This time when we try to go to Mars – When it comes to traveling to Mars, the moon may save us– again.

Solar radiation may make it impossible to establish a colony on Mars. But a team of UK scientists has discovered that a tiny magnet, no wider than your thumb, can deflect the charged particles in the solar wind, and thus protect space colonists from being bombarded by these deadly cosmic rays.The only reason that life can exist on Earth is because our planet’s core is a churning cauldron of molten iron which acts like a magnetic shield that deflects the solar wind. Without this, we would be bombarded by tiny particles that would enter our bodies and tear apart our cells.

Once we travel beyond the protection of this magnetic shield, we’re vulnerable to solar winds that carry radiation 1,000 times as powerful as that released by the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In New Scientist, Marcus Chown quotes researcher Ruth Bamford as saying, “Imagine a ship flying to Mars with a cargo of dead astronauts and the whole world watching in horror.”

But our solar system has lots of small but surprisingly powerful magnetic shields, and several of them are on the moon. Chown quotes Bamford as saying, “Space radiation has been called the only showstopper for the crewed exploration of space. Our experiment demonstrates there may be a way the show can go on.”

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