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For the past nine months, Curiosity has been acting as a stunt double for astronauts, exposing itself to the same cosmic radiation humans would experience following the same route to Mars1.
"Curiosity has been hit by five major flares and solar particle events in the Earth-Mars expanse," says Don Hassler of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "The rover is safe, and it has been beaming back invaluable data."
Unlike previous Mars rovers, Curiosity is equipped with an instrument that measures space radiation. The Radiation Assessment Detector, nicknamed "RAD," counts cosmic rays, neutrons, protons and other particles over a wide range of biologically-interesting energies. RADs prime mission is to investigate the radiation environment on the surface of Mars, but NASA turned it on during the cruise phase so that it could sense radiation en route to Mars as well.
Curiosity’s location inside the spacecraft is key to the experiment.
"Curiosity is riding to Mars in the belly of the spacecraft, similar to where an astronaut would be," explains Hassler, RAD's principal investigator. "This means the rover absorbs deep-space radiation storms the same way a real astronaut would."
Even supercomputers have trouble calculating exactly what happens when high-energy cosmic rays and solar energetic particles hit the walls of a spacecraft. One particle hits another; fragments fly; the fragments themselves crash into other molecules.
"It’s very complicated. Curiosity has given us a chance to measure what happens in a real-life situation."
Hassler says the walls of the Mars Science Lab spacecraft have performed as expected: Only the strongest radiation storms have made it inside. Moreover, charged particles penetrating the hull have been slowed down and fragmented by their interaction with the spacecraft's metal skin.
They make it sound safe, but i don't understand the chart in terms of radiation, can anyone here?
RAD's readings are still being analyzed in advance of submission to a scientific journal, Hassler told me, but the exposure equaled "a few tens of percent" of NASA's career limit. And that's just for a one-way trip. Astronauts would face additional exposure during their work on Mars and on the return trip.
Originally posted by Mapkar
reply to post by Phage
I'm no expert, but it sounds to me like we're pretty much stuck here. If we can't safely traverse space, With our current technological capabilities, then it doesn't seem to me like it's a worthwhile endeavor. (Snip)
Latest MSL Updates
MSL Right on Course -- TCM-5 Cancelled Fri, 03 Aug 2012 01:43:25 PM PDT
With less than three days to go before touchdown on the Red Planet, Curiosity remains in good health, with all systems operating as expected. Given the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft's consistent and stable course, today the project decided that the planned Trajectory Correction Maneuver 5 (TCM-5) and its corresponding update to parameters for the autonomous software controlling events during entry, descent and landing will not be necessary. As of 12:35 p.m. today PDT (3:35 p.m. EDT), the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft was approximately 468,000 miles (753,200 kilometers) from Mars, or a little less than twice the distance from Earth to the moon. It is traveling at about 8,000 mph (3,576 meters per second). It will gradually increase in speed to about 13,200 mph (5,900 meters per second) by the time it reaches the top of the Martian atmosphere.NASA site
Easier to shield the whole craft I guess.And on Mars they would need shielded suits.Hopefully they have some kind of composit material against the radiation.
Originally posted by SLAYER69
reply to post by Phage
Outside of the extra cost of getting lead up into orbit and the extra cost of fuel to get it on the moveEasi. Why couldn't they just use lead shielding?
Originally posted by Max_TO
Could water act as a shield , if stored in outer wall storage ?
For Mars transit, mine water ice or regolith on the moon and use it to shield the spacecraft enroute
Originally posted by getreadyalready
Something assembled in space would mitigate the weight factor. Once it is outside the Earth's gravity, weight isn't as much of an issue. Perhaps put the shielded crew cabin in stable orbit, and then send the transport vehicle up later to latch on and send it to Mars. Perhaps a redesign so the crew is not in the belly, but more on the front so there is more interference, more devices, shielded wiring and electronics between the crew and the side facing the sun? But that would require a way to modify it for the trip back to Earth. Then again, what is the point of a manned trip to Mars if we aren't going to land, and if we are planning on landing there we'll need a LOT more technology available to launch off the surface to return.
I think we're a long, long way from landing a human on Mars, and I don't see the point of sending one to orbit Mars, when robotics are just as effective.
Originally posted by yourmaker
as supercomputers increase in abilities within the next 10-50 years, I think they will be able to work with us in creating radiation resistant suits for that type of travel.
or even some type of drug or chemical reaction within the human body to resist those doses.
Originally posted by gort51
Well considering the Curiosity's power pack IS a Nuclear Powered battery source (yes another hidden tech, kept form the masses)
One wonders how much "Radiation" is eminating from the Power pack, inside the spacecraft??...... Just a thought.
Originally posted by Phage
reply to post by SLAYER69
Outside of cost...there are better options than lead.
The problem is really the secondary radiation produced by particles hitting the atoms of the shielding material. The heavier the shielding material the worse the problem. This makes lead quite unsuitable. By this logic water (because of the hydrogen in it) would probably be the best material but it isn't light either.
It's a big problem.
edit on 8/3/2012 by Phage because: (no reason given)