An illustration of two Artemis I space-test mannequins as passengers in the crew capsule of an Orion spacecraft.

The launching of the Artemis I mission from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is a major event in America’s space exploration program, and among the moon-orbiting craft’s payload are two female mannequins wearing protective vests from a local company seeking safety improvements for people working in radioactive environments.

One of the biggest risk factors for astronauts is their exposure to high-energy radiation that exists beyond Earth’s lower atmosphere. Such cell-damaging exposure is a danger that earthbound workers, such as those employed in the medical field, sometimes face as well.

StemRad is a Tampa company developing protective clothing and accessories that can protect people’s bodies from radiation, whether it comes from the galactic cosmos or medical treatment and diagnostic sources, such as CT scans and nuclear procedures.

Oren Milstein is the CEO and founder of StemRad. He said the company offers important options in the safety equipment marketplace.

“We are the only company in the world that provides wearable radiation protection for high-energy radiation. We have specific products for protecting first responders to radiological incidents, physicians working with radiation in hospitals and astronauts venturing into deep space, where they may be exposed to high-energy radiation.”

Products available from StemRad range from exoskeleton-supported full-length aprons to selective protection equipment allowing for maximum mobility and comfort. For those who like to be prepared, there are protective-wear products suitable for home, office and travel.

The two female form mannequins riding in the Orion crew capsule will test how well StemRad’s technology protects against gamma radiation exposure. One, named Zohar (sponsored by the Israel Space agency), will wear a protective vest with sensors to test effectiveness, and the other, named Helga (sponsored by the German Aerospace Center), will wear only sensors to measure unprotected radiation exposure.

StemRad was founded in 2011 in Israel as a response to the need for radiation protection solutions following the Fukushima, Japan earthquake and ensuing nuclear reactor explosions in March of that year. Oren said the move to Tampa from Tel Aviv is working out well.

“Two entities here in Tampa have been especially supportive of us, the first being FIBA (Florida Israel Business Accelerator) and Embarc Collective. The former drew us to the area and opened doors to customers and investors, the latter has been our home since before the pandemic and has been extremely supportive ever since.”

You can learn more about StemRad at https://stemrad.com/.

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Avian-named publications have figured prominently in Brad Stager's career. Besides writing for the Osprey Observer, he started out writing sports articles for the Seahawk, a weekly newspaper serving the military community aboard Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan. That position followed a career documenting life in the Fleet, from the Straits of Magellan to the North Arabian Sea, as a Navy Photographer's Mate. Since settling in the Tampa Bay area, Brad has produced a variety of written, visual and aural content for clients ranging from corporate broadcasters to small businesses.