Home / Science / NASA’s Artemis program wants to get astronauts back to the moon by 2024. But new research shows they will have to contend with high levels of radiation

NASA’s Artemis program wants to get astronauts back to the moon by 2024. But new research shows they will have to contend with high levels of radiation



Future lunar explorers will be bombarded with two to three times more radiation than astronauts aboard the International Space Station, a health hazard that will require thick-walled shelters for protection, scientists reported Friday.

The Chinese lander on the far side of the moon is providing the first comprehensive measurements of radiation exposure from the lunar surface, vital information for NASA and others aiming to send astronauts to the moon, the study notes.

A Chinese-German team reported radiation data collected by the lander ̵

1; named Chang’e 4 for the Chinese moon goddess – in the US magazine Science Advances.

“This is an immense achievement, in the sense that we now have a dataset that we can use to compare our radiation” and better understand the potential risk to people on the moon, said Thomas Berger, a physicist at the US Institute of Medicine. ‘German space agency.

Robert Wimmer-Schweingruber of Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany, observed that astronauts would have 200 to 1,000 times more radiation on the moon than we experience on Earth, or five to 10 times more than the passengers on a transatlantic flight. .

“The difference, however, is that we are not on such a flight for as long as astronauts would be when they explore the moon,” Wimmer-Schweingruber said in an email.

Cancer is the main risk.

“Humans are not made for these levels of radiation and should protect themselves when on the moon,” he added.

The radiation levels are expected to be roughly the same across the moon, except near the walls of deep craters, Wimmer-Schweingruber said.

“Basically, the less you see the sky, the better. This is the main source of radiation, “he said.

Wimmer-Schweingruber said the radiation levels are close to those predicted by the models. The levels measured by Chang’e 4, in fact, “agree almost exactly” with measurements from a detector on a NASA orbiter that has circled the moon for more than a decade, said Kerry Lee, a space radiation expert at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“It’s nice to see confirmation of what we think and our understanding of how radiation interacts with the moon is as expected,” said Lee, who was not involved in the Chinese-led study.

In a detailed diagram released this week, NASA said the first pair of astronauts to land on the moon with the new Artemis program would spend about a week on the lunar surface, more than double the number of Apollo crews half a century ago. Expeditions would take one to two months once a base camp is established.

NASA is looking to get astronauts to the moon by the end of 2024, an accelerated pace ordered by the White House, and to Mars in the 1930s.

The space agency said it will have radiation detectors and a safe haven aboard all Orion crew pods flying to the moon. As for actual landers, three separate business teams are developing their own aircraft under NASA supervision. At least for Artemis’ first moon landing, the astronauts will live in the ascending part of their lander.

German researchers suggest shelters built with lunar earth – easily available material – for stays of more than a few days. The walls should be 80 centimeters (about 2 1/2 feet) thick, they said. Any thicker and dirt will emit its own secondary radiation, created when galactic cosmic rays interact with the lunar soil.

“So, in that sense, I think the walls of European castles would be too thick!” Berger wrote in an email.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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