In 2022, for the first time in almost 50 years, NASA’s Artemis I mission will send a spacecraft capable of carrying a human crew to the moon. Twin mannequins Helga and Zohar will be on board the Orion capsule in this test flight. The MARE experiment, developed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt – DLR), will use two identical models of the female body to study radiation throughout the flight, which can last up to six weeks. The launch is scheduled for summer 2022.
The mission is vital in light of NASA’s plan to send the first woman to the moon under the Artemis program. Researchers at the DLR Institute for Aerospace Medicine in Cologne have developed a mannequin for the experiment and have already delivered it to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for installation. The new vest for radiation protection is also part of the experiment and will be tested. Assembly and installation of measuring dummies is planned to take place approximately four weeks before launch.
The radiation to which the human body is exposed is much higher than the Earth’s protective magnetic field. The female body is more sensitive to this radiation than the male, especially in organs such as the breast. In general, radiation is one of the biggest problems that arise during long space flights into outer space, such as Mars. “With MARE, the largest radiation experiment ever to be flown beyond low Earth orbit, we are looking to find out exactly how radiation levels affect female astronauts over the course of an entire flight to the moon, and which protective measures might help to counteract this,” says Thomas Berger, head of the Biophysics working group in the Radiation Biology Department at the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine.
“Over the past few months at the DLR sites in Cologne and Bremen, we have been studying the phantoms—Helga and Zohar—thoroughly, including conducting tests to determine the effects of the vibrations that they will be subjected to during the launch of the Artemis I mission. The aim is to ensure that everything runs smoothly later at the Kennedy Space Center.”
Twin mannequins are modeled to resemble female bodies. In general, women are at greater risk for cancer, so female astronauts always have different radiation limits than their male counterparts. However, so far no measurements have been made in space using sex-based mannequins. More specifically, both mannequins are made of materials that mimic human bones, soft tissues and organs of an adult woman.
Over 10,000 passive sensors and 34 active radiation detectors are integrated into the 38 slices that make up the mannequins,” explains MARE project manager Thomas Berger. Both phantoms are 95 cm tall and weigh 36 kg. One of them – Helga – will fly to the moon without protection, and the other – Zohar – will wear a newly developed vest for protection against radiation called AstroRad. Comparing the two results, it will be possible to determine how a vest designed by DLR’s Israeli partners can protect an astronaut from the harmful effects of radiation.
Helga and Zohar – anthropomorphic mannequins – measuring bodies modeled to resemble the human torso. DLR has extensive experience in this field: a mannequin called Matroshka, developed by the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne, was deployed on the ISS between 2004 and 2011. Attached outside of the ISS, it collected radiation readings representative of an astronaut going into outer space. The same mannequin was placed in different parts of the space station to measure radiation exposure.