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Mars NASA Space Science

Mars-Bound Probe Serves As Radiation Guinea Pig 67

sighted writes "This week's huge solar storm will benefit future astronauts, thanks to the rover Curiosity, now on its way to Mars. The rover is equipped with an instrument that measures the radiation exposure that could affect a human astronaut en route to the Red Planet. Scientists are just starting to pore over the data from the blast of particles. Don't worry about the poor robotic geologist, though: 'No harmful effects to the Mars Science Laboratory have been detected from this solar event,' says NASA."
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Mars-Bound Probe Serves As Radiation Guinea Pig

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  • D.O.A. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ebonum ( 830686 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @08:57PM (#38847055)

    This problem could make a manned trip to Mars impossible. The radiation in open space from one solar flare would fry a bunch of astronauts. Sending people to Mars becomes a gamble on the odds of a solar event occurring. Worse yet. There is no technology within reach that can protect astronauts from this type of radiation. A few feet of lead shielding might help some, but the weight would be too much to get into space. Plus, try slowing down all that mass when you arrive at Mars. Perhaps a nuclear powered wire loop ( super conducting??? ) with a circumference of a mile or two? Something with enough kick to deflect super high speed charged particles a few meters - enough to keep them away from the crew?...
    I don't see any way to get people to mars with an acceptably high probability of survival.

  • On the surface (Score:4, Interesting)

    by imemyself ( 757318 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @09:25PM (#38847229)
    It would be interesting as well to know how much of an impact this would have to people on the Martian surface. Mars's magnetic field is pretty weak compared to ours. I guess they would be a little better protected just by the planet surface itself.

    Even on the Apollo missions to the moon, they recognized that a solar storm could be a significant threat to the astronauts. Given the infrequence they decided to just take their chances. But the time they spent outside of the LEO was pretty low compared to what a Mars mission would entail.
  • Sky Crane (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lazarus ( 2879 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @09:45PM (#38847311) Homepage Journal

    If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend watching the Curiosity Launch Video []. I don't think the rover has to worry about radiation so much as the landing. I'd like to start a pool on which part of the untested landing sequence will fail and deliver a smoking hole in Mars instead of the rover.

    I seriously hope it works - if it does it will be one of humanity's most amazing technological feats. But I fear the worst.

  • Re:On the surface (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cavreader ( 1903280 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @10:45PM (#38847595)
    You are correct. We are protected on Earth by the planets magnetic fields and atmosphere. The amount of radiation every bio-organism on the planet is subjected too has played an important role in evolution on the planet. Too much radiation or smaller amounts of radiation could have nudged evolution to the extent where humans may never have evolved in it's current form. One thing that I have wandered about is why people think that human evolution has stopped. If there are humans still alive in a couple of million years would the species have the same physical traits that exist today? The environmental conditions the human species originally evolved from is constantly being changed by both natural and man made activity. On the moon we could lessen our exposure to radiation by building underground but for Mars we would need a way to protect people during the voyage before we could start building underground habitats on that planet. I believe someone will eventually make a break through in understanding how to nullify and manipulate radiation levels when necessary. So far we have just tapped the most obvious uses of the electromagnetic spectrum we use in our communication devices and computers but there is still a great deal we do not understand. Even our knowledge of nuclear processes is weak when it comes to practical applications. We can produce fission for bombs and power plants but we cannot harness fusion based processes in the real world. Does anyone else think that the guys who built and deployed the first nuclear bomb were 100% confident that the nuclear reaction would not start a chain reaction in the atmosphere? Doing the math is one thing but actually detonating a nuclear weapon was something altogether different and risky.
  • Re:On the surface (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @12:02AM (#38847861)
    We've evolved tools to protect those incapable of protecting themselves, and we strive for the norm. We are going to fight evolution, not embrace it. Evolution is thousands of tiny mutations, accumulating an advantage. But any further mutations will be stopped..

    Does anyone else think that the guys who built and deployed the first nuclear bomb were 100% confident that the nuclear reaction would not start a chain reaction in the atmosphere?

    They weren't 100% sure. And the people making the first trains worried that traveling 35 mph or faster would prevent you from breathing. New things always trigger "OMG, what if" and nearly none of them have ever come true.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.