Space travel – ionising radiation is the obstacle

Mission to Mars: The Radiation Problem., 20 June 12,  Would you go on a mission to Mars? The Dutch startup company Mars One is planning to establish the first Mars colony in 2023, starting with four individuals and adding more people every two years, funded by turning the whole endeavor into a reality TV show.

It’s just the latest plan to colonize the Red Planet, but I’m doubtful it will happen. There’s the expense, for sure, and the trials of trying to convince anyone to go on a one-way journey with just a few other strangers (what if you don’t get along? It’s not like you can leave). And then there’s the radiation problem.

Out in space, there are gamma rays from black holes, high-energy protons from the Sun, and cosmic rays from exploding stars. Earth’s atmosphere largely protects us from these types of radiation, but that wouldn’t help anyone traveling to Mars. They would be exposed to dangers that include neurological problems, loss of fertility and an increased risk of cancer…..  A 2005 study found even more to worry about—the radiation would be high enough to cause cancer in 10 percent of men and 17 percent of women aged 25 to 34 if they were to go to Mars and back.

The easy solution would seem to be to shield the vessel that carries the humans to Mars, but no one has figured out how to do that. When the thin aluminum currently used to build spacecraft is hit with cosmic rays, it generates secondary radiation that is even more deadly. …

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