31.07.2009

DOSIS radiation experiment sending first measurement data from the Columbus laboratory on board the ISS

Bremen, July 31, 2009 – Following the activation of the DOSIS radiation measuring system two weeks ago, preliminary data was sent to the earth today from the International Space Station ISS. The participating researchers hope to use the measurements to gain an idea of how to protect astronauts from radiation and thus extend the periods which they are able to spend in space.

DOSIS is to permanently measure and record radiation exposure within the Columbus laboratory. Cosmic radiation poses a threat to humans in space and thus limits the duration of long-term missions on account of the health hazards involved. The protection from cosmic radiation which the earth's magnetic field provides is far weaker on board the orbiting ISS than on earth, with only the station's outer skin able to shield part of the harmful radiation.

The experiment comprises two "active" detectors fitted to the EPM (European Physiology Module), which was developed and built by OHB-System AG as the main contractor. These detectors record changes in cosmic radiation over time. The data is collected and sent to earth once a month. In addition, there are a total of 13 smaller "passive" detectors spread across the entire Columbus laboratory to measure the spatial distribution of the radiation. They are returned to earth after about six months for evaluation and replaced by new detectors.

The scientific equipment deployed in DOSIS was developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the University of Kiel. Working on behalf of the ESA, OHB is responsible for linking the system to the EPM and integrating it in the ISS utilization program.

The EPM and the scientific instruments which it comprises are now frequently being used by the six-strong ISS crew for physiological examinations. For example, Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk and his Belgian colleague Frank DeWinne have successfully completed further experiments on the "Neurospat" system, which is designed to determine whether and how extended periods in space influence human three-dimensional perception. In the weeks prior to this, the SOLO and CARD experiments had been conducted. SOLO is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects., while CARD experiment examines increased cardiac output and lowers blood pressure (caused by dilated arteries) in the face of increased activity in the sympathetic nervous system (which normally constricts arteries) in weightlessness..

Further experiments are already under preparation, including the FLYWHEEL, which is being operated with the assistance of EPM. This is a fitness device developed and built by OHB to help astronauts "work out" in space and minimize the risks of muscle and bone atrophy.

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Günther Hörbst
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