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An exploration of the effectiveness of artificial mini-magnetospheres as a potential solar storm shelter for long term human space missions

Bamford, R.A. and Kellett, B. and Bradford, J. and Todd, T.N. and Benton Sr., M.G. and Stafford-Allen, R. and Alves, E.P. and Silva, L. and Collingwood, C. and Crawford, I.A. and Bingham, R. (2014) An exploration of the effectiveness of artificial mini-magnetospheres as a potential solar storm shelter for long term human space missions. Acta Astronautica, 105 (2). pp. 385-394. ISSN 0094-5765

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Abstract

If mankind is to explore the solar system beyond the confines of our Earth and Moon the problem of radiation protection must be addressed. Galactic cosmic rays and highly variable energetic solar particles are an ever-present hazard in interplanetary space. Electric and/or magnetic fields have been suggested as deflection shields in the past, but these treated space as an empty vacuum. In fact it is not empty. Space contains a plasma known as the solar wind; a constant flow of protons and electrons coming from the Sun. In this paper we explore the effectiveness of a "mini-magnetosphere" acting as a radiation protection shield. We explicitly include the plasma physics necessary to account for the solar wind and its induced effects. We show that, by capturing/containing this plasma, we enhance the effectiveness of the shield. Further evidence to support our conclusions can be obtained from studying naturally occurring "mini-magnetospheres" on the Moon. These magnetic anomalies (related to "lunar swirls") exhibit many of the effects seen in laboratory experiments and computer simulations. If shown to be feasible, this technology could become the gateway to manned exploration of interplanetary space.