NASA probe to determine hazards of deep-space radiation

Washington, Nov. 19 : Scientists have published comprehensive findings on space-based radiation as measured by a University of New Hampshire led detector aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

The data provide critical information on the radiation hazards that will be faced by astronauts on extended missions to deep space such as those to Mars.

CRaTER principal investigator Nathan Schwadron of the UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS), said that these data are a fundamental reference for the radiation hazards in near Earth 'geospace' out to Mars and other regions of our Sun's vast heliosphere.

The space environment poses significant risks to both humans and satellites due to harmful radiation from galactic cosmic rays and solar energetic particles that can easily penetrate typical shielding and damage electronics. When this radiation impacts biological cells, it can cause an increased risk of cancer.

CRaTER's seminal measurements now provide quantified, radiation hazard data from lunar orbit and can be used to calculate radiation dosage from deep space down to airline altitudes. The data will be crucial in developing techniques for shielding against space-based radiation dosage.

The measurements have also played a vital role in UNH space scientists' efforts to develop both the first Web-based tool for predicting and forecasting the radiation environment in near-Earth, lunar, and Martian space environments and a space radiation detector that possesses unprecedented performance capabilities.

The near real-time prediction/forecasting tool known as PREDICCS integrates for the first time numerical models of space radiation and a host of real-time measurements being made by satellites currently in space. It provides updates of the radiation environment on an hourly basis and archives the data weekly, monthly, and yearly -- an historical record that provides a clear picture of when a safe radiation dose limit is reached for skin or blood-forming organs, for example.

CRaTER offers an opportunity to test the capability of PREDICCS to accurately describe the lunar radiation environment. The Space Weather special issue provides comparisons between dose rates produced by PREDICCS with those measured by CRaTER during three major solar energetic particle events that occurred in 2012.

The study has been in published in the journal Space Weather document.

--ANI (Posted on 19-11-2013)

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