Harvesting Asteroid Clay for Space Shield

Between a rock and a hard place.

Those large rocks hurtling around in space may be the key to shielding astronauts from space radiation.

Mars is a hot topic of conversation. People want to know it; people want to be on it. But space travel is tricky. Logistically it’ll take years and years to get there, and that’s not even the worst part, it has even been suggested that a trip to Mars would expose an astronaut to a lifetime’s dose of radiation all at once.

That’s enough to turn your skin green (obviously not literally).

According to Daniel Britt from the University of Central Florida the heavy aluminium shields currently being used for the shorter missions would be way too expensive for a long haul flight. For this, we need space materials.

“Eventually everything should be able to be produced off Earth if any serious size outpost, base or colony is to be considered,” says Paul van Susante from Michigan Technological University.

Asteroids, says Britt could be the ultimate answer. The clay found in asteroids is super rich in hydrogen, which acts as a great shield for cosmic rays and protons.

Apparently, the asteroid clay is 10 per cent more effective as a shield than Aluminium.

Everyone is in agreeance on asteroid clay’s potential.

So, how do we get it? How do we stop a huge, hard, potentially life-ending rock and harvest its sweet, sweet clay?

Short answer: Nobody knows… Yet.

“No current machines exist for actual mining in zero gravity,” says van Susante.

But, if there’s a will, NASA will find way (Read more about NASA's Mars plans). For example, clays are non-magnetic and could potentially be separated from other materials using GIANT MAGNETS.

Anything giant sounds promising. But Britt is reassuring:

“Doing anything in space is not trivial, but there are several paths forward.”

Space clay, way of the future.

Header: Wikimedia Commons

Related Articles

Discuss this article

Newsletter

Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
Submit