Data from an experiment on Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has confirmed that light plastics can provide sufficient protection for humans against radiation.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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Data from an experiment on Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has confirmed that light plastics can provide sufficient protection for humans against radiation.

This is very good news indeed. Combined with the data from Curiosity, which indicated that the radiation levels in interplanetary space were less intense that expected, it appears that radiation will not be a serious obstacle to interplanetary travel.

Now we just have to get the bone loss and vision problems solved.


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  • Patrick Ritchie

    Good news indeed!

    Hopefully the nanoracks centrifuge can pave the way to a larger experiment where we can identify if some level of artificial gravity can address bone loss and vision problems.

    Or perhaps G-Lab will get off the ground and provide us some data.

  • Two words: Tethered spinning.

  • Patrick Ritchie

    I very much hope so!

  • I think that a careful reading of the news article does not necessarily result in the conclusion that the GCR problem is now solved.

  • Edward

    I see these data points as good news, even those that tell us that we need more or heavier shielding or that bone loss or eye damage may occur.

    The more data points that we collect the better will be our designs to protect our spacefaring crews. Improving safety in space is going to be a long-term mission, with many lessons learned the hard way. The more that we learn before sending crews into harm’s way the better off those crews will be.

    Creative solutions such as tethered spinning will go a long way toward solving the problems that we now know and the problems that we will discover as we explore the solar system in person.

  • Still going to need ‘storm shelters’ on ships and ground installations for those times when the Sun gets a bit techy.

  • joe

    What’s a few extra x-rays going to hurt!

  • wodun

    Yup, according to the article, astronauts would receive nearly the career cap on what NASA considers a safe exposure to radiation on the journey. Although, is a 5% greater chance to get cancer that big a deal?

    Seems like everyone gets cancer if they live long enough.

  • Solar particle events are way more than a few extra x-rays. In fact, Apollo was lucky to miss an event in 1972 which would have been immediately lethal had the crew been out on an EVA.

    None-the-less, a storm shelter is entirely feasible. I haven’t been able to track down the real numbers but it seems like a shelter surrounded with 10 cm of your water, food, and waste should be sufficient protection.

    GCRs are the real issue, but it is looking to me like you would need about 7 tonnes of shielding (food, water, waste, equipment, & polyethylene) to bring one’s cancer risk down to 4%.

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