Deadly Radiation?

The first US satellite into space was called Explorer 1. It had a simple geiger counter on board to detect radiation in space. As it was the very first of its kind, nobody knew how many counts of radiation hits would be recorded and so didn't know how to calibrate the equipment. The leading scientist of the time expected around 10-100 counts a minute. The geiger counter was set for that. After achieving orbit, the hits were higher and went off scale. It could mean 101 hits per minute or 1,000,001. The next satellite to study it (Explorer 4) would be calibrated better. But in the meantime the press were asking tough questions and wanted answers. The higher figure was constantly quoted for the headlines and let to an impression that space was full of deadly radiation that would kill a human in a few hours. This radiation zone became known as the Van Allen Radiation Belt after the scientist who interpreted the results. Later satellites proved this not to be the case. Part of the belts did have higher counts but as any spacecraft would only be in it for short periods, it didn't matter too much.

Bart Sebrel on the documentary said 'Hardly anybody knew about the Van Allen Radiation Belts...' Oohh really? Pick up any book on astronomy printed since around 1958 and there it all is. It was no secret.

  
 Explorer 1 SatelliteThe James Van Allen Belts mapped in 1962 by later satellites


Radiation comes in various forms. Some we are exposed to every day at home, in a hospital, walking around outside. Most forms are completely harmless, it partly depends upon the amount and length of time of exposure. Even a sheet of paper will halt Alpha particles. Our bodies can withstand more dosage than is generally realised.The Hubble Space Telescope, among other satellites, often has its sensors turned off when passing through regions of intense radiation. An object satellite shielded by 3 mm of aluminium will receive about 2500 rem (25 Sv) per year.

Proponents of the Apollo Moon Landing Hoax have argued that space travel to the moon is impossible because the Van Allen radiation would kill or incapacitate an astronaut who made the trip. Van Allen himself dismissed these ideas. In practice, Apollo astronauts who travelled to the moon spent very little time in the belts and just received a harmless dose. Nevertheless NASA deliberately timed Apollo launches, and used lunar transfer orbits that only skirted the edge of the belt over the equator to minimise the risk. Astronauts who visited the moon probably have a slightly higher risk of cancer during their lifetimes, but still remain unlikely to become ill because of it. None have developed cancer or anything else related to radiation.

An x-ray given by a dentist or in hospital is a much higher dose than in space as the source is up close and not millions of miles away.