Sun Changes in Ways Not Seen in Over 100 Years, Threatens Mars Missions


The Sun has recently changed in ways not seen in over 100 years and missions to Mars could be threatened. What is happening is a drop in the Sun’s solar winds which has never been seen before  in the space age has occurred. This could have possibly caused space travel beyond Earth’ orbit to become too dangerous, stated astronomers. It could now be to risky for any manned missions to go to Mars and they may not be possible for decades to come.

Professor Nathan Schwadron explained that in about 2006, scientists began to observe the start of the lengthiest solar minimum and frailest solar action noticed during the entire space era. However, it seems that now solar physicists have noticed the present solar maximum is at a particularly humid time. However, they are uncertain if the Sun might be entering a Maunder Minimum, which is a long period of very low to no activity. This kind of minimum last happened during the years 1645 to 1715.

The down side of this kind of Sun activity from an astronaut’s point of view is that solar winds usually have the upshot of sinking hazardous cosmic radiation that might reach the inner region of the solar system. While elements and radiation from the Sun are unsafe to astronauts, galactic rays are even more so, so the conclusion of a solar calm is to where space becomes even more active than it already is.

Astronauts out in deep space are very rare, even more so than regular astronauts. A typical astronaut only travels to low Earth orbits, such as missions to the International Space Station. That is where he or she residues and stays protected from the Earth’s magnetic fields. The only astronauts who have ever flown beyond these fields were the Apollo Moon voyagers from the 1960’s and 1970’s. They only went on short-term missions that were carefully timed to lessen any radiation dangers. Studies have been taken from a telescope aboard NASA’s Lunar Orbiter presently circling the Moon. One of the purposes of the telescope is to measure the effects radiation from the Sun has on astronauts.

Cosmic radiation presents a more substantial test. Time to 3 percent risk of exposure prompted demise in interstellar space was under 400 days for a 30 year old male and less than 300 days for a 30 year old female. It is believed this time would even be lower with the solar winds the way they are at the present moment. If the helispherical magnetic field was to continue weakening, which is likely, then allowable mission lengths would have to decrease  or even stop altogether.

A 3 percent chance of an astronaut dying because of exposure to radiation during a mission is seen as an acceptable limit because it is a very dangerous job. Most likely the person would end up dying after the mission was long over, most likely from cancer, maybe several years in the future. He or she would probably not perish from radiation sickness while in space. If a long solar quiet time has indeed come to pass, the top amount of time an astronaut could be in space would have to remain under one year.

That kind of news is possibly very poor for any plans about trips to Mars. Under present development, it is assumed that both going and return flights would be at least six months. There would also be extra exposure to individuals during the time spent on the Red Planet itself.

It appears that such conditions, while not essentially shutting down the Mars program, stopping trips to the Moon or even possibly an asteroid, cosmic radiation is a substantial and now apparently a deteriorating factor that could put a limit on the duration of missions.

By Kimberly Ruble


International Business Times

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Photo by Joel Tonyan – Flickr License

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