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NASA Heads to Space—with a Little Help from Israel

September 1, 2022

by: Janet Aslin

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A boarding pass souvenir from the “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign that will accompany the Artemis I on its journey.

Thursday, 1 September 2022 | In two days’ time, NASA’s Artemis I, an unmanned space expedition, is scheduled to depart on a 42-day journey which will take it on a voyage around the moon. At the closest point in its lunar orbit, Artemis 1 will be a mere 60 miles (96.5 km.) from the moon’s surface and thousands of miles from it at the furthest point.

This launch is the first in a series of three intended missions to test systems designed by NASA for future deep space travel—possibly to Mars. Unlike the first launch, Artemis II will be manned and will carry its crew of astronauts further from earth than anyone has ever traveled. The third and final Artemis voyage will land astronauts on the moon for the first time since Gene Cernan of the Apollo-17 mission walked there in 1972.

One of the biggest hazards that space crews face is solar radiation which increases dramatically the further one travels from planet earth. For instance, tests performed at the International Space Station have revealed that astronauts living there face radiation levels about 50 times higher than we do. NASA’s website speculates that, “Farther from Earth’s magnetic field and into interplanetary space, the level of radiation exposure during exploration missions could be much higher—up to 150 times more.”

Enter the Israeli-made AstroRad vest and the two female manikins (phantoms) who will be aboard when Artemis I lifts off from Cape Canaveral. Made of material that simulates human bones, soft tissue and organs, manikins Zohar and Helga will play an important role in determining the level of protection the vest offers.

Developed by StemRad, an Israeli–American company, working in conjunction with Lockheed Martin, the AstroRad vest is made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) that protects bone marrow and vital organs from chronic radiation exposure. Zohar will wear the protective vest while Helga will not.

NASA writes that “the phantoms have a three-centimeter grid embedded throughout the torsos that will enable scientists to map internal radiation doses to areas of the body that contain critical organs. With two identical torsos, scientists will be able to determine how well the new vest might protect [the] crew from solar radiation, while also collecting data on how much radiation astronauts might experience inside Orion on a lunar mission—conditions that cannot be recreated on Earth.”

The AstroRad vest has been undergoing testing at the International Space Station since 2019 and has performed well. However, since the station travels around the earth in a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) where radiation levels are not as high as those that will be experienced during deep space travel, more testing is necessary.

Israeli start-up company StemRad was founded 11 years ago in response to the Chernobyl disaster that saw many first responders die from radiation exposure. Today, StemRad fulfills its initial mission as it designs and manufactures effective radiation protection for civilians who live and work in an ever-increasing nuclear world. And now, its products will also be protecting the astronauts who may one day travel to Mars and beyond.

Posted on September 1, 2022

Source: (Bridges for Peace, September 2, 2022)

Photo Credit: NASA Johnson/wikipedia.org

Photo License: Wikipedia

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