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Thread: Cosmic Radiation and Astronauts

  1. #1 Cosmic Radiation and Astronauts 
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    When astronauts go into space they are at risk of highly energized ion particles destroying their DNA and perhaps causing cancer. Major forms of protection against this radiation on earth is the earth's atmosphere and earth's magnetic field. Currently on space missions astronauts use aluminum and plastic sheets for protection against this radiation. What if they also created a rather strong magnetic field around the space shuttle? Would that help deflect the ion particles away from the shuttle and decrease the risk of radiation damages?


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    Forum Freshman Jinn's Avatar
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    That theory sounds like it would work but what would you use to create the magnetic force that is controlled enough to deflect the ion particles correctly? I think that if you were to use an electromagnet that it would be more cost effective to use the sheets.


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    I agree with Jinn that the probably the mass of equipment needed to deflect particles would be better employed in using more conventional shielding. Moreover a magnetic shield would not deflect high energy neutral particels, while these would be constrained by shielding.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    I agree with Jinn that the probably the mass of equipment needed to deflect particles would be better employed in using more conventional shielding. Moreover a magnetic shield would not deflect high energy neutral particels, while these would be constrained by shielding.
    What about a slight magnetic field to improve protection? This along with shielding.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond K
    What about a slight magnetic field to improve protection? This along with shielding.
    I haven't done any calculations (I am not to sure how to. ), but it just seems likely to me that generating any effective electromagnetic shielding would take a substantial mass of generatng equipment that would outweigh (pun intended) the benefits. There might also be issues of intereference between the shielding and sensors/ communication equipment/etc.
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    I don't think there's any point in having magnetic fields to sheild us from radiation, when static materials, which require no power can do it well enough for us.

    Beta radiation is the one that causes damage to us, and it can be stopped easily by sheets of aluminium.
    Chance favours the prepared mind.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bit4bit
    I don't think there's any point in having magnetic fields to sheild us from radiation, when static materials, which require no power can do it well enough for us.

    Beta radiation is the one that causes damage to us, and it can be stopped easily by sheets of aluminium.
    I thought that the earth's magnetosphere defelected SOME of the ion radiation.
    I am not saying that they should use a magnetic field and not aluminum, I am saying aluminum does not protect them 100% and it can even produce radiation itself.
    Mabye you think having a magnetic field does not do anything because your following the space trips that stay close enough to earth, and in the earth's magnetosphere, but if your going somewhere as far as mars, your are in much greater danger.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond K

    I thought that the earth's magnetosphere defelected SOME of the ion radiation.
    I am not saying that they should use a magnetic field and not aluminum, I am saying aluminum does not protect them 100% and it can even produce radiation itself.
    Mabye you think having a magnetic field does not do anything because your following the space trips that stay close enough to earth, and in the earth's magnetosphere, but if your going somewhere as far as mars, your are in much greater danger.
    Contrary to popular belief, the earth's magnetic field doesn't actually do that much to protect us from radiation. Most of our protection comes from the earth's atmosphere. Astronauts in low earth orbit still need radiation protection, even though they are still deep inside the earth's magnetic field. Even simply flying in a plane will greatly increase the amount of radiation that you're exposed to, since you are up high and there is a lot less air between you and the incoming radiation.

    Anyway, I think everyone else here is probably correct - you might be able to get some protection from a big magnetic field that you generated on your spacecraft, but you would probably get even more protection if you used to same amount of mass to just add more shielding.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scifor Refugee
    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond K

    I thought that the earth's magnetosphere defelected SOME of the ion radiation.
    I am not saying that they should use a magnetic field and not aluminum, I am saying aluminum does not protect them 100% and it can even produce radiation itself.
    Mabye you think having a magnetic field does not do anything because your following the space trips that stay close enough to earth, and in the earth's magnetosphere, but if your going somewhere as far as mars, your are in much greater danger.
    Contrary to popular belief, the earth's magnetic field doesn't actually do that much to protect us from radiation. Most of our protection comes from the earth's atmosphere. Astronauts in low earth orbit still need radiation protection, even though they are still deep inside the earth's magnetic field. Even simply flying in a plane will greatly increase the amount of radiation that you're exposed to, since you are up high and there is a lot less air between you and the incoming radiation.

    Anyway, I think everyone else here is probably correct - you might be able to get some protection from a big magnetic field that you generated on your spacecraft, but you would probably get even more protection if you used to same amount of mass to just add more shielding.
    How can you solve the fact that these shields create their own radiation from being hit by radiation? This is currently an issue and is stopping NASA from reaching Mars.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond K
    This is currently an issue and is stopping NASA from reaching Mars.
    The only things stopping NASA from reaching Mars are budget and imagination.
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    Imagination can be bought.

    Even with a much larger budget, it would be unwise to squander that on Mars photo-op, in my opinion, when there are so many things to do. It's like, the only thing stopping you from visiting Guam, is, Tahiti, Bali, Hawaii... need I go on? NASA may dodge a bad *cough* Bush *cough* idea by saying "ah, darn, not enough money".
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    Well what would be an efficient way of keeping radiation levels on the level they are supposed to be? Currently going to Mars would exceed radiation levels that NASA set.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond K
    Well what would be an efficient way of keeping radiation levels on the level they are supposed to be? Currently going to Mars would exceed radiation levels that NASA set.
    Use a larger, more massive spacecraft. Store water in the outer walls. Reduce this mass by using Zubrin's approach of 'living off the land'. i.e. extract the bulk of the fuel necessary for the return flight by a previously launched automatic lander.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond K
    Well what would be an efficient way of keeping radiation levels on the level they are supposed to be? Currently going to Mars would exceed radiation levels that NASA set.
    I'm pretty sure you're wrong about this. As I recall, NASA calculated that for a trip to Mars that was 6 months in space going there, 18 months on the surface, and another 6 months coming back, that would put astronauts just over the standard safety limit. So there would be a slight risk from radiation, but it would probably be a much small risk than the chance of the mars lander crashing while it tried to land.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond K
    This is currently an issue and is stopping NASA from reaching Mars.
    The only things stopping NASA from reaching Mars are budget and imagination.
    I would say it's more like budget and will and focus. There are actually many perfectly good schemes for going to mars that have been very seriously evaluated, any one of which could work. Lots of different mission profiles etc. It's mainly just lack of money.

    It's especially sad when you consider that although space travel is expensive, it's not very expensive compared to other things that governments spend money on. The entire Apollo program cost about $135 billion, adjusted for inflation. The cost of a single Saturn V launch was about $1.2 billion. And today the U.S. spends $1.2 trillion/year on defense. In other words, the U.S. spends 9 times the total cost of the Apollo program every year on defense. If you took just 5% of the military budget and gave it to NASA, that would be enough to launch 50 Satrun V's per year. But hey, I'm sure that 5% means the difference between whether or not the terrorists win.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scifor Refugee
    In other words, the U.S. spends 9 times the total cost of the Apollo program every year on defense. If you took just 5% of the military budget and gave it to NASA, that would be enough to launch 50 Satrun V's per year. But hey, I'm sure that 5% means the difference between whether or not the terrorists win.
    National defense is one of the very few things that the US constitution authorizes the federal government to do. How they manage to spend money on all the other stuff and get it past the Supreme Court is a mystery.
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scifor Refugee
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond K
    This is currently an issue and is stopping NASA from reaching Mars.
    The only things stopping NASA from reaching Mars are budget and imagination.
    I would say it's more like budget and will and focus. There are actually many perfectly good schemes for going to mars that have been very seriously evaluated, any one of which could work. Lots of different mission profiles etc. It's mainly just lack of money.

    It's especially sad when you consider that although space travel is expensive, it's not very expensive compared to other things that governments spend money on. The entire Apollo program cost about $135 billion, adjusted for inflation. The cost of a single Saturn V launch was about $1.2 billion. And today the U.S. spends $1.2 trillion/year on defense. In other words, the U.S. spends 9 times the total cost of the Apollo program every year on defense. If you took just 5% of the military budget and gave it to NASA, that would be enough to launch 50 Satrun V's per year. But hey, I'm sure that 5% means the difference between whether or not the terrorists win.
    I think people just aren't interested in going to Mars enough to approve any spending. Honestly the most you get out of it is really a morale victory, and maybe some scientific samples.

    It's not like the Moon, either, where arriving really proved something. Once we've proved we can reach the nearest celestial body, reaching the next nearest celestial body just well..... it's kind of anti-climatic.

    Now.... show people that you can bring something back from space, like raw materials or other economic prosperities, and you'll get money so fast, they might even go ahead and stop fighting Al Quaida just to make room in the budget.
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scifor Refugee
    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond K
    Well what would be an efficient way of keeping radiation levels on the level they are supposed to be? Currently going to Mars would exceed radiation levels that NASA set.
    I'm pretty sure you're wrong about this. As I recall, NASA calculated that for a trip to Mars that was 6 months in space going there, 18 months on the surface, and another 6 months coming back, that would put astronauts just over the standard safety limit. So there would be a slight risk from radiation, but it would probably be a much small risk than the chance of the mars lander crashing while it tried to land.
    Going as far as mars makes you vulnerable to cosmic radiation.
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