No one expects space travel to be risk-free, but we are just beginning to learn how harsh the universe is outside our little bubbles. A new analysis of the conditions of the moon shows that radiation levels are much higher than expected. The Chinese-German team claimed that the surface of the moon is so insecure that humans will not be able to stay here for a long time. This will certainly complicate NASA’s long-term moon landing plan.
During the Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s, NASA conducted radiation measurements on the moon. These readings proved that astronauts might stay on the surface for a few days, which was what NASA needed at the time. However, it is not necessary to take daily readings to determine the maximum time someone can stay on the moon. This new research was done with the help of experiments conducted by China’s Chang’e-4 lander in 2019.
The radiation intensity encountered by astronauts on the moon is 2 to 3 times higher than that experienced by the International Space Station (ISS) and 200 times higher than that on Earth. The co-author of the study, Robert Wilmer Shuwin Ruber of Keele University, points out that you can only wander on the moon for two months. This also takes into account the radiation you will encounter during a week-long trip to and from the moon.
The study pointed to several sources of radiation, including high-energy cosmic rays and solar particle events. Neutrons and gamma rays produced by the interaction between the lunar soil and other forms of radiation may also bomb astronauts. All these together lead to a more hospitable environment than we hoped. In contrast, since the space station is still partially protected by the earth’s magnetic field, humans can survive on the International Space Station for more than a year with minimal risk.
Currently, NASA hopes that mankind will return to the moon in 2024, and its goal is to achieve long-term existence after that. The agency even laid the foundation for the space station, which will remain in lunar orbit to facilitate crew access to the ground. However, an offense that extends to the moon will obviously require new shielding techniques. Wimmer-Schweingruber said the easiest way to make surfaces safe is to build habitats with lunar soil. You need about 30 inches (80 cm) of soil to reduce radiation levels. NASA may want to start using lunar sandcastle technology.