What do American space scientists study near the moon?

As part of his ambitious plan aimed at returning astronauts to the moon and preparing them to explore Mars later. The American space agency “NASA” managed to overcome the technical problems they faced with the “SLS” rocket, the most powerful in the world, and launched the “Artemis 1” mission, which ushered in a new era in space. The focus of the first phase of the mission right now will be to study the human ability to survive in space and the extent of its tolerance to radiation.

space radiation
NASA’s first mission will not include any human astronauts. Instead, humans will be replaced by three high-tech dummies named Helga, Zohar and Moniken Campus. Equipped with more than 5,600 sensors and 34 radiation detectors, they are human models for scientific research that will test how the human body reacts to space travel. Helga and Zohar are designed to measure the effects of radiation on women’s bodies in space, as women are usually more affected by space radiation, while Moniken Campos will sit in the commander’s seat to track how dangerous the journey to the moon is for future human crew is. members.

The most important question that the mission will answer in its first phase remains: What does space do to the human body? Although astronauts landed on the moon in the sixties and seventies of the last century. To this day, astronomers still do not know much about the effects of space on the human body, including the effects of space radiation, and what can be done to mitigate its damage. That’s where Artemis 1 is so important, explains Chris Lenhardt, an operational space doctor at the NASA Johnson Space Center. “What we really need to know is the interaction between radiation and biology. I’m sorry to say that the field of study of radiobiology is something we don’t have,” he says. Lots of experience with that.”

Radiation sensors
In our daily lives, the magnetic field of our planet protects us from dangerous things like solar energy particles, which are very fast protons emitted by our sun, like pellets of lead bullets, and can tear our cells and DNA, causing us major health problems. Because so few astronauts have left Earth’s protective magnetic bubble, known as the magnetosphere, scientists understand little about how prolonged exposure to it might affect the human body.

While cancer is the most obvious danger from the effects of space radiation, scientists Kleinhardt and others are also interested in seeing how this radiation might affect the human heart or brain. So the absence of humans aboard the Orion capsule will make these studies more difficult.

However, for these problems, the American space agency found some solutions for them, as its scientists decided that the “Zohar” should wear a radiation protection vest called “AstroRad” without “Helga” wearing it. Both dummies will be fully packed with sensors that will allow scientists to measure internal radiation as part of an experiment called the MATROSHKA AstroRad Radiation Experiment, which is a joint project of NASA, the Israel Space Agency and the German Aerospace Center .

Over the course of three weeks in space, Helga and Zohar will collect critical data about the type of radiation they will be exposed to and whether AstroRad shielding technology might help future astronauts avoid solar storms and other hazards.

The US space agency will also test Callisto, a combination of personal hardware and software designed by Amazon, Cisco and Lockheed Martin to communicate with astronauts. The test will make it possible to send audio and video messages to a tablet aboard the Orion capsule, where a version of Alexa, the voice assistant, will receive the message and share the response.

“yeast cells”
But the three dummies we talked about will not be the only focus of interest in the study, says Sergio Santa Maria, supervising space scientist on a mission called BioSentinel, which is responsible for sending the small CubeSat satellite with Artemis 1. The satellite will be the first of its kind to carry biological material, “yeast cells,” into space, in the first study of biological responses to deep space radiation in nearly 50 years.

Yeast is a useful tool for this kind of project, having been used for years as a surrogate for human cells in biomedical studies because the way their DNA breaks down when exposed to radiation is very similar to the way our DNA breaks down. break down It is also logistically useful for the Artemis mission. Unlike other organisms, they can be stored indefinitely in their dehydrated, inactive state.

Once in orbit around the sun, that yeast will be rehydrated, and Santa Maria and his colleagues will monitor its growth, and the amount and types of radiation it is exposed to. The experiment will also have implications beyond human effects. Yeast is used to make yogurt and probiotics, which are specialized plant fibers found in many fruits and vegetables, meaning they could be useful for producing food during long-term missions to the moon base or even to Mars. With that in mind, knowing how well it did over a long period of time in space could essentially help the space version prepare meals for astronauts.

Study all risks
That said, the data that Helga, Zohar, Müneken Campus and the yeast in BioSentenil will return to researchers on Earth will be invaluable to NASA’s plans for future missions to the Moon and beyond.

However, NASA doesn’t just need to figure out how radiation might affect future missions. Space is deadly, a vacuum of air that can easily kill us, and it poses a host of health risks, from the effect of microgravity on our bones and eyes to how the confines of spaceships affect our mental health. And all this happens even before we reach the surface of the moon, and there astronauts will have to deal with the fact that lunar dust is toxic, even if it is in a small percentage.

To avoid any possible future worries for the astronauts, the American agency will send several small satellites within the same mission, including “Lunir”, which is charged with studying the integrity of the lunar surface by means of infrared imaging, which leads to information which may affect the location to which the astronauts will travel. Ultimate space. and Lunar Ice Cube, to discover the sources of water on the lunar surface. Another satellite, called Nea Scout, will go on a side trip to a nearby small asteroid that could guide future crewed missions to other asteroids.

Ultimately, the US agency plans to turn the moon into a stopover on a more ambitious mission to explore the red planet. According to the current scientific data, it seems that this could happen sometime in the late third decade of the current century. After all, we can say that the “Artemis” program is not a repeat of the “Apollo” program. It is the first program of its kind in a long-term human exploration project.

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