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For Captain Kirk and his crew, the starship Enterprises force fields were all that stood in the way of oblivion from Klingon lasers. Now scientists are seeking to build Star Trek-style shields for real, to protect astronauts on their way to Mars.
Though a manned mission to the Red Planet could probably expect to avoid any unpleasant alien encounters, researchers believe that magnetic fields could be crucial to shelter its crew from deadly radiation
Now scientists at the Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire are proposing a Star Trek solution: to protect the spacecraft with a magnetic field like the Earths. A team led by Ruth Bamford, who will present details today at the Royal Astronomical Societys annual meeting in Preston, has been awarded a £30,000 grant by the Science and Technology Facilities Council to start developing such a scheme. It will use technology originally developed for experimental nuclear fusion reactors to wrap a model spacecraft in a magnetic cocoon, so that harmful plasma bounces off.
Its no accident that Star Trek featured this sort of technology, as it had advisers who work for Nasa and its feasible, Dr Bamford said. The shields seem to be some sort of invisible barrier, which energy bounces off, and that sort of deflector shield is exactly what were talking about.
Magnetic field generators, she said, could be critical to Nasas plans to establish a permanent manned base on the Moon by 2024, and to send astronauts to Mars around 2030.
It's a good start guys, but don't forget my transporter. Or the food replicator. That would be cool. No more ordering takeout.
Scratch everything I just said. Get the holodeck working and we'll call it even.
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