? Sorry for ignorant idea. I just remember 2001 Space Odyssey had lunar base underground. It's really a smart idea. It might protect you from micro meteroids as well? A.B

Oases of magnetism (1)

art6217 (757847) | about a year ago | (#43864991)

http://www.universetoday.com/30538/was-mars-magnetic-field-blasted-away/

What is the protection at 180E60S, if compared to Earth?

risk low compared to mission as a whole (5, Informative)

arobatino (46791) | about a year ago | (#43865023)

From the article:

Current U.S. standards limit an astronaut’s lifetime radiation exposure to 1 Sievert, or 1,000 milliSieverts, which equates to about a five percent chance increase in developing a fatal cancer.

A new study shows that with currently available propulsion technologies and similar shielding to Curiosity’s, astronauts on even the shortest roundtrips to Mars would get radiation doses of about 662 millisieverts and that doesn’t include radiation dosages for any time spent on the Martian surface.

Sounds like a rather low risk compared to that of the mission as a whole.

Re:risk low compared to mission as a whole (2)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year ago | (#43865251)

Wasn't the magnetic shielding problem basically solved [physicsworld.com], at least in lab simulations, many years ago, using materials that are well understood and well within our ability to carry into orbit? So how is this still a "huge problem"?

Re:risk low compared to mission as a whole (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865701)

So how is this still a "huge problem"?

Because your shield only works against the solar wind. From the article

It's more difficult to shield against the galactic cosmic rays. The only mission design strategy for that is just to get there as fast as you can.

From your article

For one thing, it could not shield astronauts against very high energy intergalactic cosmic rays.

Re:risk low compared to mission as a whole (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43866057)

Check your reading comprehension buddy.

Bamford told physicsworld.com that more work needs to be done in scaling the technique up before it can be tested aboard a satellite, but reckons that it could be perfected in time for a return to the Moon in around 2020. She does point out, however, that even if the technology works it will not provide complete protection. For one thing, it could not shield astronauts against very high energy intergalactic cosmic rays. “Getting in a tin can with a rocket on your back and flying to Mars is never going to be a safe thing to do,” she says.dgatwood's magnetic shielding article [physicsworld.com]

Looks like they didn't solve the problem of cosmic rays which if you had read the article, I know blasphemy, you would know is the real problem.

Now it would be really interesting to know what kind of magnetic field would be required to shield a space ship from cosmic rays and if it could be build, transported, and used in space.

You don't say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865141)

Space is an empty radiation-blasted hell and our technology isn't as grandiose as we think?

The Build the Enterprise Discussion on the Topic (1)

SenatorPerry (46227) | about a year ago | (#43865155)

There is a healthy discussion here: Build the Enterprise Discussion [buildtheenterprise.org]

Essentially the crew would spend a majority of their time in a smaller shielded section of the craft including sleeping pods that are heavily shielded.

Re:The Build the Enterprise Discussion on the Topi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865873)

Healthy? It's a bunch of mentally ill children trading fairy tales as if they're engineering.

Seriously? They went from one-way trip to this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865163)

No risk, no fun.

Re:Seriously? They went from one-way trip to this? (1)

canadiannomad (1745008) | about a year ago | (#43865277)

Yeah, NASA needs to get with the pop-culture... Mars One, one-way trips and reality TV.....
They should do their best to support such a project.

Just start breeding radiation resistant humans (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#43865191)

Like, feed babies a diet of magnetized iron, so that they develop their own radiation shield in their blood. Or something like that. Let science fiction be your guide.

Cockroaches can withstand radiation . . . maybe modern gene therapy could help humans to replicate that process in themselves . . . ?

Hopefully, without turning them into cockroaches . . .

Re:Just start breeding radiation resistant humans (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#43865379)

"Here the kids stick to the fridge, not just their drawings."

Re:Just start breeding radiation resistant humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865551)

Magnetized iron + stomach acid = nonmagnetic dissolved ferric ions... probably.

Re:Just start breeding radiation resistant humans (5, Funny)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about a year ago | (#43865709)

Cockroaches can withstand radiation . . . maybe modern gene therapy could help humans to replicate that process in themselves . . . ?

Hopefully, without turning them into cockroaches . . .

Too late. We call them lawyers

Re:Just start breeding radiation resistant humans (1)

steelfood (895457) | about a year ago | (#43865719)

We could just send the cockroaches instead and hope that in a thousand years, they'll turn into humans. Or something like that.

Re:Just start breeding radiation resistant humans (1)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | about a year ago | (#43865789)

I for one welcome our human-cockroach hybrid overlords.

For crying out loud, we have people marching against GMO foods, I can only imagine the outrage if we did that on people.

Lead Lining? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865209)

So, lead lining doesn't fix this?

What about all the other issues? Air, food, water, exercise, BOREDOM(!), claustrophobia/cabin fever, return capability/fuel, hostile inhabitants or 'hood rats,...

Re:Lead Lining? (2)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year ago | (#43865295)

Of course lead lining fixes this, as will any number of materials (water is also a great radiation shield)... if you have enough of it, that is. The issue has always been:

"Our rockets suck, we cannot put large payloads into orbit, so our Mars capsule is going to have to be less than X kilograms and our radiation shielding can weigh no more than Y kilograms".

Re:Lead Lining? (4, Informative)

ledow (319597) | about a year ago | (#43865391)

The heaviest material? Really compatible with space travel fuelled by some of the world's most expensive fuel at great expense. Part of the problem of space is not that "we can't do that", it's that "it's so FECKING expensive to do it the way we would on Earth".

There's nothing stopping us shipping an entire biodome up to Mars, with enough food for a million people. It's just a question of weight (and, thus, cost). The point of the very first manned Mars mission is going to be to get there, not to prove we can start industry there. As such, things like huge amounts of lead are a luxury we can ill afford.

That, and most of the radiation that's damaging can actually be stopped by a bit of aluminium foil. The problem isn't that we *couldn't* shield from it, it's that we can't afford to. And pioneers often have to suffer for the title of being "first", I'm afraid (e.g. Madame Curie).

The bigger problem is the legality over what is basically a health and safety issue that, if we'd worried about it in the past, we'd never have let anyone go up Everest, fly to the Moon, etc. etc. etc.

These people are going to get irradiated. There's nothing practical that we can do to stop that. Many of the Apollo astronauts had eye problems related to radiation exposure in later life, it's just a simple fact of going outside the Van Allen belts (and, hell, flight attendants probably get more radiation in a year than ANYONE who works in a radiology department).

We just have to make sure they understand the risk. But I'm sure that Scott understood the risk of the Antarctic, that Hillary understood the risk of Everest, and so on. There will be people more than willing to do it. And in 100 years time, in any luck, space travel could be commonplace to the point where we finally do "solve" most of those problems through finally getting the money / incentive to actually prevent them. But at the moment, it's just a legal issue to make sure these people understand just how much simple things (like invisible radiation) can scupper their lives on a remote planet.

Total lack of risk-reward perspective... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865349)

More stupid NASA risk-aversion....this is why they don't go anywhere any more.

Breach the limits, double, triple the long-term cancer risk, who cares? You'll still have plenty of volunteers for the mission. Good grief; European explorers used to take 50% fatalities and come back counting it a success....

Shielded enclosure (4, Insightful)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about a year ago | (#43865403)

I don't think this is new - surely we have enough data to know the interplanetary radiation levels. In some of the old Mars mission designs there was a shielded "shelter" on the spacecraft that could be used during times of high radiation from solar activity. This of course adds weight - but if its located in the center of the spacecraft, or maybe shielded by fuel it might not be too bad.

On the martian surface it would seem fairly straightforward to make a covered trench. Most of the work could be done by robotic equipment before the manned mission arrived.

Putting people on mars isn't easy - if it were, much of the point would be lost.

round-trip? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865411)

I can imagine sitting in a tin can for a few month to get to Mars, but doing the same thing to get to Earth? I think I would stay.

asymmetric electrostatic radiation shielding (1)

houbou (1097327) | about a year ago | (#43865617)

I wonder how it goes on the theory that asymmetric electrostatic radiation shielding could be useful for space flights.

Easy solution... (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year ago | (#43865687)

"Even for the shortest of missions we are perilously close to the radiation career and health limits that we've established for our astronauts,

Easy solution -- just raise the limits.

use water (5, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year ago | (#43865745)

Seriously, they already know how to deal with this, and discovered that hydrogen neuclei are ideal for absorbing high energy cosmic rays, since they produce a minumum of secondary high energy particles from the interaction. This means a substance with lots of hydrogen in a small volume makes the best shielding.

This leads us to the most abundant, hydrogen dense material available, which would also be necessary for the trip, and colony operations: water.

Basically, put the crew capsule inside the water storage tank. Radiation problem solved. You have to send the water anyway. Make the most of it.

that doesn't sound too bad (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43865985)

If it's close to lifetime exposure limits, that means it's still fairly safe, since our limits are very conservative. Astronauts might have a slightly elevated risk of cancer and probably shouldn't have kids, but they are still much more likely to die during takeoff and landing.

In other words: Forget Mars (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#43866077)

Not a surprise. This is not the only hard show-stopper. Fantasy alone is not enough to make something difficult a reality, it must at least me feasible in some real sense as well.

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