Astronauts returning to the Moon will be exposed to radiation 2.6 times higher than on board the International Space Station (ISS), a new study says.
Scientists used data from China’s 2019 Chang’E 4 lander to determine the amount of radiation humans would be exposed to on the lunar surface.
An average daily radiation dose is 1,369 microsieverts per day – about 2.6 times higher than the daily dose for ISS crew, 200 times higher than on the surface of the Earth and five to 10 times higher ‘than on a flight from New York to Frankfurt’.
NASA plans to build Moon bases that won’t be penetrated by lethal rays when it sends humans back to the Moon in 2024, including the first woman, as part of the Artemis programme.
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Scientists have used data from China’s 2019 Chang’E 4 lander mission to determine the amount of radiation that humans would be exposed to on the lunar surface in future crewed missions to the Moon
Moon-bound astronauts are up to five times more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases than those who just orbited the Earth, according to a 2016 study.
‘Because astronauts would be exposed to these radiation levels longer than passengers or pilots on transatlantic flights, this is a considerable exposure,’ said Robert Wimmer-Schweingruber at University of Kiel in Germany, author of the study published in Science Advances.
‘We humans are not really made to withstand space radiation.
‘However, astronauts can and should shield themselves as far as possible during longer stays on the moon, for example by covering their habitat with a thick layer of lunar soil.’
Since the Moon has neither a protective magnetic field nor an atmosphere, the radiation field on the lunar surface is similar to that in interplanetary space.
During a stay on the moon humans are exposed to elevated radiation due to this lack of atmospheric shielding.
The measurements were taken on board the Chinese lunar lander Chang’e-4, which landed on the far side of the moon in January 2019
Moon-based astronauts would have to contend with multiple radiation sources, including galactic cosmic rays and sporadic solar particle events, when particles emitted by the Sun become accelerated.
Neutron radiation and exposure to gamma rays from interactions between space radiation and the lunar soil are other harmful sources, which could raise the risk of cancer and infertility, researchers say.
Long-term exposure to galactic cosmic rays is known to cause health problems including cataracts, cancer and degenerative central nervous system diseases.
Daily radiation exposure on the Moon’s surface was not properly reported during the original Apollo missions during the 1960s and 1970s.
Apollo astronauts carried ‘basic dosimeters’ with them – devices that read radiation-uptake – which only performed rudimentary measurements of the total radiation exposure.
Chang’e-4’s rover is equipped with a variety of scientific instruments to help it analyse the surface of the Moon. A stack of 10 silicon solid-state detectors mounted in a compartment of the Chang’E 4 lander sourced Moon radiation data for this study
To learn more, researchers performed calculations using data collected by a stack of 10 silicon solid-state detectors mounted in a compartment of the Chang’E 4 lander.
Chang’E 4 achieved the first soft landing on the far side of the Moon in January 2019 after launching the month prior.
It consists of a stationary lander and a smaller wheeled rover, Yutu-2, both of which use solar panels to generate electrical power.
This modern dosimeter device takes measurements during the lunar ‘daylight’ and switches off during the very cold and nearly two-week-long lunar night to conserve battery power.
Data from the device and the lander is still being transmitted back to Earth via the relay satellite Queqiao.
The measurements taken allow the calculation of an equivalent dose – a benchmark for the radiation within an astronaut suit.
However, the astronauts’ risk of getting cancer and other diseases could be reduced using lunar habitats during long-term stays on the Moon.
In April, NASA released a detailed plan for an ‘Artemis Base Camp’ that will be home to first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024.
The 13-page document highlights elements such as a terrain vehicle for transporting the astronauts around the landing zone, a permanent habit and a mobility platform to travel across the lunar surface.
Lunar surface on a Saturday night: NASA previously released a detailed plan for an ‘Artemis Base Camp’ that will be home to first woman and next man on the moon in 2024
The original Apollo astronauts remain the only humans to have been sent into deep space.
The celebrated program saw men walk on the moon for the last time in 1972, as part of the Apollo 17 mission.
After returning humans to the Moon in 2024, NASA plans to send astronauts to the Moon once per year and establish lunar exploration by 2028.
The program will lay the groundwork in NASA’s plans to send crewed missions to the Mars in the 2030s.
NASA will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis mission
Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology.
NASA has chosen her to personify its path back to the Moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2024 – including the first woman and the next man.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the Moon and Mars.
Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis 1 will be an uncrewed flight that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond.
During this flight, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown.
It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the Moon over the course of about a three-week mission.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the Moon and Mars. This graphic explains the various stages of the mission
Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.
With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps of human exploration into deep space where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the Moon needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars.
The will take crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans aboard.
The SLS rocket will from an initial configuration capable of sending more than 26 metric tons to the Moon, to a final configuration that can send at least 45 metric tons.
Together, Orion, SLS and the ground systems at Kennedy will be able to meet the most challenging crew and cargo mission needs in deep space.
Eventually NASA seeks to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.
The space agency hopes this colony will uncover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advancements and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.