ESA tests materials to protect astronauts from Cosmic Radiation

With astronauts venturing beyond the protection of Earth’s magnetic field a major cause of high level space radiation, the ESA (European Space Agency) has set up a group mutually with Germany’s GSI for the purpose to search for materials to protect astronauts going to the Moon, Mars and the asteroids or space station.  They are going to assess Moon and Mars soil.

.As well as immense space radiation containing atomic nuclei produced of dying stars, deep space have also exposed astronauts to dangerous radiation produced by the Sun during solar particle events.  However these are made from protons that can be defended relatively easily.  The Earth protects from huge cosmic radiation that originates beyond our Solar System.  But venture beyond the magnetic field without protection is utmost dangerous for astronauts.

Astronauts on space station need enhanced protection from cosmic radiation

Only making thicker and denser metal radiation to keep safe astronauts is not just enough because high-ionizing high-energy particles or HZE can produce more harmful secondary particles while striking metal shields.

That’s why ESA (two year project) is in process to assess the most appropriate materials to keep safe astronauts from these harmful radiations.

GSI’s linear accelerator UNILAC (UNIversal Linear ACcelerator) that will be used to help assess the shielding properties of various materials (Photo: GSI)

The first round of testing material was performed in New York at NASA’s Space Radiation Laboratory at Brookhaven.  They have assessed various materials like aluminum, water, polythene plastic multilayer structures and Moon and Mars material.  Moon and Mars were assessed due to their accessibility for planetary expeditions.

Alessandra Menicucci said who is monitoring the project “We have also confirmed a new type of hydrogen storage material holds particular promise,” he also said that the lighter a material’s atomic nuclei the better the protection.”

While assessing the most promising material, the researchers found that water and polythene can perform better than aluminum.  New hydrogen-rich materials by UK based Cella Energy performed even better.

Using the Geant4 toolkit to simulate particles striking matter, the researchers found that water and polyethylene performed better than aluminum, while new hydrogen-rich materials originally developed by U.K.-based Cella Energy for storing hydrogen fuel performed even better.

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