Artificial electromagnetic shield could shield crewed spacecraft during flight to Mars

Moscow: An artificial electromagnetic shield could reliably shield a crewed spacecraft from cosmic radiation during a flight to Mars, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Head of the Experimental Biology and Medicine Department at the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems Andrei Shtemberg said.

As soon as a spacecraft leaves the boundaries of the Earth’s magnetosphere, it starts to be exposed to solar cosmic rays and galactic cosmic rays, the scientist said.

“You can get protection from solar rays but you can’t be shielded from galactic rays. Passive protection (installing aluminum screens, the intermediate water layer) is senseless. The sole variant is electromagnetic protection, i.e. creating an electromagnetic field around the spacecraft that will deflect particles. But this requires very enormous energies and, naturally, the spacecraft’s large weight,” the scientist noted.

Cosmonauts may fail to reach Mars alive, unless they are shielded from cosmic radiation, he added.

“Acute disorders of the central nervous system are observed from the impact of galactic cosmic rays, even if at very small doses: the spatial memory and orientation are impaired,” the scientist said.

“As a consequence, the cosmonaut’s operational activity may be disrupted and he would simply fail to press the required button. Moreover, the flight to Mars is largely an autonomous endeavor, communications with Earth are complicated and cosmonauts may die during the flight,” the scientist said.

“At this stage of the development of space technology and anti-radiation protection, a human can’t fly to Mars,” Shtemberg said.

The scientist said, however, that a flight to the Moon was quite realistic from the viewpoint of radiation consequences thanks to the flight’s short duration.