TRAD – Protecting Astronauts on Manned Spaceflight to Mars

Today, there is considerable interest in manned spaceflight, with many motivations and stakes linked to space exploration involving astronauts. However, future human missions to Mars present a number of critical issues. Among these, radiation from the complex space environment is certainly the greatest danger to humans in space.

TRAD, in its drive to provide cutting-edge solutions and push back the limits of technology, takes these human spaceflight issues to heart. These flights reflect the desire to push back the limits of space exploration and expand our knowledge of the universe for the company, which is an expert in testing and radiation. With CNES, TRAD is co-financing Gabin Charpentier’s thesis on radiation protection for manned flights to Mars, and more specifically on multi-layer optimization to reduce doses and cancer risks for astronauts.

On Earth, we are protected from cosmic radiation by the Van Allen particle belts and the atmosphere, which act like a shield. However, the Moon and Mars have no protective magnetic field. Primary cosmic rays, composed of particles and electromagnetic waves at different energy levels, emanate from cosmic and solar sources. When this primary radiation interacts with the matter it encounters (atmosphere, walls of a spacecraft, human body), it generates new particles and waves through particle-particle interaction processes, known as secondary radiation. These different types of radiation damage DNA, causing lesions and structural modifications at cellular level. These processes increase the risk of developing cancer and other pathologies. So, in the absence of natural protection, astronauts exposed to such radiation during manned flights to the Moon or Mars face increased health risks.

The aim of this research is to find solutions to protect astronauts from this radiation in space. The first phase consists in correctly assessing the radiation spectra on the surface of Mars. A model of particle propagation in the Martian atmosphere is currently being developed. Once the spectra have been correctly identified, further simulations are carried out using RayXpert®, the 3D modeling and Monte Carlo dose calculation software designed and developed by TRAD.

In this context, RayXpert® is used to determine the best multilayer shielding arrangements (proportions of each material and stacking order of the layers). The aim is to reduce as far as possible the total dose received by an astronaut on a mission to Mars.