Space.com (September 29, 2009)
"Galactic cosmic rays have just hit a Space Age high, new data from a NASA spacecraft indicates.
" 'In 2009, cosmic ray intensities have increased 19 percent beyond anything we've seen in the past 50 years,' said Richard Mewaldt of Caltech. 'The increase is significant, and it could mean we need to re-think how much radiation shielding astronauts take with them on deep-space missions.'..."
What?! Record high cosmic ray counts and it's nobody's fault? What kind of reporting is this?!
Sure, it's not likely that putting Bozo the Clown on television resulted in lasting damage to the delicate cosmic environment. But on March 3, 1959, Pioneer 4, a space probe recklessly launched by greedy Americans was launched: and went into solar orbit!
It's obvious, isn't it?! Pioneer 4 disturbed the delicate balance of the solar wind, and only the complete cessation of all American activity in space will restore the fragile environment of space!!
No, I Don't Believe ThatI really don't believe that putting space probes in orbit around the sun caused high cosmic ray levels a half-century later.
On the other hand: doesn't that nonsense I printed sound a bit like dire warnings that we're supposed to take seriously? I'm all for protecting the environment and preserving virgin forests and K-Mart signs for the spotted owl to nest in. But I could be a lot more enthusiastic about real problems, if we didn't have so many 'everything causes cancer' and 'environmental disaster of the month' articles.
Which this space.com article isn't.
It's a pretty good overview of what we know about cosmic rays, and why they're stronger / more common now. The odds are good that it's a 'perfect storm' of the sun's magnetic field being weak; the solar wind weakening; and the heliosphere's 'current sheet' flattening.
It's not a problem for anybody living at the bottom of Earth's atmosphere: but our robot explorers may have trouble - or anybody who goes out there in person.
Which is why people are re-thinking what sort of shielding will be necessary.
More about change and getting a grip, at: