NASA is sending two dummies with the unmanned Artemis 1 mission to the moon in 2020, to probe the amount of radiation that astronauts could absorb when they are scheduled to finally reach the moon in 2024, reported Space.com.
One of the dummies, named Zohar, will wear the radiation-shielding vest called StemRad, while in the case of the second one, dubbed Helga, such protection will be omitted to determine the amount of radiation emitted by the sun and space.
The vest is designed to protect parts of the human body that are most sensitive to radiation and the model traveling on Artemis 1 is made for a female body as it is seen by studies as being more susceptible to radiation than its male counterpart.
“We are very happy to fly [StemRad] on this mission,” Thomas Berger, team leader of the biophysics group at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), told Space.com at the International Astronautical Congress on 23 October.
Berger is the principal investigator of the dummy test that will fly on Artemis 1, formally known as the Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment (MARE).
The vest uses polyethylene blocks to shield against radiation particles – something that is already used in the crew sleeping quarters on the American side of the International Space Station to protect astronauts from radiation, said Berger.
There is another radiation vest currently aboard the ISS, called the AstroRad Radiation Shield, and it is also made for the female body.
This vest is said to protect vital human tissue, particularly stem cells, which could be devastated by solar radiation in deep space or on Mars, and comprises layers that will be tailor-made for each astronaut.
Non-metallic protective materials will be positioned on each shield to cover the organs of each astronaut.
“This product will enable human deep space exploration. Our breakthrough has come in creating the architecture of the multi-layered shield to accurately cover the most important organs,” said Oren Milstein, CEO and Chief Scientific Officer of StemRad.
Astronauts on the ISS will perform ergonomics tests with StemRad late this year or in early 2020, to ensure that the 57-lb (26 kilograms) vest will not hamper the daily activities of astronauts.
Ambitious lunar programme
The unmanned Artemis 1, previously known as Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a spate of missions that will facilitate human exploration of the moon and Mars, as NASA is committed to landing American astronauts, including the first woman and the next man, on the Moon by 2024.
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion will blast off from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s modernised spaceport at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
After about three weeks and a total distance traveled exceeding 1.3 million miles, the mission will end with a test of Orion’s capability to return safely to the Earth.
The second flight will take the crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans aboard.
Future exploration missions with crew aboard Orion will assemble and dock with a Gateway used for deep-space operations including missions to and on the Moon with decreasing reliance on the Earth, to gain experience needed to extend human exploration farther into the solar system.
The agency plans to fly Artemis 2, the first SLS and Orion flight with crew, in 2022.
NASA is hoping to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024 on the Artemis 3 mission and about once a year thereafter, with the next potential step being to send astronauts to Mars.