Steal This Thesis – Radiation Shielding for Mars Mission

rocket shipOne of the problems facing engineers planning for a mission to Mars is the radiation that astronauts would be subjected to during flight. While there is some shielding in the Moon missions, the astronauts were exposed to elevated doses of radiation. For short trips such as those to the Moon, the risk is considered nominal. But for a trip to Mars that could take years, the effects of elevated radiation exposure could be devastating.

sun 1The reason we here on Earth do not get these elevated exposures is because of the electromagnetic “shield” that the Earth produces. The Northern Lights make this shield visible from time to time as streams of radiation course through it from the Sun. Is it possible that engineers could mimc this shield on an interplanetary adventure?

radiation 1I suggest that they can. And there are two options that they can use to achieve this effect. Both of them rely on the flow of electricity to generate an electromagnetic shield. I believe most engineers could tell you that this would work but energy on a Mars mission would be limited, and the amount of electrical current required to generate a shield of the necessary size and strength would be prohibitive.

northern-lightsTwo methods that can overcome the energy limitation are superconductors and topological insulators. My suggestion is using a topological insulator. The temperature in space would allow for the lower material temperature required for topological insulating effects to take form. And because there is no resistance to current flow, there would be no (or very little) energy loss. The whole rocket blast offthing could be run on a 9-volt battery! (Relatively speaking …)

I understand there needs to be a lot of material development. But once the right material is found, construct a circular rail around the spacecraft (think Hula Hoop) and run a bunch of current through it. Bingo. Radiation shielding just like here on Earth. Our astronauts will be safe from the harmful effects of radiation.

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