Space Radiation Threatens to Stop Mission to Mars

May 26, 2008 03:17 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
High radiation levels could prevent a manned mission to Mars and future visits to the Moon. Scientists are looking for solutions to allow continued exploration.

30-Second Summary

The actual risks space radiation poses for the body remain uncertain, reports, but experts worry that it could be a serious threat to astronauts’ health.

"The way to deal with that problem is to reduce the margins of uncertainty," said Walter Schimmerling, a retired NASA scientist.

Possible solutions include installing more shielding materials, such as high-density plastic, on spacecraft. That would require reducing weight elsewhere, as craft that are too heavy cannot carry enough fuel.

But NASA’s lack of revenue means it has cut funding for such research, the National Research Council—a private, nonprofit organization—said in a new report. 

Scientists have long pondered the effects of space radiation as they contemplate a mission to Mars and a return trip to the Moon.

The problem is “space rays,” including galactic cosmic radiation and solar particles, reports Reuters. Researchers worry the radiation could cause cancers and degenerative tissue disease in astronauts over time.

“You can put on very thick walls and they just won't protect you from that," said astronaut James van Hoften.

Headline Links: Radiation could delay a Mars mission

Opinions & Analysis: Mars’ popularity

Related Topics: Life on Mars

‘The politics of Mars’

Background: Radiation experiments and the Mars rovers

Reference: NASA’s Mars Exploration Program


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