Mars voyage radiation level found in range expected – Improved shielding can deal with it

On Thursday NASA released the results of a study of radiation dosages measured on the Curiosity rover during its flight from earth to Mars.  Radiation Measured by NASA’s Curiosity on Voyage to Mars has Implications for Future Human Missions – NASA

This led to some articles with headlines like this one: NASA: Mars Travelers Would Get Fried By Radiation – Popular Science.

However, such headlines are sensationalistic over-reaction. As indicated in a report in Nature (link via Bob Zimmerman), the radiation level is about what was expected and it appears the dosage can be reduced to acceptable levels for human spaceflight to Mars by using shielding that is attainable : Spacecraft data nails down radiation risk for humans going to Mars: Improved shielding technology could keep exposure within acceptable levels – Nature

[Physicist Sheila Thibeault of NASA’s Langley Research Center] says that she is heartened by the new study because she had feared that the radiation dose might be considerably higher. The results suggest “that this is a problem we can solve”, she adds.

As indicated in the Nature article, hydrogenated shielding is ideal. Besides the new materials discussed, the habitat for a Mars crew can be designed in a manner that surrounds the living areas with the water, food, waste,and fuel that they will be carrying anyway. This will add up to significant amount of hydrogenated shielding.

I’ll also note that the worst case dosage, “0.66 sieverts of radiation during the voyage to and from the planet”, would increase the crew’s chance of cancer by 3 to 4 per cent. This is consistent with what the Inspiration Mars project has said that they were expecting to deal with. It appears now that they can improve on this since they are planning to use the above shielding techniques with water, food, etc.

4 thoughts on “Mars voyage radiation level found in range expected – Improved shielding can deal with it”

  1. This assumes normal radiation levels, however. We don’t know what the worst case is, and we can’t predict solar activity very far in advance.

    When the politicians realize that, the trip is off.

    1. I’m not assuming a fixed rad level. The major problem is with GCRs, not solar rad, which is at much lower energies, though far more intense, and is much easier to shield. The solar wind is mostly protons and hydrogenated materials are ideal for shielding them.

      For flares a habitat will have a smaller compartment with additional shielding where the crew can reside till it passes.

      Who knows what politicians will do wrt NASA missions. At this point it looks more likely that manned missions to Mars will be via private means.

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