Space radiation threats addressed

Oct. 26, 2006 at 1:03 PM
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WASHINGTON`, D.C., Oct. 26 (UPI) -- A U.S. government report says a better understanding of solar storms is needed before manned flights to the moon, Mars and other planets can be undertaken.

The chairman of the committee issuing the National Research Council report -- Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado-Boulder -- said the study looks at the physical risks and technological obstacles of extended space journeys.

"One of the benefits of this report is that we are beginning to lower the error bar on the health impacts of space radiation to astronauts, and are looking hard at other challenges like more accurate solar forecasting and improved space engineering techniques," said Baker, director of the university's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.

The report noted a violent solar storm in August 1972 between the Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 missions would have been extremely hazardous to astronauts.

"We know that this storm was large enough that it could have had potentially fatal consequences to astronauts had they been on the moon at that time," said Baker.

The report suggests "storm shelters" be developed that could be constructed inside spacecraft or on the surface of the moon or Mars to protect astronauts from harmful radiation.

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