Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Force Field would protect astronauts on Mars trip

British scientists based at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and universities of York and Strathclyde have made a major breakthrough that offers the promise of a safe trip to Mars by astronauts. One of the biggest worries facing mission planners for a trip to Mars is the issue of Solar Storms. Astronauts leaving the safety of the earth's magnetic field face the very real danger of exposure to lethal levels of radiation. The Apollo missions left the earth's protective field for only a few days, but an 18 month round trip to Mars would almost certainly encounter one or more of these storms. The effect would pound the spacecraft's electronics and quite likely kill the crew. It has been proposed that a crew with adequate warning of a storm could orientate their craft so as put as much of its bulk between them and the incoming radiation, or to carry very heavy shielding, but this new line of research proposes manufacturing a portable magnetic field to protect the craft. This mini-magnetosphere would be housed in two outrider satellites in front of the spacecraft. The system is in the process of being patented and a working prototype could be built within 5 years.