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back to article NASA probes spots temporary third Van Allen radiation belt

For over fifty years schoolbooks have been teaching about the Van Allen belts, two torus-shaped zones of charged particles that encircle the Earth. Now, a NASA mission has discovered that there is a third – but only when conditions are right. Third Van Allen belt Three belts for the price of two Last August, NASA fired a …

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Anonymous Coward

Back to the Moon?

Okay, so will they let "the right stuff" fly the lunar module after cataract surgery?

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If a short trip was enough to ruin astronauts eyesight, what would a 501 day excursion to Mars do?

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Bronze badge

A lot worse. Or were you hoping for a different answer?

Even flying in a plane increases the radiation you receive by a vast amount - frequent air travel is one of the highest risk factors. Go outside the belts and it's worse. The thing with radiation of any kind is that it's not automatic, guaranteed or instantaneous, it's a cumulative, random effect which confuses a lot of people (e.g. Why can I have several X-rays but the nurse has to stand behind a lead shield even if it's the first time she's ever done it? Why did the people who repaired Chernobyl, on the whole, live and why are humans still in the area performing work to shield it more if it's so dangerous? Why is there a recorded case of a gentlemen fleeing the Hiroshima bomb only to be caught in the Nagasaki bombing and live for many years afterwards?)

Even an extended Moon trip (we have spent literally days in total on the moon) would have an increased risk of lots of health problems. Unfortunately we can't just manufacture gravity, can't stop radiation in any significant way if we would have to put the solution in a rocket-propelled transport also carrying live humans (we can't really send up lead shields at all, just the sheer weight), etc. so we have to deal with it.

But the same kind of risks have been inherent in lots of "firsts" - what nutter first climbed Everest? How many would now risk it with just the equipment they had at the time? And yet people now do it every day with equipment that Hillary and Tensing would have killed for. Hell, Marie Curie and her husband were able to research and get a Nobel prize in the time it took the radiation to kill them, and they were studying RADIATION and had absolutely no idea whatsoever that there was any risk.

The chance of radiation causing something which terminates the mission early, for instance, is nothing compared to the chance of just blowing up on the launchpad, dying from natural causes mid-flight, going mad and opening the door into vacuum, having a failure of the life support systems, etc. and yet all those risks are overlooked by "Well, that radiation's a bit dodgy!".

The thing is, there are people who would gladly sacrifice their health in order to perform a "first". Bloody good job, as well, or we'd be nowhere.

To quote XKCD: "Man has earned his right to hold this planet against all comers, by virtue of occasionally producing someone totally batshit insane."

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Yag
Pint

Here, have a nice cold one...

... even if drinking obviously toxic liquids is batshit insane.

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Silver badge
Happy

And of course...

...The thing is, there are people who would gladly sacrifice their health in order to perform a "first". Bloody good job, as well, or we'd be nowhere....

...there's Killimanjaro. About 7000 people are damaged by altitude sickness on it each year - usually temporarily, but an annual average of 2-3 tourists die - 10-15 if you count the local guides who don't get much medical support...

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Devil

Re: Unfortunately we can't ...

Actually, we can. Just robots have to go first.

The "cheapest" defense is to hide behind your own propellant (or inside it). Robot first, get an ice block from the asteroid belt and meld the ship living quarters into it and voila - here is your protection. One small ice asteroid (a few hundred meters in size) will be enough to fuel (and protect) our exploratory fleet for a few decades (even accounting for growth).

It is not perfect (even 50m of ice cannot really compare to the Van Allen belts). It is however definitely better than nothing and it would nicely make up as your propellant too (just melt it, ionize it and speed it up to a a few thousand m/s - something we can do already). This will also decrease travel time from 501 days to a couple of weeks so the exposure window will drop too.

As far as gravity, last time I heard angular momentum was rumored to do the trick. Not that it will matter if travel time is down to a couple of weeks.

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Gold badge

Re: Unfortunately we can't ...

You forgot the other major advantage of capturing a giant ice asteroid. There'll never be a shortage of ice for your orbital gin and tonic. A very important consideration if one's in space for 500 days.

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Bronze badge

Re: Unfortunately we can't ...

I'd give it a voila, for water, be it ice or liquid is heavy. Now, you also need to accelerate all that mass to get to wherever you're going, using even more fuel to try to do so.

That said, water is an excellent radiation absorber.

And a source of oxygen for breathing, as no space capsule yet designed fails to leak some amount of its atmosphere into space.

Have to have a trainload of CO2 scrubbers as well.

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Yes...

...driver [sic] them very crazy indeed.

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Thumb Up

Now we know of them.

One would hope someone somewhere puts in shielding now we know. Energy, big metal plates. whichever works.

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Silver badge
Boffin

Never mind cataracts

What effect does it have on your tadpoles?

It would rule generation-ships out if all chaps loaded onto them had been jaffa'd.

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Bronze badge

Re: Never mind cataracts

This message was brought to you by the NASA extra-solar survival expert and spokesman, Derek Trotter.

But, yes, it's a concern too.

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Joke

You know...

I loved Van Allen's song "Jump"

/D

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Re: You know...

belter!

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Silver badge

Re: You know...

Hot For Teacher was better.

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Facepalm

"...Surface of Marts..." you say Grayson? Wherefore is this majestic world of which you speak?

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Anonymous Coward

@Simon Smith 1

"Wherefore ..." Oopsie!

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Holmes

Typo time again

" Surface of Marts"

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Unhappy

"the only surviving motivation for continuing human spaceflight is the ideology of adventure,"

And as long as space is a programme, not a place to go it always will be.

BTW The Apollo astroanauts who got off the ground have all lived to fairly ripe old ages. They got cataracts a few years earlier than expected.

An interesting comparison on the Mars journey was the increase in risk of getting cancer would be the same as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day on the flight.

It's a cliche but some people have done that for decades without having cancer. That's not "luck," that having few or no cancer precursor genes in their DNA coupled with cancer resistant variants of those genes that are prone to turning cancerous, possibly assisted by a diet with a higher level of anti oxidants in it. The "luck" is being born with that combination of genes in the first place. If they had the average mix genes they'd have left various bits of themselves in surgery and a load of hair in chemo by now.

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Coat

Up Next

The discovery of Van Allen's Suspenders

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