PERSEO: Personal Radiation Shielding in Space, a Multifunctional Approach
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Space radiation is one of the main limiting factors for deep space human exploration missions. Besides the risk of long-term health effects due to galactic cosmic rays, the crew needs to be protected from solar particle events (SPE) - huge fluxes of ionizing particles, mainly protons with energies up to 100’s of MeV. Exposure to strong SPEs can lead to mission impairment and immediately endanger astronaut’s life. Differently from high energy galactic cosmic rays, SPEs can be shielded in space: best solutions under study are those based on the optimization of resources available on board, such as water, food, and waste. Wearable, portable and personal multifunctional radiation shielding systems therefore represents a very promising perspective. This paper focuses on such multifunctional approach to radiation shielding and, in particular, to the project PERSEO (Personal Radiation Shielding for intErplanetary missiOns). Funded by the Italian Space Agency, PERSEO led to the development of the prototype of a radiation protection garment for use in a pressurized space habitat: the garment can be filled with water at need, thus shielding astronauts’ most radiosensitive organs during SPEs. Water can be recycled after use, thus optimizing the use of available resources. The ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli has successfully demonstrated practicality and ease of use of a PERSEO prototype on the ISS, during the VITA mission, in November 2017. This paper reports on the key technical features of the PERSEO garment and on the results of the ISS on-orbit demonstration. PERSEO is funded by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), coordinated by the University of Pavia, and involves scientists from Thales Alenia Space, SMAT, AVIOTEC, ALTEC, University of Roma Tor Vergata, Kayser Italia and ARESCOSMO.