NASA plans sun-watching sentinels

060901_sentinel_hmedwidec.jpg

(An artist’s conception shows one of the four Inner Heliospheric Sentinels. They would face unique thermal and power challenges as they orbit close to the sun, some well inside Mercury’s orbit.)

Now that NASA has settled on Lockheed Martin to build the Orion spacecraft that will propel the agency back to the moon, officials are mulling a new fleet of vehicles to monitor potentially hazardous space storms that could turn such a mission into disaster.

The Solar Sentinels mission, only in an early discussion phase, would provide important data on heavy doses of solar radiation that can threaten astronauts and the electronic components of their spacecraft.

An astronaut on a spacewalk could become very sick, or even killed, by a large solar flare, scientists say. Advance warning of such storms will be crucial to anyone on the moon or Mars, so they can take cover in time.

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~ by ramanathan on September 2, 2006.

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