Thousands of sensors to study the effect of cosmic radiation on humans have been placed in Helga and Zohar, two mannequin models ready to travel on the Artemis I mission to the Moon.
These models, called “ghosts”, they are made of materials that mimic human bones, soft tissues and organs, and in which it will be analyzed the effect of the 42 days that Artemis I will spend in deep space.
Paul Segars and Ehsan Samei, both researchers at the Advanced Imaging Laboratories at Duke University School of Medicine helped develop these models using methods originally created to study how different medical procedures, tools, and techniques precisely affect organs throughout the human body.
“Usually these ‘ghosts’ are virtual and we use them to create patient avatars. The goal of our work is that instead of doing a clinical trial on human patients, you can use these avatars and run a simulated clinical trial through a computer. explains Samei, professor of Radiology, in a statement from the duke university. “With this project, we are turning these virtual avatars into physical models to study radiation specifically, and this is the first time they will be sent around the moon.”
people on earth are protected from cosmic radiation by the Earth’s atmosphere, but when astronauts travel through space, they enjoy no such protection. Understanding how to mitigate the harmful effects of these cosmic rays is one of the main obstacles to deep space travel to places like Mars, where astronauts would be exposed to radiation for up to 36 months.
“What is important when calculating the risk to a patient or an astronaut is not how much total radiation dose is received, but how much dose is received in individual organs such as the brain, heart, liver and kidneys,” Samei said. . “Each organ has a different sensitivity to radiation, and our ghosts give us a way to better understand that risk.”
For the project, called Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment, or MARESegars and Samei collaborated with researchers from NASA, the German Aerospace Centerthe Israeli Space Agency and the company CIRS (Computerized Imaging Reference Systems), to develop Helga and Zohar. The Duke researchers developed a computational algorithm to create a map of the ghosts’ interior anatomy, which was then used as a guide to precisely place thousands of radiation sensors.
Both Helga’s and Zohar’s ghosts they resemble human torsos and contain materials to specifically mimic adult female anatomysince female organs such as the uterus and breast tissue are especially sensitive to radiation. When Artemis I is released, Helga will wear normal clothes, while Zohar will be equipped with a radiation vest, called AstroRadwhich was developed by StemRad and Lockheed Martin.
“The study will provide valuable data on radiation levels astronauts may encounter on lunar missions and will evaluate the effectiveness of the protective vest that could allow the crew to remain in the storm shelter and continue working on mission-critical activities despite a solar storm,” NASA explained in a MARE description.
Once their ghosts return to Earth, the research team will measure the radiation collected on the sensors to determine the effectiveness of the safety vest. They will also use Helga’s data to specifically calculate the level of radiation that astronauts may face during different space missions, whether it’s a short trip to the moon or an adventure to Mars.
“This is the first time anyone has been able to measure the radiation levels astronauts face,” Samei said. “Artemis I will carry a precious cargoand the information we get from this crew will give us valuable information we need for the future of safe space exploration.”