December 3, 2021

Curiosity Investigates Defending Astronauts From Radiation

One of many greatest risks to people when planning a mission to Mars is one thing invisible: Radiation. With out the Earth’s magnetosphere to guard them, astronauts can be bombarded with radiation whereas visiting Mars. And though dwelling on the crimson planet for just a few months in all probability wouldn’t be instantly deadly, it will improve lifetime dangers for sicknesses like most cancers significantly.

There are plans like utilizing shielding or medicine to guard future astronauts visiting Mars, however there’s nonetheless an enormous quantity we don’t know in regards to the radiation dangers there. To deal with these unknowns, NASA’s Curiosity rover is armed with a radiation detector and is performing experiments to see how we might shield astronauts towards harmful radiation particles.

Curiosity rover used its Mars Hand Lens Image to take this selfie at the “Quela” drilling location in the “Murray Buttes” area on lower Mount Sharp.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI, to take this selfie on the “Quela” drilling location within the “Murray Buttes” space on decrease Mount Sharp between September 17 and 18, 2016. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

One handy option to shield astronauts from radiation can be to make use of supplies which might be available on Mars, like rocks and sediment, as shielding. To learn how efficient these can be, Curiosity spent a while parked subsequent to a cliff known as “Murray Buttes” and used its Radiation Evaluation Detector (RAD) instrument. It discovered a 4% drop in general radiation ranges, with a 7.5% drop in a kind of radiation that’s notably harmful for people. This reveals that the rock of the cliff was capable of block a significant portion of the radiation current on the planet.

“We’ve been ready a very long time for the proper circumstances to get these outcomes, that are essential to make sure the accuracy of our laptop fashions,” mentioned Bent Ehresmann of the Southwest Analysis Institute, lead creator of the latest paper. “At Murray Buttes, we lastly had these circumstances and the info to investigate this impact. We’re now searching for different areas the place RAD can repeat these sorts of measurements.”

In addition to studying about the right way to shield future astronauts, measurements with RAD are additionally helpful in understanding house climate. “The observations from RAD are key to growing the flexibility to foretell and measure house climate, the Solar’s affect on Earth and different photo voltaic system our bodies,” mentioned Jim Spann, house climate lead for NASA’s Heliophysics Division. “As NASA plans for eventual human journeys to Mars, RAD serves as an outpost and a part of the Heliophysics System Observatory — a fleet of 27 missions that investigates the Solar and its affect on house — whose analysis helps our understanding of and exploration of house.”

The analysis is printed in The Astronomy and Astrophysics Overview.

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