A spacecraft could be protected from radiation with a dipolelike magnetic field and plasma; it could surround a spacecraft like a ?mini magnetosphere.? Reseachers in the UK, Portugal and Sweden announced the work in this month's Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion.

Spacecraft venturing to the planets will need to be outfitted with some sort of protection against radiation like that associated with the solar wind, a low-density plasma that constantly flows outward from the sun. Initial laboratory experiments seem to hold out the possibility that the solar wind could be deflected around an appropriately equipped spacecraft. Their experiments show a clearly defined diamagnetic-like cavity.

"Visible light imaging of the system indicates that the plasma beam is deflected into a thin annular shell, the interior of which appears to be devoid of plasma...

"Initial hybrid modelling of the system with the dHybrid code shows very good agreement with the experimental results, reproducing well the measured ?stand-off? distance and the overall spatial scale of the diamagnetic cavity. In addition the scale length of the transport barrier region is consistent with experimental results... "

Earlier experiments performed at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot, UK, have shown that a deflector shield of ionized gas could also protect spacecraft.

Force shields, also called deflector shields, have long been a science fiction staple. The general idea was described in such early works as E.E. 'Doc' Smith's 1934 Triplanetary; see the entry for protective shield. The general term "shield" for a protective energy barrier was probably first used by Smith.

The rise of special effects images in films has also given the public imagination much to work on; take a look at this depiction of a force shield from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

An early representation may be recalled by older fans; namely, the Martian force shield from the 1953 movie version of H.G. Well's 1898 novel The War of the Worlds.

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission of Technovelgy.com)