New research shows that a layer of rust is a particularly effective means of protecting spacecraft from dangerous cosmic radiation that "bombards" astronauts and their equipment outside the Earth's atmosphere.
Protecting astronauts from cosmic rays is one of the most important tasks that must be completed before a crew can be sent to Mars.
An oxidized metal, especially gadolinium (III) oxide, blocks more radiation than anything else, according to research published last month in the journal Radiation Physics and Chemistry.
A layer of powdered gadolinium rust is able to block radiation without significantly affecting the weight of the device.
According to nuclear engineer Rob Hayes, this method can be used to provide reliable radiation shielding and reduce weight by a third (compared to the shielding methods used today).
Lockheed Martin's collaboration with the University of North Carolina could provide engineers with a new tool for keeping crew members safe during extended space missions.