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The ESA-FAIR Space Radiation School

Extra-vehicular activity
Heavy-ion synchrotron SIS18
Photo: J. Hosan/GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

Cosmic radiation is considered the main health hazard for human exploration and colonization of the solar system: crewmembers may be exposed to different doses and qualities of radiation, threatening life quality and individual survivability, thereby disrupting mission success.

Radiation risk is characterized by a high uncertainty and lack of simple and efficient countermeasures. Most of the uncertainty on space radiation risk is associated with the limited knowledge of biological effects of cosmic rays. This creates a need for investigations into biological effects of space radiation in order to allow more accurate risk assessments, which in turn leads to more accurate planning of countermeasures.

For many years, ESA has been implementing space radiation research at the GSI particle accelerator in Darmstadt, the only one in Europe able to simulate cosmic radiation. GSI is now building FAIR, a new facility with even higher energy for cosmic ray simulation. Under the recently signed Cooperation Agreement between ESA and GSI-FAIR (ref.: ESA/C(2017)130), the ESA -FAIR Radiation Summer School has been established to train students in basic heavy ion biophysics for both terrestrial and space applications. The ESA -FAIR Radiation Summer School will contribute to research and development in the field of biomedical and biophysical applications of heavy ions in Europe and will highlight ESA’s commitment to stimulate the pursuit of education in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines as well as to foster interest and generate expertise relevant to Human Spaceflight activities. The school will be unique worldwide and is expected to attract large attention from the international community.

  • Space research activities at ESA
  • Space radiation physics
  • Space radiation biology
  • Applied physics at GSI/FAIR
  • Particle accelerators
  • Particle therapy

September 15-October 1, 2019


The ESA-FAIR Radiation Summer School will take place in Darmstadt, where students can easily commute between the ESA establishment ESOC (theory part of the course) and GSI (practical part). The maximum number of students will be 15.

Target Audience

Students from ESA Member States will be eligible to participate to the ESA-FAIR Radiation Summer School. In addition, a quota of maximum 3 students from non-ESA Member States will be accepted. The School is aimed to Ph.D. students and postdocs from various radiation-related disciplines (physics, medicine, biology etc.).


The course will consist of lectures from experts in the field, site visits to facilities in Darmstadt (ESOC, GSI, FAIR), and practical training at GSI.
Practical training will mainly consist of teamwork assignments with laboratory activities (making use of available beamtime) under the supervision and expert advice of lecturers as well as GSI/FAIR personnel. The possibility for students to continue developing and building on their own experiment ideas, using available beamtime will be encouraged via formulation and submission of a ground-based space radiation experiment proposal in the context of ESA’s Continuously Open Research Announcement for Investigations into the Biological Effects of Space Radiation (ref.: EUB(2017)/W31-05).

Final test

At the end of the ESA/GSI Radiation Summer School, the students will have to pass written exams and/or complete teamwork assignments evaluated and scored by the instructors. This – in combination with the entire course content – will allow the students to apply for ECTS accreditation to be provided to their respective home universities for ECTS recognition, including the obtained score (A minimum of 32 hours and an examination of individual or group work are necessary to obtain 1 internationally-accepted ECTS credit.)


Participation to the school is free. Accommodation will be provided free of charge by the organizers in a Hotel in Darmstadt. Travel (airplane or train) will be reimbursed to all students coming from ESA members states.


The 2020 School will open next year


Biophysics secretariat
GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Planckstraße 1
64291 Darmstadt
Tel. +49-6159-71 2139
Fax +49-6159-71-2106
Office: SB2 3.130
E-Mail: Bio-Sekretariat(at)gsi.de

Joint Project Team

For ESA:
Dr. Thomas Reiter (Thomas.Reiter(at)esa.int)
Dr. Dr. Jennifer Ngo-Anh (Jennifer.Ngo-Anh(at)esa.int)

Dr. Marco Durante (M.Durante(at)gsi.de
Dr. Corinna Kausch-Blecken von Schmeling (C.Kausch(at)gsi.de)


The detailed course program will be published on August 1, 2019