Magnetic shield for spacefarers

By | November 7, 2008

Future astronauts could benefit from a magnetic “umbrella” that deflects harmful space radiation around their crew capsule, scientists say.

The super-fast charged particles that stream away from the Sun pose a significant threat to any long-duration mission, such as to the Moon or Mars. But the research team says a spaceship equipped with a magnetic field generator could protect its occupants. Lab tests are reported in the journal Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion.  The approach mimics the protective field that envelops the Earth, known as the magnetosphere.

Astronauts’ risk

Our star is a constant source of charged particles, and storms that arise on the Sun’s surface result in huge numbers of these particles spilling into space.

As well as this plasma, or “solar wind”, high velocity particles known as cosmic rays also flood through our galaxy. The Earth’s magnetosphere deflects many of these particles that rain down on the planet, and our atmosphere absorbs most of the rest.

International space agencies acknowledge that astronauts face a significant risk of ill health and even death if they experience major exposure to this harsh environment.

And even the spacecraft themselves are not immune to the effects. A solar flare crippled the electronics on Japan’s mission to Mars, Nozomi, in 2002, for example.

But researchers from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), the Universities of York and Strathclyde, and IST Lisbon have shown how it might be possible to create a portable mini-magnetosphere for spaceships. … 

.. a practical implementation is probably 15 to 20 years away. … To protect a spaceship and its crew, she said, the craft itself might carry the magnetic field generator. Alternatively, it was possible to envisage a constellation of accompanying ships dedicated to the purpose of providing the umbrella where it was needed most. – bbc

And yet, the Apollo astronauts years ago had no trouble with radiation. One moon conspiracy theorist had this to say on the subject:

275px-aldrin_apollo_11NASA is planning to send astronauts to the moon by the year 2020. However, before they send people to the moon, they want to measure the radiation levels on the moon with an unmanned probe named CRaTER:

Didn’t NASA measure radiation levels in the 1960s?

NASA sent several Surveyor probes to the moon during the 1960s before sending the Apollo astronauts:

NASA claims the purpose of the probes was to analyze the moon’s surface. At the time those probes landed on the moon, nobody knew whether the moon’s surface was hard enough for people to walk on. Some people wondered if areas on the moon were covered with such a thick layer of powder that the Apollo spacecraft would sink into it.

The surveyor probes showed that it was possible to land a spacecraft on the moon because the surface was crushed rocks, not deep, soft powder.

NASA admits that the Surveyor 6 measured solar protons and cosmic rays:

What did the probe determine? Were the solar protons and cosmic rays at such a low level that the astronauts would be safe? Why is NASA so secretive about radiation levels in outer space?

After discovering that the moon was safe to walk on, NASA claims to have sent six teams of astronauts to the moon. They landed in six different locations. However, none of them bothered to measure the radiation.

NASA claims that the Apollo astronauts never bothered to measure radiation levels because they were on the moon for only a couple days. A more likely explanation for why the astronauts never measured radiation levels on the moon is because they never went to the moon.

Furthermore, it is possible that the surveyor probe discovered that radiation levels on the moon were so high that no astronaut could possibly survive in those thin spacesuits and that lousy lunar lander. Perhaps NASA classified all the radiation measurements as “Top Secret” so that we do not realize that outer space is dangerous. – erich

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