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A new study suggests that the increased cosmic radiation reaching the inner solar system because of the Sun’s weak sunspot activity will increase the exposure to dangerous radiation levels for interplanetary astronauts, thus limiting mission lengths to about one year.
The new research finds that, during periods of low solar activity, a 30-year-old astronaut can spend roughly one year in space—just enough time to get to Mars and back—before the constant bombardment by cosmic rays pushes the risk of radiation-induced cancer above current exposure limits.
If the sun’s activity continues to weaken as many scientists predict, the number of days humans could spend in deep space before reaching their exposure limit could decrease by about 20 percent, making future crewed space flight more dangerous, according to the new study accepted for publication in Space Weather, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
The numbers were worse for women, whose exposure would become dangerous in only 300 days, according to the study.