New measurements of total ionizing dose in the lunar environment

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Abstract

[1] We report new measurements of solar minimum ionizing radiation dose at the Moon onboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) from June 2009 through May 2010. The Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER) instrument on LRO houses a compact and highly precise microdosimeter whose design allows measurements of dose rates below 1 micro-Rad per second in silicon achieved with minimal resources (20 g, ∼250 milliwatts, and ∼3 bits/second). We envision the use of such a small yet accurate dosimeter in many future spaceflight applications where volume, mass, and power are highly constrained. As this was the first operation of the microdosimeter in a space environment, the goal of this study is to verify its response by using simultaneous measurements of the galactic cosmic ray ionizing environment at LRO, at L1, and with other concurrent dosimeter measurements and model predictions. The microdosimeter measured the same short timescale modulations in the galactic cosmic rays as the other independent measurements, thus verifying its response to a known source of minimum-ionizing particles. The total dose for the LRO mission over the first 333 days was only 12.2 Rads behind ∼130 mils of aluminum because of the delayed rise of solar activity in solar cycle 24 and the corresponding lack of intense solar energetic particle events. The dose rate in a 50 km lunar orbit was about 30 percent lower than the interplanetary rate, as one would expect from lunar obstruction of the visible sky.

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