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)
Okay, I understand; this is used for preventing micro and submicro holes from being formed in the skin of current space craft designs or space stations. As a result the life expectancy of a space vessel will be prolonged bby this plastic. What is the duration of the skin's life before it starts breaking down or is it self healing?
Ces2m5, I didn't get the impression that this material is flexible or will be used as a skin covering. It could be used as part of a spaceship's or a building's outer shell to shield people from radiation. But that's not what it was designed for, and this is more a proof-of-concept experiment at this stage. Solving the radiation protection problem would definitely make it easier for humans to spend more time in space, and go farther.
Dave, you're right about the point of the experiment. But the material was, in fact, invented for a different purpose as we state in the article. That description is taken from the company's website, at the link we give.
Ann, in your second paragraph (and also on your second slide), I think you mean to say that the tissue-equivalent plastic has the same opacity to photons and neutrons of a wide range of energies that human tissue does -- not that it "simulates the photons and neutrons [...] found in soft body human tissues."
From what I understand, originally, the point of the experiment was just to measure how much radiation astronauts would be exposed to; that's why making the plastic similar in opacity to human tissue was important. But since the material does a good job at blocking radiation, it (or something similar) could be used for shielding.
Cadman-LT, what did you mean about "watching every single episode of everything having to do with space on the science channel would never come in handy."? I love reading and watching anything about space. And like Warren I love reading sci-fi (and watching movies) and did so as a kid, too.
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
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.
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.
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