Don Hassler led the team that designed the RAD, or radiation assessment detector, aboard the Curiosity rover. The instrument will help determine if it's safe for humans to go to Mars.
Hassler says high energy radiation causes cancer, but the earth's atmosphere helps protect us from it.
"The earth has a global magnetic sphere called a magnetosphere, which protects the earth from charged particles coming from the sun," Hassler said. "There's no global magnetic field around Mars. Basically Mars lost its magnetic field three or four billion years ago when it's liquid metallic core cooled."
Hassler said the thickness of Mars' atmosphere is about one percent of the earth's thickness. He said Mars is more exposed to deep space radiation coming from the sun and cosmic rays coming from the galaxy.
Despite that, Hassler is optimistic about our future on Mars.
"Back when Columbus explored the new world and journeyed off into the unknown, that's kind of just what we do," Hassler said. "Space is the next frontier for us now and we're part of that grand adventure. To think that eventually we will send humans to Mars. It's an exciting and I think important legacy for our species."
Hassler works for the Southwest Research Institute. He is the Program Director at the Space Science and Engineering Division in Boulder.
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