This is another blog written by Daniel Vogler.
Back in October, Mark Paquette sent me an email asking me to answer a question he received from an concerned observer in regarding what Solar events would have on our Mars Rover, Curiosity. Hopefully this will put his mind at ease, as the rover is not in harm's way and I will explain why.
On Nov. 26, 2011, NASA launched Curiosity to Mars in search of a plethora of data, was there life on Mars and how life on Mars would be if we sent humans to live there. It has yet to reach Mars, having roughly 175 more days until landing.
Since we are in the midst of Solar Cycle 24, peaking around 2013, how would the robot handle bombs of solar wind bursts from huge flares, known as Coronal Mass Ejections (CME)? Mars has no atmosphere and is constantly being bombarded by the sun's solar wind, so what kind of protection does it take to keep the rover safe from the biggest flares?
Three weeks into the launch, the rover already began assessing radiation levels with its Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD). It's actually looking forward to being hit with a CME. They will pose no threat to the rovers because by the time the cloud gets there, it would be so thinned out it would just brush by without incident. Nonetheless, it will be a great opportunity to study the effects of the charged particles has on the planet with no magnetosphere and see what kind of effects it could have if we were to have humans living on Mars one day. Think of it as a clone seeing how much radiation it can absorb so we know what to expect when we do get man to Mars, not to mention it will be doing some digging to find the "radiation safe zone." 1950s anyone?
I'm trying to picture what Mars' early explorers will be wearing. They would need lots of anti-radiation gear. A huge roll of tin foil? In all seriousness, the radiation from solar wind is so dangerous that this RAD device will be of utmost importance and hope it succeeds in its mission, which will put us that much closer to going to Mars. So what do you think a human colony on Mars will look like? I personally think of those Cold War bunkers they built back in the 1950s, underground and protected from the sun's harmful radiation.
Here is more information on the Mars rover, Curiosity, and it even has a countdown to landing! It will be a memorable event in NASA history. More information can be found by visiting NASA's website.
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Mars Rover Press Conference
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