50 years ago one man made a small step, which was a big step for humanity. We say, as you have seen, of the famous landing of American astronauts on the moon. And lately the controversy surrounding the mission (like the program “Apollo”) have inflamed with new force. And we are not talking about what “landing was not and it was withdrawn in the pavilion”. New arguments tell us that during the mission to the moon, the astronauts were supposed to get a huge dose of cosmic radiationthat cannot survive. But is it?
What is cosmic radiation
No one is going to dispute the fact that cosmic radiation indeed exists and what its influence on living organisms is very difficult to call positive. The term “cosmic radiation” is quite extensive and is used to describe energy that is radiated as the electromagnetic waves and/or particles emitted by celestial bodies. While not all of them are dangerous to humans. For example, people can perceive some forms of electromagnetic radiation: visible light can be (pardon the tautology) to see, and infrared radiation (heat) can be felt.
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Meanwhile, other kinds of radiation, such as radio waves, x-rays and gamma rays require special surveillance equipment. The most dangerous is ionizing radiation and it’s effects in most cases and referred to the same cosmic radiation.
Where does cosmic radiation
In space there are several sources of ionizing radiation. The sun continuously emits electromagnetic radiation at all wavelengths. Sometimes huge explosions on the sun’s surface known as solar flares, release into space a huge amount of x-rays and gamma rays. These phenomena can present a danger to astronauts and equipment in space vehicles. Dangerous radiation may come from outside our Solar system but on Earth we are protected from much of this ionizing radiation. Strong the Earth’s magnetic field forms the magnetosphere (roughly speaking, the protective bubble) that acts as a kind of “shield”, blocking a large part of the threat radiation.
While space radiation “flies” back into space. It accumulates around our planet, forming the so called van Allen Belts (or radiation belts).
Diagram of the van Allen Belts
How NASA solved the problem of the organization of the flight to the moon
The short answer is no. The fact that in order to get to the moon, the spacecraft needs to move as quickly as possible and by the shortest distance. For the “flight and maneuver” had neither time nor fuel. Thus, participants had to cross both the outer and inner radiation belts.
NASA knew about the problem and so they needed something to do with the hull of a ship for the astronauts. The covering had to be thin and lightweight to provide protection. It was impossible too “heavier” it. Therefore, the minimum protection against exposure by means of metal plates was added to the design. Moreover, theoretical models of the radiation belts was developed in anticipation of the Apollo missions showed that the passage through them will not pose a substantial threat to the health of astronauts.
But that’s not all. To reach the moon and return home safely, the astronauts “Apollo” was supposed to cross the van Allen belt, but the great distance between the Earth and the Moon. By the time the flight took about three days each way. The mission was also required to work safely in orbit around the moon and on the lunar surface. During the mission “Apollo” spacecraft most of the time was outside of the protective magnetosphere of the Earth. Thus, the crews of “Apollo” was vulnerable to solar flares and the flux of radiation rays from outside our Solar system.
We can say that NASA was lucky, because the time of the mission coincided with the so-called “solar cycle”. This period of growth and decline, which occurs approximately every 11 years. At the time of launch of the devices as times, there was a period of decline. However, if the space Agency delayed the program, then everything would have ended differently. For example, in August 1972, between the return to the Earth “Apollo-16” and the launch of “Apollo-17” started the period of growth of solar activity. And if at this time the astronauts would be on the way to the moon, they would get a huge dose of cosmic radiation. But this, fortunately, did not happen.