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Predicting the radiation risk to ESA's astronauts
Date:2/13/2008

European scientists have developed the most accurate method yet for predicting the doses of radiation that astronauts will receive aboard the orbiting European laboratory module, Columbus, attached to the ISS this week.

The new software package accurately simulates the physics of radiation particles passing through spacecraft walls and human bodies. Such techniques will be essential to use for calculating the radiation doses received by astronauts on future voyages to the Moon and Mars.

To predict accurately the radiation risk faced by astronauts, scientists and engineers must tackle three separate problems: How much radiation is hitting the space vehicle" How much of that radiation is blocked by the available shielding" What are the biological effects of the radiation on the astronauts"

This project, funded by ESAs General Studies Programme and the Swedish National Space Board, mostly concentrates on the second of those questions. It was initiated by Christer Fuglesang of ESA's European Astronaut Corps.

During a stay onboard the ISS in December 2006, he experienced firsthand the effects of space radiation. "You see flashes when you close your eyes as a result of interactions with your eye," he says.

The frequency of these flashes depends on where the ISS is in its orbit and the level of solar activity. There was a solar storm whilst Fuglesang was in space. "That night we were told to sleep in the more shielded sections of the station," he says.

The ESA simulation is called Dose Estimation by Simulation of the International Space Station (ISS) Radiation Environment (DESIRE). "The project was designed to provide a European capability in accurately predicting radiation doses onboard Columbus," says Petteri Nieminen, ESAs Technical Officer on the study.

The first step was to build a programme that would accurately simulate the physics of radiation passing into a spacecraft and then through a human bod
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Contact: Markus Bauer
markus.bauer@esa.int
31-715-656-799
European Space Agency
Source:Eurekalert

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