It has been 35 years since humans last walked on the moon,but there has been much recent discussion about returning(and regular readers of this websiteknow why). However, there are concerns about the radiation danger forastronauts during long missions on the lunar surface.

A significant part of that danger results from solar storms,which can shoot particles from the sun to Earth at nearlythe speed of light and can heat oxygen in the Earth’sionosphere and send it in a hazardous stream toward the moon.

Earth is protected by its magnetic field and some parts ofthe moon also are protected by the same magnetosphere forseven days during the 28-day orbit around Earth. ResearcherErika Harnett says, “We found that there were areas of themoon that would be completely protected by the magnetosphereand other areas that are not protected at all.”

Particles with high enough energy can pass directly througha human without much damage, but particles packing slightlyless power, though unfelt, can lodge in the human body. Butit’s not just one particle but many, and the accompanyingradiation can damage cells. Harnett says, “During Apollo,people were not on the moon for very long so there wasn’tthe concern about the radiation hazard to humans as there iswith longer missions.”

So moon miners, whether they?re from the US, Russia or China(and nowtheUK plans to go there too) will have to figure out when totake cover.

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