Shields up! British working on energy deflectors for spaceships


If the British have their way, we’ll never have any superheroes created by cosmic-ray mishaps in space. Scientists from across the pond are working on a Star Trek-like energy shield that would protect spacecraft from harmful — and potentially superpower-bestowing — radiation.

The basis of the idea is to build around the ship a small-scale replica of Earth’s magnetosphere, which prevents the planet from getting showered with energetic particles. To create the deflector shield, the craft would have to first surround itself with a magnetic field, then fill it with plasma, which would be held in place by the field. When badass particles from things like solar wind hit the plasma, their energy is sapped and they slow down.

And presumably, if another spaceship were to fire, say, a high-energy particle beam at a ship equipped with one of these shields, it would sap the energy of that, too. Eat it, Ur-Quan! Less fictional applications might include a second layer of radiation protection for the permanent moonbase that NASA wants to build, so astronauts could make critical repairs during periods of solar-flare activity. Not quite as much fun, but useful nonetheless.


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