Scientists plan to build shelters using soil from the Moon
We know it sounds like something from Star Wars. But it’s true – scientists have figured out a way to build shelters on the moon. Does this mean humans can now live on the moon?
Okay right off the bat, let’s get used to the idea - scientists are planning to build protection shelters in space using lunar soil and regolith. Did we lose you there? No worries - regolith is a loose soil like material deposited over rocks found on the Moon. It is composed of dust, soil, broken rock, and other related materials.
But before we get into that, let’s go into the basic building blocks of this story, by understanding the different types of radiation present beyond the atmosphere of the Earth. Why do we need to do this? Because the biggest roadblock for life on space isn’t just a lack of building material. It’s a very real danger of radiation affecting any life there.
Radiation is a form of energy that travels as electromagnetic waves, or is carried by particles in space. This energy gets transferred to another object or person once it collides with it.
Exposure to these radiations can cause cancer in the long run, and acute radiation sickness in the short term.
Sun flares are a flash of brightness that occurs on the surface of the sun. This happens because of the ejection of plasma from the Sun's surface. These bursts of solar flares are responsible for spreading a powerful radiation in the space called solar energetic particles, or SEPs. SEP's can pass through human skin damaging cells and even DNA.
The second type of radiation present in space comes from exploded stars of our Milky Way galaxy. These radiations are called galactic cosmic rays. Galactic cosmic rays are more powerful than even the most energetic solar particles.
These radiations are constant, like a steady drizzle in space. They’re most dangerous to humans who are on space journeys for an extended period of time – such as the journey to Mars, which takes 6 – 10 months.
These cosmic rays are made up of heavy elements like helium, oxygen or iron. These heavy particles knock apart the atoms of the object they collide with. It’s essentially like being constantly battered by small particles that have the power to seriously damage the very structure of your being.
Protection from Radiation:
Okay, so space is scary, and we wouldn’t want to rush to settle there. But the thing is, people are already in space for long periods of time. And so it has to be asked - what are the ways that can ensure the safety of an astronaut in space?
1. As there are limitations on the mass we can carry on a spacecraft, scientists are redistributing the mass present on it to stop the radiation leakage. After re-distributing the mass on a spacecraft, they ensure that the astronauts are seated and placed closer to the heavily shielded area, to make them more secure.
2. Scientists on earth can predict the occurrences of solar radiation in space. In case astronauts come across a solar flare while on a mission, they can build a temporary shelter that will provide them extra protection. These temporary shelters could be created using storage units or food and water supplies available aboard the craft.
3. If the astronauts are on the moon, they could pile lunar soil and regolith over their spacecraft shelters. And this is why this story is important – these shelters aren’t for human inhabitation, but to protect astronauts who might need extra padding and insulation from radiation in times of an unforeseen crisis. It’s a contingency plan that scientists can bank on.
4. In addition to these lunar shelter materials, other solutions to protect an astronaut from radiation include wearable vests, devices that add mass, and electrically charged surfaces that deflect radiation.
So you see why it matters so much? Sure, it sounds like science fiction, and yes, it seems very far removed from our daily lives. But it makes us rest easy, just a little bit more, to know that all these discoveries put together could hopefully make space exploration a safer gambit for the brave astronauts we send out there.