Friday, June 7, 2013

Radiation on Mars voyage and other space and astronomy news

I've already covered a lot of this past week's space and astronomy news in Another asteroid passed by on Friday and "After Earth" in this installment of Crazy Eddie at the movies, but there was plenty left over.

Several sources covered the impact of radiation on humans during an expedition to Mars.  I begin with's video: Will Radiation Kill Mars Astronauts?

Astronauts on long interplanetary trips will face at least two kinds of radiation hazards. The Mars Science Lab's Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) has quantified the risk. Crews could get much more than the current accepted career dose.
Scientific American via Nature (UK) has more in Spacecraft data nails down radiation risk for humans going to Mars
Improved shielding technology could keep exposure within acceptable levels.
Ron Cowen
30 May 2013
Astronauts travelling to Mars on any of the current space-flight vehicles would receive a dose of radiation higher than NASA standards permit, according to a study of the radiation environment inside the craft that carried the Curiosity rover to the planet.

The study, reported in Science, is the first to use radiation data recorded by a robotic craft en route to Mars. It is also the first to rely on measurements from a radiation detector in space that has shielding similar to what might be used on missions carrying humans, says physicist Sheila Thibeault of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, who was not involved in the study.

Previous calculations of exposure were extrapolations, notes study co-author Cary Zeitlin of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Those studies used detectors in space that either had no shielding or were aboard Mars-bound craft whose instruments were not switched on until they reached the planet.
Finally, LeftOfYou on Daily Kos discussed the finding in On Mars: Manned Missions Will be Trickier, More Expensive and Take Longer to Design.

Follow over the jump for general space news, followed by astronomy news from the outer Solar System to the surface of our planet.

NASA Television on YouTube: New Crew to Station on This Week @NASA

Expedition 36/37 Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg of NASA, Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on May 29 Kazakstan time for an accelerated six-hour journey to the International Space Station. The arrival of the trio marks the start of its five and a half month mission aboard the ISS. They join Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy of NASA and Russians Pavel Vinogradov -- Commander of the station and Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin. Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin have been on the station since late March. Also, Oklahoma Storms from Space, Bolden Visits California NASA Centers, QE2 Approaches, Dream Chaser Flight Simulations, Curiosity Rover Update, PhoneSat's Mosaic of Earth, GPM Social and more!
NASA Television on YouTube: QE2's Flyby on This Week @NASA

As the 1.7-mile-long asteroid 1998 QE2 began its relatively close flyby of Earth, telescope images were provided during a live broadcast from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, seen on NASA Television and Among the insight provided from asteroid experts at JPL and the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, which used radar to track and image the asteroid -- a discovery that QE2 has an orbiting moon about 600 meters wide. The program also featured NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, who discussed the agency's role in keeping the planet safe from asteroids and other Near Earth Objects. The May 31 QE2 fly-by -- some 3-point-6 million miles from Earth is asteroid's the closest approach to our planet for at least the next two centuries. Also, Garver at Asteroid "Hang Out", MSL's RAD (iation) Measurements, Lightfoot visits Centers, Space Tech Town Hall, IceBridge completes 2013 mission, Grunsfeld visit to Ames and more!
For more general space and science news, read This week in science: Money by DarkSyde on Daily Kos.

Daily Kos: Getting to Know Your Solar System (35): Titan (Vol. 1)
by Troubadour
Saturn's largest moon Titan is by far the strangest place in the solar system: An unimaginably frigid world with a thick, opaque atmosphere where the clouds rain liquid natural gas, the "rocks" and mountains are composed of water-ice as hard as granite, and rivers of hydrocarbons run to organic chemical seas.  It is a world with eerie similarities to the processes that shape Earth, and yet is so far outside our frame of reference in temperature and bizarre chemistry that even visiting it with robotic probes presents unique technological challenges.  But most importantly, while Titan may someday become a human world, the most fascinating thing of all about the Orange Moon of Mystery is what may already live there. Curiosity's 9-Month 'Dance' On Mars Time-Lapsed By Tech Geek | Video

Professional programmer Karl Sanford wrote a program to compile images from Sol 0 (August 8th, 2012) through Sol 281 (May 21st, 2013) from the Mars Science Laboratory website. via LiveScience: Nuking Dangerous Asteroids Might Be the Best Protection, Expert Says
Douglas Messier, Contributor
Date: 29 May 2013 Time: 11:43 AM ET
If a dangerous asteroid appears to be on a collision course for Earth, one option is to send a spacecraft to destroy it with a nuclear warhead. Such a mission, which would cost about $1 billion, could be developed from work NASA is already funding, a prominent asteroid defense expert says.

Bong Wie, director of the Asteroid Deflection Research Center at Iowa State University, described the system his team is developing to attendees at the International Space Development Conference in La Jolla, Calif., on May 23. The annual National Space Society gathering attracted hundreds from the space industry around the world.

An anti-asteroid spacecraft would deliver a nuclear warhead to destroy an incoming threat before it could reach Earth, Wie said. The two-section spacecraft would consist of a kinetic energy impactor that would separate before arrival and blast a crater in the asteroid. The other half of the spacecraft would carry the nuclear weapon, which would then explode inside the crater after the vehicle impacted. SpaceX Dragon Astronaut-Manager Loves 'After Earth' Spaceship | Video

SpaceX Senior Engineer Garrett Reisman (former NASA Shuttle astronaut) is helping to get the U.S. back into the manned spaceflight business. He is tasked with retrofitting the SpaceX rocket/capsule to carry humans.
Nature (UK): Iron in Egyptian relics came from space
Meteorite impacts thousands of years ago may have helped to inspire ancient religion.
Jo Marchant
29 May 2013
The 5,000-year-old iron bead might not look like much, but it hides a spectacular past: researchers have found that an ancient Egyptian trinket is made from a meteorite.

The result, published on 20 May in Meteoritics & Planetary Science1, explains how ancient Egyptians obtained iron millennia before the earliest evidence of iron smelting in the region, solving an enduring mystery. It also hints that they regarded meteorites highly as they began to develop their religion.

"The sky was very important to the ancient Egyptians," says Joyce Tyldesley, an Egyptologist at the University of Manchester, UK, and a co-author of the paper. "Something that falls from the sky is going to be considered as a gift from the gods."
And that's it for the past week's news.

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