A press release from the University of California illustrates the results of a study carried out by an international group of space scientists. The study details the threat of particle radiation on future human colonists on Mars. The findings, which serve as a guide for future missions, show that more than four years on the Red Planet would exceed safe radiation exposure for humans.
Red Planet, "short" stay
One of the many great risks for future human explorers of Mars (and for those who even design entire cities on the Red Planet) is that of particle radiation coming from the Sun and from distant stars and galaxies. Although humans are usually protected from such radiation by the Earth's magnetosphere, traveling into space on missions for long periods makes astronauts extremely vulnerable.
Researchers explain that missions to Mars longer than four years
would expose astronauts to dangerously high levels of radiation. Most of these would come from outside our solar system. To find out it took a "dream team": UCLA, MIT, Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow e GFZ Potsdam. Scientists from the 4 institutes combined geophysical models of particle radiation with models of the effects of radiation on humans and spacecraft.
An ally? The Sun. It can protect future missions to Mars from the worst radiation
The new study, published in the journal Space Weather, provides precise indicators on how future missions to Mars should be planned. With sufficient shielding on the spacecraft, a human journey to Mars would have to be shorter than four years to keep astronauts safe, the study says. Furthermore, the mission is expected to depart from Earth during the solar peak, the time when solar activity is at its peak. This is because the most dangerous particles from distant galaxies are being deflected by the increase in solar activity.
Given the fact that a manned space flight to Mars takes about nine months with existing technologies, human missions are possible that have a stay on the planet of no more than two years.
This study shows that while space radiation imposes strict limitations on how heavy the spacecraft can be and on launch time, and presents technological difficulties for human missions to Mars, such a mission is viable.Yuri Shprits, UCLA research geophysicist and co-author of the paper.
This is not a setback for our fledgling space civilization
It might sound like bad news, and it actually is. But we are really at the beginning, and knowing what awaits us can help us improve. This study will help space agencies decide the exact time frame for their Mars missions.