Solar radiation on Mars is so intense that it could endanger astronauts, according to NASA. This radiation also means that, despite the presence of water, it’s unlikely any life could survive there. The high radiation levels were measured by the Mars Odyssey spacecraft. Cary Zeitlin of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, says, “[Mars life] would have to be pretty robust against all kinds of environmental horrors.”
This news comes at a time when scientists had new hope for finding life on Mars, since most of them are now convinced the planet has water. Near the planet’s north pole, frozen water makes up as much as 75% of the top 3 feet of soil, according to researcher William Boynton, who says, “We’re talking ice with a little bit of dirt mixed in it and not the other way around.”
NASA once thought astronauts could use that ice for drinking water, fuel and oxygen, but the new radiation findings suggest that would be risky. Now Mars exploration may be limited to robots. Mars is continuously bombarded by radiation from the galaxy, as well as by periodic bursts from the sun. On Earth, our magnetic field and atmosphere protect us during the sun?s radiation blasts. Mars radiation would expose astronauts who were in orbit, and not even actually on the planet, to a dose 2.5 times greater than they get aboard the international space station. A three-year Mars mission would expose astronauts to the upper limit of radiation that’s considered safe by NASA, so afterwards, they’d have to quit exploring space and take desk jobs. Researcher Jeffrey Plaut says, “It still remains to be seen what the hazards are on the surface.”
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