Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Shields Up!

via Astrobiology Magazine.

One of the potential problems with human space travel or the human habitation of other bodies like the Moon or Mars is the danger to biological tissues caused by solar radiation. The Earth's atmosphere and magnetic field protect all living creatures on the planet from such radiation, but to date there have been no good solutions. The Apollo missions were simply lucky that there wasn't any major outburst of solar activity during the missions, such exposure could have caused acute radiation illness or even death. The ISS has a special heavily shielded room for such occurances, but the cost of putting such a payload into an interplanetary or lunar expedition would be prohibitive, and you simply couldn't operate a craft from such a room for the extended time frames such a mission would require. Even lower exposure over an extended time period can have serious consequences. A potential answer might be in creating an artificial magnetic field around a spacecraft, ala Star Trek.

"Now scientists at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire plan to mimic nature. They will build a miniature magnetosphere in a laboratory to see if a deflector shield can be used to protect humans living on space craft and in bases on the Moon or Mars.In order to work, an artificial mini-magnetosphere on a space craft will need to utilise many cutting edge technologies, such as superconductors and the magnetic confinement techniques used in nuclear fusion."

The idea is that a superconducting ring would be built in the spacecraft hull and generate a magnetic field that would surround the ship, and hopefully deflect enough radiation to insure the saftey of the human crew.

No comments: