Pretty soon astronauts may start visiting far-away planets more and more. In order to battle all the elements that can affect them on these strange alien worlds, scientists have to find ways to protect them. The main way in which this can be achieved is by building solid and sound living quarters. But the outside elements and their effects on Mars are way different to those we endure on Earth.
So, scientists have to take all of this into consideration before any realistic plans for missions on Mars, or any other planet for that matter, are even plausible. One of the biggest issues that many people do not think about when they consider interstellar travel is the amount of radiation their bodies might be subjected to. For the Apollo Moon missions, this was not that big of a problem since the astronauts did not spend nearly enough time outside and under the influence of the galactic cosmic rays to have any long-term negative side effects. Scientists still think that given enough time on the Moon’s surface, the astronauts might have been at a higher risk of contracting some form of cardiovascular disease.
As they go along their path, the sun and the other stars around our Milky Way emit large quantities of high-energy particles. These particles have many negative effects on the human body. As they travel, these solar particles, due to their low energy, get absorbed by other physical structures. These rays are made up mostly from protons, and they are not the issue. The real threats to humans in outer space are the other chemical elements that are moving at speeds close to the speed of light. As these particles hit the surface of a spacecraft, they turn into steady streams of secondary radiation that penetrates the spacecraft.
A bigger issue is the possibility of long-term exposure to secondary radiation. Secondary radiation damages cells and DNA, and in doing that it puts people at a higher risk of contracting cancer or other debilitating diseases later on in life. Something else that might occur is acute radiation sickness. The higher amounts of radiation can cause vomiting and even internal bleeding. Because of this, scientists need to find some sort of shield that is capable of protecting the astronauts during long periods of exposure.
Things May Turn Icy
During their research, scientists came to a surprising solution to this problem. And that solution is ice. The thing about ice is that it is, as we all know, is just plain old water. Water contains two atoms of hydrogen, and hydrogen is especially good at blocking radiation. A barrier no thicker than five centimeters is enough to reduce the radiation to relatively safe levels. To put this into perspective, an Oreo cookie is about five centimeters in diameter.
This prompted the scientists from NASA to start working on a way to create an ice shield. Currently, the best way they came up with is to use ice bubbles, lovingly named The Mars Ice Home. The way the ice home works is that it is an inflatable dome with walls that can be filled by water. Since the temperatures on Mars are freezing, the water immediately starts to turn to ice, and thus protects anyone located on the inside of the dome. The dome has two layers. One that houses the protective ice system, and another that serves as the actual living quarters. Due to the fact that the dome is inflatable, it can be compact and light and easy to transport around, making life on Mars, however temporary, way easier. The space between the domes may even be used as a form of yard where the astronauts can work on their equipment.