Space Cadavers

by K-Dean

Orion vehicles would primarily serve as escape ships for space station crews and the prototype will be using human cadavers as a crew.

NASA has used human cadavers to test the new Orion space capsule that is supposed to take astronauts back to the moon in 2020. Three cadavers were used in experiments at The Ohio State University to test the safety of new spacesuits and seats. Engineers are able to measure the extreme forces that astronauts will be experiencing when the capsule returns to earth by parachute after each mission. Aside from cadavers, NASA also uses crash test dummies and computer simulations in their research, but human bodies are necessary in monitoring effects on actual human organs. Researchers have come to realize that using a crash test dummy is often better than using an animal carcasses because the dummies can mimic more aspects of how a human body moves and how its structure handles physical stress. Using human bodies is even better than using test dummies but since that is not an option human cadavers are the next best thing. While cadavers are helpful in testing for physical trauma, they also can help in radiation research.

In the past, several space shuttle missions flew with an item called the Phantom Torso, which also spent time aboard the International Space Station. The Phantom Torso is made of materials that simulate human soft tissue and organs surrounding a specially configured human skeleton. The torso was used to document radiation exposure during long term spaceflight. In the 1990s a human cadaver’s skull was stuffed with radiation sensors and flown on space shuttle missions. The Phantom Torso was equipped with a series of dosimeters that recorded radiation exposure over long periods of time. When a dosimeter is on a living person it is easy to place on the surface of the body and record radiation but, not so easy to put them in areas of the body that are greater concern, like bone marrow. With the help of the Phantom Torso, the dosimeter can be placed inside the body, where it will get more accurate readings of internal radiation exposure.

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