12205New Insights Into Human & Robotic Deep-Space Hazards
- Nov 19, 2013URL to an interesting post from The Daily GalaxyChris
(Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change)"The space environment poses significant risks to both humans and satellites due to harmful radiation from galactic cosmic rays and solar energetic particles that can easily penetrate typical shielding and damage electronics. When this radiation impacts biological cells, it can cause an increased risk of cancer. Scientists have published comprehensive findings on space-based radiation as measured by a Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER) radiation detector aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The data provide critical information on the radiation hazards that will be faced by astronauts on extended missions to deep space such as those to Mars."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," says says CRaTER principal investigator Nathan Schwadron of the University of New Hampshire Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS).. "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."
That "backsplash" of protons, which was discovered by CRaTER and is known as the moon's radiation "albedo," is caused by the partial reflection of galactic cosmic rays off the moon's surface. This creates a surprising one-two punch of deadly radiation and can also be used to peer below the lunar surface like a geological probe.
"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 heliosphere," says Schwadron.
Before CRaTER's long-term radiation measurements were derived using a material called "tissue-equivalent plastic"—a stand-in for human muscle capable of gauging radiation dosage—those hazards were not sufficiently well characterized to determine if long missions outside low-Earth orbit can be accomplished with acceptable risk.
CRaTER's seminal measurements now provide quantified, radiation hazard data from lunar orbit and can be used to calculate radiation dosage from deep space down to airline altitudes. The data will be crucial in developing techniques for shielding against space-based radiation dosage. The measurements have also played a vital role in UNH space scientists' efforts to develop both 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.