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Curiosity rover  (Source: msnbcmedia.msn.com)
It's unknown what kind of health effects could come from such a trip

There's a lot of talk about humans living on Mars one day, but radiation levels discovered by NASA's Curiosity rover may spark a new investigation into what is an acceptable amount for people to tolerate over a period of time.

Curiosity, which landed on the Red Planet on August 6, 2012, has been using a tool called a Radiation Assessment Detector to collect radiation samples while on Mars. The goal was to get an idea of how much radiation humans would be exposed to during a round trip to Mars. 

Cary Zeitlin, NASA's principal scientist for the Martian Radiation Environment Experiment, found (through Curiosity) that humans could be exposed to between 554 and 770 millisieverts of ionizing radiation. This largely depends on the level of solar activity.

Americans typically receive about 6.2 millisieverts a year from both natural and man-made sources. 

What does this mean, exactly? Zeitlin isn't entirely sure; as his team just makes measurements and doesn't decide what radiation dose is considered safe. The amount of radiation found falls in line with what was expected in a "deep space radiation environment," but as far as health goes, more information is needed. 

Astronauts traveling to the moon receive about the same rate of radiation accumulation as those traveling to Mars, but since the Mars trip is so much longer than the moon's (the Apollo moon mission took about 8 days while the Curiosity Mars mission took about 253 days) the radiation levels may be more dangerous. 

Zeitlin mentioned that there's no effective method of shielding that could block all of the high-energy particles from reaching the astronauts on a Mars mission. 

There are also some studies that say radiation exposure is linked to cancer, and NASA tries to keep its lifetime fatal cancer risk to 3 percent for its astronauts.

NASA released a report in 2010 that said the average 35-year-old American male can safely spend between 140 and 186 days in deep space with heavy shielding while a 35-year-old female could spend between 88 and 120 days. For those who have never smoked, the 35-year-old man could spend between 180 and 239 days in deep space while a 35-year-old female could spend between 130 and 173 days. These figures keep them below the 3 percent cancer risk.

Zeitlin said the radiation astronauts would receive on a Mars trip would be comparable to getting an abdominal CT scan once every five days.

Source: CNN



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Befuddled article
By vailr on 5/31/2013 4:52:02 PM , Rating: 3
The author needs to re-write this article, to make a clear distinction between total radiation exposure while traveling on a trip TO Mars vs. radiation exposure while ON Mars. The data from Curiosity's Radiation Assessment Detector seems to have only been acquired since arriving at Mars, not during the trip TO mars. But: the DailyTech article is very unclear as to what the NASA engineer is really saying.
As for ionizing radiation protection ON Mars: find or dig a cave. A few feet of solid rock would provide adequate radiation protection.




RE: Befuddled article
By sorry dog on 6/3/2013 11:41:24 AM , Rating: 2
...and what's with the 35 year old non-smoking astronauts? I assume the first group are doing something bad since they can't stay in space as long...are they smoking astronauts? I'd like to see the mission planning on how many cartons they are going to send up... I mean space probably ain't the best place to kick the habit....


RE: Befuddled article
By maugrimtr on 6/4/2013 8:43:34 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
As for ionizing radiation protection ON Mars: find or dig a cave. A few feet of solid rock would provide adequate radiation protection.


Hint: Mars has no planetary magnetic field. You might want to dig deeper than a few feet. There are lava tubes beneath the surface which are probably better suited, at a good depth and can be easily reinforced (even coated and compartmentalized as a secondary defense should a primary living module suffer damage).


RE: Befuddled article
By boeush on 6/3/2013 8:44:18 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
The data from Curiosity's Radiation Assessment Detector seems to have only been acquired since arriving at Mars, not during the trip TO mars.
Actually, precisely the opposite. The data in question was acquired during the trip to Mars. Of course, the same instrument is also continuing to acquire data about radiation exposure on Mars' surface, but that data hasn't yet been accumulated in sufficient quantities and/or sufficiently analyzed yet to report to the public...

While the instrument was in flight, it was shielded inside the spacecraft; thus the data indicates approximate levels of radiation that astronauts in a shielded spacecraft would receive on a transit to (and from) Mars.

Radiation levels on Mars' surface will be lower than in deep space, firstly because you only get half as much exposure to cosmic rays (the other half being blocked by the body of the planet beneath you), and secondly because Mars' atmosphere and magnetic fields (however feeble) do provide some additional shielding.
quote:
As for ionizing radiation protection ON Mars: find or dig a cave.
That would be good advice even absent radiation. Mars' thin atmosphere wouldn't provide much protection against small meteoroids, either -- so unless you enjoy life in a shooting gallery, probably best to go underground. As an extra bonus, you won't have to deal with the wild swings in temperature between night and day, and you'd be better shielded from the dust...


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