Among the many challenges that must be overcome when it comes to sending humans to Mars — or beyond — is the technological ability to ensure astronauts’ safety from space radiation. In a new study, scientists propose that these barriers can be overcome, but this would depend on a ship with thick layers and even on the ideal moment to launch the mission.
According to the new study, conducted by an international group of space scientists, humans should be able to travel safely to and from Mars, provided the spacecraft’s armor is thick enough to protect the crew from cosmic rays. Furthermore, the entire round trip would need to take less than four years, and the best time to launch the mission would be when solar activity was at its peak.
Scientists have calculated that it would be possible to protect the spacecraft and its crew from radiation at the peak of solar activity because the particles released during this peak are deflected by even more energetic and dangerous particles from distant galaxies and stars, decreasing the solar radiation rate. . A trip to Mars takes an average of nine months, so depending on the time of launch and the amount of fuel, it is possible for a manned mission to reach the Red Planet and return from there in less than two years.
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Yuri Shprits, a researcher at the University of California and co-author of the study, explains that although space radiation imposes limits on how heavy the spacecraft can be and technological difficulties, such a mission is possible. Shprits and his team combined geophysical models of particle radiation for a solar cycle with models that simulated how cosmic rays would affect the crew — including effects on different human organs — aboard a spacecraft.
The results revealed that a spacecraft constructed of a relatively thick material can protect astronauts from radiation. However, such shielding would make the ship even heavier and could increase the amount of secondary radiation, the scientists point out. But Shprits points to the intensity of cosmic rays that fade between six to 12 months after the Sun’s peak activity—and this would be an ideal time to launch humans to Mars.
The research was published on August 7 this year, in the scientific journal Space Weather.
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