Radiation levels on Mars are at a level that’s relatively safe for humans, according to preliminary data collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover. As much as Mars’ geography looks like any old desert here on Earth, I’m still not so sure I’d be comfortable residing on the Red Planet.
Through Curiosity’s Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), NASA found that levels are more or less the same as what one would experience on the International Space Station. Basically, it’s safe for astronauts to visit Mars. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here; the logistics of accomplishing such a feat isn’t as simple as sending someone down to the planet’s surface. Those details are likely to be figured out over the next few decades.
“It’s never really been a question of if we can go to Mars, it’s a matter of when we go, how do we best protect our astronauts,” said Don Hassler, principal investigator for Curiosity’s RAD.
There are factors, however, that could prevent a visit altogether, or at the very least limit the time an astronaut could spend on the surface: solar flares and solar storms.
Because Mars (and space) lack thick atmospheric and magnetic fields, astronauts are openly exposed to the Sun’s powerful radiation. As a result, astronaut’s are given career limits of exposure which, if exceeded, could cause sever illness.
Curiosity has been on Mars for nearly four months now, discovering a whole trove of information that’s valuable to determining whether or not life existed (or exists) on the fourth planet from the Sun. The rover’s mission is still to investigate the slopes of Mount Sharp, with the occasional pit stop thrown in for sight seeing purposes.