In preparation for NASA's new Artemis spaceflight program, the agency will launch an uncrewed mission to orbit the Moon. During the mission, the agency will carry out an important experiment regarding astronaut safety using mannequins known as phantom dummies.
The dummies will be used as part of a vital study that aims to protect astronauts from the effects of cosmic radiation. As previous studies have confirmed, astronauts who participate in long-term missions in space are more at risk of developing complications caused by radiation exposure.
Phantom Dummies And Cosmic Radiation
For the upcoming NASA mission, two phantom dummies will be placed onboard a spacecraft that will orbit the Moon. The agency refers to the mannequins as phantoms because they were designed to mimic the physical characteristics of humans. One of the phantom dummies will wear a radiation-repelling vest known as StemRad. It is made from a special type of plastic commonly used to make bulletproof vests, Space.com reported.
The second dummy, however, will not have a vest. Through various sensors attached to the mannequins, scientists determine if the vest will be able to limit the radiation exposure of the test subjects. If the study provides positive results, the vest could be used in future space missions to protect astronauts from cosmic radiation.
NASA's First Phantom Dummy
The Artemis-1 mission will not be the first time that NASA sent phantom dummies to space. In 2001, the agency sent a phantom dummy known as Fred to the International Space Station (ISS). Similar to the phantom dummies of Artemis 1, Fred's main job was to assist in a study that investigated the effects of space radiation on the body.
"Fred wasn't an astronaut; he was a phantom -- a dummy or a mannequin. He was called a phantom because he mimicked the characteristics of a real human, but was built of man-made materials," NASA explained in a statement. "Fred's job was to absorb radiation in the atmosphere of the ISS and to record those levels."
NASA's Artemis 1 Mission
The two phantom dummies will be placed aboard NASA's Orion spacecraft for the Artemis 1 mission. This will serve as the first spaceflight project under the new Artemis program, which aims to send humans to the Moon and Mars.
As an uncrewed mission, Artemis 1 will serve as an official field test for the technologies and equipment that NASA plans to use for its future human missions. Although NASA has not yet revealed an exact date for the launch, Artemis 1 will most likely take place sometime in November 2020.