Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pluto's New Moons

A pair of small moons orbiting Pluto, which were discovered by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, have been named Nix and Hydra. Discovered in 2005, the two moons are roughly 5,000 times fainter than Pluto and are about two to three times farther from Pluto than its large moon, Charon, which was discovered in 1978.

The names were approved this week by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies.

In mythology, Nyx is the goddess of the night. Among her many offspring was Charon, the boatman who ferried the dead across the river Styx into the underworld. Because asteroid 3908 already bears the Greek name Nyx, the IAU changed Nyx to its Egyptian equivalent, Nix. The mythological Hydra was a nine-headed serpent with poisonous blood. The Hydra had its den at the entrance to Hades, where Pluto and his wife Persephone were supposed to have entered the Underworld.

The team of researchers, who selected the names out of a list of more than two dozen candidates, used Hubble images to make the discovery in support of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt beyond.

In making the selection, team members explained that Nix and Hydra honor the search for new satellites and the New Horizons mission to Pluto by starting with the letters “N” and “H.” The first letter of Hydra also honors the Hubble Space Telescope that was used to detect the satellites. Similarly, Pluto’s name begins with the letters “P” and “L” to honor Boston astronomer Percival Lowell, who inaugurated the search that led to Pluto’s discovery. Unfortunately, Lowell did not live to see Pluto’s discovery, which was made by Clyde Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory in 1930.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Best of Saturn Videos

Have you seen the daily image from Saturn? The Cassini spacecraft is beaming them down, day after glorious day! There hasn’t been so much discovery going on since the dawn of human civilization. And yet – no news outlet carries any of them. Sad for them – but not for us!
And of you think the incredible daily photos aren’t enough, beamed back to us over 900 million miles, have you seen the videos? They are just amazing! If you want to be spellbound at the eternal dance of the moons and giant ringed planet, click on the link below. It is nothing short of astonishing.
NASA has wired the solar system these days from Saturn to Mars. They also have camera toting spacecraft headed out to Mercury, Pluto and it’s always time to go to Mars! So settle back in your chair – the grand adventures are only beginning!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Aunt Ernistine Weighs In on Mars

"What the slip-slimin-two-timin-rap-rhymin heck are you babbling about this time boy? All this poppycock about Mars and all… Ain’t you gainfully employed? You got nothing better to do than waste good air on Buck Rogers and Mars? Why when I was a little girl theses pulp fiction nonsense was considered just so much trash. The low class boys had them hid under their mattresses… along with who knows what else? Well, I know what else… oh never mind. And now you got your mom and daddy arguing about this. Shame on you, dragging them into this nonsense! Why, I ought to thrash you six ways to Sunday like I did when you was a kid. Man on Mars! Ha! Just like the moon hoax. They say they did it all on a movie set – and it’s been proven by real scientists. I seen it on the Internet. That proves it all by itself! And if man can’t go to the Moon then how in the heck is he goanna go to Mars? Get some sense in you boy! You’ve been playing way, way too many video games. I say get your head out of the teevee and go play outside or something. When I was your age we lived in the back yard. My momma wouldn’t even let me in the house till it was dark and the chickens were asleep. Now we got the whole bunch of you generation x-ers trying to get to Mars. Well – what’re ya gonna do after you get there? Nobody ever asks that question? Well, I just did! That’s right boy. You heard it from your old Auntie Ernistine. What are you gonna do when you get there? I’ll tell you what – you’ll set up a calendar and start markin off the days till you can come home, that’s what! Silly boy.”

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Dad Disagrees - Why we WILL Go To Mars

Mom was right. There is a whole lot of talk in the world and no action to back it up. But mom assumed a few things dad disagrees with. Here is his take on the whole Mars venture:

1. Much of mankind IS lazy and full of idle talk. But all exploration has always taken place because of the genius of individuals who have the God-given gift of being able to match up their mouth and their blogs with action. We will go to Mars on the backs of one or two individuals with genius. If we waited around for the masses to energize, then we will be sitting here complaining five hundred years from now.

2. The purpose of government is and has always been starting the big engines. Humanity has always then taken the ball and run with it after governments get it started. We don’t have to wait on the government because that’s never been the job of government – exploration will always be the exclusive domain of individuals, enterprise and single genius. If we leave it to government – it will always be too expensive and too overloaded with useless politically inspired bureaucracy.

3. We will go to Mars not because a lot of people want to go but because one day one man or woman will wake up who will want to go and will have the talents to make it happen. When they do, you can be sure that the same masses who have sit around on their butts whining will criticize the effort.

4. We will go to Mars because he or she will lead us there. Is he or she alive today? Almost certainly – and is a reader, no doubt, of!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Mom Was Right: Why We Can't Go To Mars

The number one reason why humanity can’t go to Mars is the one that is the most serious.


My mother gave me some sage advice as a young man. She said, simply, “People do what they want to do.” The logical inverse of that is equally true, “People do not do what they do not want to do.” It seems too simple to work. Yet, it is one of the most profoundly wise things I have ever heard in my life and it is true 100% of the time. It is also true of the planet Mars and human beings. The number one reason why we cannot go to Mars is simple: we don’t want to go. How do I know that? Because if we did, then we would have been there already.

Now introducing some complexity into the equation, it is true that MANY people DO say they want to go to Mars. But the way our power and economic structures work – there may not be enough of us, or we have not organized for whatever lame reasons to make our voices heard in unison, and so here we sit. And even among those of us who do want to go, there is profound disagreement over many things. If you don’t believe that, check out any of the myriad Internet forums on the subject.

If citizens of the United States (just to name one country) wanted to go to Mars, it would be happening. But it is not because the citizens of the United States have not as a collective entity told their politicians to take our tax money and pay for it or they will be voted out of office forthwith. It is so painfully simple. We are not going to Mars because there are too few of us who have done that. The politicians have other things with which to spend our tax money and they do not fear that there are enough of us to make any difference. If they did - we would be buliding the ships right now. But it is not happening, so, they are correct in their assessment. How do I know that? Because we are not going to Mars. It’s all very, very simple.

For example, if most space advocates were honest, how many of them would admit that they have either not written their congressmen lately or they have NEVER written their congressmen? Why? Because THEY don’t want to go to Mars either. It’s much easier to wax long on some internet forum than to actually write a letter that could make some difference. (Your blogger is, of course, guilty as charged.)

This whole issue of Mars or not-Mars is so simple it is ridiculous. Really. Truly. No joke. If every space advocate who wanted to go to Mars got together in an organized way and VOWED to send congress letters, emails, petitions and phone calls on a daily basis, we would go to Mars, period. There IS that much interest out there and we could do it.

But we don’t. Why? Mom said it herself. “We do what we really want to do – and we do not do what we really do not want to do.”

If Congress is the key, then why do we refuse to pick up the key and slide it in the lock and open the door? It’s obvious, isn’t it?

If you think I am wrong – don’t get mad at me. Count the number of emails, letter, petitions and phone calls YOU have sent, then ask yourself. If congress is the only door, then why haven't YOU turned the only key? YOU have the power. Why haven’t YOU used it? We all actually prove our deepest intentions by what we do or by what we do not do. The bottom line is always, always based on what we actually do, not at all by whay we say.

Waxing long and pontificating with anger and zeal is actually a useless endeavour unless it is coupled with and directed toward a plan to connect with the power that can make a difference.

Let’s face it. Mom was right.

Yeah, I know – I always got mad at her too – at first. Until I grew up and realized she was right. The point is. I grew up, then I took her advice, then I got things done – all because I REALLY wanted to.

PS. Yes, I realize there have been "Mars Words" spoken recently from on high. But let me ask you a question. Have you seen any Mars Ship plans or heard about any Mars Ship contracts out for bid? No? Me either. And in any government, where their is no money - there is no real plan, period. You can believe in the tooth fairy if you wish, but how many times in the last 20 years have we heard about Mars "plans" and then seen it all disappear after the next election? It's called the hot air of politics. Show us the money or stop lying.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Abyss of Elysium Audio Book

Quantum Editions signed a contract with Senate Records of Macon Georgia yesterday to produce ABYSS OF ELYSIUM – MARS WARS into a dramatized audio book on CD. The project should be completed and the books available by Christmas.

The project will include an abridged version of the book – six 25 minute episodes on 2 CDs. The author has been given final creative control on the abridgement. The audio book will be available either through Senate Records or through

Instead of a simple reading, the production by Director Joey Stuckey will be a dramatized production.

We are very excited about the prospect of working with Joey and the Senate Records team. Our characters have always been very special to us, and now that they are being given voices – that’s just awesome!

The next step is, of course, a screen play!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Breaking Free At Last

The airwaves are filled with “processed news”. The internet has made it a lot better – now we get to choose our news. But even the internet has missed a great story. It is the coming revolution in exploration - the day when we finally commit ourselves as humans to leave the cradle - the day when we lay our blankies down and boldly slip on down to the floor for our first walk around the house while mom and dad are still sleeping. It may not sound like a big deal - but it really is.

I’ll try and make it easy to see all at once by a single fact: humans have never left the dry land for a permanent life anywhere else. Space station MIR fell in the ocean. The ISS looks more and more iffy and unappreciated every day. The Apollo moon bases were more like camping trips. The Aquarius habitat is on and off. While mankind has attempted a few one-shot-deals and tried to man his outposts for longer periods, no one has boldly made the commitment to go and stay and not come back. No one. Ever. But it is coming – and soon.
I am going to predict that the first permanent steps away from the dry land will be into the oceans. One of these days – and soon – someone is going to announce the first permanent human manned presence in the ocean and mean it. On that day, man will have taken his first infant steps into an alien frontier.
Why do I predict the oceans? Because we have all the technology in hand and it will be relatively easy and affordable. Why have we not done it yet? Well dear readers, in my mind, that is one of the most perplexing mysteries of human behavior I have ever encountered. It makes no sense to me and never has. We easily have the resources to do this. We have the reason. We have the experience. But unlike the quest for space, humankind has never managed to piece together a quest to populate the oceans. But it’s coming. It is inevitable. And when it happens, a new revolution will begin.
I started a group in 1989 to make this happen. It was (and still is) called the League of the New Worlds. It is incorporated in the state of Florida and it is an IRS 501(c)3 non-profit scientific research organization. At that time, the League set out to build the Challenger Station – the largest undersea habitat ever built and place it smack in the middle of the Gulf Stream just off Ft. Pierce, Florida. We worked very hard to get funding and assembled a top notch team. It just never came together. The good news is: the League is still alive and well and the plan is not dead. Undersea colonies are on the way.
Next time I’ll let you in on how we will take the first steps off dry land. It’s way past time, you know. Think of it this way – humanity has been weaned, but we stubbornly cling to our dry- land- crib, still too timid to slip out and not come back. Well – it’s time we did. Humanity is fully capable of sleeping in the big-boy’s bed now.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Online Space Exploration Course

Many space exploration enthusiasts are surprised to learn there is an online space exploration course available to anyone! The course titled, “SPACE EXPLORATION – ASTRONAUTICS” has been offered since 1994 by the folks at the International Institute of Space Exploration (formerly the International Space Academy). It consists of an completely online based series of “modules” that allow the participant to explore eight different space exploration applications for a very reasonable price:

Space Life Support Systems: A comprehensive overview of space life support systems. A review of Apollo and Space Shuttle era systems. Describes simple and advanced life support systems of the future.

Space Mission Planning: Learn how the pros plan real space missions from the idea stage to the return to earth. The module offers the opportunity to plan one yourself.

Spacecraft and Habitat Design: How a spacecraft and planetary habitat is designed from the plans to turning the final bolt. This module also lets you design one for yourself!

Space Colony Design: Things can really get exciting when we begin thinking about colonies on the Moon and Mars. This module lets you be the planner for your own colony using the principles of real colony design.

Spacecraft and Habitat Operations: What to do and how to do it. How do you operate that craft that is about to take you to Mars and when you get there, how do you make your habitat safe and operational?

Space Mission Supply and Logistics: How much oxygen will you need and food and water on a 1000 day mission to Mars? How will you get it there and get back? How will the colony you establish be resupplied? These questions are explored and you participate in the project to make it happen.

Planetary Exploration and Excursions: What do you do when its time to put on the spacesuit and go for a walk on the moon or Mars? This module explains how we did it on the moon and how you will plan for it and then make it happen in the future.

Emergency Planning: What do you do when the lights go out and its 35 million miles home? What happens when Murphy shows up in your habitat and sets up his headquarters? This module explains the process of emergency planning … what to do if...

If you are interested, the folks at the Institute are offering the course at their lowest price ever: $49.99. They a decade ago, the course was marketed successfully at $300, but they say they can cut all those costs now since it is now entirely internet based.

If you’d like to review all the details such as earning college credit and how it works – click here.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

More Space Radiation Insight

Here is an email from a QuantumLimit reader regarding space radiation I thought was an in important addition to the discussion:
This link represents another solution to shielding space radiation with miniature magnetospheres without the high voltages or metal spheres, it is also a propulsion system the shielding is a bonus. If one did use the high voltage, a Faraday cage would be used to shield the occupants.
In this link, Nuclear rockets would be able to carry a lot of shielding.

Keith P. Barnes

Northfield, Minnesota

Author's Note: The Faraday Cage idea never even occured to me! It is a good one and one would hope it is being investigated to deflect the high energy electromagnetic fields from the human occupants. I actually used this idea in another application in my forthhcoming book, ABYSS OF SPACE, due out late 2006.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Space Radiation - Are There Solutions?

Space Radiation, in space agency parlance – is the “long pole in the tent”. In other words, if we can’t first understand it then solve it, mankind will never get beyond low earth orbit. If we do not fully understand and solve this problem starting now, there will never be a moon base and there will never be a Mars expedition of off earth settlements – ever. That makes the solution very important!

And what are those solutions? Here are five that have been suggested.

USE NUCLEAR ROCKETS: If we can speed up our space voyages, it exposes our crews to less radiation while in space. The less time spent on getting from point A to point B means less risk. Then we can use the methods below on the surface of the planets to mitigate the on site exploration risk.

SPACE VEHICLE SHIELDING: This is actually the least practical of all the suggestions. If one can put enough shielding around a spacecraft, one can shield out much of the space radiation. However, in the case of the “heavy primaries”, it would require one massive shield. Mass in space is always a significant problem: how does one get it there and then, once the spacecraft is shielded, then where does one get all the energy to accelerate and then decelerate it? It is possible to employ a small asteroid and burrow down to its core, using the asteroid as a shield, then propel the asteroid like a spacecraft – but, the energy required to do this is well beyond our technology.

REGOLIOTH SHIELDING: If one can pile up enough in situ shielding atop a planetary base, it is possible to shield the offending energies out. On the surface of the Moon or Mars, this is not a serious problem. One simply piles up enough regolith (the off-earth word for ‘soil’ or ‘dirt’ – which have different meanings off-earth) on top of the habitat to shield it out. It is the least expensive and most (pardon the pun) down-to-earth method. Unfortunately, the Hollywood image of the domed colony is out.

THE HIGH VOLTAGE SHIELD: It may be possible to duplicate a mini-magnetosphere by arranging a series of spherical balloons over and around the colony structures as shown in the illustration above. These spheres are then charged with very high voltage – on the order of 50 million volts. This voltage would then – like the earth’s own shielding mechanism – direct the high energy particles away and to ground. Such a system is in the planning stages now.

But what about those long space voyages between planets? There are concept drawings for this kind of shielding as well. But, any high voltage shield comes with its own pre-packaged demons.

There is also a well known risk associated with exposing living cells to high voltage fields. There are cancer risks and others suggested by the anecdotal evidence. I did a study at Oklahoma State University where I indirectly exposed mouse epithelial cells to a coil that was transmitting only 110V 60HZ wall current. The cells did very poorly. After the experiment, the cells also showed distinct chromosomal aberrations. If we expose our crews to fields of an energy many times that, there is a suggestion that it may actually be worse for them than the space radiation. It is important to point out, however, that this idea is only conjecture and needs much study before these high energy shields are actually employed and crews exposed.

STEM CELL REPLACEMENT THERAPY: I have heard a suggestion that one could conceivably actually replace the stem cells of the inner brain if they are killed en-route, caused either by a solar storm or just from day-to-day chronic space radiation exposure. In this scenario, astronauts would give medical scientists a sample of their own stem cells from their inner brain before launch. The scientists would then culture them and grow up several batches. They would then launch these brain stem cells along with the crew. A port would be fitted in the astronaut’s skull and if necessary, they could inject themselves with new brain stem cells. In this way, they could look the universe in the eye and say, “Bring on your worst!” and still survive in a relatively healthy condition. What this therapy does not address is the other myriad cancers in the body that will invariably be triggered by the radiation exposure.

The bottom line question is simple: can we go to the moon and mars and build bases there and live without being killed or badly injured by space radiation? The answer is: no one knows the answer to that question today. However, it is a near certainty that we will figure it out. I would guess that a combination of several or even all the above methods will eventually be employed in a kind of hybrid strategy to defeat this problem.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Gamble of Space Radiation

If you venture into space, you are going to get zapped by increased radiation. For those of us who live on the earth’s surface, we are protected by the earth’s relatively thick atmosphere and by the ever-present magnetosphere which both shields and redirects radiation away from us. All around us beneath our feet and drifting about in the air are natural sources of radiation and we certainly take a dose from those sources, but nothing like the radiation in space.
For example, if you are an astronaut in the International Space Station, you will receive over 365 times the radiation in one day as those on the earth’s surface get from natural sources. In other words, spending one day on the ISS is equivalent to one year exposure to natural background sources of radiation walking about on planet earth. And if you launch yourself away from the low earth orbit of the space station, which generally speaking, orbits beneath the protection of the magnetosphere, the exposure jumps four times that. Further, the difference between the lower energy radiation in low earth orbit is much better understood than the high energy-high mass radiation of interplanetary space.
The key question from all this is: so what?
Cancer is the answer, of course. Yesterday we discussed the massive particles of deep space and their potential destruciton of the sentitive regions of the inner brain. Today we will discuss a better understood risk. An increased exposure to ionizing radiation subsequently increases cancer risk. But what kind of risks are we talking about? On this question there is a wide range of disagreement.
NASA’s position is that it is well within acceptable limits. To a government agency, that means that it is within acceptable legal limits of exposing the work force to ionizing radiation. The EPA has set the limit on that: no one is legally permitted to receive a dose of radiation on the job that would increase their risk of death by cancer by greater than 15%. NASA has determined that a stint of duty on the ISS increases the cancer death risk by less than 5%.
But along comes Dr. Marco Durante of the Federico II University in Naples. He has conducted a lengthy study on MIR astronauts for the ESA. He has determined in a study of eight astronauts who had spent 70 days or longer on Mir, he found three with chromosomal abnormalities that might be precancerous. From this he calculates that there is a 20 per cent higher risk of dying from cancer. This, of course, is above US government limits of acceptable risk, and that is only 70 days below the protective layer of the magnetosphere compared to a 1000 days Mars trip - all of it in deep, unprotected space.
Further, Dr. Durante has also determined than on any Mars mission, half of the crew would die of radiation induced cancer upon return from the mission. As far as I can determine, no US Government source has made any comments on this as of this writing.
I have made a dedicated effort to keep this blog readable, and I have been promising for the last three entries to discuss what we may be able to do about the space radiation. So, unless I run into some more irresistible data, I will bring that long promised essay on those countermeasures to you tomorrow! Be patient – and stop smoking!
(Why? Cancer is the answer. If you smoke, you increase your cancer rate to ten times that of the astronaut corps! Why? Naturally occurring radioactive polonium bioaccumulates in the tobacco plant leaves and the smoker bathes his lungs in it each and every day. Not a good idea.)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Your Brain And Space Radiation

The most damaging effect of the massive, energetic particles that make up the most dangerous component of space radiation targets the brain. To be most specific, the radiation will initially target the sensitive inner brain regions where it may do its most severe damage.
Recent studies have shown that what we were taught in school is wrong. We were taught that “brain cells cannot regenerate – that what you were born with is all you will ever have.” That is wrong. The innermost chambers of the brain in the limbic region are lined with a layer of adult stem cells. This region has become known as “brain marrow”. Just as the bone marrow generates and replaces blood cells through adult stem cell regeneration, so does the brain marrow. It is a process that was heretofore thought impossible: neurogenesis.
Space radiation will probably target these brain marrow cells first. Research is now underway using the crude approximation of space radiation from high energy particle accelerators. Initial but still inconclusive data has demonstrated these areas are highly sensitive to acute doses of space radiation. Beyond a certain range of damage – and no one knows that that means exactly – the organism will die.
The questions are important and on them depend the future of human space exploration. The questions are: how much is bad? How does time and radiation exposure together effect the body’s natural ability to heal itself? How is the normally slow process of neurogenesis affected by the onslaught? What exposure (what combination of energy and time) is the point of no return for the brain marrow? At what dose and conditions will symptoms emerge in the organism? What will those symptoms be? ALL of these questions MUST be answered before the first astronaut is committed to a Mars expedition.
Tomorrow – we will examine what we may be able to do to fix the problem – and some of those solutions are surprisingly radical!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Space Radiation's Imminent Threat

There is a position in low earth orbital space over the South Atlantic Ocean and most of South America where the magnetosphere of the earth takes a dip toward the surface of the earth. Into this region is part of the nominal orbits of the space shuttle and the International Space Station. When these manned spacecraft enter this region called the South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA), they fly below a part of the natural space radiation shield and they are exposed to increased levels of space radiation. During these times, astronauts noticed what they first called retinal flashes.
A retinal flash is a streak of light “seen” inside the brain. They are probably erroneously called retinal flashes, because some brain scientists now think they are probably caused by a high energy particle of space radiation streaking through the brain’s neural cortex and killing an optic neuron. A true retinal flash can be caused by mechanical stimulation of the retinal neurons, but these are something else altogether. They were first reported by the astronauts of Apollo 14 on their way to the moon. The flashes were so problematic to astronaut Jerry Linenger on the MIR space station in 1996 that he slept with his head between two lead batteries because the troublesome lights kept his awake when the station orbited though the SAA. He reported that the batteries actually did very little good.
The problem is obvious. If each flash of light represents the death of an optic neuron, then how many other brain cells were killed as the massive, high energy object made its way through the brain to the optic neuron? How many brain cells will be killed in a 1000 day Mars expedition? (Mars has no effective magnetosphere.)
And if all that were not enough worry, we cannot duplicate space radiation on earth. We can only use our most massive particle accelerators to duplicate one to several energetic particles at a time, but nothing like the rich diversity of space born particles. We can only experiment on this with any validity in deep space (outside the influence of the magnetosphere).
The question is obvious: how much is bad and how much is really bad? No one knows. But before we commit astronauts to 1000 days in the celestial shooting gallery, we have to know for sure! We can go ahead and spend our billions inventing space machines to take them there, but until we get a handle on the key question, we will have to know the answer for sure.
Oh, by the way. Since the term retinal flash is not entirely accurate, let me suggest a new name for the flashes caused by space radiation. I suggest we call them the “Tobias Effect”, named after the scientist who first discovered them in 1951 after he placed his head in the beam of the Berkeley particle accelerator. Upon doing so, he reported that his “head was filled with brilliant light flashes” and thought he was seeing into the heart of the universe.
Next time, we’ll examine some possible solutions.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Great Unknown of Space Radiation

Humanity has announced its full intentions to go to Mars. With our current technology, such a trip will require about 1000 days. But, that is an audacious announcement, considering very few men have ascended above the protective environment of the Van Allen Radiation belts for any significant length of time. Even the US and Russian space stations have all orbited beneath that protection, so there is not much information on what happens when a human exposes their brain and body to raw, unfiltered space radiation.
Now, it is true that the Apollo Astronauts all traveled well out of the belts to the Moon and back for periods of more than a week. But how does 10 days compare to 1000? How much damage can 1000 days exposure to raw space radiation do to the soft human tissues and especially to difficult to regenerate brain neurons?
The answer is – no one knows.
Radiation is not radiation is not radiation. A medical or dental x-ray will penetrate your flesh with a photon – electron particle zipping along at nearly light speed. But it is quite small – say 1/1836 of a single atomic mass unit. So when the x-ray is over, so what? It hurts far less than paying the bill. And if you could look deep into your cells, you almost certainly would notice nothing amiss. It is theoretically possible that the tiny particle traveling with an energy of kilo-volts may have detached one or two DNA bonds, but they probably repaired themselves immediately or they were in non-reproducing cells and it did not matter. The end result is the same billions of times every day – no harm no foul.
But in space, the monsters are MUCH bigger. Obviously the earth is “in space” but we don’t get visited by many of the big monsters. Most of them strike the Van Allen radiation belts and the big guys are shunted up and reflected/deflected away from us. Thanks to the earth’s natural magnetic fields, we don’t get hit very much.
But let’s compare cosmic radiation with x-rays or natural occurring radiation sources such as radium or uranium. Again, they are small – in the thousands of electron volt ranges. But space radiation sources were generated in the heart of stars and supernovas. These particles are NOT lowly electrons of the 1/1836 AMU variety – they are of 1 or greater AMU masses (nearly two thousand times more massive) and they are also traveling at relativistic velocities near the speed of light. The end result is, instead of a momentum of a few thousand electron volts, the monster carries an energy measured in the billions of electron volts for each one. Further, instead of sub-sub-microscopic effects, its linear energy transfer trail (LET) is so large it can actually be viewed with a microscope where it passed thorugh the cell's tissues!
What happens when one of these monsters strikes your cells or your neurons? Well, the answer is relatively simple: its’ lights out. More tomorrow…