Space travel Two words that make most of us jump up with joy. Turns out Star Trek and Stargate fans might only have to wait a few decades before they can start thinking about traveling to distant ‘lands’. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to space travel is radiation poisoning, and protecting the human body in outer space for long periods of time seems to be impossible at this moment. Researchers, however, are trying to change that by researching new Radiation shielding materials.
And as it turns out, those massive asteroids floating through space could end up being the very things that save the human body during space travel. Researchers now believe that the clay extracted from these asteroids could be used to shield astronauts from celestial radiation during deep space missions.
Cosmic radiation is one of the biggest risks associated with traveling into space for extended periods of time, and one of the biggest hindrances to outlandish projects such as a journey to Mars or settlements on the moon. Studies even suggested that without access to radiation shielding, explorers would get exposed to a lifetime’s dose of radiation on a single trip to Mars.
According to Daniel Britt from the University of Central Florida, aluminum shields are currently used to protect astronauts from radiation during short missions, but these shields would be too expensive for a longer journey. To spend more time on the moon or to really make a trip to Mars possible, we need to use materials found in space, says Britt.
Paul Van Susante from Michigan Technological University confirms Britt’s theory. “Eventually everything should be able to be produced off Earth if any serious size outpost, base or colony is to be considered.”
Experts believe that the asteroids commonly found in outer space could now be the answer to our search for radiation shielding materials. The clay found in these asteroids is rich in hydrogen, making it one of the most effective shielding materials available. Britt and his fellow researchers also discovered that this clay is about 10% more effective in stopping high-energy charged particles emitted by the sun and other cosmic bodies when compared to aluminum.
The technology to mine this clay under zero gravity situations still doesn’t exist, but researchers are optimistic that we should come up with solutions to such problems soon. One of the proposed solutions is to separate the clay using massive magnets.
We’ll simply have to wait for the right radiation shielding materials to come around, be rest assured that space travel is no longer a dream, but a distant reality.