ESA Summer of Code in Space (SoCiS) 2017 Project

Radiation exposure monitoring for a martian settlement virtual reality simulation

Solar energetic particles (SEP) spread through interplanetary space during coronal mass ejections. Biological tissues on the Earth surface are protected from SEP, thanks to the shielding provided by our planet’s magnetic field. In space and on the martian surface, where such shielding is absent or much weaker, SEP increase the risk of contracting diseases such as cancer. Understanding and forecasting SEP events is therefore crucial in the preparation of a manned mission to Mars. At Mars Planet, we are currently developing a martian space weather forecasting system, which will become an essential component of a virtual reality simulation of human settlement on the surface of the red planet (Mars City Project).

Our system will be a Python-based tool taking advantage of public space weather web portals such as NOAA and PREDICCS to obtain predictions on the SEP environment on the surface of Mars. One of the deliverables of the system will be the instantaneous and cumulative radiation dose absorbed by biological tissues on the surface of the planet, given a constant radiation shielding by layers of materials of varying thickness. In order to make this system fully operational for the users of the simulation, we need an interface between the radiation doses per constant protection and the behavior of each astronaut. Our goal is a software which keeps track of the radiation exposure of each user for the whole duration of the mission. It will be sensitive to the position of the astronaut (i.e., under the thick protective layer of the habitat or outside, with the only protection of a spacesuit) and record how much time is spent in every environment. By using the radiation doses provided by our forecast method, the software will enable us to provide the community with the radiation doses absorbed by astronauts under realistic life conditions. It will therefore be possible to optimize the working schedule in order to reduce to a minimum the radiation astronauts will be exposed to during their permanence on the red planet.