Astronauts Tested a Radiation Shield on the Space Station

If the Earth’s magnetic field effectively protects us against solar radiation, this will not be the case for astronauts who venture to the Moon and perhaps, one day, to Mars. To protect your health, even your life, one company has created a harness that astronauts on the ISS have had the opportunity to test in recent months.

On the night of Monday, January 9, a Dragon freighter from SpaceXSpaceX was disarmed ofISSISS to return to Earth. The landing is scheduled for Wednesday, the 11th. There are no men on board this capsule, but about two tons of equipment and scientific results. Among them, a fun protection vest that the astronautsastronauts of the ISS tested daily.

Cosmic radiation harmful to astronauts

If the object resembles a bulletproof vest, it is obviously not against this type of threat that it was developed. This shield, named Astrorad, aims to prevent particles emitted duringsolar flaressolar flares to target the astronauts’ vital organs.

Because, if the Earth, and more precisely the magnetic field it produces, effectively protects us against this type of cosmic radiation, astronauts who take a trip outside the protective sphere of the Earth are at great risk. Indeed, exposure to this radiation can cause significant damage to living cells and, in particular, to theDNADNA. Cataracts, cancer, sterility… not to mention the much more harmful and even fatal effects in case of exposure to a large solar flare.

If astronauts orbiting Earth on the ISS appear relatively protected by the earth’s magnetic fieldearth’s magnetic field, will not be the case for astronauts on future Artemis missions, much less for those who may have the chance to go to Mars in a few decades. Hence the importance of finding reliable means of protection.

Test the daily wear and comfort of the Astrorad Chest Pad

That is, therefore, the objective of Astrorad, developed by the company Lockheed Martin and the German space agency DLRDLR. The project has existed since 2017, but this is the first time that astronauts have had the opportunity to experience it in real conditions.lack of weightlack of weight. The objective, this time, was not to test its effectiveness against solar radiation, but to verify whether it provides daily support.

Astronauts on the ISS therefore wore this harness continuously to see if it interfered with their movements, especially when performing common tasks such as unloading cargo, performing experiments or even if they could sleep easily. Specialists will now study your reports and assess the comfort of this prototype and make modifications if necessary.

If the tests are conclusive, this type of device will certainly be able to equip future members of the mission. Artemis 2Artemis 2who will travel through MoonMoon in 2024.


While previous studies have shown that radiation was not a brake on space travel, a team of scientists has demonstrated otherwise by focusing on future changes in the density of the solar magnetic field.

Article of Remy DecourtRemy Decourtposted on December 10, 2014

If you count the various programs under way in the main space agencies, space travel is within reach. Much of the necessary technology is mature, spacecraft are taking shape, and pioneering technology programs and demonstrations related to manned flightsmanned flights intensify.

But space weather could very well put the brakes on that. impulseimpulse. This problem is taken very seriously by space agencies. A study by a team of researchers led by Nathan Schwadron of the University of New Hampshire came to the conclusion that the times we live in are not the most conducive to human spaceflight. In question, the solar magnetic field, generated by the activity of the Sun, which forms a natural barrier against galactic radiation, that is, coming from outside the Solar systemSolar system. He would currently play his role less well.

Apollo astronauts such as Alan B. Shepard Jr (Apollo 14) benefited from accommodating space weather, so none of them were affected by illnesses related to too high a dose of radiation. © NASA

Weak sun protection can last forever

This radiation consists of a mixture of photonsphotons on top energiesenergies and subatomic particles, all accelerated to gearsgears close to that of light by violent events such as supernova explosions. However, the strength of the solar magnetic field varies with the rhythm of our Earth’s cycles. StarStar. Thus, its repellent and protective effect is greater in times of high activity.

But currently the intensity of this magnetic field does not have the expected value, reaching very low levels never seen before since the beginning of the conquest of space. A phenomenon directly linked to the surprisingly low solar activity. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter thus measured the highest rates of cosmic ray flux ever recorded within the Solar System. Admittedly, this will not prevent manned spaceflight, but this danger will limit its durationduration and therefore the distances likely to be covered.

In concrete terms, taking into account the radiation exposure criteria beyond which the NASANASA no longer authorizes stays in space, a 30-year-old astronaut traveling in space protected by the aluminum shield of a pastapasta 10g/cmtwo could live and work outside Earth’s magnetosphere for 700 days before reaching the limit of received radiation dose. The same astronaut, in the early 1990s, could have spent 1,000 days in space!

Today, although the Sun is in a cycle of maximum activity, therefore a favorable period for travel between planets, it is not the time to go there. In fact, the solar maximum from 2011 to 2014 is the weakest in a century, exposing the Solar System to an unusual amount of cosmic rayscosmic rays. In the future, this situation could get worse if, as some researchers suspect, the Sun enters a long phase of solar cycles characterized by low periods of maximum activity and durations of minimum activity that last longer than historical averages.

Leave a Comment