To keep astronauts safe and healthy during future missions to Mars, superfast new propulsion technologies will likely be necessary, experts say.
Crewmembers flying to Mars and back using traditional chemical thrusters would be exposed to the high radiation levels of deep space for 12 to 17 months. That’s simply too long to keep astronauts’ radiation doses from fast-moving particles known as galactic cosmic rays within currently acceptable limits, researchers said.
At the same time, they added, improved shielding is needed to help protect deep-space explorers from charged particles blasted out by the sun. (Traditional shielding does little good against cosmic rays.) “We need to get there faster to reduce the impact of the galactic cosmic rays, but we need to have shielding, local shielding, on board to eliminate the effects of solar particle events,” Eddie Semones, spaceflight radiation health officer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, told reporters…
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