Space's Deepest Secrets (2016–…): Season 8, Episode 4 - Bermuda Triangle of Space - full transcript

Scientists have detected a region of space they have yet to understand.

Above the Atlantic Ocean...

And my first thought was,
"What was that?"

...there is
a region of space...

- I'd do this, and there'd be blood on my finger.
- ...that is dangerous

for reasons
we don't yet understand.

It's not clear why, but the last
time there was communication

with the satellite,
was actually in this area.

This area of the South Atlantic

was giving us errors
all the time, every day,

every time we passed through it.

You can see there
are some irregularities.

You see six or seven
of these peaks each day.

Some scientists now think
the long-term effects of this danger zone,

may be far wider reaching
than anyone ever expected.

On Earth, that can lead to a
breakdown of the ozone layer.

Our whole species has developed

under that kind
of protective envelope.

It's called
the South Atlantic Anomaly.

And it may even have implications
for the future of humanity

in space, and on Earth.

Deep within NASA's
mission control center,

as small team
of scientists works 24-7,

to protect NASA's astronauts
from the dangers of space.

- You ready to write the alert?
- Yeah, I'll get it set,

- so when we hit it, we can just send it out.
- Okay, sounds good.

We are ready to start.

Two... one... booster ignition

and lift off
of Shuttle Endeavor,

with NASA's final space
station crew compartment

that brings a bay window view
for our celestial backyard.

For former fighter
pilot, Terry Virts,

this was his first mission
into space.

One of the most
special experiences of my life

was seeing Earth
for the first time.

As I launched at night time

I had a chance, very briefly,
for a few seconds,

to see the whole east coast
of America.

It kinda took my breath away. I wasn't
prepared for that emotional impact.

Terry was one of six
astronauts on a 14-day mission

to finish constructing the
International Space Station.

By our fifth day in space, we
were docked with the space station.

We were about 400 kilometers
in altitude above the Earth.

It was a normal day.

It may have been
a normal day for someone

trained to work miles
above Earth's surface.

But what happened next,
changed Terry's life forever.

I was exhausted, like I was
every night, getting ready for bed.

I got in my sleeping bag,
pulled it over my head,

closed my eyes. And just
a few minutes after that,

I saw this giant, white flash,

and I opened my eyes.

And my first thought was,
"What was that?"

Computers were fine.

There was no problem on board.

None of my other crew mates woke
up and said, "Hey, did you see that?"

It was just me.

And then it wasn't long
after that,

a few days after that that I started
noticing my face was bleeding.

I'd do this, and there would
be blood on my finger.

There's a lot of mystery
in space.

There's a lot of things
that we don't know.

Terry had just
crossed into a region scientists call

the South Atlantic Anomaly,

the so-called
Bermuda Triangle of space.

It's an area
of heightened radiation

which experts have been aware
of since the dawn of the space age.

But it's true danger only really
became appreciated in the early 1980s.

In Surrey, England, a small
team of university students

dreamt of joining
the space race.

Back in 1983, it all began.

And we did photographically
record the building of the space craft.

This is state-of-the-art
technology, 1980s style.

Absolutely nothing by modern
standards, but remarkable at the time.

These engineers wanted
to build a communication satellite

using a low-budget,
off-the-shelf technology,

the type of devices that had
never before been sent into space.

In the mid '80s, everyone
thought we were crazy to do this.

The, sort of, mainstream industry
say, "Why are you doing this?

This is kind of like a toy
space craft."

Because most space craft use
special electronics to work in space.

Craig's mission
was a big risk at the time.

It carried some very early
experiments in digital communications

and digital imaging. In fact, it
was a pioneer of these techniques.

We were flying
state-of-the-art technology

similar to the emerging personal
computer technology of the time,

devices that essentially have
an unknown heritage in space.

So part of the activity was to see
exactly how do these things respond.

The experiment
so intrigued NASA,

that they agreed
to launch the satellite.

We have ignition,
and we have lift-off.

When we launched
the satellite, we got data back.

It's always exciting, the first
time you hear your space craft.

The jury-rigged satellite
had one unique and crucial feature,

designed to address any
technological malfunctions.

We had what we call error
detection and correction coding systems.

So if there were any errors in the
computer caused by radiation damage,

these would be detected
and automatically corrected.

What we realized then,
is we had a unique resource.

Each error message
clearly recorded

the exact position of the
satellite when the failure occurred.

The chips we were flying
turned out to be

quite sensitive
to this radiation,

so we were getting
a large number of errors.

One thing I did was started to map
out where these errors were occurring.

And that gave me a view of the
errors from the perspective of a map.

That really then, in a very
concrete way,

showed you exactly
what was going on.

And to my surprise, really,
we got an awful lot of errors,

just off the coast of Brazil, in
a region of the South Atlantic.

This area of the South Atlantic

was giving us errors
all the time,

every day, every time
we passed through it.

Although unintentionally,
Craig had helped create

the most accurate map of the
South Atlantic Anomaly to date.

This was priceless information.

It confirmed the radiation hot spot
could damage modern electronics.

From then on, anything that
passed through this radiation hot spot

had to be capable
of surviving it.

Dr. Jurgen Matzka
is a world expert,

who studies the South
Atlantic Anomaly

After discovering just how
damaging the Anomaly can be

to modern electronics, big
space agencies around the globe,

began to notice
the same phenomenon.

We have
the space telescope, Hubble,

that has very delicate
instruments on board.

And actually when this Hubble
space telescope is flying

through the region,
in the South Atlantic,

NASA could see that there were
problems with these instruments.

Today, Hubble's most vulnerable
electronics are preemptively shut down,

while the telescope
passes through the Anomaly.


Very recently,
there was the Hitomi.

The Hitomi was a satellite
that got lost.

It's not clear why, but the last
time there was communication

with the satellite
was actually in this area.

Also, all space agencies
have taken notice of this.

And, for example, the
International Space Station,

when it is traveling
in this region,

it's taking certain
precautious steps.

Space walks
must be carefully planned,

whenever the
International Space Station

enters the South Atlantic

So again, we have here
obviously a problem in this area.

So all these events,
and research over the years,

shows that there is something
special about this region.

This cannot be a coincidence, so there
must be a good reason for this happening.

So what is causing
the South Atlantic Anomaly,

and is there anything anyone
can do about it?

As society becomes
more technologically-advanced

and humans strive to reach
beyond our planet,

it's more important than ever to
understand the dangers that lurk in space.

Here in Boulder, Colorado,
a highly-specialized team

works to ensure the safety
of both humans and hardware,

beyond Earth's surface.

The whole business of
understanding the space environment,

and anticipating
what's going to happen

is really a crucial one for our
advanced technological society.

The radiation
above the Earth is driven

by the changing activity
of our Sun.

Dan and his team
look for solar flares,

radiation particles,

that are released from the
sun, and stream towards Earth.

Energetic particles from the sun

can probably be thought of,
somewhat accurately,

as tiny,
but very powerful bullets

that are being generated
by the energy in the sun.

Those powerful bullets, if
they were to strike a spacecraft,

they could cause damage
within the spacecraft,

or within the electronics
of a spacecraft.

But in fact, the
Earth is incredibly well-protected

from these solar bullets by
its remarkable magnetic field.

We have this wonderful,
protective umbrella above us.

The Earth's magnetic field prevents
much of the powerful energy from the sun.

This magnetic forcefield
shields the Earth in two ways.

It deflects some of the dangerous
particles back into outer space,

but it also traps
some radiation,

holding it in a layer that is just
miles above the Earth's surface.

So we have both the fact
that the Earth's magnetic field,

in a sense, prevents radiation

from getting
very close to the Earth,

but it also provides a trap
for particles to be embedded

within the magnetic field
for long periods of time.

Beneath this dangerous
blanket of trapped radiation,

the International Space Station,

and many of our key satellites,

fly in what is called
the low-Earth orbit.

But this safe zone

doesn't always provide the
protection that scientists expect.

That means any
astronauts passing through this zone

need to be monitored, and that's
the job of Kerry Lee and his team.

We're in the
multi-purpose support room,

which is a back room in mission
control at the Johnson Space Center.

And our goal here

is to keep the astronauts
protected from space radiation.

On board the space station,

live radiation data
is beamed back to Kerry,

and reveals what happens when
the International Space Station

flies over the South Atlantic.

You can see there are some
irregularities that happen

at various places
within the lower orbit.

We see six or seven
of these peaks each day.

These peaks in radiation
occur each time the space station

passes through
the South Atlantic Anomaly.

When the International Space Station
passes through this intense region,

over here, you can see
individual frames,

and the intensity increases where
you have more hits in the detector.

Over the South
Atlantic, the trapped radiation

that should be held safely
above the Earth,

dips down
into the low-Earth orbit,

this radiation hot spot,

the South Atlantic Anomaly,

much closer to Earth
than expected.

This is the highest
levels of radiation

that we see regularly
in low-Earth orbit,

and it constitutes about 50% of the
dose that the crew members receive.

Passing through this
zone can be potentially hazardous.

I had heard about
the South Atlantic Anomaly.

But until I was in space,
I never really understood

just how important
that place is.

While on board
the International Space Station,

Terry passed through the radiation
hot spot several times a day.

The eye flashes he experienced
were, in fact, radiation particles

flying through space, and
impacting the back of his eye.

If one particle of radiation
is hitting my optic nerve,

then there's a thousand others
hitting all the other parts of my body

When I got back from space
after my first flight,

I had noticed that my skin had
started to bleed while I was in space,

and got really rashy and puffy.

And I went to the dermatologist,
and he did a biopsy

and said that you
have skin cancer.

It really stood out to me that my whole
life, I had gone without skin cancer.

And now, after two weeks in
space flight, I got it immediately.

I assume there was some
type of connection there.

In theory, Terry's
mission should have flown safely

beneath the layer of
radiation held around the Earth.

Yet, he likely suffered enough
exposure to contract skin cancer.

To look at this in more detail,
Jurgen wanted to measure

the magnetic field strength
directly in the Anomaly.

And what he discovered
was striking.

So we started
the observatory end of 2009,

and we can calculate
for every month since then.

We can see that there's a steep decrease
in magnetic field strength all the time.

The Earth's magnetic field

has slowly weakened globally,
in the last century.

But the weakening in the Anomaly
was much greater than expected.

Globally, the magnetic field is
decreasing by 5% every hundred years,

but in Tristan da Cunha,
in the South Atlantic Anomaly,

the magnetic field is actually
decreasing by 5% in 20 years.

So that's a five-times
stronger decrease

than we know
from the global picture.

The exact reasons behind the
weakness existing here are still unproven.

But like a dent in our
protective shield,

the weak spot in the South
Atlantic allows trapped radiation

to come down closer to Earth.

And even more disturbing,
this danger zone is on the move,

and it's getting bigger.

So there is a worrying situation

We know for the last years
that the Anomaly is growing,

and we can even see this
here, comparing only three years.

So 2016 and 2019, we can already
see that the Anomaly is growing.

This concerning trend

may have profound consequences

for the future
of space exploration.

...something engineers across
the globe must anticipate and solve.

In Colorado, Dan Baker
and his team

are planning to launch
a new satellite into space,

to precisely predict changes
in radiation environments.

These instruments will
look very precisely at the sun.

They'll detect when there
are large disturbances

that may be precursors to strong
space weather events at Earth.

We have to build these
instruments with extreme care.

They have to be well shielded
and well protected.

Among the things we do,
is use very dense material,

such as this tungsten, for example, which
can block the highest energy particles.

This little block of material takes
a weight lifter, such as myself,

to be able to lift it.

We also build with using thick
aluminum walls

in order to try to block as
much of the radiation as possible.

Every year, more and more
technologically advanced space craft

are launched into orbit.

There are now plans
to launch, literally,

thousands of more small satellites
to operate in low-Earth orbit.

They're not only smaller,

they must also carry
a huge amount

of increasingly complex
and delicate hardware.

That means making
the electronics more dense

making the number of instruments
on a given platform larger,

making the sensitivity,
effectively, to space radiation

substantially greater
all the time.

But one thing these small
satellites cannot carry is excess weight.

Every ounce that one
launches into space costs money.

And with very small space
craft, very light space craft,

you can't put as much shielding,

therefore you can't
protect yourself

against space radiation as much.

And so this is a constant battle
between the immutable laws of physics

and the realities of cost, and the
efficiency of the space program.

And with the
Anomaly continuing to grow,

the hazards to this key machinery
could spiral out of control.

As it flies in a high-polar orbit,
it would be passing through

the South Atlantic Anomaly
several times a day.

And if it's subject to very
intense radiation in that region,

and it's getting, essentially,
incapacitated by that radiation

multiple times per day, it's
really not going to be doing the job

that you want it to do in space.

With the dangers
facing satellites escalating,

scientists have made finding
a solution to space radiation

a top priority.

Many regard the space
radiation problem

as the tallest pole in
the tent, as they say,

the most challenging problem. How
can we make systems safer, more viable

for humans to take these long
adventures in space.

Because it's not just satellites

and spacecraft that are affected

by the intense radiation
of the South Atlantic Anomaly,

the deadly cosmic force also
wreaks havoc on the human body.

Located just walking distance

from NASA's mission control
in Houston

is Frenchie's Italian

Frenchie's has been
a popular lunch spot

for astronauts
across the decades.

Frenchie, what's going on.

How are you?

It's a place that serves
as a nostalgic reminder to Terry.

Charlie Baldwin was our former
NASA administrator.

One of the nicest guys you'll
ever meet. Franklin Chang-Diaz,

he is one of the smartest
human beings on the planet.

He's actually
a nuclear physicist,

and he became an astronaut,

flew in space,
I think seven times.

He flew a ridiculous number
of times on the space shuttle.

Every picture you see here on the
wall, space radiation has impacted.

Everybody here has flown in
space, and they've all been irradiated

in ways that just don't
happen down here on Earth.

As our understanding
of that radiation grows,

so does our urgency
in finding a solution.

For the longer duration
missions that NASA's doing,

that our international
partners are doing,

we're going to have
to address radiation,

especially as we go out
beyond the earth's magnetic field,

or if things like the South
Atlantic Anomaly grow,

and make it more dangerous
in low-Earth orbit.

Radiation is a big threat,
and it's the number one threat,

in my view, to
humans flying in space.

Around the corner
from Frenchie's, Dr. Zarana Patel,

recreates these harmful space radiation
environments in this facility at NASA.

And can see, exactly, the impact
the radiation has on the human body.

We are collecting
blood samples from the astronauts

before, sometimes during,

and then after, their flight, and
quantifying their DNA damage.

The damage caused
by just a single particle of radiation,

can be lethal to body cells

It is powered with enough
velocity, and enough energy

to go straight through your DNA.

As a particle hits our DNA,

it can rip apart the chromosomes,
and change their structure.

If you have a hit on your DNA, the
body can repair, or it can also mis-repair.

Our body naturally
repairs DNA damage,

but when the impact is severe,
the repair mechanism can fail.

And it's this process that
Zarana is most interested in.

We've chosen three different
colors, the red, green, and yellow,

to highlight three
different chromosomes.

And you can see here, a green that
has mis-repaired with the red here.

Individual chromosomes
are colored with fluorescent dye,

showing any that incorrectly combine
with themselves, or other chromosomes,

and this can lead
to irreversible damage.

So, when you have
mis-repair like this,

we won't know that it
is repaired adequately,

and if it isn't, you will
have long term impacts,

and eventually, cause
initiation progression of cancer.

Although a direct link
with Terry's cancer can't be proven,

in just two weeks in space, he experienced
around the same radiation levels

that most people in Houston
receive in six years.

As the South Atlantic Anomaly grows, so
will the radiation exposure to astronauts.

And with engineering yet
to solve the problem,

could biology provide the key
to keeping them safe?

So what I am
proposing may sound quite futuristic,

but this technology can
really help human beings

in either space travel,
or here on Earth.

For Dr. Lisa Nip,
if we are truly to address

the challenge
of future space travel,

we must fundamentally
revolutionize the way we think about it.

If you look at where I am now,

you'll see that I'm fairly
high up on the mountains.

And for a low-lying creature
like me,

I will soon experience
symptoms of hypoxia,

where I'll have a bit of a shortness of
breath, and an accelerated heart rate.

Curiously, there are some
humans who have actually adapted

to this kind
of high-elevation environment.

Humans all over the world
adapt to challenging environments,

and these adaptations are
passed down through generations.

A lot of human beings,

who have lived in high
altitude for a long time,

have inherited genetic changes
that enable them to survive

for long periods of time,
without feeling any kind of illness.

But the problem with evolution,

is that it takes many,
many generations to happen,

and it may be the case that we don't
have enough time to make these changes.

Because humans, for the
most part, have evolved

in a pretty-shielded

where our planet's atmosphere

was able to deflect a lot
of the solar radiation,

and the cosmic rays
that come from space,

we have never really needed to
evolve a way to protect ourselves

from a lot of
the space radiation

that astronauts
would experience.

Lisa's work
involves studying animals

that live in extreme
environments here on Earth,

to see how they have adapted
and evolved.

So there are many regions of Earth
where humans could not possibly survive

for any period of time.

But still, in these
environments, there are species

that are able to tolerate
these harsh environments,

and what we call them
are extremophiles.

These microscopic
creatures have evolved

to survive in some of the most
extreme environments imaginable.

And Lisa thinks they could
hold the answer

to the puzzling problem
of space radiation.

Dr. Lisa Nip, studies animals

that have adapted to the most
severe conditions on Earth,

known as extremophiles,

and how they might change
the future of humans in space.

My studying these extremophiles,

and really trying to understand how
they survive these harsh conditions,

we can better learn ways to
protect ourselves in the future.

And there's one of
these extremophiles in particular

called deinococcus radiodurans,

that Lisa thinks could play a vital
part in the future of space travel.

And you can see here
that there are streaks

of this deinococcus radiodurans.

What is interesting about them

is that they have
some cell surface proteins

that bind to an orange
pigmented compound

that is able to give some
anti-oxidant properties.

When these species
are bombarded with radiation,

and it experiences
shearing of its DNA,

it's able to use these anti-oxidant
properties to make really rapid,

and clean repairs to any
damage that it has experienced.

Lisa's ambitious
plan is to find the genes

responsible for these rapid
repair mechanisms,

and incorporate them
into human DNA.

By transferring this unique
activity into astronaut body cells,

they could be better able
to repair DNA damage,

making them, effectively, immune

from the potential
cancer-causing radiation in space.

If humans were able
to perfect the ability to gene-edit,

we may be able
to remove the costs

of building the more physical
aspects of space travel,

like building protective
shields or building aircraft.

And if we were able to localize this
kind of tolerance within ourselves,

it may really accelerate the way

that we can travel
into space in the future.

Gene-hacking humans to
make them suitable for space flight

could be centuries away.
It may never happen.

But the problems the South
Atlantic Anomaly are causing

aren't just going to affect
astronauts now, or in the future,

some scientist think
the problem, may one day,

affect the future
of humanity, here on Earth.

It's beautiful, isn't it?

These scientists think
that the South Atlantic Anomaly

could signal something
much more profound,

something that could affect
our long-term future on Earth.

As the Anomaly
continues to grow,

and make its way east,
towards Africa,

these ancient lands
could hold the key

to predicting
the Anomaly's future.

This is a project
that really started about 20 years ago.

So we've been thinking
about this for a long time.

Trying to understand
the South Atlantic Anomaly,

really requires us to get data
from the southern hemisphere

on a longer timescale.

John Tarduno is a geophysicist.

He studies changes in our
magnetic field, way back in time.

And in this parched
South African wilderness,

he's formed a unique partnership

with archaeologists
Tom Huffman and Mike Watkeys.

To understand
the earth's magnetic field,

the team needs to look
at where it's created.

In the center of the earth,
there is a solid metal core.

This inner core is surrounded
by a liquid iron outer core.

And it's the movement
of this liquid iron,

that generates
the magnetic field around us.

Because the iron outer core
is fluid,

it can cause irregular changes in
the strength of the magnetic field.

We know that the field

has been decreasing
for the last 160 years,

but we don't have much of
a historical context for this.

So what we're trying to do, is
look at the record of the field

back further in time, to provide
context for this more recent change.

John thinks there
might be something happening

in the earth's core,
beneath Africa,

driving these rapid changes
in the field strength,

and the growth
of the South Atlantic Anomaly.

What we're seeing
in the field right now,

in terms of its very rapid
drop, is alarming.

Yeah. No,
that's it. That's it. Okay.

So that's really giving us hints

that there's something active
going on in the core.

To lead about to this decrease.

To prove this, John is on a hunt

for certain types
of ancient rocks

that hold information about
the earth's magnetic field here.

These materials can contain
magnetic minerals,

particularly something
called magnetite.

What John wants
to find are artifacts

that have gone through
a very specific process.

They must be heated to
over 1076 degrees Fahrenheit,

then rapidly cooled.

This process locks in the
strength of the magnetic field

at that particular location,
at that particular time.

This is exactly
the same type of information

that is being recorded
at a magnetic observatory.

It's just like
this is a spot reading

of the magnetic field,
back in time.

And we just need to find enough
of these to string them together,

to get a magnetic history.

And what John and
the team can deduce about our past

from this geological data, may
have a profound impact on our future.

Geophysicist, John Tarduno

is leading a team of
researchers in South Africa.

They hope to learn more
about the root cause

of the South Atlantic Anomaly,

and how it may change
in the future.

There's a special place
for Iron Age studies,

that's the last 2,000 years,
it's Black pre-history.

This is a special place because we can
do what's called landscape archeology.

We have data from tree rings, we have
data from the isotopic study of bones.

Then we know that the climate
has gone up and down.

The climate alternated
between not-so-good,

really good,
not-so-good, etcetera.

And it so happens that there's a correlation
between the increase in population,

by the number of sites
of that time period,

with the higher rainfall
periods, and so on.

One of the tribes that
migrated to this region regularly,

called the Bantu, had some
interesting cultural practices,

that offered John a unique
resource for his study.

The Bantu were the first people

practicing agriculture
in this area.

So they, of course, were very
reliant on rainfall.

And in times of low rainfall,
times of drought,

they had ritualistic burnings
of the village.

By burning their
settlements during a drought,

the Bantu believed this
would call on the rain gods,

and bring better weather.

These regular burnings have
left a series of rock samples,

providing a historical timeline.

The fact that there were several
migrations of Bantu into this area,

is ideal, together
with this ritualistic burning,

because that actually
created this time sequence.

Today, John
and his team have found

a new, undisturbed area
of burning,

something that could give him
crucial insight

into what's driving
the Anomaly beneath Africa.

First, John takes GPS readings,

to locate the precise position
of the ancient sample.

The key thing now...

...this place here.
I wonder if we can get a...

He then draws a line
in the rock, to provide a reference.

Using compass readings, he specifically
orientates the current magnetic field...

...before taking the sample back to
the lab to analyze its magnetic strength.

His results suggest
that the drastic weakening

of the magnetic field above
the Atlantic, occurring today,

is anything but a one-off event.

So what we have found
is that the magnetic field,

particularly the magnetic
field intensity

has dropped in the past,
in this area.

In particular in this interval
between around 1250 and 1350,

the field was dropping
quite rapidly,

and even more rapidly
than it is dropping right now.

So based on these data,
we would tend to believe

that the South Atlantic Anomaly
may be a recurrent feature

With regular drops
in the field here,

John thinks there's something
in the earth's core, beneath Africa

that's driving the changes
in the magnetic field today.

The core mantle
boundary underneath Africa is unusual.

It is unusually dense,
unusually hot,

and stimulating the changes
in the flow underneath Africa,

leading to all of these

John thinks the
unusual geology of the mantle,

just above the outer core,
beneath Africa,

could be causing the strange
movements of molten iron here,

driving the recurrent drops
in field strength over time.

And perhaps, even the origin
of the Anomaly itself.

If what John predicts is true,

the growth of the Anomaly and
rapid weakening of the field today,

could potentially be a sign
of much more drastic changes,

something that could
have impacts on all of us.

In South Africa, a
team of scientists is examining

how the earth's core could be
changing the planet's magnetic field,

and how those changes could
affect humans in the future.

If we think about the potential
for the South Atlantic Anomaly deepening,

and becoming more extensive, then
the effects become more profound,

and can affect the entire globe.

If it becomes very large, it could
then effect the global magnetic field

and stimulating
a magnetic reversal.

Pole reversal is something
that has happened to the earth before,

and not just once.

For the last 80
million years, for example,

we know there were hundreds
of magnetic reversals.

These are extremely

in the geologic
magnetic record that we have.

So we know there's going to be
a magnetic reversal.

Predicting exactly when that reversal
will occur is a very difficult thing.

The last reversal
was around 780,000 years ago.

But occurring over history
almost every 300,000 years,

it's only a matter of time
before it happens again.

During a magnetic reversal,
the field intensity is going to drop

to very, very low values.
It might be only 10 or 20%

of the present day
magnetic field intensity.

both on Earth and in orbit,

would be dangerously vulnerable
to the effects of space radiation.

This lower magnetic shielding,

then allows the charged particles
greater access to the atmosphere,

and can then start to cause
chemical changes,

the creation of nitrogen oxide
compounds that can break down the ozone.

The ozone is a
thin layer of our atmosphere,

which vitally protects us
from the sun's UV radiation.

And a reduction in the ozone
layer could leave us vulnerable.

It will then allow
more radiation to penetrate

that could eventually lead
to higher skin cancer rates

for those people living
underneath these holes.

So if we move into a world where
we're heading toward a magnetic reversal,

we can start
to see global effects,

not just the effects today
that we're seeing in space

that are limited just
to the South Atlantic Anomaly.

And with space
exploration only ramping up,

this shift in our magnetic field

has implications for the future.

The die is cast, effectively,
on how space

is going to play a role
in our lives now.

There may be many surprises.
There may be many changes.

But I think they're all gonna be in the
form of more and more utilization of space

for human activity

And to continue
traveling along this path,

the fight to solve the problem of space
radiation is more important than ever.

The biggest problem
that we have going forward,

if we're ever going to go to
Mars, is actually radiation.

Bone and muscle loss
has been solved.

The space station has fixed
that problem

But the radiation problem
has not been fixed.

If there were ever a situation
in which humans have to experience

much larger doses of radiation,

either here on Earth,
or out in space,

it will be the case that gene-editing
may be one of the few ways

that is most effective
and efficient

in order to protect our species,

and make sure that we survive.

To prepare
for this unknown future,

scientists must continue
to track the changes

of the South Atlantic Anomaly,

the Bermuda Triangle of space.