The Department attends ESA-FAIR Space Radiation Summer School 2022
24 November 2022
Research methods Student experience
The ESA-FAIR Space Radiation Summer School 2022 took place between the 4-20th September in Darmstadt, Germany. Nineteen PhD students and post-docs from all over Europe, the US, and Canada were selected to attend the Summer School focused on radiation risks, space radiation and its radiobiological effects. The first week was based at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) of the European Space Agency (ESA), which is the control centre for all European satellite operations. Over the first week, topics such as human physiology in space, shielding of spacecraft, and computational modelling of space radiation were introduced through a series of lectures and seminars. Fundamental concepts and principals were presented within the context of deep space exploration, including the Lunar and Mars missions, such as Artemis, where the radiobiological effects of space radiation remain the principal obstacle to the health of astronauts.
Currently, ESA and GSI are collaborating on studies to investigate stressors that astronauts experience, including microgravity, isolation, and ionising radiation. Throughout missions, these introduce a variety of synergistic effects not only on the incidence of cancer, but also on immune, vestibular and neurological systems. However, space radiation remains the principal concern that requires the investigation of high-LET radiation at low-dose rates for extended periods of time. To tackle these issues, efforts are being made to mimic the space environment on the ground to characterise these detrimental effects and understand how to prevent them using innovative approaches such as novel shielding materials and synthetic hibernation.
The second week at GSI was dedicated to discovering how the space radiation environment can be reconstructed on earth using ion accelerators. The GSI accelerator facility is being built to enable the acceleration of all types of ions present in the solar system. A series of lectures presented by world class experts developed our understanding of how cancer research facilities, such as GSI, can be leveraged to study ion beam cancer treatments and to model the radiobiological effects of space radiation. In labs at GSI, we carried out cell culture and dosimetry experiments to observe cell survival, chromosomal aberrations, and to assess DNA double-strand breaks. In parallel, we implemented micro-computed tomographic imaging to characterise tissue densities in mice studies.
The Summer School was concluded by the preparation of ESA-IBER beam time proposals which were assessed by a panel of judges from ESA and GSI. Vasily’s proposal was focused on the radiobiological and computational studies of the cognitive damage caused by galactic cosmic rays, while Edward’s proposal was aimed at investigating the effects of LET on the FLASH effect with a combination of ion beams.
We were privileged to have both been selected for such an excellent course and to be integrated into a community of likeminded students and professors.