How NASA Will Protect Astronauts From Space Radiation

How NASA Will Protect Astronauts From Space Radiation


It’s August 1972, and Ian Richardson — a future NASA scientist — is watching TV when the BBC announces: “The interference is caused by solar activity.” He didn’t know then, but the Sun had just erupted in one of the most powerful solar events ever recorded. There was no threat to humans, because Earth’s magnetic field deflects much of the Sun’s radiation. But the explosions were so powerful that intense radiation disrupted TV signals and caused radio blackouts. So what if you were outside Earth’s magnetic field? On the Moon and beyond, astronauts face the risk of extreme radiation exposure. Luckily, the intense radiation in 1972 occurred right between Apollo 16 and 17 missions, when no astronauts were in their path. As NASA plans missions to go back to the Moon and then on to Mars, predicting the Sun’s activity to protect astronauts from space radiation is one of our biggest priorities. One of the biggest unknown factors about going to space is the radiation hazard from the Sun. This is Ian today — studying the effects of the Sun, also known as the field of heliophysics. The Sun is always emitting radiation like the light we see. But solar energetic particles, like from the August 1972 events, can be far more harmful. To be able to forecast solar energetic particles, we need to know how the Sun energizes them. The Sun is made up of electrically charged particles called plasma. As this plasma moves, it builds up energy inside its massive magnetic field. This energy is usually released in two types of explosions. Flares are intense flashes of light. Coronal mass ejections are giant eruptions of solar material. These solar eruptions send shock waves across the solar system accelerating particles as they go. These are solar energetic particles, or SEPs. They consist mainly of protons and possess a lot of energy that can affect satellite measurements and humans. SEPs can bombard you with a lot of radiation in a short period of time. They can penetrate your skin, damage your DNA, and increase your chances of getting cancer and radiation sickness. But they don’t occur with every solar eruption. Only a small number of flares and coronal mass ejections create SEPs. So we’re trying to predict when SEPs form and how they travel through space. At NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the Community Coordinated Modeling Center, or CCMC, is dedicated to testing prediction models. Working with global partners, they use data from NASA satellites at different vantage points and models to figure out how solar explosions behave including how shock waves energize SEPs. And as we get better at predicting, we get more time to prepare. Preparation for an SEP event — of which you may know that is already coming and perhaps the magnitude as well — the technique that you would want is to use is to put as much mass between you and the source. On the surface of the Moon or Mars, astronauts can go underground or build shelter with local materials. But in transit, astronauts can only be protected with what’s on the spacecraft. which means that you might have elements on a spacecraft that have multiple purposes. NASA’s space radiation specialists are testing different ways to do this. One strategy they tested on the Orion spacecraft involves crew members barricading themselves with as much mass as possible in the center of the spacecraft. Other possible techniques in development include vests that add mass and electrically-charged surfaces that deflect particles. In terms of radiation protection and radiation mitigation, the factor of time is extraordinarily important. The Sun has a natural 11-year cycle that transitions through low and high activity, which is indicated by the number of sunspots on the surface. More sunspots mean more eruptions resulting in a higher risk for SEPs. But during this increased solar activity, the Sun’s magnetic field strengthens, enhancing its shield against another important source of radiation — galactic cosmic rays. These are charged particles traveling at nearly the speed of light that are thought to come from supernova explosions from within our galaxy and possibly further out in the universe. If solar energetic particles are intense, sporadic storms, then galactic cosmic rays are a constant drizzle. Galactic cosmic rays are more sparse but also much more energetic. They include heavier elements that can penetrate through vast amounts of materials. Understanding the rate of galactic cosmic rays helps us determine how much time astronauts can spend in space safely. To date, humans have only been on the lunar surface for a cumulative total of about 12 days. A trip to Mars will take 6-10 months each way. That means even more radiation exposure, and so NASA is doing the work to prepare for that. The Moon is going to be a testbed for us in order to be to prepare for Mars. The more that we understand the impact and the duration of radiation on the Moon, the more we can extrapolate that to the length of time that we will be spending in transit and on the surface of Mars.

26 Replies to “How NASA Will Protect Astronauts From Space Radiation”

  1. People are always questioning the Van Allen belt…Can you explain ? Since we now know the Moon is semiartificial by default for at least 15 scientific reasons not counting math according to mainstream scientist and ancient structures are on it and appears to be somewhat hollow, maybe these aspects should be addressed…There are YouTube channels that now have live feed…Who is it that is coming and going ?

  2. Imagine protecting spacecraft with very powerfull magnetic field and seeing auroras around it while you are traveling to colony on Mars

  3. I still have doubts that we were ever on the moon. It was all a little suspicious back then. Like why CBS ABC and NBC could not plug directly into a feed, they had to shoot their footage of a screen.

  4. If radiation shielding was like computers we would be able to survive the center of a working nuclear reactor by now

  5. Certainly for space transit the field option is better if that can be understood, but I totally get the point that when on the moon or planet using mass would be better for now.

  6. They sent the Juno to Jupiter, and regardless of the all the radiation hardening the they could muster, Juno still got damaged. And that was just Jupiter. The Sun is on a whole other level of intense radiation. Where is Scotty when you need him for a miracle? 😁😁😁😁

  7. Sir can i use this video clip for educational purpose, i want to translate it in to my local language, so that tha local language people will get to know about space science knowledge..
    Can i use it sir

  8. So 50 years later and they are rethinking exposing people to radiation by going to the moon. Mars is way worse, years exposed to it both directions and 8 month launch windows. Lead aprons, ships made from something like steel instead of aluminum that lets gamma rays pass. Radiation Reflectors like beryllium lined x. Maybe a Faraday shield or something like on a microwave.

  9. I love the footage of the Sun we get now, so beautiful and majestic!!! The magnetic loops of plasma (?) are incredible, and to think that these are easily big enough for the Earth to pass under is just mind blowing. The sheer size of the solar flares that erupt out into space is crazy (and the weight of this material is also shocking!) The more I learn about this wonderful, awe inspiring and truly epic universe the more my tiny mind is blown!!! Stars are incredible, with Neutron stars (and especially their variants Pulsars and Magnetars, even the bizarre Black Widow/Zombie Neutron stars!) being a particular favourite, and all the weird facts about these objects (a sugar cube of Neutron star material weighing millions of tons, the staggering speed that some spin at, the record thus far being over 700 rotations a SECOND etc) Love this channel and I love the fact that you guys educate me with every video, thank you!!!

  10. Why would you need protection? You "landed" people on the fkin Moon, traveling in thin aluminum tin cans, and they went out there using no special protection whatsoever, right? SIX times. And they lived happy long lives after that. Was there less radiation back then, perhaps? I guess not. So don't worry, NASA, you can do it. Just send people in space wearing just cotton t-shirts and baseball caps. The only requirement is to have good CGI and a secure hangar where to fake it.

  11. Well i can help you , you are all of high intelligence and math oriented , this you tube feed must go to NASA somehow ……if you increase yourselves obviously your instruments will get sharper …so the math question is how are you to increase yourself? The dormant aspects of tbe mind …math question how do you do that ….? ..many ways ,but some get you to eureka births of thought ,.. Your language is one way to unlock your dormant mind aspects another…is you see and travel you live according to skeleton ..the way will continue to evolve…is man's style of everything ..woman is aura ….the world of aura the math of aura the traveling of aura …notbing like skeleton but the same two in one yet one is dormant …womans ways …the ways of aura not skeleton …..pretty soon you will see it ….it changes math …all math …it is why i never continued skeleton math …

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