posted on Jan, 1 2013 @ 05:57 PM
Originally posted by TheLieWeLive
While Earth's magnetic field generally protects the planet, once astronauts venture beyond low-Earth orbit, they are constantly bombarded by a shower
of dangerous particles known as cosmic rays
So.......why don't they build these ships to generate their own magnetic field?
edit on 1-1-2013 by TheLieWeLive because: (no reason
Because any spacecraft, manned or unmanned, is designed around a set of compromises. Generating a magnetic field powerful enough to shield a crew
compartment against cosmic radiation is possible, but the equipment is heavy, consumes a large amount of power, and will generate a non-trivial amount
of heat. I'm working from memory here (and at my age, that's risky), but if memory serves, putting an extra 1 lb in low orbit adds about 10 lbs to
the launch weight of the vehicle. So...a few hundred lbs of cable or mesh to generate the shield, a few hundred lbs for a small nuclear reactor to
power it (or a few tons for a couple of football fields' worth of solar panels), and a few hundred pounds for radiators and associated plumbing
should give us a decently shielded crew compartment. It will also, unfortunately, mean that we need a Saturn V launch to reach the ISS as all those
'few hundred pounds' items wind up adding several tons to launch weight.
There's also a cost factor. Space flight isn't a cheap undertaking at the best of times, and the bigger your vehicle, the bigger the cost.
Really, this is no different from any other dangerous activity. Eventually, the folks running the show (be it NASA, NASCAR, American Airlines, or
McDonalds) decide what level of risk is acceptable, and work within that level of risk. Given the choice of going into space and accepting the risk of
cosmic ray exposure, or waiting (decades) until technology would allow the same trip to be made in perfect safety, we decided to go, and the men (and
women) who participated in the program knew as much about the risks as the engineers who designed the spacecraft.