Deep Space Radiation Hazards Quantified: Future of Mars Exploration
One of the major issues that face deep space exploration is radiation. This hazard can impact astronauts as they conduct extended missions to deep space and journey to locations such as Mars. Now, scientists have taken a closer look at space-based radiation, which may help researchers better prepare for these deep space missions in the future.
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"These data are a fundamental reference for the radiation hazards in near Earth 'geospace' out to Mars and other regions of our sun's vast helisophere," said Nathan Schwadron, one of the researchers, in a news release.
The environment of space poses significant risks to both humans and satellites. Harmful radiation from galactic cosmic rays and solar energetic particles can easily penetrate typical shielding and damage electronics. In addition, this radiation can impact biological cells and cause an increased risk of cancer.
In order to determine the amounts of radiation in space, the researchers documented and quantified measurements made since 2009 by the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER) radiation detector. CRaTER's seminal measurements provided quantified, radiation hazard data from lunar orbit. This data, in turn, can be used to calculate radiation dosage from deep space down to airline altitudes. This will be crucial in developing techniques for shielding against space-based radiation dosage. The measurements have also played a vital role in developing the first web-based tool for predicting and forecasting the radiation environment in near-Earth, lunar and Martian space environments and a space radiation detector that possesses unprecedented performance capabilities.
"Understanding how different particles such as neutrons and heavy ions pose hazards will be extremely important in completely characterizing the types of environments we will operate in," said Schwadron in a news release, "For example, on the moon, there are additional hazards from neutrons that are created by high-energy radiation interacting in the lunar soil and radiating outward from the surface."
The findings could help with designing spacecraft that can withstand this radiation. This, in particular, will be important for space missions that journey to locations such as Mars.
The findings are published in the journal Space Weather.