The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), shown here in an artist's conception, is currently orbiting the moon, carrying an instrument that's shown plastic can help protect astronauts from cosmic radiation. That instrument, the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER), can be seen at the bottom left corner of the spacecraft. (Source: Chris Meaney/NASA)
As a kid, and as an adult, I loved and love science fiction. I think it had a lot to do with me becoming an engineer.
But I was always troubled by the scientific inconsistencies.
One book had a moon landing using parachutes. I knew better than that as a 10 year old. And there are many more issues raised.
But the radiation thing has bothered me a lot. I am a big fan of a trip to Mars, but I don't want corpses arriving there or here. It should not be a suicide mission, although I suspect there would still be plenty of volunteers!
The shielding issue is major. Not only is the "Moon a harsh mistress" but all of "empty" space is a dangerous mine field. Good luck solving all those problems!
Warren, I am not sure it is as bad as you think. As you get further out from the source the density of the radiation decreases. Exploration further from the sun should be safer, assuming that the sun is the main source of the radiation. We have had astronaughts in space for some time now and the ISS allows us to have people in orbit for longer periods of time. Shielding is important, but it's need should not deter us.
The main source of radiation in space that we must protect astronauts against is cosmic rays, specifically galactic cosmic rays (GCR). As we mention in the article, these are far more damaging to humans than any radiation we experience on Earth, from any source. The lack of enough protection for astronauts on extended voyages is often mentioned as one of the main reasons we haven't sent people to Mars yet.
Warren, I agree. It has always been at the top of the list of problems facing astronauts as much as I can recall. Having to hide in case of a solar flare, etc. They need protection if they ever want to make it to Mars. The old astronauts used to say when they closed their eyes they saw little sparks of light....radiation. Not good. This is a step in the right direction to protecting those brave enough to go out there. naperlou, the case I metioned earlier where they had to hide from a solar flare...if I recall correctly was on the ISS.
naperlou, I think you are wrong. Further from the Sun, really. I just don't buy that. Cosmic raditaion is out there, everywhere in space. Shielding is not just important, it is a necessity for people to survive long periods of time in space. You are assuming that all of the radiation comes from the Sun however, which I believe to be false(and is). Those people who are brave enough to stay in space for those periods of time know the consequences. Everything that can be done to minimalize that exposure to radiation should be done.
Thanks, Cadman-LT. The only other factor I've seen mentioned with similar frequency by NASA as keeping us from traveling farther (i.e., for longer periods) in space is the insanely high cost of fuel. That second one is cited as a reason for developing both robots and 3D printing for use in space.
So it's just as bad as the fuel. Which is why they are coming up with all of these new propulsion systems. Maybe they can get them there with propulsion, but if they are dead from radiation, doesn't do much good. Thanks Ann.
You're right, of course about also working on new propulsion systems to help solve the fuel issue. As well as the composite fuel tank we wrote about here that both weigh less and disintegrate on re-entry, so require less fuel on return: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=263520
Plastic bags can become useful as either raw materials for plastics or feedstock for fuel. It's when they're not recycled that they become a major problem. That's what California's bag ban will prevent.
NASA's JPL and Caltech have achieved the mind-boggling feat of 3D printing multiple metals in a single end-part, grading from one alloy to another. They've also developed a method for combining metals with carbon fiber composites in end-production parts.
More and more robots are becoming more autonomous all the time. Now Lockheed Martin has completed a demo mission with two completely autonomous robotic vehicles performing resupply, reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition.
Producing high-quality end-production metal parts with additive manufacturing for applications like aerospace and medical requires very tightly controlled processes and materials. New standards and guidelines for machines and processes, materials, and printed parts are underway from bodies such as ASTM International.
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