Beyond Earths magnetic field, spacecraft and their occupants will be exposed to the full force of the GCRs and the solar eruptions. Missions to the Moon and Mars will venture into this harsher and unpredictable radiation environment for periods of many month or even years.
During the Apollo missions of the 1960s70s, the astronauts were simply lucky not to have been in space during a major solar eruption that would have flooded their spacecraft with deadly radiation. Essentially, they took risks and got away with it. For the kind of long-duration journeys being talked about today, a far more robust system of predicting radiation doses is required.
"The main uncertainties in these calculations are our knowledge of the space radiation environment beyond the Earths magnetic field, and the biological response to radiation," says Ersmark.
To provide the environmental information ESA is flying a standard radiation monitor on a number of its spacecraft, including Proba-1, Integral, Rosetta, GIOVE-B, Herschel and Planck. Known as the Standard Radiation Environment Monitor (SREM), it measures high-energy radiation particles. It was developed and manufactured by Oerlikon Space in cooperation with Paul Scherrer Institute, under a development contract from ESA.
Developing the appropriate strategies and countermeasures to deal with the interplanetary radiation hazard is essential. At present it is one of the most difficult challenges to our exploration the wider solar system. Thanks to DESIRE, Europeans have taken a step towards being able to test future space vehicle designs to find those that offer the most protection.
|Contact: Markus Bauer|
European Space Agency