Researching cosmic radiation: ESA and FAIR establish joint Summer School


It is a new high-quality offer for international young scientists and at the same time a further important step for cosmic radiation research: The European Space Agency (ESA) and the international accelerator center FAIR (Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research), which is currently being built at GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt, will establish a joint Summer School for Radiation Research. The "ESA-FAIR Radiation Summer School" has now been initiated by decision of both institutions.

One of the key questions that need to be addressed regarding the future of human spaceflight is how high-energy radiation affects human beings. The detailed investigation of this topic is one of the central tasks to be accomplished in order to provide astronauts with effective protection, but it also contributes to more detailed knowledge about the risks of radiation exposure on earth. Just over a year ago, ESA and FAIR decided to cooperate closely and signed a cooperation agreement on cosmic radiation research. Young researchers can now particularly benefit from this international cooperation: The new Summer School is a direct result of the joint activities of the two partners agreed at the time.

Up to now, the opportunities for students in space radiation research to gain experience and study are limited. This is now going to change. The "ESA-FAIR Radiation Summer School" wants to attract the best international young scientists with an attractive offer and thus also sharpen Darmstadt's profile as a space research location. The Summer School will be held at ESA´s European Space Operations Centre ESOC as well as at the GSI/FAIR campus in order to train students in basic heavy ion biophysics for both terrestrial applications (e.g. medical therapies) and space applications (e.g. space radiation detection, monitoring and protection).

Every year in late summer, 15 Ph.D. students and postdocs from various radiation-related disciplines — such as physics, medicine or biology — can come to Darmstadt. The application phase starts each spring. The offer is aimed primarily to young scientists from ESA Member States, but also beyond. The Summer School's top-class scientific program includes lectures from experts in the field, site visits to facilities in Darmstadt and practical training and research opportunities at GSI/FAIR. The participants can commute between the two locations ESOC and GSI/FAIR Campus. During practical training, the students also have the possibility to continue developing on their own experiment ideas, using available beamtime at GSI accelerators in the framework of the „FAIR Phase 0“ user program.

The existing GSI accelerator facility already is the only one in Europe that can generate all of the ion beams that occur in our solar system, which range from the lightest one, hydrogen, to the heaviest, uranium. The research opportunities will be expanded even further by the future FAIR accelerator center. FAIR will enable researchers to conduct experiments with an even wider spectrum of particle energies and intensities, and to simulate the composition of cosmic radiation with a precision that no other accelerator facility will be able to match.

Professor Marco Durante, Director of the GSI Biophysics Department, is looking forward to the new school: “Radiation is the main hurdle toward the human colonisation of the Solar System. We need to train the young students to tackle this problem. The Biophysics Department is working with ESA since many years to simulate cosmic rays on Earth using our accelerator and to study the effects and the possible countermeasures, such as shielding. The students will gain a tremendous expertise in particle radiation physics and biology. They will be the future leaders in the field, hopefully finding strategies to allow a safe space exploration”.

ESA Interagency Coordinator Thomas Reiter also expects that research on cosmic radiation will benefit from the Summer School and emphasizes: "The Summer School will highlight ESA’s commitment to stimulate the pursuit of education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines as well as to generate expertise relevant to human spaceflight activities. The ESA-FAIR Radiation Summer School will be unique in the world and is expected to attract large attention from the international research community”. (BP)

More information

Website about ESA-FAIR Radiation Summer School