NASA is providing scientists and engineers a chance to win up to $30,000. The generous sum of money will be awarded for state-of-the art designs or ingenious ideas for ensuring the safety of the crews on long-duration space missions, for instance, a trip to Mars.
Humans have been able to successfully set foot on the surface of the moon, yet manned missions to Mars are still labeled as one-way trips and suicide missions due to the precarious risks involved. One of the most troubling of these risks is the presence of galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) – high-energy radiation that originates from outside the solar system but within our Milky Way galaxy.
The trip to Mars will require crews to venture beyond low-Earth orbit and, consequently, Earth’s magnetic field. Not only that, the crew will also need to stay in such an unrelenting environment for almost 500 or potentially more than 1,000 days. Therefore, protection of the human explorers from exposure to GCRs and other hazards in outer space will be NASA’s ultimate priority.
It is for the protection from precisely these hazards that the space agency has organized the aforementioned challenge – which will be open from April 29th to June 29th 2015 – wherein anyone is free to participate.
NASA seems to be following its earlier activity, in which the agency awarded $12,000 to five winners of a challenge to mitigate radiation exposure on deep space missions. Even though none of the five winners identified a solution for the GCR problem, the challenge brought forward other valuable ideas. The first place idea provided a novel approach to using and configuring known methods of protection to save substantial launch mass and lower launch costs over multiple missions.
While expressing his views on the outcome of the challenge, Steve Rader, NASA deputy manager of the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation, said, “We are very impressed with the enthusiasm and sheer number of people from the public who showed interest in solving this very difficult problem for human space exploration. We look forward to seeing what people will come up with in this next challenge to find the optimal configuration for these different protection approaches.”
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