- Researchers have determined that the lunar surface is highly radioactive due to a combination of factors.
- The surface of the Moon is about two to three times more radiant than the International Space Station and 1,000 times more radiant than the Earth’s surface.
- Data were collected by a Chinese mission that landed far from the moon.
NASA and other space agencies around the world are planning to send humans to the moon soon, but security, as always, should be a high priority. We already know that radiation in space is a serious concern, but new data reveal how radioactive the Moon’s surface is.
Researchers report in a new paper in the journal Scientific advances, The amount of radiation on the lunar surface is up to three times that of the International Space Station, which is already at a higher level compared to the Earth’s surface.
Data was collected by the Chinese mission to the far side of the moon, which sent a lander and rover, completing a smooth landing in the distance for the first time in history. That work, which did many “first” tasks not only for the Chinese space program, but also for humanity in general, also took readings of radiation exposure on the lunar surface.
There is a lot of talk about setting up temporary or permanent structures on the moon to facilitate continuous scientific progress. At present, there are no definite plans to create settlements on the moon, but we do not know what the future holds. Now, with accurate measurements of radiation coming from the surface, scientists are well aware of what to prepare for when astronauts arrive.
Radiation is a big deal. As we already know, radiation can dramatically increase the risk of cancer, and long-distance astronauts to places like Mars could put travelers at greater risk by being in space than under the protection of the Earth’s bubble. The dangers of staying on the moon appear to be even greater, which complicates any plan for a long stay at the surface.
Compared to Earth, astronauts traveling to the Moon would have to endure 1,000 times the radiation we experience on Earth. This is especially important for short-term shelters, and this is a factor that is not well calculated. Radiation is a combination of cosmic rays and radiation from space in the form of solar radiation and the interaction of that radiation with the surface of the moon.
There are ways to protect passengers from radiation, of course, including the possibility of more robust landers designed to provide protection from radiation. However, a spacecraft is so safe from radiation that it can become heavy. There has been some debate about the use of extinct volcanic tubes on the moon to protect astronauts from radiation from space. It is unclear how much protection they will provide in light of this new study, but it may be significant.