Monte Carlo simulation of the radiation environment encountered by a biochip during a space mission to Mars

Astrobiology. 2009 Apr;9(3):311-23. doi: 10.1089/ast.2008.0255.


Simulations with a Monte Carlo tool kit have been performed to determine the radiation environment a specific device, called a biochip, would face if it were placed into a rover bound to explore Mars' surface. A biochip is a miniaturized device that can be used to detect organic molecules in situ. Its specific detection part is constituted of proteins whose behavior under cosmic radiation is completely unknown and must be investigated to ensure a good functioning of the device under space conditions. The aim of this study is to define particle species and energy ranges that could be relevant to investigate during experiments on irradiation beam facilities. Several primary particles have been considered for galactic cosmic ray (GCR) and solar energetic particle (SEP) contributions. Ionizing doses accumulated in the biochip and differential fluxes of protons, alphas, neutrons, gammas, and electrons have been established for both the Earth-Mars transit and the journey at Mars' surface. Neutrons and gammas appear as dominant species on martian soil, whereas protons dominate during the interplanetary travel. Depending on solar event occurrence during the mission, an ionizing dose of around a few Grays (1 Gy = 100 rad) is expected.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Cosmic Radiation*
  • Electrons
  • Extraterrestrial Environment*
  • Mars*
  • Monte Carlo Method*
  • Neutrons
  • Protons
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiation Monitoring / instrumentation
  • Space Flight / instrumentation*


  • Protons