Astronauts in a mock-up of the Orion space capsule, which NASA plans to use in some form as a deep-space vehicle. (NASA)
We all know that human space travel is risky. Always has been and always will be.
Imagine, for a second, that you’re an astronaut about to be sent on a journey to Mars and back, and you’re in a capsule on top of NASA’s second-generation Space Launch System designed for that task.
You will be 384 feet in the air waiting to launch (as tall as a 38-floor building,) the rocket system will weigh 6.5 million pounds (equivalent to almost nine fully-loaded 747 jets) and you will take off with 9.2 million pounds of thrust (34 times the total thrust of one of those 747s.)
Given the thrill and power of such a launch and later descent, everything else seemed to pale in terms of both drama and riskiness. But as NASA has been learning more and more, the risks continue in space and perhaps even increase.
We’re not talking here about a leak or a malfunction computer system; we’re talking about absolutely inevitable risks from cosmic rays and radiation generally — as well as from ...