ANS Nuclear Matinee: Measuring Radiation on Mars

Even before its successful landing earlier this week, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory was already sending back important scientific data—about the radiation exposure that astronauts might face during a mission to the Red Planet.

Now, the Curiosity rover’s Radiation Assessment Detector is collecting information about the radiation environment on the surface of Mars. Cosmic rays and energetic particles from the sun can be very important factors for past or present life on Mars, and for future human exploration as well. Don Hassler, principal investigator for Curiosity‘s Radiation Assessment Detector, explains.



2 thoughts on “ANS Nuclear Matinee: Measuring Radiation on Mars

  1. Bruce Behrhorst

    The nominal (short span) mission is for two yrs. But already seeing a max. 50 particle flux rate for sun Coronal Mass Ejection in mid march as the MSL was in route to mars:
    The ‘Arbitrary Dose Rate’ (I don’t know this metric) on surface seems below cruise rate maybe because cosmic rays are at periodic rates and CMEs are random due to solar weather or maybe determined by mars rotation and area on mars surface.

    [The MSL spacecraft structure (which includes the backshell and heatshield) provides significant shielding from the deep space radiation environment, reducing significantly the particle flux observed by the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD).]

    Like I don’t know what NASA did to build the backshield and the heatshield but one can see from the RAD instrument exposure it had cut down exposure drastic.

    I don’t agree w/ space radiation alarmists like Dr. John Jurist one can see humans can be shielded from at least CME’s.
    The RAD instrument study has to run its course but it don’t look like humans would be in any danger from space radiation so long as they are shielded going @ a snail’s space not the NTR LOX boosted propulsion in a real human mission to mars ( this propulsion would even be better).

    Anyone know the conversion rate to mSv since the going rate received @ LEO is aprox. 72 mSv ??
    I’ll investigate and post article on my site.

  2. James Greenidge

    Ironically, another nuclear application can help ally this potential hazard; true high-impulse nuclear drives (yes, space reactors) to cut exposure and transit times to Mars from months to several weeks. We were already well along this path nearly forty years ago before it got canned! The U.N. is going to have to shed their anti-nuke frets and get into the 21st century and permit nuclear reactors in orbit and beyond. They’re our key to the solar system.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

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