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Radiation on ground of Mars


Scientists are currently analysing data to study the exact amount of radiation in Mar's atmosphere.

Days after Nasa found that humans who travel to Mars will be blasted with dangerously high levels of cosmic radiation equivalent to 50 full body CT scans that will increase their risk of suffering from fatal cancer by about 3%, one of the top scientists in that team have told TOI that they are currently measuring and analyzing radiation data from the surface of Mars, the findings of which will be announced soon.

Dr Cary Zeitlin, principal scientist in the Southwest Research Institute of Space Science and lead author of the "Measurements of Energetic Particle Radiation in Transit to Mars" published in the journal Science on May 31 told TOI: "We expect the radiation dose on Mars to be smaller than what we saw in interplanetary space, where radiation comes from all directions, mitigated only by the shielding provided by the spacecraft. On the surface of Mars, space radiation is only coming from "above" and is mitigated by the Mar's comparatively (to Earth) thin atmosphere and weak magnetic fields".

On November 26, 2011, the Institute's Mars Science Laboratory began a 253-day, 560-million-km journey to deliver the Curiosity rover to the Red Planet. En route, the Institute-led Radiation Assesment Detector (RAD) made detailed measurements of the energetic particle radiation environment inside the spacecraft, providing important insights for future human missions to Mars.

RAD is the first instrument to collect radiation exposure data from within a spacecraft, serving as the first stand-in for future astronauts traveling to Mars.

Dr Zeitlin told TOI: "The RAD data show an average dose equivalent rate of 1.8 millisieverts per day in cruise - in terms of accumulated dose, it's like getting a whole-body CT scan once every five or six days. The total during just the transit phases of a Mars mission would be approximately .66 Sv for a round trip with current propulsion systems. Time spent on the surface of Mars might add considerably to the total dose equivalent, depending on shielding conditions and the duration of the stay".

She said "Understanding the radiation environment inside a spacecraft carrying humans to Mars or other deep space destinations is critical for planning future crewed missions. The radiation in space is in general not so intense as to cause immediate illness or death. If it was, nobody would be considering such missions. So, yes, people can survive 2-3 years in deep space, but there are serious questions about their health in the aftermath of such a voyage".

"The radiation issue will have to be addressed before humans can go into deep space for months or years at a time. Nasa is conducting research on several fronts, including biological countermeasures, better propulsion systems that would reduce the duration in space, better shielding materials, and also to obtain a better understanding of the health risks of exposure to space radiation".

Deep space radiation exposure is associated with two major things: Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCRs) and Solar Energetic Particles (SEPs).




Editor's Note: This article was originally published by  Times of India, here, and is licenced as Public Domain under Creative Commons. See Creative Commons - Attribution Licence.

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