Home Radiation Artemis I mannequins will save astronauts from space radiation during trips to the Moon; here’s how

Artemis I mannequins will save astronauts from space radiation during trips to the Moon; here’s how

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The German Aerospace Center (DLR), in a joint project with the Israel Space Agency, has tested a special vest that will be donned by a pair of dummies as they fly during the Artemis I uncrewed mission. The dummies named Helga and Zohra underwent testing at the German space agency’s Cologne headquarters and have now been shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

There, passengers will be integrated into the Orion spacecraft which will be mounted atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket before its launch to the Moon later this year. Apart from these two, Orion would also have another passenger, a dummy who was chosen for Artemis I in June last year.

Purpose of the Artemis I dummies

Three of Orion’s seats will be occupied by mannequins that will be used to monitor the effects of the launch and the space radiation that will be felt by the astronauts. According to a blog published by the European Space Agency (ESA), Helga and Zohra will each be equipped with more than 5,600 sensors to measure the radiation load during their journey around the Moon. Notably, only one of the models, Zohar, will wear a radiation protection vest, called AstroRad. Since the other will not be shielded, scientists will compare the radiation dose experienced by the two and figure out how best to protect future astronauts.

(Illustration of three mannequins inside the Orion spacecraft; Image: NASA/Lockheed Martin/DLR)

In the image above, the three mannequins are shown occupying the seats of Orion, which would be powered by the European Service Module (ESM) developed by ESA. The agency claims that in addition to providing spacecraft with propulsion, electricity, thermal control, air and water, the ESM would send the dummies farther than any human has ever gone ( 5,00,000 kilometers from Earth).

Notably, the newly added mannequins are in the shape of a woman to gauge the effects of long-term spaceflight on female astronauts. Indeed, NASA plans to send the first female astronaut to the Moon as part of its Artemis program. “We chose female ghosts because the number of women flying in space is increasing, and also because the female body is generally more vulnerable to radiation,” DLR scientist Thomas Berger said in a statement. “Regarding the harmful effects of space radiation, the breasts and ovaries have a greater risk of developing cancer.”

Radiation in space

Radiation levels in outer space are 700 times greater than what we experience on Earth, thanks to the protective blanket of our planet’s magnetic field. Scientists are concerned about both sources of radiation – that from outside the galaxy and the unpredictable ejection of charged particles from the sun. According to the ESA, cosmic rays are still out there and they are powerful enough to pass through metals and plastic and hit human cells.

To find a solution to this, the two sister dummies with special vests will navigate through two periods of intense radiation in the first hours of launch and then back to Earth. On their journey, they would also pass through two giant “radiation donuts”, called the Van Allen Belts surrounding our planet. To make sure the measurements are accurate, the engineers made the mannequins out of plastic that mimics the density of bones, muscles and organs.

(Plastic parts used for mannequins; Image: DLR)