Radiation protection for lunar explorers

(ORDO NEWS) — Exactly 50 years ago, in August 1972, a series of powerful solar storms caused widespread destruction of satellites and terrestrial communications systems on Earth.

The storms occurred in the middle of NASA’s Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 lunar missions. Fortunately, there were no astronauts outside the Earth’s protective magnetic field at the time. If they encountered these storms, the dose of radiation received would cause acute radiation poisoning.

So far, we have been concerned about the impact of space weather on the Earth’s energy infrastructure – power grids, communications systems, satellites in Earth orbit and the ISS.

Space weather experts process data from detectors aboard satellites in orbit and sensors on Earth. They provide information to a range of “users” – from satellite operators, airlines and power grids to aurora hunters.

But for long-term human activity on the Moon, this information is not enough.

Radiation research will be the main focus of the Artemis I mission. The Orion capsule will carry radiation monitors from NASA and ESA, as well as dummies and CubeSats designed to study the radiation environment on the way to the Moon.

ESA is also working on the European Radiation Sensor Array (ERSA), a series of instruments that will provide real-time radiation monitoring aboard the future Gateway lunar station.

ESA researchers are also exploring the possibility of using radiation instruments on other spacecraft, such as the Lunar Pathfinder and future satellite communications networks on the Moon.

Early observation of active regions on the solar disk is one of the main goals of the upcoming ESA Vigil mission, which will be launched in 2029.

Vigil is expected to provide early warning of potentially dangerous space weather events, days before they could harm the health of astronauts in space or infrastructure on and around Earth.


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