Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mars-bound instrument detects solar burst's effects: RAD measures radiation from solar storm

Date:
January 27, 2012
Source:
Southwest Research Institute
Summary:
The largest solar particle event since 2005 hit Earth, Mars and the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft traveling in-between, allowing the onboard Radiation Assessment Detector to measure the radiation a human astronaut could be exposed to en route to the Red Planet.

This is an artist's concept of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft during its cruise phase between launch and final approach to Mars. The spacecraft includes a disc-shaped cruise stage (on the left) attached to the aeroshell. The spacecraft's rover (Curiosity) and descent stage are tucked inside the aeroshell.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The largest solar particle event since 2005 hit Earth, Mars and the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft traveling in-between, allowing the onboard Radiation Assessment Detector to measure the radiation a human astronaut could be exposed to en route to the Red Planet.

On Sunday, a huge coronal mass ejection erupted from the surface of the sun, spewing a cloud of charged particles in our direction, causing a strong "S3" solar storm. A NASA Goddard Space Weather Lab animation of the CME illustrates how the disturbance impacts Earth, Mars and several spacecraft. Solar storms can affect Earth's aurorae, satellites, air travel and GPS systems; no harmful effects to the Mars Science Laboratory have been detected from this solar event.

“We only have a few hours of data downloaded from the RAD so far, but we clearly see the event, said RAD Principal Investigator Don Hassler, science program director in the Space Studies Department at Southwest Research Institute. The Mars Science Laboratory, launched Nov. 26, will land a sophisticated car-sized rover called Curiosity on the surface of the planet in August. Loaded with 10 instruments including RAD, Curiosity will traverse the landing site looking for the building blocks of life and characterizing factors that may influence life, such as the harsh radiation environment expected on Mars. "This SPE encounter is particularly exciting in light of the alignment between Earth, MSL and Mars right now and for the next few months. It will be very interesting to compare the RAD data, collected from inside the capsule, with the data from other spacecraft."

This event has also been seen by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, Geostationary Operational Environment Satellites, the Advanced Composition Explorer, and the twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory spacecraft in Earth orbit as well as the Solar Heliospheric Observatory flying between Earth and the sun.

"RAD was designed to characterize radiation levels on the surface of Mars, but an important secondary objective is measuring the radiation during the almost nine-month journey through interplanetary space to prepare for future human exploration," said Hassler. "RAD is an important bridge between the science and exploration sides of NASA.

"Not only will this give us insight into the physics of these giant clouds, but like an astronaut, RAD is tucked inside the MSL 'spacecraft,'" Hassler continued. "Measurements from RAD will give us insight about the shielding provided by spacecraft for future manned missions in deep space."

RAD will collect data nearly continuously during cruise and will downlink data every 24 hours. Positioned in the front-left corner of the rover, the instrument is about the size of a coffee can and weighs about three pounds, but has capabilities of an Earth-bound instrument nearly 10 times its size. When MSL arrives at Mars, RAD will detect charged particles arriving from space and will measure neutrons and gamma rays coming from Mars' atmosphere above, or the surface material below, the rover.

SwRI, together with Christian Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany, built RAD with funding from the NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and Germany's national aerospace research center, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt.

The Mars Science Laboratory is a project of NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech. The mission's rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL.

Movie/Measuring radiation on Mars: http://youtu.be/2x99mFg_Jyc

Movie/Measuring radiation en route to Mars: http://youtu.be/v5WSnxyjvJk


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Southwest Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Southwest Research Institute. "Mars-bound instrument detects solar burst's effects: RAD measures radiation from solar storm." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120127172736.htm>.
Southwest Research Institute. (2012, January 27). Mars-bound instrument detects solar burst's effects: RAD measures radiation from solar storm. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120127172736.htm
Southwest Research Institute. "Mars-bound instrument detects solar burst's effects: RAD measures radiation from solar storm." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120127172736.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

SpaceX Cargo Ship Blasts Off Toward Space Station

SpaceX Cargo Ship Blasts Off Toward Space Station

AFP (Sep. 21, 2014) — SpaceX's unmanned Dragon cargo ship blasts off toward the International Space Station, carrying a load of supplies and science experiments for the astronauts living there. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's MAVEN To Study Martian Atmosphere

NASA's MAVEN To Study Martian Atmosphere

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) — NASA's Maven will soon give information that could explain what happened to Mars' atmosphere. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
3-D Printing Enters The Final Frontier

3-D Printing Enters The Final Frontier

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) — NASA sent a 3-D printer to the International Space Station, bringing manufacturing to space for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins