From Earth’s vantage point, the heavens at night can inspire a sense of awe and wonder–not to mention stir our curiosity as to what lies “beyond the black.”
But despite the appearance of serenity among the stars, an invisible killer lurks between the worlds that could threaten our voyage across the gulf of space, a danger NASA and others are attempting to address.
(Space.com) Astronauts have long seen white flashes while in space due to cosmic rays, or extremely high-energy particles, passing through their heads. A return to the moon or a mission to Mars that NASA and other space agencies are planning would place astronauts at continued risk from cosmic rays or dangerous bursts of solar radiation. [...]
When it comes to shielding astronauts from radiation, spacecraft designers and mission planners have to consider trading off a safe amount of protective material — say, high density plastic — with cutting weight in order to enter space practically. Crafts that are too heavy simply can’t carry enough fuel to make flight practical. Further research could not only look into better shielding materials, but also spacecraft designs that put electronics and machinery in the periphery between astronauts and harm’s way.
While providing basic shielding within the spacecraft is important, NASA should probably try to focus on creating magnetic energy shields as it may be cheaper than “hauling lead” beyond the sky.
Since creating these fields would obviously consume a lot of energy, engineers could design the magnetic shields to only activate when the spacecraft (or a nearby probe) senses an increasing spike in radiation (a device scientists are already working on).
If humanity can solve the radiation issue, then settling on Mars (and beyond) will become a little easier for our rowdy planet.