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Magnetic bubble to protect Mars explorers
November 6, 2008
Scientists believe they have found a way of protecting astronauts from a dangerous source of space radiation, clearing one of the hurdles towards sending humans to Mars.
The device has been developed by British and Portuguese scientists and appears in the journal Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion.
Radiation is one of the greatest challenges facing a mission to the red planet, planned by the United States and Europe in the first half of this century.
The shortest round trip would take at least 18 months, and during this time, the crew would be exposed to sub-atomic particles that whizz through space. These particles are capable of slicing through DNA and boosting the risk of cancer and other disorders.
The peril has been known for nearly half a century, but has seemed difficult to solve because costs and technological difficulty.
Some experts have toyed with the idea of shielding the crew with lead or massive tanks of water, but the price of lifting this load into orbit from earth is high.
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