Researchers Work Towards Building Shields for Astronauts on Mars
(Photo : NASA)
After the successful launch of most advanced Mars rover Curiosity, NASA is planning to send humans to Mars within the next 20 years.
As part of such a plan, the space agency is working on shields to ensure protection for the astronauts against the long exposure to cancer causing cosmic radiation.
In order to create this shield, on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) the GSI Helmholtzzentrum fur Schwerionenforschung GmbH testing whether Moon and Mars regolith can be used to build shielding for ground.
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According to the researchers the atmospheric and magnetic field on Earth weaken the cosmic rays. But they remain hidden on the Moon and Mars. These cosmic radiations can trigger cancer in the longer run and can cause damage in the DNA and cells.
Why Moon or Mars ground stations would not be built from terrestrial high tech material was explained by Chiara La Tessa, manager of experiments in GSI biophysics.
"In space travels every gram counts. Transporting building material through space would lead to a cost explosion. That is why ground stations would basically be built from Moon and Mars regolith -- especially the shielding. We know from the analyses done by rovers what the local sand and stones consist of. With this information one can produce Moon and Mars regolith on Earth and we test it for its properties," she says.
After conducting a test in the American accelerator laboratory on how well the stone slabs can protect against radiation the GSI team will test how many neutrons are produced in the materials when radiated.
When the cosmic rays strike the stones with full speed they crash some atomic nuclei to pieces. The resulting free neutrons have a different effect on the human body depending on their speed, than cosmic radiation.
"I cannot estimate how the material is going to react to the radiation yet," says La Tessa. "Will many neutrons be produced? How many fast and how many slow ones? This we will know when we analyzed our experiment data."