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Cosmic Rays Could Kill Astronauts Visiting Mars

timothy posted about 9 years ago | from the tough-break-for-ahnold dept.

Mars 722

jvchamary writes "Given the recent stream of reports of 10th planets and the relative success of the NASA Discovery mission, it might again be time to get excited at the prospect of visiting the Red Planet. Unfortunately, New Scientist reports that Astronauts traveling to Mars would be exposed to so much cosmic radiation that 10% would die of cancer."

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Whoa, that's gotta suck (5, Funny)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | about 9 years ago | (#13232093)

Not only is it cancer, it's space cancer. That's gotta be like 10 times worse ;)

Re:Whoa, that's gotta suck (3, Funny)

spectre_240sx (720999) | about 9 years ago | (#13232147)

I wonder if that might cause... SPACE MADNESS!!!

Re:Whoa, that's gotta suck (1)

pudding7 (584715) | about 9 years ago | (#13232172)

Whatever dude. Space Madness is nothing compared to ...


Re:Whoa, that's gotta suck (5, Funny)

jafiwam (310805) | about 9 years ago | (#13232190)

That's better than "Space Herpes [] ".

In other news: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13232094)

Dangers in Space!

Film at 11!

Easy Solution (1)

stinerman (812158) | about 9 years ago | (#13232100)

Use some lead plating in those suits. That'll protect 'em! ;-)

Re:Easy Solution (1)

pcmanjon (735165) | about 9 years ago | (#13232180)

Actually, that would only stop the weaker radiation particles. Alpha and beta particles would be blocked, however some gamma particles could get through.

Here's a lead vest around somebodys body:

| |
| |
| |

If Gamma particles get through that first lead plate and are slowed down enough while they travel to the back part of the vest then it would be a game of pingpong. Wherever our peice of radiation decided to stop would end up in our body. That's a bad idea.

lead is 60% lighter on Mars (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 9 years ago | (#13232249)

Its easier to wear lead-shoelding on Mars because the force of gravity is lower.

Re:Easy Solution (2, Funny)

ekephart (256467) | about 9 years ago | (#13232277)

No, lead is insufficient. They'll need something heavier, like Urani... oh.

impractical, to say the least (4, Interesting)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 9 years ago | (#13232283)

Use some lead plating in those suits.

I know you're joking, but I think a number of slashdot readers are thinking, "yeah, why can't they just shield them".

  • They'd have to be wearing quite a bit of lead shielding. Thousands of pounds, in fact. A fair chunk of cosmic radiation consists of ionizing, high-energy radiation.
  • Additional shielding, either for people or the entire craft, would require more fuel to accelerate to the necessary travel velocity- and more fuel to SLOW DOWN when you get there. The bits that were involved in landing couldn't be shielded, as the weight would make it a one-way trip (it pretty much is anyway).
  • A magnetic field to deflect said particles (aka like the earth's field) would require a lot of energy, which could only come from a nuclear source. Which would emit its own radiation, require its own shielding,, would add weight to the craft.

I'm not sure I see the point of even going to Mars in the first place; like Kennedy's moon trip, going to Mars will get us nothing. Things are just too impractical to get anything useful done on either planet. The futurists all argue, "well, SOME day it'll be practical". Wasn't this the same group that predicted we'd have, ten years ago, flying cars, transporters, faster than light travel, etc?

Yah, but lead costs $, Mars mission is unfunded (1, Flamebait)

elwinc (663074) | about 9 years ago | (#13232316)

Often, the difference between 'problem' and 'expense' is a function of your budget. In the case of the Mars mission, the only thing that's funded is a little bit of planning. Everything else is unfunded, so everything else is a problem.

In fact, many things that don't have to do with Mars have become problems, because Mars has been leaching dollars from other programs. So, for example, the Hubble Space Telescope, the single most scientifically valuable instrument in space, has become too expensive to repair, because Mars is getting the bucks.

And at the end of the Bush years, when we know how many hundred billion a Mars mission will cost, and we know how many extra trillion we are in debt, Mars will be cancelled. But not before it's destroyed Hubble and probably a bunch of other science projects. But who cares, they'll be teaching 'intelligent design' in high school as if it were a scientific theory, so we'll have much worse problems than the setbacks in space science.

Effects of Cosmic Rays (4, Funny)

the darn (624240) | about 9 years ago | (#13232106)

Also, 25% will become stretchy, 25% will turn invisible, 25% will burst into flames, and 25% will have their skin replaced by an orangey rock-like substance!

Re:Effects of Cosmic Rays (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | about 9 years ago | (#13232137)

And 100% get into really crappy movies. Twice.

Re:Effects of Cosmic Rays (1)

saudadelinux (574392) | about 9 years ago | (#13232201)

...And maybe one telekinetic telepath might turn into Dark Phoenix, and kill us all :0

Re:Effects of Cosmic Rays (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13232281)

What about the other 25%?


That's Easy... (5, Funny)

eklitzke (873155) | about 9 years ago | (#13232112)

We only send nine :)

Re:That's Easy... (2, Funny)

RandWalker (903696) | about 9 years ago | (#13232242)

We only send nine :)

... and a lucky rat.

Risk v. Reward (4, Interesting)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | about 9 years ago | (#13232118)

So how would this be a limiting factor for a government that still subsidizes tobacco farmers? What if we only sent smokers? TFA article says that 10% would get fatal cancer sometime in their lives. Really, how is this different from those who self select themselves for a much increased risk of cancer through smoking?

Re:Risk v. Reward (-1, Troll)

bofkentucky (555107) | about 9 years ago | (#13232156)

wake up dipshit, the tobacco quota program was killed last year.

Re:Risk v. Reward (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13232198)

Glad to see civil, rational, and logical discourse is alive and well on Slashdot.

Re:Risk v. Reward (4, Insightful)

failure-man (870605) | about 9 years ago | (#13232193)

Exactly. If I'm gonna give myself cancer I'd rather do it by exploring desolate, irradiated worlds than by standing outside in the cold making some rich assholes richer.

Of course, option three is to do both and feel like you're in Cowboy Bebop. ;)

Re:Risk v. Reward (1)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | about 9 years ago | (#13232221)

Simple. It's a direct cause, while subsidizing of tobacco farmers is indirectly related to tobacco related cancer.

Re:Risk v. Reward (4, Funny)

le_jfs (627582) | about 9 years ago | (#13232229)

10% would get fatal cancer sometime in their lives.

Well, we can safely assume that it will be at the end of their lives.

Radiation Proof suits? (1)

DreadPiratePizz (803402) | about 9 years ago | (#13232121)

Can we not desing the spacecraft and the spacesuits to block radiation? Such things exist here on Earth. Is cosmic radiation different than radiation here on earth?

Re:Radiation Proof suits? (1)

qbwiz (87077) | about 9 years ago | (#13232181)

Yes, there's a lot more of it in space (including fancy gamma rays), and there's generally a very small mass budget for shielding.

Re:Radiation Proof suits? (1)

FLAGGR (800770) | about 9 years ago | (#13232188)

Yeah, the amount of radiation in a nuclear plant is ooooh about on par with the sun.

Those suits don't even completly protect from the small nuclear sources on the earth, let alone a whole fucking sun+stars+everything else in the universe. If it was such an easy solution, why do you think people are worried about it?

Re:Radiation Proof suits? (4, Interesting)

Shaper_pmp (825142) | about 9 years ago | (#13232276)

Basically, yeah - we have several miles of comparatively dense atmosphere (or the entire bulk of the earth) protecting us from cosmic rays. Future Mars astronauts will pretty much have a few layers of tinfoil.

Still, it is possible to design ships which will shield passengers from the worst of the rays, but these tend to be prohibitively heavy (= prohibitive amounts of fuel) because of all the additional shielding.

The best alternative I've seen yet were plans to build a ship where all the water and other supplies were stored around the outsides of the ship, and the actual crew living compartment was a small space right in the middle - this uses water and fuel (the bulkiest of the supplies) as additional shielding, but it still carries a much elevated risk of irradiation and/or cancer than staying put on earth.

Is that like Cosmic Rays? (1)

Tikicult (901090) | about 9 years ago | (#13232122)

It worked for the Fantastic Four.
- what's the problem.

Is this news? (4, Informative)

pcmanjon (735165) | about 9 years ago | (#13232123)

We've known this for quite a while.

I think they'd also have to go through the Van Allen radiation belts which could also be a concern. Conspiracy theorists have argued that space travel to the moon was impossible because the Van Allen radiation would kill or incapacitate an astronaut who made the trip. In practice, even at the peak of the belts, one could live for several months without receiving a lethal dose.

Apollo had timed things however to make it accross while radiation was at a minimum. However, if they'd be on such a long trip -- timing will have to be a lot more precise.

Short of hauling up lead plates, I don't know what they'll do.

Re:Is this news? (1)

mr_squig (904866) | about 9 years ago | (#13232203)

As far as I know, the van allen belts are only a problem if you stay in them for a few weeks. Normally there's no problem when you just zip through them. .html [] elt []

Re:Is this news? (4, Informative)

Cheerio Boy (82178) | about 9 years ago | (#13232216)

However, if they'd be on such a long trip -- timing will have to be a lot more precise.

I didn't understand half the math in The Case for Mars [] but the author explains in detail how the route could be planned to be both low cost and safe from radiation.

I need to read that again...

i think the president once said about something... (1)

remove office (871398) | about 9 years ago | (#13232125)

"It's it's worth the price."

Re:i think the president once said about something (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13232301)

"It's it's..."?

That's the president, alright.

Ten percent would die of cancer (1)

carlhirsch (87880) | about 9 years ago | (#13232129)

However, the remaining 90% would get the ability to turn invisible, an orange rocky carapace, self-immolation at will, or very stretchy limbs.


Just tell them to... (1)

johndierks (784521) | about 9 years ago | (#13232130)

...wear their tinfoil hats.

Sign me up (4, Insightful)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 9 years ago | (#13232131)

I'd be willing to take a 10% risk of cancer later in my life in order to see mars. Hell i'd take a 10% chance of not surviving the trip home.

Re:Sign me up (1)

Leroy_Brown242 (683141) | about 9 years ago | (#13232265)

If you die on the way home, you can't use your trip to Mars as a pickup line!

On the bright side. (2, Insightful)

pavon (30274) | about 9 years ago | (#13232311)

Permanent settlers, while having a significanly shorter life expectancy, would also undergo slightly excelerated evolution :)

Seriously though, what about the first europeans to the Americas. They were at least as likely to dye from malnutrition during the trip, not to mention all the hardships they faced when they got there. That is what it means to be a pioneer - to take risks and pave the way so others after you can go more safely.

Careful with those estimates (4, Interesting)

crmartin (98227) | about 9 years ago | (#13232135)

2.2 Sieverts is 220 rems. that's like 8-10 times previous estimates. And you've got to wonder about quotes like this:

Others suggest more radical solutions might be needed. "Radiation exposure is certainly one of the major problems facing future interplanetary space travellers," says Murdoch Baxter, founding editor of the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. "Unless we can develop instantaneous time and space transfer technologies like Dr Who's TARDIS."

FF?? (1)

nodnarb1978 (725530) | about 9 years ago | (#13232141)

Yes, but this obscures a far more important percentage: how many astronauts will come home with incredible super powers?!

Why bother? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13232143)

Why bother posting or reading when there ain't no fuckin mod points?

Oh no! (4, Insightful)

nathan s (719490) | about 9 years ago | (#13232150)

Let's never leave our little shielded planet because we might get cancer!

Seriously, I'm sure that there are thousands of people who would line up, despite that 10% chance of a disease that some of them will get anyway. I would.

Go to Mars, keep working on cancer cure. Everybody wins.:-)

A partial solution in the article (3, Interesting)

FunWithHeadlines (644929) | about 9 years ago | (#13232155)

"A massive spacecraft built on the moon might possibly be constructed so that the shielding would reduce the radiation hazard," he told New Scientist. But even so he reckons that humans will be unable to travel more than 75 million kilometres (47 million miles) on a space mission - about half the distance from the Earth to the Sun. This allowance might get them to Mars or Venus, but not to Jupiter or Saturn."

So even if they cannot solve the cosmic radiation problem entirely, there is a possibility that could get them safely to Mars and back. Of course first we'd need that Moon base I've been reading about in SF stories written as far back as forever...

Here's the thing (1)

krell (896769) | about 9 years ago | (#13232159)

Cosmic rays? Mutations of the Ben Grimm type can have the unexpected side benefit of making your skin camouflage perfectly with the Martian landscape.

This is really important for those Martian paintball games.

Cancer? Not likely. (1)

tpgp (48001) | about 9 years ago | (#13232165)

Exposed to cosmic radiation during a space mission, austronauts are torn apart and reformed atom-by-atom. Soon after they return to Earth, they each manifest fantastic superpowers. Some can stretch their bodies to inhuman lengths; Others can become invisible and create force fields; still others can ignite their bodies into living flame and soar through the air; and an unlucky few's human features are erased - now with the rocky form of a super-strong, invulnerable 'thing'.

Hope they never make a movie about it - it would be terrible.

Or... (1)

GillBates0 (664202) | about 9 years ago | (#13232166)

"Radiation exposure is certainly one of the major problems facing future interplanetary space travellers," says Murdoch Baxter, founding editor of the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. "Unless we can develop instantaneous time and space transfer technologies like Dr Who's TARDIS." Star Trek's Transporter room. While we're brainstorming on alternate solutions, developing radiation-resistant superhumans who do the interplanetary space exploration for us doesn't sound like a bad idea either.

Re:Or... (1)

krell (896769) | about 9 years ago | (#13232244)

' radiation-resistant superhumans who do the interplanetary space exploration for us doesn't sound like a bad idea either. '

If only we can get them to stop smashing through walls and bellowing "Must destroy mankind!", we might be onto something.

Anyone Know this Number? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13232168)

What percentage of earth-bound humans die of cancer?

Re:Anyone Know this Number? (2, Informative)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | about 9 years ago | (#13232218)

You have a 33% chance of contracting cancer at some point in your life, assuming you live an "average", complete, life. Let's ballpark an estimate 40% average survival rate for cancer (a good deal of them are treatable if detected in time) and we get 13.2%

Send me up there.

10%, big deal (1)

edalytical (671270) | about 9 years ago | (#13232173)

"Cancer deaths accounted for 23 percent of all deaths" according to []

mod parent up (1)

2008 (900939) | about 9 years ago | (#13232298)

The bigger problem is the damaged fertility - especially when you consider that any astronaut who goes to Mars would be quite a babe magnet when he got back...

Re:mod parent up (1)

lucabrasi999 (585141) | about 9 years ago | (#13232330)

The bigger problem is the damaged fertility - especially when you consider that any astronaut who goes to Mars would be quite a babe magnet when he got back...

Maybe that's what I should put on my job application to NASA: "I desire a position in your 'space program' because I want to pick up chicks."

So what's new? (1)

dhasenan (758719) | about 9 years ago | (#13232174)

We've known about this risk for years. What's so special about this? The fact that scientists have quantified it more accurately?

Send old people. (1)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | about 9 years ago | (#13232175)

Seriously. Send healthy older astronauts. Wouldn't their slower metabolism mean that they may never suffer any ill effects from the radiation?

Re:Send old people. (1)

EddieBurkett (614927) | about 9 years ago | (#13232292)

Or couldn't we send only people with cancer? Then, when only 10% come back with it, we've cured 90%!!! Hooray!!!

Oh crap. (4, Insightful)

BigZaphod (12942) | about 9 years ago | (#13232176)

Space is dangerous?!? Wha??!!! Wow.. We better not go there then! RUN AWAY! Someone might die! *gasp* *shock* Horror!!!!!!1111one!

I think any first travelers to Mars would have far more impressive ways to die than a 10% chance of radiation damage. The ship could explode, they could run out of food, they could hit any of the various bits of rock out there, they could get abducted by the aliens that live on the other side of the moon, they could slip and fall while getting out the shower cracking their skulls open, etc.

Re:Oh crap. (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | about 9 years ago | (#13232325)

not to mention the risk that their onboard computer might go nuts and kill the crew...

Cancer Deaths (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 9 years ago | (#13232182)

> to so much cosmic radiation that 10% would die of cancer.
And what's the percentage that would die of cancer anyways? I'm guessing about 10%.

Just how much shielding is needed? (3, Interesting)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | about 9 years ago | (#13232184)

From TFA:
"Radiation exposure is certainly one of the major problems facing future interplanetary space travellers," says Murdoch Baxter, founding editor of the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. "Unless we can develop instantaneous time and space transfer technologies like Dr Who's TARDIS."
Thanks a lot, Murdoch...very helpful. Are you sure you haven't soaked up too many RADs yourself?

Seriously, though, does anyone know just how much material is needed to block these rays? Specifically, if a space habitat were constructed (along the lines of an O'Neill cylinder, for instance), how many meters of rock would we require on the outer surface to make the place long-term habitable?

Re:Just how much shielding is needed? (1)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | about 9 years ago | (#13232290)

Must be a slow news day for NewScientist...

This is not news of course and smart people have been working on the issue for a number of years. Two interesting links:
A short writeup [] of the issue (PDF alert)...
A recent breakthrough [] announcement...

2.26 sieverts... this is huge (1)

Scorillo47 (752445) | about 9 years ago | (#13232191)

>>> The study estimated that individual doses would end up being very high, at 2.26 sieverts.

Interesting. However, that this is 2.26 sieverts for the total mission. Usually, you get nausea, etc as part of the acute radiation syndrome, assuming that you are getting those in a few hours.

Someone correct me please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13232197)

Correct me if my thinking is wrong, but what if we just send 11 astronauts? Then we'll still have a full crew of 10...

Re:Someone correct me please (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 9 years ago | (#13232240)

Argh! No! Then 10% gives you 1.1 deaths, so in addition to one dead astronaut, another 1/10 of one astronaut will also die while the rest of him/her lives!

You want some sort of semi-zombie on Mars with you? Well do you?!

Re:Someone correct me please (1)

kissyfish (743236) | about 9 years ago | (#13232296)

Some viagra could be helpfull for that I hear.

I know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13232199)

Just make sure Val Kilmer is the 10th member that draws the short straw for the window seat.

Well its less than smoking (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13232204)

So people can smoke cigarettes and have a better chance of getting cancer than going to mars.. You smoke your cigs and ill get mars cancer. At least ill be doing something awesome

What kind of propulsion? (4, Informative)

RevRigel (90335) | about 9 years ago | (#13232207)

If they're talking about current chemical propulsion technologies, then yes, they'll be out there for the better part of a year. If we get dig out nuclear propulsion technology that's already been developed, such as NERVA, and other things such as gas core nuclear rockets, it's simple to cut the trip down to weeks while simultaneously packing dozens of tons of extra shielding.

Fraught with Danger.. (1)

ShaniaTwain (197446) | about 9 years ago | (#13232209)

Other things that could kill astronauts visiting mars:

-cosmic space rocks
-cosmic lack of oxygen
-cosmic freezing
-cosmic burning
-cosmic vacuum
-cosmic alien species
-cosmic cowboy neil

hey! its a dangerous universe!

Seems like there are numerous solutions to this (2)

deathcloset (626704) | about 9 years ago | (#13232212)

Firstly, we need nuclear power. Kind of a "fight fire with fire" approach.

For mars habitation, build a base underground?

For the journey, build the spacecraft out of very, very thick material? Not some exotic material, just a thick layer of rock would suffice, yes?

use our nuclear generators to create a massive magnetic field around the spacecraft.

It must be possible to overcome these problems. After all, we are traveling on a spaceship right now, and it's doing a pretty good job of shielding us from radiation.

Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria (1)

Tackhead (54550) | about 9 years ago | (#13232214)

> Unfortunately, New Scientist reports that Astronauts traveling to Mars would be exposed to so much cosmic radiation that 10% would die of cancer.

So, out of 10 astronauts, one dies of cancer that he or she wouldn't have gotten had she or she stayed at home.

For each astronaut, there's a 90% chance of suffering no ill effects from the increased radiation exposure. (That is, they'll get to die of a heart attack, stroke, of an injury after a fall, in an auto wreck, or of a cancer they were going to get anyway).

For a crew of six, there's about a 50% probability (that is, 0.9^6) that one of them will die of cancer. And there'll really be no easy way to know whether the one unlucky sonofabitch got his cancer from the trip, or he was just an... unlucky sonofabitch.

If we're talking about a trip with a 6-month stay, those are pretty good odds.

If we're talking about permanent colonization - considering that living on a planet where the ambient temperature is too low to support most life, and the atmosphere's unbreathable by humans, and where the only food you'll get is what you can grow in carefully-maintained greenhouses - it seems to me that there are plenty of nasty ways to die on Mars that don't involve a 10% increase in the odds that I'll get cancer.

So either way - it sounds like a great adventure, with better odds of living a long and happy life than anyone on the Nina, Pinta, or Santa Maria ever had. I'll fly tomorrow. Who's with me?

Exploration has always been dangerous (1)

swb (14022) | about 9 years ago | (#13232322)

Whether it's hostile indigenous personnel, weird diseases, dangerous travel methods, or even lunatic fellow crew members, going to far away new places has always been dangerous. And there have always been explorers willing to risk life & limb (and someone else's money) to do it.

What's with the penchant for making it safe and sanitary? Those should be long-term engineering goals, not short term requirements for pursuing exploration. If it always had to be safe and comfortable, Lewis & Clark would have waited for the invention of the motorhome.

(The irony being, that, IIRC the only crew member to perish on L&C's trip died of appendicitis, a then-incurable ailment.)

Simple solution (1)

Y-Crate (540566) | about 9 years ago | (#13232226)

Just start recruiting chain-smokers and/or people from Memphis, TN into the astronaut program. Provide the smokers with nicotine inhalers for the duration of the mission and all will be well. Their chances of dying prematurely are astronomically greater than your average person, as it is. The latter group already faces 10% increase in the chance of dying just walking outside to get the paper.

(Hey, I lived there for 3 years and most people would choose to risk terminal cancer than stay)

One solution to two listed problems (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | about 9 years ago | (#13232231)

loss of fertility and genetic defects in their children

They could always get their eggs/sperm sampled and frozen before the trip.

The Face on Mars could swallow you whole (1)

infonography (566403) | about 9 years ago | (#13232232)

don't go swiming in the canals on a full stomach, or pet strange life forms.

And what ever you do DON'T LET DOVES LOOSE. It could start a War!!

From the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13232233)

"But women are always in more danger than men because they live longer and are more susceptible to breast and ovarian cancers."

Hm. Women are more susceptible to ovarian cancer. Who would have thought?

Just when you find out it's safe to swim... (1)

Billy the Mountain (225541) | about 9 years ago | (#13232239)

...turns out that you can't even get to the water!


Cue the drum rolls (3, Funny)

fwice (841569) | about 9 years ago | (#13232241)

Astronauts traveling to Mars would be exposed to so much radiation that 10% would die of cancer.

For once I'm glad I have a tinfoil hat!

(cue rimshot)

Evolution (1)

ekephart (256467) | about 9 years ago | (#13232243)

I think the key point here is that we should send AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE to Mars. Radiation will slowly kill off the weaker ones and we will develop a radiation-proof super-race. Dibs on a window seat.

Lead Capsule (1)

snakecoder (235259) | about 9 years ago | (#13232246)

Just seems like our concept of constructing space ships, and the logistics change. Not that long space travel will not be possible.

We need methods to get tonnage of materials into space, that's all.

When that gets solved, we'll get another article on lead poisening and space travel ;-)

I dont belive this (1)

ResQuad (243184) | about 9 years ago | (#13232247)

Yes there is space rad. And it sucks, alot. But I'd like to belive that we have enough common sense to figure out how to bring this to a minimum. I'm preety sure NASA knows about this magical radiation - and took it into account when making their plans to go take a sunday stroll to the moon or mars.

Besides - the two best sources of technological improvement: war & space travel. Maybe they'll invent the anti-cancer pill finally.

New Science without the Science? (1)

donleyp (745680) | about 9 years ago | (#13232251)

The article started out somewhat on the silly side with a quote from Keran O'Brien: "I do not see how the problem of this hostile radiation environment can be easily overcome in the future." Whoever said it was going to be easy?

Here's Kennedy on the matter: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard..."

The article ended on a completely ridiculous note:

Others suggest more radical solutions might be needed. "Radiation exposure is certainly one of the major problems facing future interplanetary space travellers," says Murdoch Baxter, founding editor of the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. "Unless we can develop instantaneous time and space transfer technologies like Dr Who's TARDIS."

There have been extremely impressive strides made in theoretical particle physics recently. I think it is too soon to discount the idea of interplanetary travel.

Solar Sail Shield (1)

transami (202700) | about 9 years ago | (#13232252)

Wouldn't a rear mounted solar sail both a) help get them there faster and b) reflect substantial amounts of radiation (since that's how it works)?

Send John Glenn! (1)

Safety Cap (253500) | about 9 years ago | (#13232254)

He's old...

FAA != Space (1)

r4bb1t (663244) | about 9 years ago | (#13232257)

The last time I checked, the FAA didn't really have any responsibilities related to space travel (outside of regulating commercial space travel, which up 'till now is pretty non-existant). They gave over their space "division" as it were to NASA in 1958 [] . What's their interest in doing a study like this?

I know (1)

markov_chain (202465) | about 9 years ago | (#13232258)

Send off death-row inmates or other criminals. Next thing you know, there'll be a whole colony with weird maps and funky accents.

More Cancer Research (1)

cmeans (81143) | about 9 years ago | (#13232269)

So now, the Space Program will have an interest in Cancer research too (if they're not already doing something). This can only be a good thing. Even if they focus work on materials to protect the astronuts from the cosmic rays, they'll still work on drugs as an adjunct. This can only be a good thing for the rest of the world...

Tang and the cure for Cancer...what the Space Program is all about!

10% chance... (1)

Rob Kestler (694439) | about 9 years ago | (#13232271)

"Astronauts traveling to Mars would be exposed to so much cosmic radiation that 10% would die of cancer." And a 90% chance of super powers.

What is the percentage for here (1)

varmittang (849469) | about 9 years ago | (#13232279)

What is the percentage of people here on earth that die from cancer. If its anything close to 10%, then this is not really a risk, more of a fact of life.

Magnetic shielding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13232285)

Cosmic rays are just atomic nuclei, and thus positively charged. Why not use a strong magnetic field to deflect them?

Easily solved problem (1)

winkydink (650484) | about 9 years ago | (#13232289)

Cosmic rays from the sun?

Why don't they just go at night? :)

Just another reason to make it a one way mission (1)

BeeazleBub (535448) | about 9 years ago | (#13232293)

This is just another reason to make it a one way mission and just colonize the place. A) If there is alien life on Mars, the dumbest thing to do is bring it back to Earth. Until we've cured all infectious disease on this planet, why bring back something from another for which there is no cure. It may not be as EASY as the Andromeda Strain. B) If you're going to go, a round trip will only double the exposure to cosmic rays. Go once, go well and be first to land and die on mars. Remember you get to keep what you kill ( or is vice versa...) C) Use older astronauts. These guys are going to die sooner anyhow. Let them go out with glory (not a blaze) as the founders of a colony and explorers. Personally, I'd rather die of cancer on Mars as an explorer than a geriatric patient in Boca Raton.

Sun protection not a big deal (1)

ehiris (214677) | about 9 years ago | (#13232295)

Most slashdoters need SPF 1000 for being outdoors for 5 minutes anyways.

Missed opportunity for a statistic... (1)

Jargon Scott (258797) | about 9 years ago | (#13232303)

These guys missed a great opportunity for another meaningless statistic. Take the sentence:

"But women are always in more danger than men because they live longer and are more susceptible to breast and ovarian cancers."

Could have read:

"But women are always in more danger than men because they live longer and are more susceptible to breast and 100% more susceptible to ovarian cancers."

How to be protected from Cosmic Rays (1)

WarmNoodles (899413) | about 9 years ago | (#13232310)

Obviously no one at Nasa reads ./ if they did, well I'm sure they would know the easy solution to cosmic Ray bombardment.

Which is of course, a tin foil hat, tin foil covering all electrical appliances, tin foil on the windows of the shuttle?

Maybe some one should send them a note before they have to hassle putting up the foil while space walking.

25% probability of terminal cancer on earth (1)

shurdeek (571257) | about 9 years ago | (#13232312)

According to [] , in US more than 25% of deaths are caused by cancer. So 10% sounds like an improvement? I think the guys at "New Scientist" messed up some statistical data.

Yours sincerely,

Expected? (1)

daviq (888445) | about 9 years ago | (#13232318)

Was this not expected as not all planets are the same?

Cancer rates (1)

digidave (259925) | about 9 years ago | (#13232320)

The cancer rate in men is nearly 50% and in women it's over 40%. Within 50 years cancer will be controllable like diabetes.

The trip to Mars radiation doesn't seem insurmountable.

10% chance of cancer? Pshaw. (1)

sizzzzlerz (714878) | about 9 years ago | (#13232334)

Cancer won't be a problem because they will have all been destroyed due to the lludium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator wielded by Marvin the Martian.
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