Currently sitting in a lecture by Mike Lockwood on the effect of the Sun on space travel. He’s just shown this amazing image, which shows the bow shock around a young star called LL Orionis. If you look above and just to the left of centre, you’ll see an arc. This is the shock where a wind from the young star is hitting the surrounding material.
The good news is that although the Sun throws energetic particles at us, its magnetic field does keep nasty high energy cosmic rays (not rays at all, but high energy particles) away from the inner part of the Solar System.
…but all of this high energy radiation damages cells, and can even trigger their self destruct mechanism. This is obviously damaging, although experiments have shown that changes won’t be passed on to the next generation (as the cells just die). A single event is likely to expose astronauts (or those living on the Moon) to more than the guideline lifetime recommend dose; we were very lucky during Apollo as many of the missions just missed major events. An exceptionally massive event between Apollos 16 and 17 would have killed the astronauts.
A couple of minutes left; the solutions. We should be researching layers of shielding (like this). The timing of the mission could be crucial, but the decision isn’t easy. Perhaps we should head to Mars at solar maximum, as this provides the maximum protection from cosmic rays (and hope to hide from the solar effects). In short, more work needed!