Outside the protective cocoon of the Earth’s magnetic field is a universe full of damaging radiation. NASA’s Artemis Missions aim to establish humanity’s first long-term presence on the Moon in 2024, so experimental physicist Dr Gail Iles is investigating ways to overcome the radiation factor so that astronauts can survive long journeys, or even live indefinitely, in space.
At the Australian Synchrotron, electrons are shot out from an electron gun so that they are already travelling at over half the speed of light. They are then sped up further until they nearly reach the speed of light and are shot out into an inner “booster ring” to boost their energy. Once the electrons have gained enough energy, they are shot into an outer ring. Hence the affectionate nickname – the two rings form a doughnut.
NASA’s Artemis program is preparing to send the first woman and next man to the South Pole of the Moon as soon as 2024. With the return of humans to space, we must think about how our astronauts will be protected from the constant bombardment of cosmic and solar radiation, without the protection of Earth’s magnetic field. Experimental physicist Dr Gail Iles delved into the current methods in use and under development.