In this NASA satellite photograph, you can see the sunstorm sweeping in the direction of Mars. Coincidentally, at about the same time, the Curiosity rover left Earth and went to the Red Planet. Data obtained from NASA / ESA / SOHO satellite.
In the film “The Martian”, Mark Watney faces many dangerous situations - problems with food and communication are just a small part of them. And what would happen if his capsule were hit by a solar storm? How could he protect himself in this situation?
Solar eruptions can lead to irreversible consequences for humans and the spacecraft. Radiated radiation can cause the closure of sensitive electronics, and astronauts will be exposed to the risk of extreme radiation if they are not careful.
A large number of warning systems have been launched on Earth to help our planet (as well as satellites and astronauts in orbit), but we cannot equip them with Mars: too far. The study of radiation on the surface is at the initial stage, so far it is impossible to draw any conclusions about the duration of the eruptions. There are no people there yet (not yet), but NASA has already teamed up with other space agencies to develop best-practice protection methods. There are two types of solar eruptions.
“At the time of the flare on the Sun, an instantaneous surge occurs, the particles formed by them move at the speed of light. They need only 8 minutes to go to Earth and a little more than 14 minutes to Mars. Not much time to change something, ”- said Alex Young, deputy director for scientific work in the department of geophysics of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
In the video below, the NASA team demonstrates the difference between solar flares and coronal mass ejections:
“If I were an astronaut, I would like to have something like a monitor on Mars. I would watch the sun, ”said Young Discovery News. For the future, he proposed to consider the possibility of installing and using a telescope, as in the movie “Martian”, in order to follow the actions of the Sun.
Then, if the astronauts notice an approaching problem, they could hide in radiation protection bunkers, in the form of special underground structures, or built with the presence of a radiation screen. Water, for example. Also, researchers at NASA Langley Science Center are studying materials that can protect against radiation, such as nylon mixed with boron and nitrogen. The second type of eruption is the emission of coronal masses (ECM), these are moving clouds of particles. The journey to our planet from them takes from several hours to several days. Mars is even more dangerous: fast moving VKM particles can reach it within 27-30 hours.
“While mankind will seek shelter, spacecraft in orbit are better off all non-vital instruments until the storm is over,” says Young. According to his colleague from Goddard, Anti Pulkkinen, while everything is calm and not a single spacecraft on Mars has yet been deactivated by the Sun.
“Spacecraft malfunctions (false commands, poor signal reception, etc.) occur, some of which may be due to weather in space,” he wrote Discovery in an email. “This is possible because it is difficult to determine the exact cause of the malfunction. We can not just go and look under the hood, what happened there. ”