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illustration depicts our heliosphere, showing the approximate locations
of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft. Galactic cosmic rays originate
outside the heliosphere and stream in uniformly from all directions. Image Credit: NASA
awarded $12,000 to five winners of a challenge to mitigate radiation
exposure on deep space missions and launched a new follow-on challenge
to identify innovative ways of protecting crews on the journey to Mars.
The follow-on challenge offers an award of up to $30,000 for design
ideas to protect the crew on long-duration space missions. Anyone can
participate in the challenge, which will be open Wednesday, April 29
through Monday, June 29, 2015.
"We are very impressed with the enthusiasm and sheer number of people
from the public who showed interest in solving this very difficult
problem for human space exploration,” said Steve Rader, deputy manager
of the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation. "We look
forward to seeing what people will come up with in this next challenge
to find the optimal configuration for these different protection
Galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), high-energy radiation that originates
outside the solar system are a major issue facing future space travelers
venturing beyond low-Earth orbit. These charged particles permeate the
universe and exposure to them is inevitable during space exploration.
Because missions to Mars will require crews to remain beyond the
protection of Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere for approximately
500 days and potentially more than 1,000 days, learning how to protect
human explorers from the effect of exposure to GCRs is a high priority.
While the five winners selected in the first challenge did not
identify a solution that ultimately solves the problem of GCR risk to
human crews, the first place idea did provide a novel approach to using
and configuring known methods of protection to save substantial launch
mass and lower launch costs over multiple missions. The other winning
submissions all provided solid proposed configurations on known
approaches and were supported with sound engineering and mathematics.
NASA received 136 submissions. The five selected winners are:
1st place ($5,000): George Hitt, assistant professor of Physics
and Nuclear Engineering at Khalifa University, United Arab Emirates, for
his novel idea on reusing a shield that could be placed in a Mars
2nd Place ($3,000): Ian Gallon, retired researcher in
electro-magnetics of Bridport, England, for his mathematical details on
what it would take for an active radiation mitigation system to function
3rd Place ($2,000): Olivier Loido, freelance engineer of Toulouse,
France, for his concepts for a launch configuration and deploying an
array of magnets.
4th Place ($1,000 each): Markus Novak, recent graduate from Ohio
State University of Dublin, Ohio, for his creation of safe areas through
particle trajectory simulations, and Mikhail Petrichenkov of Russia for
his concept of operations making use of NASA Storm Shelter work.
NASA’s goal is to identify key solutions that will reduce crew
members’ total radiation dose from exposure to GCRs on long duration
deep space missions by at least a factor of four.
In a continued effort to achieve that goal, the agency has developed a
second challenge that asks the public for ideas on optimal
configurations of active and passive solutions to provide crew members
maximum protection. Active protection uses magnetic or electrostatic
fields to deflect the harmful radiation, while passive protection uses
material layering to shield the crew from the GCRs.
These challenges are managed by the Center of Excellence for
Collaborative Innovation (CoECI). CoECI is a multi-center organization
established at the request of the White House Office of Science and
Technology Policy to advance NASA’s open innovation efforts and extend
that expertise to other federal agencies.
CoECI is directly supported by
the Human Health and Performance Directorate at NASA’s Johnson Space
Center in Houston. The challenges are hosted on the NASA Innovation
Pavilion through its contract with InnoCentive, Inc.