First Orion Flight Will Assess Radiation Risk As NASA Thinks About Human Mars Missions

If you wanna get humans to Mars, there are so many technical hurdles in the way that it will take a lot of hard work. How to help people survive for months on a hostile surface, especially one that is bathed on radiation? And how will we keep those people safe on the long journey there and back?

NASA is greatly concerned about the radiation risk, and is asking the public for help in a new challenge as the agency measures radiation with the forthcoming uncrewed Orion test flight in December. There’s $12,000 up for grabs across at least a few awards, providing you get your ideas into the agency by Dec. 12.

“One of the major human health issues facing future space travelers venturing beyond low-Earth orbit is the hazardous effects of galactic cosmic rays (GCRs),” NASA wrote in a press release.

“Exposure to GCRs, immensely high-energy radiation that mainly originates outside the solar system, now limits mission duration to about 150 days while a mission to Mars would take approximately 500 days. These charged particles permeate the universe, and exposure to them is inevitable during space exploration.”


Orion in orbit in this artists concept. Credit: NASA

Here’s an interesting twist, too — more data will come through the Orion test flight as the next-generation spacecraft aims for a flight 3,600 miles (5,800 kilometers) above Earth’s surface. That’s so high that the vehicle will go inside a high-radiation environment called the Van Allen Belts, which only the Apollo astronauts passed through in the 1960s and 1970s en route to the Moon.

While a flight to Mars will also just graze this area briefly, scientists say the high-radiation environment will give them a sense of how Orion (and future spacecraft) perform in this kind of a zone. So the spacecraft will carry sensors on board to measure overall radiation levels as well as “hot spots” within the vehicle.

You can find out more information about the challenge, and participation details, at this link.

Source: NASA

Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Recent Posts

The Rings of Uranus and Neptune Could Help map Their Interiors

Mapping the interior of the ice giants is difficult, to say the least. Not only…

52 mins ago

A New Map of Mars, Made From 51,000 Orbital Images

When NASA sent the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) to the red planet in 2006, the…

3 hours ago

Cygnus Boosts the International Space Station for the First Time. NASA Can Now Potentially Keep the Station Aloft Without Russia’s Progress Spacecraft

Northrup Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft conducted a successful reboost of the International Space Station over…

7 hours ago

Record ‘Fast Nova’ Flares Over a Single Day

A galactic nova flared briefly into naked eye visibility for a day, before vanishing from…

9 hours ago

A Star has Grown Spiral Arms

Astronomers using the ALMA Observatory have discovered an unusual, massive star near the center of…

1 day ago

Curiosity Finds Life-Crucial Carbon in Mars Rocks

We are carbon-based life forms. That means the basis for the chemical compounds that forms…

1 day ago