NASA to send mannequins to moon to prepare for crewed missions

NASA will send three inanimate occupants, like this one, to the moon on Artemis I to help measure radiation and vibration. Photo courtesy of NASA
NASA will send three inanimate occupants, like this one, to the moon on Artemis I to help measure radiation and vibration. Photo courtesy of NASA

ORLANDO, Fla., June 24 (UPI) -- NASA's upcoming Artemis I mission to the moon, planned for later this year, won't have a human crew, but the space agency is preparing three inanimate occupants of the Orion capsule to measure radiation and vibrations.

The Artemis I "crew" members, mannikins, will help NASA test radiation, vibration and impacts from landing before the space agency plans to send astronauts in an Orion capsule by 2023.


That mission will be the first time since Apollo programs ended in 1972 that astronauts have ventured into Deep Space.

New data is needed because NASA's technology, spacecraft and medical understanding have advanced significantly since the last lunar missions half a century ago, according to the space agency.

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Two of the mannikins, are designed with materials to mimic bone and human organs. Named Zohar and Helga, they will be festooned with over 2,000 dosimeters to help NASA understand space radiation exposure.


NASA refers to Zohar and Helga as phantoms. One will wear a protective radiation vest and one will not.

The third mannikin is a human-sized rubber dummy used to teach cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which will have two dosimeters, as well as vibration sensors, Mark Baldwin, engineer and program manager for NASA contractor Lockheed Martin, said in an interview.

"The Artemis I flight really is our golden opportunity to get all of these sorts of measurements from mannikins in seats," Baldwin said. "That's because once we have astronauts in the capsule, there's a lot less room for all this equipment."

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Such measurements will help Baldwin and other NASA experts adjust Orion equipment for the upcoming journeys to the moon.

Baldwin underwent seven hours of vibration testing over two days at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston in 2017 to help him understand the astronaut experience. He said the greatest risk to Orion occupants may be the impact upon splashdown in the ocean.


"It would be a terrible shame for the Artemis mission to go perfectly the whole time and then our crew gets injured in the last 250 feet, so we have to make sure we understand the impact and vibrations," Baldwin said.

Two sensors on the unnamed mannikin's seat will measure the pressure of the "body" on the seat during takeoff and landing. The additional dosimeters will be tucked into its pockets to complement those on the phantoms.

NASA and other space agencies will run many tests and comparisons of the data obtained from the radiation mannikins, said Ramona Gaza, project manager of NASA's Crew Active Dosimeter project.

For example, she said, the dosimeters should show a spike in radiation as the spacecraft passes through the Earth's radiation field, known as the Van Allen belt.

"There's so much information that needs to be analyzed and compared and understood," Gaza said. "The additional two dosimeters on the third mannikin will give us a few additional data points to compare."

New data is needed regarding Deep Space exposure to radiation, since astronauts haven't been on such long journeys for decades, Gaza said.

The radiation mannikins were part of NASA's effort to make the Artemis missions international, she said.


The Israel Space Agency and the German Aerospace Center contributed and named the radiation mannikins.

NASA recently launched a social media contest to name the third mannikin. Early results have narrowed the field to Ace, Delos, Campos and Rigel.

Ace stands for Artemis Crew Explorer. Delos is the island where Greek mythology holds that Artemis and Apollo were born. Campos refers to late NASA engineer Arturo Campos, who was instrumental in bringing Apollo 13 astronauts home when an explosion in space ended their journey to the moon. And Rigel is the brightest star in the Orion constellation.

NASA expects to announce a winner of the naming contest Tuesday.

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Jasmin Moghbeli
Moghbeli poses for a portrait in the Systems Engineering Simulator for the International Space Station and advanced spaceflight programs at the Johnson Space Center on July 9, 2019. She will train for the moon mission. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA

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