Looking at this Business Insider article, one of the biggest hurdles of getting humans to Mars is how to reduce the amount of radiation that they are subjected to.

Now we do have the Vantablack paint that is able to absorb some 99.965% of visible light. The Wikipedia article on it describes how it works as this:

When light strikes Vantablack, instead of bouncing off, it becomes trapped and is continually deflected amongst the tubes, eventually becoming absorbed and dissipating into heat.

Would it be physically possible to create a similar paint (or a relatively thin structural layer) that traps cosmic radiation instead?

  • $\begingroup$ Probably a better fit to Space Exploration SE. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Sep 7 at 2:11
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Vantablack absorbs a broad spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, but the cosmic radiation that poses a hazard to interplanetary travelers includes high-energy charged particles like electrons, protons, and even ions. Are you asking about the physical possibility of a small layer of material that could protect against high-energy charged particles? $\endgroup$ – Chiral Anomaly Sep 7 at 2:33

As pointed out by Chiral Anomaly above, the radiation in space on the way to Mars that concerns us is not electromagnetic but instead consists of high-energy particles which are not stopped by Vantapaint. In fact, a lot of those particles are capable of passing right through the relatively thin structural material from which the walls of the spacecraft would be made, which is why this is a concern in the first place.

You could stop those particles if the walls of the spaceship were made much thicker, and fabricated from material that was very dense, but this would tremendously increase the cost of getting that thing into space by requiring great increases in the size of the rocket motors and their propellant tanks.


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