Regolith: Protection for humans on Mars

Sep 18, 2012
Shieldings for astronauts could be built on Mars from Martian sand. Credit: G. Otto / GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung

For six weeks the rover "Curiosity" is now working on Mars. NASA also plans to send humans to Mars within the next 20 years. On the flight and during the stay on Moon or Mars the astronauts have to be protected against long exposure to cosmic radiation that might cause cancer. On behalf of the European Space Agency ESA the GSI Helmholtzzentrum fur Schwerionenforschung GmbH tests whether Moon and Mars regolith can be used to build shieldings for ground stations.

On Earth the atmosphere and the magnetic field weaken cosmic rays. But on Moon and Mars they pelt down unhamperdly. The can harm astronauts and could cause cancer in the long run as a result of damage in DNA and cells.

Chiara La Tessa is manager of experiments in GSI biophysics. She explains why Moon or Mars ground stations would not be built from terrestrial high tech material: "In space travels every gram counts. Transporting building material through space would lead to a cost explosion. That is why ground stations would basically be built from Moon and Mars regolith – especially the shielding. We know from the analyses done by rovers what the local sand and stones consist of. With this information one can produce Moon and Mars regolith on Earth and we test it for its properties." As cosmic rays are nothing else but fast ions that were accelerated by star explosions they can be simulated by an accelerator. The GSI facility is one of the few able to reproduce cosmic rays in an original way.

Cosmic radiation is produced with the GSI linear accelerator. Credit: A. Zschau / GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung

After the GSI team tested how well the stone slabs can protect against radiation in the American accelerator laboratory in Brookhaven, they now explore how many neutrons are produced in the materials when radiated.

If strike the stones with full speed they smash some to pieces. The resulting free neutrons have a different effect on the human body than cosmic radiation. Depending on their speed they might even be more harmful.

At GSI the scientists now tested how strong the neutron effect is in Moon and Mars and how far it passes through the material. "I cannot estimate how the material is going to react to the radiation yet", says La Tessa. "Will many be produced? How many fast and how many slow ones? This we will know when we analyzed our experiment data."

Explore further: NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How Safe Is Travel To Mars

Oct 24, 2006

As NASA lays plans for travel to the moon and Mars, the agency is exploring propulsion systems, crew modules, and habitat structures. It has looked at the psychology of being cooped up with fellow astronauts for a years-long ...

Curiosity's first daredevil stunt

Aug 03, 2012

(Phys.org) -- When Curiosity enters the Martian atmosphere on August 6th, setting in motion "the seven minutes of terror" that people around the world have anticipated since launch a year ago, the intrepid ...

Curiosity, the stunt double

Feb 24, 2012

With a pair of bug-eyes swiveling on a stalk nearly 8 feet off the ground, the 6-wheeled, 1800-lb Mars rover Curiosity doesn’t look much like a human being.  Yet, right now, the mini-Cooper-sized ...

Deep-space travel could create heart woes for astronauts

Apr 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Astronauts anticipate more trips to the moon and manned missions to Mars. But exposure to cosmic radiation outside the Earth’s magnetic field could be detrimental to their arteries, according to a study ...

Recommended for you

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

7 hours ago

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

Apr 18, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

Apr 18, 2014

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.