Textile students devise anti-radiation shield for astronauts

May 12th, 2009 - 4:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 12 (IANS) Textile engineering students have thought up of an answer to one of the prime threats bedevilling NASA space missions: radiation.
The students of North Carolina State University (NCSU) have designed a ‘blanket’ that could shield lunar outposts and astronauts’ living quarters from radiation, while generating and storing power.

The ‘lunar texshield’ is made from a lightweight polymer material that has a layer of radiation shielding that deflects or absorbs the radiation so astronauts are only exposed to a safe amount.

Astronauts who been to the moon had little protection against radiation, even though they were only exposed for a short time. NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the moon by 2020 - and to potentially keep them there for several months at a time - could be stymied by space radiation.

The surface of the moon is exposed to cosmic rays and solar flares - making radiation hard to stop with shielding.

When these rays hit matter, they produce a dangerous spray of secondary particles which, when penetrating human flesh, can damage DNA, boosting the risk of cancer and other maladies.

Michael Sieber, Ryan Boyle and Anne Tomasevich, recent graduates of textile engineering program at NCSU, designed the ‘lunar texshield’.

It was reviewed by a panel of industry experts and chosen as one of 10 undergraduate abstract finalists in the Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) competition.

“The product needed to be as lightweight as possible to feasibly fit on the transportation module, and have the ability to be easily erected by a minimum number of astronauts for immediate use once landing on the moon,” Sieber said, according to an NCSU release.

“These obstacles are where our knowledge of textile properties will give us an advantage,” added Warren Jasper, textile engineering professor at NCSU and project adviser.

The students will present their lunar texshield at the 2009 RASC-AL Forum slated between June 1 and 3 in Cocoa Beach.

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