For this test flight, twin dummies Helga and Zohar will be on board the Orion capsule. The MARE experiment, developed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), will use two identical mock-ups of the female body to study radiation exposure over the course of a flight, which could last up to six weeks.
The mission is vital in light of NASA’s plan to send the first woman to the moon as part of the Artemis program. Researchers at the DLR Institute for Aerospace Medicine in Cologne have developed a dummy for the experiment and have already delivered it to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for installation.
The new radiation vest is also part of the experiment and will be tested. The launch of Artemis I is scheduled for the summer of 2022. The assembly and installation of the measurement dummies is scheduled to take place approximately four weeks prior to launch.
The radiation to which the human body is exposed is much higher outside the protective magnetic field of the Earth. The female body is more sensitive to this radiation than the male body, especially in organs such as the breasts.
In general, radiation is one of the biggest problems encountered during long-duration space missions to deep space, such as Mars. “With the help of MARE, the largest radiation experiment ever conducted outside of low Earth orbit.
We want to find out exactly how the level of radiation will affect female astronauts during the entire flight to the Moon, and what protective measures can help counter this” , says Thomas Berger, Head of the Biophysics Working Group in the Department of Radiation Biology at the DLR Institute for Aerospace Medicine.
“Over the past few months at the DLR sites in Cologne and Bremen, we have been carefully studying the Helga and Zohar dummies, including conducting tests to determine the vibration exposure they will be subjected to during the launch of the Artemis I mission. The goal is to ensure that everything will go smoothly afterwards at the Kennedy Space Center.”
The twin mannequins are modeled after female bodies. In general, women are at greater risk of getting cancer, so different radiation limits always apply for female astronauts than for their male counterparts.
However, so far no gender-specific measurements have been made in space using dummies. “More specifically, both mannequins are made from materials that mimic human bones, soft tissues and organs of an adult woman.
More than 10,000 passive sensors and 34 active radiation detectors are integrated into the 38 slices that make up the dummies,” explains MARE project manager Thomas Berger. Both phantoms are 95 centimeters tall and weigh 36 kilograms.
One of them, Helga, will fly to the moon without protection, and the other, Zohar, will wear a newly developed radiation protection vest called AstroRad.By comparing the two results, it will be possible to determine to what extent the vest, developed by the Israeli DLR partners, can protect the astronaut from the harmful effects of radiation.
The Earth’s atmosphere and the shielding action of its magnetic field protect us from most of the radiation in the universe, including solar radiation. When astronauts leave Earth, they are exposed to the entire spectrum of radiation found in space.
The Orion spacecraft will experience two periods of intense radiation during its flyby through the Van Allen belt – once in the first few hours after launch and after returning to Earth, where charged particles are trapped by Earth’s magnetic field.
Outside the protection of the Earth’s magnetic field, Orion will encounter a harsher radiation environment than the crew of the International Space Station in low Earth orbit.
Outside the Van Allen belt, the cosmic radiation environment includes energetic particles produced on the Sun during solar flares, as well as galactic and extragalactic cosmic ray particles that come from outside the solar system.
“Cosmic rays are a particular challenge for long-term spaceflight because they provide a continuous level of high-energy ionized particles,” explains Christina Hellweg, Head of Radiation Biology at the DLR Institute for Aerospace Medicine. ”
Anthropomorphic mannequins measure radiation
Helga and Zohar – anthropomorphic mannequins – measuring bodies modeled on the basis of a human torso. DLR has extensive experience in this area: a dummy called “Matroshka”, developed by the DLR Institute for Aerospace Medicine in Cologne, was deployed to the ISS between 2004 and 2011. Attached to the outside of the ISS, it collected radiation readings representative of an astronaut on a spacewalk.
The same dummy was placed in various parts of the space station to measure radiation exposure. “Astronauts on the ISS are exposed to radiation that is about 250 times higher than that of people on Earth.
Exposure during research missions away from the Earth’s magnetic field or in interplanetary space can be much higher – up to 700 times, according to our estimates,” Berger says.
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