Mars mission would expose astronauts to dangerous levels of radiation

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U.S. space agency NASA will have to find creative solutions to overcoming the hazards of space radiation for future manned missions to Mars.

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Radiation readings from the Curiosity rover en route to and while on Mars have revealed levels dangerous to humans. Exposure to solar radiation would be highest during the 180 to 253 day journey to the red planet.

Current spacecraft radiation shielding is insufficient for such long journeys. Walls filled with hydrogen-rich water offer one solution. Electromagnetic shields could provide even more protection. Astronauts would need this protection to survive the mission. An average CT scan gives a dose of around 10 millisieverts, whereas a round-trip to Mars would expose a human to 554-770 of radiation.

Excessive exposure to radiation can cause cataracts, cancer of the thyroid glands, lungs and stomach, and sterility. NASA aims to send humans to Mars sometime in the 2030s.

This animation depicts some technical solutions to the hazard of radiation and its effects on astronauts.

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