Too much radiation for astronauts to make it to Mars

A trip to Phobos comes with extras (Image: NASA/JPL)

16 September 2009 by David Shiga

FORGET the risk of exploding rockets or getting sideswiped by a wayward bit of space junk. Radiation may be the biggest hurdle to human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and could put a damper on a recently proposed mission to Mars orbit.

A panel tasked by the White House with reviewing NASA’s human space flight activities (New Scientist, 22 August, p. 8 ) suggests sending astronauts to one of Mars’s moons, Phobos or Deimos, among other possibilities raised in its report released last week (

From such a perch, astronauts could use remote-controlled robots to explore the Martian surface and retrieve samples – from the planet as well as the moon itself – for later close-up study on Earth. This would avoid the need to develop expensive hardware to land humans on a body with substantial gravity, like Mars.

“I, for one, would go to Phobos or Deimos in a heartbeat, even without any hope of landing on Mars,” says planetary scientist Pascal Lee of the Mars Institute, a California-based research organisation.

But the insidious threat of space radiation in the form of galactic cosmic rays could keep astronauts confined much closer to home.

The rays are actually speeding protons and heavier atomic nuclei that rain onto our solar system from all directions. They can slice through DNA molecules ….

We highly recommend New Scientist  magazine . Click on the link for the complete article.

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