The United States aims to return to the Moon within the next 10 years. The biggest health problems that astronauts going to the moon may encounter due to radiation are neurodegenerative diseases such as cataracts, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Although spending a few days on the lunar surface was stated as safe, the amount of radiation exposed was not known exactly. Now, the radiation level on the Moon has been revealed.
NASA did not take daily radiation measurements on Apollo flights in the 1960s and 1970s.
Radiation level on the moon revealed
The result of a research conducted by a team of Chinese and Germans in 2019 emerged recently. In the tests conducted for the Apollo missions, it was stated that the amount of radiation on the Moon would not be harmful for a few days. However, for a long time the amount of radiation on the surface was not completely known.
According to co-author Robert Wimmer-Schweingruber, an astrophysicist at the University of Kiel, the radiation level on the Moon is on average 2-3 times higher than the International Space Station. According to these figures, a person’s stay on the Moon is limited to two months when the arrival and departure time is taken into account. This radiation is caused by neutrons from galactic space rays, gamma rays, solar flares, and interactions between space radiation and lunar soil.
The sievert unit is used to measure the amount of radiation absorbed by human tissues. According to research, being on the Moon means being exposed to 1,369 microseivert radiation per day. This is about 2.6 times higher than the daily dose of the International Space Station crew.
The International Space Station is protected by the magnetosphere because it is not far from Earth. Therefore, those on the station are not exposed to very high levels of radiation. If we take into account the arrival and departure times, an astronaut can stay on the station for an average of 6 to 8 months. The radiation level on the moon is 200 times higher than the Earth’s surface.
NASA aims to send astronauts to the Moon by 2024 and establish a base by 2030 with the Artemis mission. In addition, NASA stated that it has a long-term plan for astronauts who will work and live on the lunar surface.
According to Wimmer-Schweingruber, if people are to spend more than two or three months on the lunar surface, the structures should be covered with 80 centimeters of lunar soil.