The vest that protects against radiation during long journeys into deep space is also expected to be tested in the Artemis-1 mission at the end of 2021
The U.S. National Laboratory at the International Space Station has announced that astronauts have begun experiments on the vest it has developed to protect against radiation in space. The experiments, which began this month and will continue in the coming months, are an important milestone in NASA’s Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon and later to Mars.
Solar eruptions with extremely high radiation doses are one of the great dangers posed to astronauts in space missions. In prolonged tasks, such radiation can impair their function and in the long run can even be fatal. AstroRad vests provide protection for astronauts from life-threatening radiation in deep space. The vests were developed by the Israeli company Stamrad in collaboration with the aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, and with the funding and assistance of the Israeli Space Agency in the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Innovation Authority.After an experimental vest was launched in November 2019 , this was the first time that the Israeli flag was flown at the space station . The first vest is suitable for women and now, with the arrival of astronaut Shannon Walker aboard the SpaceX dragon spacecraft, comprehensive tests have begun to assess the vest’s comfort and ergonomics under non-gravity conditions during a series of complex missions including unloading anchored spacecraft. , Using the robotic arm to capture a capsule and more. In addition, the vest will be worn during routine maintenance and will even be tested during sleep. The comfort and ergonomics of the vest are of paramount importance as a solar flare can last for several days and even weeks.
Flight ticket to Mars
To date all manned space exploration missions, with the exception of Apollo’s flights to the moon , have been restricted to an orbit close to Earth (up to a distance of about two thousand kilometers). At this distance astronauts are protected by the Earth’s magnetic field from most radiation threats, including deadly solar eruptions and galactic cosmic radiation. About fifty years after humans last visited the moon, the Artemis program intends to bring them back there. This time, however, the intention is to return to the moon for long missions and even to reach Mars. Therefore, as part of planning long-term manned missions in deep space, NASA sought protection solutions from the threat of exposure to hazardous radiation. To Mars.In November 2021, as part of an agreement with NASA and in partnership with the German Space Agency (DLR), the vest will be launched aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft on an Artemis 1 mission to orbit the moon to test its effectiveness against radiation in deep space. This flight will be unmanned but will carry two dolls in the shape of a woman: one, “Zohar”, will wear the vest , and the other, “Helga”, who will not wear it. Once the two dolls are loaded with radiation sensors, it will be possible to compare them and check the effectiveness of the vest.
On the way to the moon, stop at the space station
The Artemis 1 mission will actually serve as the real test of the effectiveness of the Astro-Rad vest. How can this be tested if by chance during the journey there will not be any dangerous solar eruption? “During the mission the spacecraft is expected to cross the Van Allen belts for 4 hours in each direction,” explains Dr. Oren Milstein, CEO of Stamrad. “Van Allen belts are concentrated charged particles from the sun, repelled by the Earth’s magnetic field. The passage in this area will allow us to get an estimate of powerful and concentrated solar radiation absorption, as if the spacecraft had absorbed radiation from a real solar storm.”
“The Astro-Rad experiment as part of the Artemis 1 mission is designed to ensure the protection of astronauts on manned flights in the future,” adds Avi Blasberger, director of the Israeli Space Agency at the Ministry of Science. “After the spacecraft returns to Earth, scientists will compare the absorption of radiation between two human dolls: the Zohar doll, which will wear the Astro-Rad vest, and the Helga doll, which will fly without the vest.”
If the results of the experiments are satisfactory, the suit may also be launched on the Artemis 2 mission in 2023. This will be the first manned flight to the moon since 1972.