Thursday, May 28, 2009

Astronauts' Security Blankets

Giant Moon Blanket Could Protect Astronauts

Solar flares and powerful cosmic rays can shred DNA and increase cancer risks for future astronauts who might make long-term stays on future moon missions.

As NASA considers this issue in its plans for a return the moon by 2020, a team of college students has proposed a solution: giant blankets.

Engineering students at North Carolina State University (NCSU) designed a "lunar texshield," a layered blanket made of lightweight polymer material. The outer surface of the shield is a flexible array of solar cells that generate electricity. Underneath, a layer of radiation shielding deflects or absorbs incoming particles, to better protect astronauts in lunar outposts.

The students entered their design in a NASA-sponsored aerospace engineering competition for college students that will begin in June.

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