NASA plans to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s on a mission that could possibly shape the future of humanity for all eternity. Likely touted to be the most dramatic mission since Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, this mission could very well be the pioneering mission that sees humanity venturing towards other planets in search of new homes and great adventures.
This 250 million mile voyage is sure to be fun and exciting, but it is also full of peril. One of the main issues that astronauts shall face on their journey is the constant barrage of dangerous particles from the sun in the form of solar radiation. To ensure their well-being, Tel Aviv-based StemRad, a NASA contractor, recently unveiled the AstroRad Radiation Shield that is made of and Radiation shielding materials and is already ready for real-world trials. Mockups have already been made and tested and the first protective vest is expected to be produced by the end of the year. NASA even plans to test this vest in a lunar flyby mission scheduled for 2018!
The vest is designed in layers to look like a contoured map and need to be tailor-made for each individual. They use non-metallic and lead free shielding materials to protect body organs from radioactive particles and prevent any unwanted damage. This vest shall be strapped onto a device that monitors radiation absorption during the lunar flyby mission and this shall then be compared to an unprotected monitor to gather more data and test the vest in a real world application.
The concept has already been proven to work in a controlled laboratory setting, but one cannot be entirely certain until NASA’s Exploratory Mission-1, a joint collaboration between European Space Agency, Lockheed Martin and NASA is a go. The mission is currently expected to be an unmanned, but NASA is also exploring the feasibility of sending two astronauts.
StemRad CEO Oren Milstein believes that radiation shielding materials such as this vest shall make further deep space exploration possible. “Our breakthrough has come in creating the architecture of the multi-layered shield to accurately cover the most important organs,” says Milstein.
Moreover, the lunar flyby isn’t the only space mission planned for next year. Space X recently announced that it plans to fly two tourists around the moon in the year 2018 as well. Mission Mars just seems to have come one step closer to becoming a reality!