A recent finding shows that space radiation is getting dangerous for astronauts. A physics professor at the University of New Hampshire, and the lead author of the new study in the journal space radiation, Nathan Schwadron, and his team used an instrument on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, also known as CRaTER.
And found out that certain kinds of radiations in space are higher than was predicted by them. Also, they suggested that it could be a possible health risk for the future astronauts, who will be sent to the moon or Mars. After knowing about the enhanced risk, Schwadron and many radiation experts are working with NASA and other space agencies to study the radiation standards.
The work will begin with two or three study’s publications that will analyze the health risks associated with the exposure to radiation in space. Schwadron said, “It’s something we have to deal with, this year. The researchers will need to come up with some new ways of understanding biological risks, and take into account the recent research and the changes in the environment.”
And here comes a thing, according to some news, the European Space Agency allows their astronauts a lifetime of 1sievert of radiation, max. It is connected with a five percent increase in lifetime dangerous cancer risk. But the guidelines of NASA are much strict; NASA limits the astronauts to a three percent increase in cancer risk.
If we compare the measurements from the Mars Curiosity Rover in 2013, it suggested an 860 day trip to Mars which includes 500 days on the Martian surface that would subject every single astronaut to dosages of 1.01 sieverts. The solar activity always follows an 11-year cycle of maximum and minimum activity. When it’s maximum, the sun releases much more solar flares than usual, also charged particles’ coronal mass ejections and radiation in the past few decades for some reason which is probably affecting the radiation environment in the solar system.
The magnetic field of the sun can become more intense when it’s active, directing galactic cosmic rays, which is another source of radiation away from the solar system. But a muted sun would do a poorer job at deflecting cosmic rays.
Approximations of Schwadron from 2014 showed that cosmic ray radiation could increase 20 percent between two solar minimums. But a recent study suggests, radiation levels are worse, it is 10 percent extra than was estimated before.
Schwadron said, “I don’t want to overstate it, I don’t think this is going to cause major levels of radiation sickness, but the connections between fluxes of cosmic rays and cancer remains a notable biological problem, which I don’t think we really understand.”
NASA has been recently tasked by the Trump Administration with sending astronauts back to the moon. Those future voyagers will experience a different radiation environment than the 1960s and 1970s Apollo moon crews.
And when the solar activity’s bursts are still a threat for today’s voyagers, the meaning of a faint sun is that the galactic cosmic rays that Apollo astronauts like Neil Armstrong and Jim Lovell had felt would be much greater for today’s astronauts. That’s why Schwadron said that it is the best time to start work because it’ll take time to define the guidelines making the issue even trickier that the research falls between the biological and physical science disciplines.
As Schwadron said, “This is definitely an area of research that we need greater investments in, and a way to push through the barriers in between disciplines.”