Shields Up Scotty!

Whereas the astronauts of the space Shuttle missions or the International Space Station (ISS) are protected by the Earth’s magnetic field, ships embarking for further long-term expeditions may be at risk from solar winds and other particles from outer space. A team of scientists at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford, UK, is currently working on the possibility to use a bubble of charged particles – known as plasma – as a protective shield, in parallel to the research conducted at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA.

The aim of this work is to build a device able to produce enough plasma around the spacecraft – contained by a magnetic field – to prevent potentially harmful external particles from reaching the ship. It may take another few years to develop this technology, but the deflector shields of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise will most probably become a reality one day.

Magnetic “deflector shields” could one day guard astronauts against dangerous space radiation, if experiments now underway pay off.

Source: New Scientist

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