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Life Sci Space Res (Amst). 2014 Apr;1:2-9. doi: 10.1016/j.lssr.2014.01.002. Epub 2014 Feb 5.

Space radiation protection: Destination Mars.

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GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research, Biophysics Department, Darmstadt, Germany; Technical University of Darmstadt, Institute of Condensed Matter Physics, Darmstadt, Germany. Electronic address:


National space agencies are planning a human mission to Mars in the XXI century. Space radiation is generally acknowledged as a potential showstopper for this mission for two reasons: a) high uncertainty on the risk of radiation-induced morbidity, and b) lack of simple countermeasures to reduce the exposure. The need for radiation exposure mitigation tools in a mission to Mars is supported by the recent measurements of the radiation field on the Mars Science Laboratory. Shielding is the simplest physical countermeasure, but the current materials provide poor reduction of the dose deposited by high-energy cosmic rays. Accelerator-based tests of new materials can be used to assess additional protection in the spacecraft. Active shielding is very promising, but as yet not applicable in practical cases. Several studies are developing technologies based on superconducting magnetic fields in space. Reducing the transit time to Mars is arguably the best solution but novel nuclear thermal-electric propulsion systems also seem to be far from practical realization. It is likely that the first mission to Mars will employ a combination of these options to reduce radiation exposure.


Magnetic shielding; Mars mission; Nuclear electric rockets; Shielding; Space radiation


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