NASA moon mission departs with Flemish technology on board
US space agency NASA's new lunar programme, which is shooting its first test flight into space on Wednesday, contains Flemish technology. The Artemis are around 300 Belgian-made sensors developed by the nuclear research centre SCK CEN in Mol.
The launch has been postponed three times, but the spacecraft will finally take off on Wednesday. In total, there are thousands of sensors on the mission. These are attached to robots and will map exposure to cosmic radiation during the lunar mission. At the same time, the sensors will test a specially designed space vest.
The brand new lunar rocket is almost a hundred metres tall and will catapult the spacecraft Orion into orbit around the moon. Three robots man the Orion: Moonikin Campos, Helga and Zohar. "Helga and Zohar are equipped with 11,200 sensors," says Olivier Van Hoey, an expert at SCK CEN. "Three hundred of them come from our research centre. The sensors measure the radiation that astronauts incur on such missions, down to organ level."
Another aim of the mission is to test if a specially designed space vest protects against cosmic radiation. During the mission, Helga will not wear a vest. Zohar, on the other hand, will.
"What we measure through the sensors tells us a lot about the dose we will find in more radiation-sensitive organs," Van Hoey adds. "That gives us a chance to compare the radiation exposure between the two puppets." Eight other laboratories around the world will do the same with similar detectors. "If all laboratories independently come to the same conclusions, we increase reliability," Van Hoey concludes.
The experiment is important because astronauts are exposed to high-energy cosmic radiation from the sun or exploded stars outside our solar system. That ionising radiation can eventually give rise to cancers.
#FlandersNewsService | The Artemis I at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. © Jim WATSON / AFP