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Radiation on Mars mission

February 22, 2007

I’m not a big fan of manned space exploration, at least not at this stage of technological development.  For what we spend to keep the ISS spinning around in low-Earth orbit doing no science at all, we could send out an armada of robotic explorers and get some real science done.  But, our president has set a priority of a moon base and a Mars mission, which would starve scientific missions of funding for decades to come.

So it’s with mixed feelings I see that radiation may render a Mars mission difficult to survive.  Do you ‘spoze this practical difficulty will make our policy makers see a bit of reason and plan for Mars missions a century from now, after expected advances in materials science and propulsion?  Or will they just try to build bigger rockets to launch huge slabs of radiation-shielding lead into space? 

Unfortunately a much more detailed Scientific American article on the radiation hazard is “subscribers only” but there’s good overview on the SciAm Blog.  Upshot?  Forget EM shielding, expect cancer and cataracts, and, uh, astronomical costs if you try to carry tons of shielding.  NASA’s Walter Schimmerling gives a .pdf overview of the subject that basically says “we’re studying it without trying to sound like we really don’t know what to do next”.  At least, that’s my summary.  Somewhere I read an article on lightweight polymer radiation shields but I’ll be darned if i can find it now.

Categories: Science & Technology
  1. February 22, 2007 at 23:01 | #1

    Do you ‘spoze this practical difficulty will make our policy makers see a bit of reason

    Are you speaking of the current administration?  ;-)

  2. February 23, 2007 at 09:31 | #2

    Whateva happened to sending monkeys into space?

  3. February 23, 2007 at 10:08 | #3

    Sending monkeys into space was strictly to study effects of launch and low orbit on critters.  That bit of biology has been done and done.  And monkeys are useless for exploration, at which robots are great.  Unless… we genetically engineer them to make super monkeys! But then they rebel and blow up the statue of liberty. :-(

  4. February 23, 2007 at 10:34 | #4

    Hmm sounds like the makings of a good movie ;-)

  5. February 24, 2007 at 20:53 | #5

    Do they still pay farmers not to grow certain crops? Maybe we could pay NASA not to piss away time and resources on missions like Mars and the moon bat, I mean, Moon Base. Did you catch the story about the fine dust on the moon? This dust makes prolonged habitation by people and machinery dependent on moving parts something of a problem with no apparent solution. Has anyone told The Decider that vacuum cleaners do not work in a vacuum?

  6. Abhilasha
    February 25, 2007 at 10:51 | #6

    How about sending an astronut who already has cancer ??????

    He wouldnt have nothing to loose…since he already has the worst that could happen !!!

    Just thinking !!!!!!

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