The surface of Mars is constantly exposed to radiation. Since the Red Planet does not have a magnetosphere and a dense atmosphere, like the Earth, Science Alert reported.
Different spacecraft can move along the surface and encounter radiation without any problems. But not people. For us, all this radiation is a mortal danger. How, then, to cope with this task?
A shelter will be needed for future explorers of the planet. Many would think that they would have to either take it with them or somehow build it there. But in fact, it will be much easier to use the natural features of the planet.
A new study using data from the Martian Science Laboratory (MNL) Curiosity has shown how the natural landscape of Mars can provide shelter from radiation. In particular, this applies to the Martian hills, which can provide protection from high-energy particles from space.
When MNL landed on the surface of Mars in 2012, it carried a device called the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) in its payload. RAD is preparation for future human visits to Mars.
It detects and measures radiation levels on Mars. He is also able to assess the danger that radiation poses to any microbial life that may exist on Mars. RAD is located at the top of Curiosity.
One area that MNL has studied with RAD is the Murray Butts Hills region, located on the lower Aeolis Mountain in Gale Crater. Curiosity explored it primarily to study geology, in particular the characteristics of sandstone and a type of layering called “transverse bedding”.
But while there, RAD continued to collect data. And this data recorded a drop in surface radiation. The MNL spent 13 solos (the name of the Martian days) parked near a hill in the Murray Butts area. There he mainly conducted surface exploration and drilling operations. But RAD didn’t stop working either, providing scientists with a 13-day readout of radiation data near the hill.
The RAD data showed that the radiation dose was reduced by about 5% near the hill. The research team also plotted a sky visibility map, which showed that when the rover was next to a hill, 19% of the sky was darkened.
There are some big nuances in the data. While driving through the Murray Butts area, Curiosity could not easily view the sky due to the terrain. Therefore, the team created a panoramic view of the sky using averages from several previous months to compare with data collected during a 13-day stay. These averages are only approximate, but you will have to use them.
The dotted red line in the image above represents these approximations and averages.
RAD found something too. The radiation that easily affects objects or people on the surface of Mars comes from space. And most of the radiation comes directly from the sky.
This is one of the difficulties in understanding radiation on Mars. The dose of radiation on the surface of Mars is not constant, it fluctuates. It can be influenced by changes in the heliosphere, as well as the angle of view of the sky.
The orbit of Mars changes its distance to the Sun, which also affects the surface radiation. Lower altitudes will be exposed to less radiation.
Radiation is not a homogeneous phenomenon, since there are also protons, alpha particles, ions of various elements, neutrons and gamma rays. In general, the study helps to form a more complete picture of the radiation situation on Mars.
Shelter is a basic need for researchers on Mars, and if advantages can be obtained by using existing features of the planet’s natural landscape to protect, then these features will be included in the mission program.
Scientists are already talking a lot about placing bases in lava tubes, where humans will be protected by meters of Martian regolith. But astronauts won’t be able to spend all their time there. They will have to go to radiation.
Any mission to Mars involving humans will require many contingencies. In the event of any emergency, it will be vital that the radiation doses to astronauts are kept as low as possible.
It is not hard to imagine that future planetary explorers will use every possible shelter from radiation, trying to cope with equipment breakdown or other troubles. That is why detailed maps of radiation, taking into account the effects of the sky, terrain and all other details, can save lives.