Initial experimental results of a laboratory mini-magnetosphere for astronaut protection

Bamford, RA and Bingham, R and Gibson, K and Thornton, A and Bradford, J and Hapgood, M and Gargate, L and Silva, L and Norberg, C and Todd, T and Wilson, H and Stamper, R (2007) Initial experimental results of a laboratory mini-magnetosphere for astronaut protection. In: AGU Fall Meeting, 2007, 2007-12-10 - 2007-12-14.

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Radiation is a major scientific and technological challenge for manned missions to Mars. With an interplanetary flight time of months to years there is a high probability of Solar Energetic Particle events during the flight. Radiation damage to human tissue could result in acute sickness or death of the occupants of an unprotected spacecraft. Thus there is much interest in techniques to mitigate the effects of these events and of the exposure to cosmic rays. The experimental and modelling work presented here concerns one of several innovative "Active Shield" solutions being proposed [1]. The idea of generating an artificial magnetosphere to recreate the protective shield of the Earth's magnetic field for space craft travelling to the Moon or Mars was considered seriously in the 1960's during the Apollo era. With most of the space agencies around the world setting their sights returning to the Moon and then on to Mars, the idea of some sort of active field solution is experiencing a resurgence. Results from the laboratory experiment to determine the effectiveness of a mini-magnetosphere barrier to be able to expel a flowing energetic "solar wind" plasma will be presented. This is compared to a 3D hybrid simulation code that has been successfully compared to other astrophysical situations e.g. AMPTE artificial comet releases [2]. The experiment and modelling comparisons will demonstrate the scalability between the laboratory and astrophysical scale.