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Bad Space Weather Could Keep Astronauts Grounded Between 2026 and 2030

Violent storms and eruptions of superheated plasma from the Sun are what astronauts might have to face if they go on space missions between 2026 and 2030.
Boeing Exploration Upper Stage SLS 1 photo
Thorough studies conducted by scientists at the University of Reading in the U.K. revealed that future space missions such as sending crews on the Moon, Mars, satellite operations and more, could be seriously affected by extreme space weather if they take place beyond the next five years.

Making long-term forecasts is a difficult job, because of the unpredictability of the space weather. However, certain patterns can help astronomers get an idea on the timing and intensity of such weather events.

The Sun follows a repetitive solar cycle and based on 150 years' worth of space weather data, scientists were able to find when the most extreme events usually occur during a cycle. It turns out that during even-numbered solar cycles, they usually occur early in the cycle, while in the case of odd-numbered cycles, they take place late in the cycle. Thus they were able to conclude that the solar cycle in which our Sun just entered in December 2019 (solar cycle 25) will get nasty toward the end.

What that means is that astronauts and satellites alike are at risk toward the end of this cycle, more specific between 2026 and 2030. Extreme space weather is expected to occur during this interval which can be dangerous and can cause major health issues as well as technical problems to astronauts. These weather events could even disrupt power grids on Earth.

These recently made discoveries might have space agencies reconsider or reschedule some of their future missions, to make sure they stay within the safe interval. For instance, NASA is working on its Artemis mission to send back astronauts to the Moon by 2024, although such a complex mission could easily be pushed forward late into the 2020s.

 
 
 
 
 

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