Nearly everything we know about the radiation exposure on a trip to Mars we have learned in the past 200 days.
For much longer, we have known that space is a risky place to be, radiation being one of many reasons. We believed that once our explorers safely landed on Mars' surface, the planet would provide shielding from the ravages of radiation. We didn’t how much, or how little, until very recently. Radiation and its variations impact not only the planning of human and robotic missions, but also the search for life taking place right now.
The first-ever radiation readings from the surface of another planet were published last month in Science Express. The take-home lesson, as well as the getting-there lesson and the staying-there lesson, is this: don’t forget to pack your shielding.
“Radiation is the one environmental characteristics that we don’t have a lot of experience with on Earth because we’re protected by our magnetosphere and relatively thick atmosphere. But it’s a daily fact of life on Mars,” said Don Hassler, the principle investigator on the paper, “Mars’ Surface Radiation Environment Measured with the Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity Rover.”