Measurements of Energetic Particle Radiation in Transit to Mars on the Mars Science Laboratory

Science  31 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6136, pp. 1080-1084
DOI: 10.1126/science.1235989

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Going to Mars

The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft containing the Curiosity rover, was launched from Earth in November 2011 and arrived at Gale crater on Mars in August 2012. Zeitlin et al. (p. 1080) report measurements of the energetic particle radiation environment inside the spacecraft during its cruise to Mars, confirming the hazard likely to be posed by this radiation to astronauts on a future potential trip to Mars. Williams et al. (p. 1068, see the Perspective by Jerolmack) report the detection of sedimentary conglomerates (pebbles mixed with sand and turned to rock) at Gale crater. The rounding of the rocks suggests abrasion of the pebbles as they were transported by flowing water several kilometers or more from their source.


The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, containing the Curiosity rover, was launched to Mars on 26 November 2011, and for most of the 253-day, 560-million-kilometer cruise to Mars, the Radiation Assessment Detector made detailed measurements of the energetic particle radiation environment inside the spacecraft. These data provide insights into the radiation hazards that would be associated with a human mission to Mars. We report measurements of the radiation dose, dose equivalent, and linear energy transfer spectra. The dose equivalent for even the shortest round-trip with current propulsion systems and comparable shielding is found to be 0.66 ± 0.12 sievert.

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