October 10, 2012
ESA Looking Into Moon Soil For Radiation Shielding
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The European Space Agency (ESA) is looking into how Moon and Martian soil could be used to help shield astronauts in space.ESA is teaming up with Germany's GSI particle accelerator for a two-year project in assessing promising materials for shielding future astronauts en route to the Moon, an asteroid or Mars.
“We are working with the only facility in Europe capable of simulating the high-energy heavy atomic nuclei found in galactic cosmic radiation — the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt, Germany,” said Alessandra Menicucci from GSI in a prepared statement.
He said they have confirmed a new type of hydrogen storage material which holds particular promise in this area of research.
In order for astronauts to venture out of Earth's magnetic field, they need to have protective shielding.
Space radiation comes from the Sun, as well as galactic cosmic radiation originating from beyond our Solar System.
“Solar particle events are made up of protons that can be shielded quite simply,” Alessandra said.
“The real challenge for deep-space missions is galactic cosmic radiation, which cannot be shielded completely because of its very high energy, although the exposure level decreases with increased solar activity."
High-ionizing high energy particles (HZE) are about the size of an iron atom or more, and they can strike metal shields, producing showers of secondary particles that could be even more harmful.
As shield thickness increases, the energy loss of ionizing radiation rises to a peak then declines rapidly.
“In general, the lighter a material´s atomic nuclei the better the protection,” Alessandra said.
ESA said that water and polyethylene performed better than aluminum, and new hydrogen-rich materials developed by Celia Energy tested even better.