As if Star Trek didn’t already provide enough futuristic inspiration, scientists from the UK are working on an actual deflector shield that could protect astronauts from dangerous levels of radiation. And it would work in a way that's very similar to how we're protected right here on Earth.
It’s well known that a trip through open space will expose astronauts to excessive amounts of radiation. Late last month, a NASA study showed that Martian-bound astronauts would be bombarded with as much cosmic radiation as they’d get from a full-body CT scan about once a week for a year. That’s two-thirds of allowable lifetime exposure.
Coming up with a solution has not been easy. Physical radiation shielding would be unreasonably thick and heavy, making it completely impractical. There have even been calls to create a radiation shield made of poop.
But the researchers at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) appear to have stumbled upon a rather elegant solution — one that takes the Earth’s magnetic field into account.
Down here on the surface we’re relatively immune to the Sun’s harmful rays owing to the presence of the magnetosphere. So why not recreate the same effect on a spaceship? A kind of mini-magnetosphere?