Astronauts on future long-duration missions will be exposed to different kinds of ionizing radiations, Earth's plasmashpere and Van Allens radiation belts, solar flares and galactic cosmic rays. What are the cutting edge materials & strategies which could be applied for radiation shielding?

Is there some universal material which could be used for all types of radiations or there should be a layered protection, each layer dedicated to specific type of radiation?

Also what would be the minimal thickness of such protection which can confidently guarantee (NASA 95% confidence level) that astronauts will receive less than 50mVs during the flight to Mars?

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    $\begingroup$ The physics of radiation shielding is pretty mundane; you've got kilograms of electrons and nuclei. There's no nanoparticle or metamaterial technology that's going to be better than the usual suspects (water, titanium, tantalum, etc.) there may be strategies involving how to position them between the incoming direction and the astronauts, and how to detect the timing and severity of solar ejecta etc. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Mar 9 at 0:01
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh - acknowledged. $\endgroup$ – WOW 6EQUJ5 Mar 9 at 0:04

Most shielding is just mass plus atomic number - for cosmic Ray shielding you want light elements, as heavy elements make more radiation. Water and polyethylene are good options.

The main interesting thing is how to make the shielding do double duty.

Options include:

  • supplies
  • thermal protection systems
  • fuel/propellant
  • water supplies
  • boxes of food
  • sewage (can gradually replace food)
  • speculatively, algae tanks for closed life support
  • the rest of the habitat/spacecraft -auxiliary vehicles
  • on planetary surfaces, sandbags of regolith

There are some ideas about magnetic shielding but they require insanely strong magnetic fields... That the astronauts and equipment would be exposed to. Plus the equipment to generate magnetic fields also has weight. So this isn't usually considered a very practical near-future option.

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