Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Fabiana da Pieve (BIRA, Brussels)

7th February 2019 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Modelling the biological damage of human explorers on Mars and during deep Space travel

Fabiana da Pieve
Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA, Brussels)

Deep Space human exploration and stays on Mars are becoming a realistic scenarios for the 2030-2040 decade, via joint, world-wide efforts by NASA, ESA and other Space Agencies. The interest in human exploration of Mars is twofold: on one hand, there is the purely scientific challenge of better understanding the history of Mars through its mineralogy and geology, and possibly finding traces of ancient microorganisms; human supervised drilling might be needed in this case, especially in regions with minerals with potential for trapping organics; on the other hand, the first short stays on Mars will allow to build, on a longer time-scale, the first interplanetary outpost of our species, which will need to exploit underground water/ice resources and to be constructed at safe locations (with different elevations, at the bottom of cliffs or in lava tubes), in order to be protected by the harsh radiation existing at the surface of the planet.

The aim of the ESC2RAD project [1] (involving QUB, the BIRA-IASB institute in Belgium and the nanoGUNE research centre in Spain) is to give advanced support for this great scientific and technological challenge via estimating the biological effects induced by the impact of Space radiation on water, tissues and other biological targets through a multiscale approach. Here we present the preliminary results obtained at our institute, performed through detailed Monte Carlo particle transport calculations using the dMEREM code [2] for Mars and the MULASSIS code [3] for the deep Space travel, both based on the Geant4 toolkit [4]. For Mars, we present the estimation of the radiation environment (as given by Galactic Cosmic Rays, a constant radiation background from the galaxy and beyond, and Solar Energetic Particles, emitted by the Sun during transient Solar storms) and the corresponding doses in (tissue-like) proxies for biological targets, for three regions: Oxia Planum, chosen as the landing site for the next ESA’s

ExoMars 2020 mission [5], and two specific areas of Mawrth Vallis, previously considered as potential landing sites for ExoMars 2020 and for NASA’s Curiosity rover. The results [6] show that both elevation (and thus the amount of the above atmosphere) and mineralogical content influence the spectra and the doses received at the surface of the different sites, that the two different types of radiation are differently sensitive to such factors. The influence of day/night variations of the atmosphere on the radiation environment is also studied, and compared with the observations from Curiosity [7]. An underestimation of the radiobiological doses can be noted. For the interplanetary travel, we present the results of the spectra impacting on and after having passed through different shielding materials, and the doses received by a water sample, used as proxy for a real biological target. The results tell us about which materials are most promising to protect future astronauts during their travel to Mars [8].

[1] H2020 project ESC2RAD “Enabling Smart Computations to study space RADiation Effects”, Grant ID 776410; www.esc2rad.eu
[2] McKenna-Lawlor S., Gonçalves P., A. Keating, et al., Icarus 218, 723 (2012)
[3] Santin, G., P. Nieminen, H. Evans et al., Nucl. Phys. B, 125, 69 (2003); MULASSIS is used via the SPENVIS online application: https://www.spenvis.oma.be/help/models/mulassis_new.html
[4] https://geant4.web.cern.ch/
[5] Jorge L. Vago, Frances Westall, Pasteur Instrument Team, et al., Astrobiology 17, 471 (2017)
[6] F. Da Pieve et al, in preparation
[7] Hassler, D., Cary Zeitlin M., F. Wimmer-Schweingruber R., et al (2014) Science 343, 1244797
[8] E. Botek et al, in preparation.


7th February 2019
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Event Category:


Peter Froggat Centre 02.018