CAU - Universität Kiel
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Nr. 77, 06.07.2013  voriger  Übersicht  weiter  REIHEN  SUCHE 


Manned mission to mars: doable but risky

Foto: NASA JPL-Caltech

A manned mission to Mars could be done without causing illness. That is the result of the analysis of data from the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) which is on board the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, containing the »Curiosity« rover sent to Mars in November 2011.

The radiation detector was built by scientists of Kiel University in collaboration with scientists at Southwest Research Institute (USA) and was in space for 253 days. During this period of time it was exposed to the same amount of radiation as an astronaut would experience, and made detailed measurements of the radiation environment inside the spacecraft.

»There are two kinds of radiation which would put astronauts at risk«, explained Kiel University physicist Robert Wimmer-Schweingruber, who, with his team, built the RAD sensor head. »The major part of radiation exposure is the relatively constant galactic cosmic radiation. The second kind is linked to solar flares which release radiation in the form of highly energetic solar particles«. The overall measurement of the radiation dose, assuming a 360-day round-trip with current propulsion systems and comparable shielding, was found to be at around 0.67 Sievert. »That is below the critical point of approximately 0.8 Sievert. This would mean that a human mission to Mars is doable but would still be critical«, stressed Wimmer-Schweingruber.

At the moment, the »Curiosity« data being sent to Earth is undergoing further analysis. This will help to realize manned missions to Mars, for example in protecting future astronauts by building spaceships which have better shielding against radiation.

Ann-Christin Wimber
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