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 NASA’s Curiosity finds humans could survive radiation levels on Mars

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Posts : 7988
Join date : 2012-05-29
Location : Manchester UK

PostSubject: NASA’s Curiosity finds humans could survive radiation levels on Mars   Mon 19 Nov 2012, 18:26

NASA’s Curiosity finds humans could survive radiation levels on Mars

Staff, The Space Reporter
Saturday, November 17, 2012

NASA’s Curiosity rover has reportedly discovered radiation
levels on Mars are low enough for humans to survive, granted they stay
alive during the six-month journey to the Red Planet.

In a press conference on Friday, top NASA officials say recent data
obtained by the one-ton rover shows radiation levels on Mars are low
enough for humans. According to NASA, the rover linked rhythmic changes
in radiation to daily atmospheric changes, finding levels low enough to
sustain a two-year mission to Mars.

“Absolutely, astronauts can live in this environment,” said Don
Hassler, of Boulder, Colorado’s, Southwest Research Institute. Mr.
Hassler is the principal investigator for Curiosity’s Radiation
Assessment Detector (RAD).

“It’s never really been a question of if we can go to Mars, it’s a
matter of when we go, how do we best protect our astronauts,” Mr.
Hassler said.

The Colorado radiation expert said data collected by Curiosity shows
that the thin atmosphere of Mars does provide protection from solar

“We see a definite pattern related to the daily thermal tides of the
atmosphere,” Mr. Hassler said.. “The atmosphere provides a level of
shielding, and so charged-particle radiation is less when the atmosphere
is thicker. Overall, Mars’ atmosphere reduces the radiation dose
compared to what we saw during the flight to Mars.”

That said, it remains unclear whether astronauts traveling to the
planet would experience an increased risk in the event of solar flare.
Flares are comprised of millions of charged particles that could leave
astronauts exposed to high amounts of radiation.

The news was met with enthusiasm among a community of Mars
enthusiasts. While the findings are likely to increase the odds of a
manned mission to Mars, humans would still experience higher levels of
radiation on the way to and from the Red Planet.

The findings was part of an upcoming mission in which Curiosity will
attempt to discern whether atmospheric conditions could have created an
environment favorable to life. Rover Environmental Monitoring Station
(REMS) monitoring of air pressure has tracked both a seasonal increase
and a daily rhythm. Neither was unexpected, but the details improve
understanding of atmospheric cycles on present-day Mars, which helps
with estimating how the cycles may have operated in the past, according
to NASA.

Scientists say the data collected by the rover could allow them to
better understand past atmospheric conditions on the planet. An
understanding of past conditions could provide further evidence whether
the planet once harbored life.

The overall goal of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission is to use
ten instruments on Curiosity to assess whether areas inside Gale Crater
ever offered a habitable environment for microbes.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in
Pasadena, manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate,
Washington, and built Curiosity.

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