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Who Mourns For Apollo?
Part III

 Management of Apollo Radiation
 Steve Troy

In our first two pieces in this series “Who Mourns for Apollo,” (Part I and Part II) we dealt with a series of silly and irresponsible assertions by the “Moon Hoax Advocates” who say that we never went to the Moon. One of the centerpiece claims is that the Apollo astronauts never could have passed through the Van Allen radiation Belts on their way to the Moon and survived. Although we addressed this issue briefly in our first article, since they use this argument as a ‘big-gun’ in attacking the validity and credibility of Apollo, we decided a more complete deconstruction of the issue was appropriate.

Included in their disinformation campaign are seemingly logical but blatantly mistaken prevarications about the “fatal” dangers the astronauts faced from various types of radiation exposure. According to them, cosmic rays going through the spacecraft’s thin skin, and “massive” doses of solar radiation would have resulted in the astronauts being transformed into hairless crispy critters.

If for any reason you are one of the unfortunate souls who have bought into this nonsense, you may want to know that the key irrefutable fact is that no matter how much the debunkers try to pull the wool over the eyes of the American public, the Apollo astronauts only received a harmless 1 rem (Roentgen Equivalent Man – a unit of measurement for biological radiation exposure) and that came from quick transfer through the Van Allen belts and not from the Sun or galactic cosmic rays. Extensive radiation research prior to any Apollo launch as well as statistics from real-time Apollo instrumentation both on the ground and in space proved this to be true. The potential dangers encountered in other aspects of the mission would have greatly overshadowed anything encountered regarding this problem. The danger of death from an engine failure was far greater than anything encountered in the radiation belts, as Apollo 13 proved.

This article should serve to responsibly inform the Moon Hoax Advocates about NASA’s extensive involvement and preparation to deal with Apollo’s radiation threat. It is a story of a well managed and successfully resolved issue. For the ones who are closed to knowledge or who are heavily invested in the idea that we didn’t go; don’t bother reading this. Truth can be a bitter pill to swallow. 

Background - The Van Allen Belts

Protection against natural radiations of the Van Allen belts was a complex problem recognized long before Apollo or even before the advent of manned space flight. Prior to 1958, scientists knew that ions and electrons could be trapped within Earth's magnetic field. 1957 and 1958 were designated as the "International Geophysical Year" -- a time in which the first artificial satellites were launched by both America and the Soviet Union (Russia) for the first overall surveys of the Earth from space. The Soviet's Sputnik and America's Explorer I (the latter instrumented by James Van Allen) were both launched in 1957, and 1958, respectively. Explorer I carried Van Allen's Geiger counters to observe cosmic rays, but the instruments mysteriously appeared only to work at the lower altitudes of its elliptical orbit. Explorer III followed two months later with more sophisticated instruments, and detected very high levels of radiation; vast numbers of energetic particles were seen to hit the counters at higher altitudes, and in specific regions. These "belts" (which had literally saturated Explorer I's more limited detectors, accounting for their apparent failure to "detect" the belts at higher altitudes) were eventually recognized as toroidal-(doughnut) shaped regions where both protons and electrons are trapped within Earth's toroidal magnetic field. Particles within the belts were seen to spiral around the Earth's magnetic lines of force, therefore changing orientation continuously in relation to a moving spacecraft.


These two radiation belts have different origins. The one discovered by Van Allen occupies a region above the equator, is a byproduct of high-energy cosmic radiation, and is populated by protons of energies in the 10-100Mev (million electron volt) range. These can penetrate spacecraft and on prolonged exposure, damage instruments and astronauts. NASA made sure that Apollo trajectories to and from the Moon always steered clear of this belt. The outer belt is seen as plasma trapped in the magnetosphere (from the Sun's expanding solar wind), where "radiation belt is the term applied only to the more energetic parts of that plasma population of about 1 Mev of energy. It is also a documented fact that all the Apollo's passed through this area of radiation quickly and therefore avoided the danger.

As early as 1962, six years before the first circumlunar flight of Apollo 8, several symposia were called: to address the issue of protection against radiations in space, including specific planning for the Apollo Missions. Both NASA and the Atomic Energy Commission held two symposia, the first in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in 1962 -- sponsored by NASA, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the American Nuclear Society.


By 1964, more information on the radiation hazard had been gathered and analyzed. Meeting again at Gatlinburg, those concerned with the upcoming manned missions defined radiation problems encountered in deeper space, the radiobiological effects, and radiation effects on materials and components including shielding requirements. To refrain from writing a book on what was covered as a result of this extensive study, refer to the October 1964, NASA SP-71 Publication, Second Symposium on Protection Against Radiations in Space. By examining the contents of the '64 Symposium, you will see the laboriously considered and investigated areas early in our space program's history that are directly relevant to Apollo and the radiation issue. The fact that it was studied six years prior to any Apollo Moon launch indicates that it had been the primary concern on their agenda. And from looking at contents of the 1964 Symposium, it's blatantly obvious that the Apollo-hoaxers never even thought to address any of the specific early radiation topics that are seen there. Why? Because they would rather browse through uninformative websites or hear opinions from uninformed sources to arrive at their general silly opinions. Why would such extensive studies have been done if there were no contemplated preparations to avoid such hazards during the upcoming manned space missions being planned ... namely Apollo?


A quick perusal of just the table of contents of this report shows that NASA had very carefully and completely considered all the problems relating to radiation exposure. The report itself is over 550 pages, and the table of contents alone is seven pages long.

From these extensive, early radiation sessions dealing with specific effects on materials and components, it was concluded that -- with the exception of the effects on a few particular types of materials -- very long exposure times in the space environment would be required to produce significant damage. During these symposia, problems for 3-types of deep space missions missions (including Apollo) were examined. These included study of integrated proton flux numbers and shielding analysis of the LM and the Command module, as well as the interactions and transport of radiations through these spacecraft. A straight-ahead method of spacecraft design to handle the proton secondaries was created. It included refinements of complicated vehicle geometry (to be discussed), the exchange of a massive amount of electron data, and passive and active shielding information.

It is a fact that during the Apollo years, experience in radiation protection included the two distinct areas of both space and earth: space, where the critical radiation sources were uncontrollable; and Earth, where most sources of any strength are controllable and manmade. And it's also a fact that for Apollo, the goal was to avoid harmful effects by limiting the radiation dose to the lowest level judged consistent with the achievement of beneficial goals in both areas. This goal was achieved.

Before Apollo, insitu measurements were taken in regard to (lower belt) geomagnetically trapped protons. These were based on "radiation spectral data" developed by visually inspecting photographic emulsions recovered directly from Air Force missile nose cones which had flown up and down through the lower belt and, as a result, defined the flux of particles therein. Van Allen belt protons were studied extensively at several different energy levels in this manner. (Refer again to the 1964 Second Symposium Report.)


The number of protons encountered at each trajectory point of these ballistic missiles' test flights was determined from the flux and time interval to the next trajectory point of the missile's flight path; and the total dose calculations for belt exposure were made from the resulting total residual energy spectrum from those flights. This research was invaluable in developing the later Apollo era technology.

This chart reproduced here (above -- along with other mathematical calculations and figures seen in the scientific papers) may be difficult for some readers to interpret, but the bottom line is that when correctly translated, it demonstrates unequivocally that we knew precisely what the Van Allen belt profiles were, well before Apollo ever left the ground. The notion that the people who had done these studies would have deliberately placed the Apollo astronauts in mortal danger is absurd. And as you will see, the solution to the "Van Allen Belt Problem" was not to "fake" the Moon missions ... but to properly manage the threat.

Apollo indeed placed men outside the protective geomagnetic shielding where radiation could have been a serious problem. But again, in fact, doses to crews were minimal. The transfer from low earth orbit to translunar coast similar to the translunar injection burn of Apollo 8 (which incidentally was witnessed by many in Hawaii,) meant that they had to traverse the regions of geomagnetically trapped electrons and protons in the Van Allen belts. When beyond them, they were subjected to cosmic rays and particle Sun bursts. So how much did they get?

Before we proceed, it is necessary to define a few terms. A RAD or Radiation Absorbed Dose, is a unit of measurement that determines the actual absorbed amount of radiation by any given material. The material can be plastic, metal, or biological, or anything else for that matter. It does not define the degree of biological damage that can occur to the absorbing individual, since different types of radiation can cause differing levels of damage to human tissues. Rather, it is a blanket number defining total radiation exposure of all types. 

The REM, as we mentioned above, is a unit used to derive a quantity called equivalent dose. This relates the absorbed dose in human tissue to the effective biological damage of the radiation. Not all radiation has the same biological effect, even for the same amount of absorbed dose. To determine equivalent dose (rem), you multiply absorbed dose (rad) by a quality factor (Q) that is unique to the type of incident radiation.

There are  several mitigating factors that can effect the amount of damage done to human tissue by radiation exposure. Even if a specific type of radiation is very damaging to humans, if you limit the time that a person is bombarded by that radiation, you can reduce the effect on the persons cells. This is why fair skinned people will not get a sunburn if they are only outside without a sunblock for a few minutes. If they are outside for a few hours, they can get a very painful radiation burn. Continuous exposure of this type over years can lead to skin cancers. 

This time element, or exposure, must always be considered alongside the intensity and quality of the radiation a person is exposed to.

As a rule, acceptable doses for high risk individuals like astronauts are expressed in rads. For example, 100 rads will induce vomiting, over 150 rads are fatal if untreated, and a 500-rad dose is fatal even with medical treatment. Delayed effects include cancer and other genetic changes. These long-term effects can occur even when the dose rates are far below the thresholds for any prompt effects. 

The actual doses, in rads, that the astronauts received were quite small. From NASA Technical Note, TN D-7080- Apollo Experience Report- Protection Against Radiation, by English, Benson, Bailey and Barnes, March 1973 (where many of the figures and diagrams displayed here were taken), the tabulated radiation dose average from the thermoluminescent dosimeters carried by Apollo astronauts for their respective missions is given. (In comparison to the doses actually received, the report states that the original maximum operational dose (MOD) limit for each of the Apollo missions was set at 400 rads (x-ray equivalent) to the skin and 50 rads to blood forming organs.) Bottom-line actual doses received by the astronauts were:


While this table does not include the results from Apollo's 16 or 17, there is enough data to conclude that the actual radiation exposure that the astronauts endured was very small. It never came close to being lethal or even damaging.

Specific Astronaut Protection

There were many qualitative precautions taken regarding Apollo instrumentation to detect radiation proton and electron flux.  

The dosimetry instrumentation that was used in the belts during flight utilized omni-directional radiation sensors so that the flux could be measured accurately. The Van Allen belt dosimeter (VABD) was designed for Apollo dosimetry within these radiation belts and was proved satisfactory because dose values derived from its greater than 180 degree radiation acceptance angle correlated well with the doses indicated by Apollo post fight analyses of passive dosimeters worn by the astronauts.


A compromise in the final version of the VABD design was required for Apollo flammability considerations, and aluminum was used as a replacement for tissue equivalent plastic in the ionization-chamber walls.

Neutrons created by cosmic rays in collision with lunar materials were said to be a potential hazard. Whole body counting and neutron-resonant foil techniques were initiated on the Apollo 11 mission and results showed that the neutron doses were lower than anticipated. To allow accurate determination of the radiation exposure to the crewmen as far as cosmic rays, neutrons, and the diverse fractions of radiations from the Van Allen belts, each astronaut carried a personal radiation dosimeter (PRD) and three passive dosimeters. The PRD provided visual readout of accumulated radiation dose to each crewman during missions. It was small and was placed in the suits of the astronauts. They contained a lithium fluoride thermo luminescent powder, nuclear emulsions, and neutron-dosimetry foils as well as foils for specific detection of high atomic weight cosmic particles. Detector materials were analyzed after every mission and were able to accurately determine radiation dose to practically every part of the body.


In addition to these instruments, the radiation-survey meter (RSM) was utilized on each mission. This was a direct reading dose rate instrument that allowed the astronauts to determine radiation levels inside any location within any compartment of the spacecraft.

Alpha (helium nuclea) and isotropic proton particle (hydrogen nuclei) flux levels, from potential solar particle events (falres) were measured by the nuclear particle detection system (NPDS). There was a solar proton event between the Apollo 16 and 17 missions but it did not threaten the missions because NASA was able to make appropriate decisions not to launch when it occurred. It was one of the largest solar proton events ever recorded and produced radiation levels of sufficient energy for the astronauts outside of the Earth's magnetosphere to absorb lethal doses within 10 hours after the start of the event.



It is critically important to realize that NO "solar particle events" occurred during any Apollo Mission. Even so, a number of different protective contingency systems against solar activity were in place before any lunar launch. During the early stages of these deliberations, the scientists agreed -- considering the difficult nature of forecasting such events -- that the best that could be provided was an estimate of particle dose by giving visual or radio frequency (RF) confirmation that a solar event had indeed occurred. A system of terrestrial solar monitoring stations, the Solar Particle Alert Network (SPAN) -- consisting of three multiple frequency radio telescopes and seven optical telescopes -- was utilized under contract to NASA. These provided NASA with continuous data on the severity of solar flare activity. Because only about 20% of solar flares result in particle events reaching the Earth/Moon system, it was considered premature to change normal Apollo mission procedures based soley on RF or visual observations. Radiation sensors located onboard Apollo spacecrafts, as well as Earth orbit satellites, were used to confirm actual particle events reaching the astronauts. Only after particles were confirmed, would subsequent (but pre-planned) actions be taken to protect the astronauts.


Once detected by SPAN, the relevant solar data was then sent by teletype straight to the Space Environment Console (SEC) at Mission Control, in Houston. There it was evaluated and the vigil of Earth-based satellite sensors would be monitored for early signs of increased particle flux in the Earth-Moon system.

In addition to SPAN, the Solar Forecast Center (SFC -- located at the North American Air Defense Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado) provided to NASA a worldwide network of solar surveillance centers that were located at points all over the globe, some as far away as Iran. Personnel within this network sent 24-hour-a-day real time solar data to the SFC and four forecasts were publicly released daily. The Space Disturbance Forecast Center (SDFC), located at Boulder, Colorado operated one of the seven SPAN optical telescopes and served as a collection for data from a number of other solar monitoring stations located near Boulder.

The riometer system (relative ionospheric opacity meter) was a highly sensitive system that measured the intensity of electromagnetic fields. It measured the changes in absorption of cosmic radio noise as it traversed the ionosphere. When it was used at different frequencies the proton flux and spectra could then be accurately determined. On September 16, 1963, a very active series of solar events took place during which RF signals were noted. Through the courtesy of Dr. Covington of the National Research Council of Ottawa, Canada, the RF signature was received. This was analyzed to determine: (1) if it represented a proton event; and (2) the size of the event. It was concluded that this RF signal did represent a proton event in the low 107p+/cm2>30 MeV size. Several months later it was determined from the Douglas Aircraft Company, which had a riometer located on the South Pole, that their calculations indicated that this event was on the order of 106 to 107p+cm2>30 MeV. This check in methods gave confidence that the RF method of proton detection even for short warning periods could be a useful tool and important for the upcoming LM and lunar surface operations.


Radiation and the Spacecraft

It is often misstated by the Moon Hoax advocates that the Apollo spacecraft contained "no" radiation shielding. The truth is that the LM contained very little, but the CSM contained quite a bit.


It's a fact that both high and low energy radiation flux particles affected the lunar spacecraft. The number of protons encountered (total flux) depended on the energy of the particles. For example, the flux of high energy particles is less and the flux of low energy particles is more, meaning that lower fluxes did not and could not penetrate the skin of an astronaut or the spacecraft. The CSM sliced through the more intense areas of radiation (high flux) in a short period of time. Thus, the Van Allen belts (because of this brevity of exposure) ultimately, literally presented no problem.

But, in order to deal specifically with these issues, shielding parameters had to be designed for the CSM and LM combination. Calculations regarding various radiation dosages during various mission modes -- like CSM-LM docking -- narrowed down specific dangers. One maneuver that was worked out beforehand, with the Van Allen Belts specifically in mind, was the the docking procedure of the CSM-LM combination, after "translunar injection" (final rocket firing) toward the Moon. The entering of the LM by the crew wasn't permitted in the flight plan until 10-20 minutes after this translunar injection (when the accelerated spacecraft had safely cleared the highest dosage in the Van Allen belts); concurrently, the astronauts weren't allowed to leave the CSM for at least that same amount of time into translunar trajectory, and for the same reason. These historic NASA documents effectively prove that careful, serious consideration was given to the radiation dangers that might be encountered during all Apollo missions -- effectively giving lie to the "Moon Hoaxers" wild assertions.

Shielding studies that sought reasonable protection of the spacecraft and the astronauts were intensive. A computer program was utilized to calculate astronaut dose in relation to the shielding effectiveness of the actual CSM structural geometry: geometry defined by the description of the dimensions and material construction of the spacecraft. Detailed construction parameters for Apollo were finalized only after these exhaustive preliminary studies on and testing of the geometric configuration of the spacecraft was completed. NASA and the NAA (North American Aviation -- the builder of the Apollo spacecraft) selected a program that divided the spacecraft into 370 regions, permitting critical measuring of shielding codes to be implemented in the final design.


The computer program calculated the dose and secondary dose values at any point in the CSM, as well as dose effects that would be received by different parts of the astronauts bodies in different positions within the CSM. Many materials were studied for purposes of dose reduction (see the Symposia reports.) A warning system was installed on Earth that was ready to alert astronauts of impending solar events (which never occurred). A complete radiation protection system was implemented for Apollo, as a result of these studies. This included technology (the manually activated attitude control system) to permit the astronauts to reorient the spacecraft, by interposing the heavily shielded Service Module between them and the incoming particle and x-ray radiation. Solar RF emission, solar x-rays, ultraviolet rays, solar flares, magnetic field and ionospheric disturbances .... ALL were considered in these equations.



It was a ground support function to protect the crew against manmade sources of radiation, and potential problems involving such sources in the spacecraft. Radio-luminescent sources were applied directly to some of the Apollo equipment, in case cabin lighting failed during the mission. With these strict radiation limits in mind, the Lunar Module was equipped with radio-luminescent switch tips (in case of emergency), but ones that shielded out the original ionizing radiations by allowing only the passage of light.

In addition, critical LM panels had a coating of special radio-luminescent paint and a thin coating of acrylic plastic was applied over the paint as a "radiation sealer." This reduced the soft x-ray dose from an initial value of 13 rads/hr at a distance of 2 inches from the panel, to an acceptable value of less than 0.3 rad/hr. It wasn't hazardous to the astronauts during missions because their suits (worn while in the LM) provided more than enough additional shielding to protect them.

Radio-luminescent lighting was also integrated into the portable life support system (PLSS-or suit) worn by astronauts on the lunar surface. It had a remote control unit (RCU) that contained the controls and quantity gauges. Beta lights eliminated external radiation problems.

The Spacesuits

While some organizations struggled with spacecraft developmental phases, others focused on spacesuit design. For 30 years the suit went through numerous modifications adjusting to the needs and demands of space including radiation. Early pressure garments went through primitive evolution and included non- stretch fabrics, laced up corsets and special movable joints and cables.


With the upcoming flights of Mercury and Gemini, new "spacesuit problems" were anticipated: we would be going farther out into space, eventually to the Moon. Eventually, during Apollo, twelve astronauts spent a total of 161 hours of EVA in the vacuum of the lunar environment. And additional hours were spent in micro-gravity while coming back to Earth, when one CMP (command module pilot) retrieved photographic film from outside the Command Module half way between the earth and Moon. The Apollo suits not only served as virtual life support systems and backup pressure systems inside and [italicize] outside the spacecraft, but each was literally an 80-lb independent spacecraft [italicize "independent spacecraft" (minus the engine). Along with the boots and gloves, the suit protected the astronauts from the lunar vacuum, carbon dioxide, micrometeorite impact, heat, and radiation. The helmet was a high strength polycarbonate "bubble" attached to the suit with a pressure seal, and movable visors over that bubble were made of UV blocking Mylar which protected the astronauts eyes and epidermis (skin) from the Sun's raw ultraviolet radiation. On the Moon, background particle radiation from the Sun was non-existent. As can be seen, contrary to the accusation that NASA ignored the "radiation problem," every potential problem that the astronauts might encounter on the lunar voyages was addressed at some point in the process of spacecraft and spacesuit development


Ultimately, the Apollo spacesuits were "three suits in one," consisting of three independent layers, each having its own hardware and specific purpose for survival. The inside layer was connected to the backpack portable life support system (PLSS) where water and oxygen were stored. The pressure garment was linked to this layer and the PLSS. The outer armor-layer consisted of 13 separate fabrics and materials (like beta cloth) designed to protect the two inner garments from the lunar elements (micrometeorites and radiation) and space itself (the vacuum). There were systems with backup systems for about every application. On top of this, each astronaut had a literal wardrobe of suits designed for the different phases of Apollo ... training, lunar EVA, and flight. They all (obviously!) worked -- but only after literally decades of development, with the radiation and other space hazards firmly in the minds of the designers.

No One Got It

How about radiation and the cancer risk? The Moon Hoax advocates say "the Apollo astronauts never went to the Moon." The fact is (from other overwhelming evidence presented in this series) 21 American astronauts passed safely through the belts to and from the Moon, and none died as a direct result of cancer incurred during Apollo. Jack Swigert (of Apollo 13) died in 1982 of cancer, ten years after his Apollo flight, just after being elected to the Congress. Alan Shepard (of Apollo 14) died decades after his own flight, of leukemia. Both cases were diagnosed as "unrelated to their lunar mission experiences."

Cancer statistics today from the American Cancer Society, show that one out of two Earthbound adult males (American) will develop "some type of cancer" in their lifetime; out of 18 randomly picked American men, half will develop a related lifetime risk. The specific probability of developing an invasive cancer for men up to age 39 is 1 in 62; for ages 40-59, 1 in 12; and ages 60-79, 1 in 3.


Even if the Swigert and Shepard deaths had been a direct result of cancers developed from their missions (which, as has been stated, wasn't the case), cancer statistics for the Apollo Mission years themselves indicate a higher rate of mortality for all different cancer types for the population as a whole for those years ... astronauts not included. And again, according to the American Cancer Society, only high-frequency x-ray, ultraviolet light (UV), or ionizing particle radiation has been proven to cause human cancers. The Apollo astronauts, as we have seen, were specifically protected from all these sources. There is more danger on Earth from high-dose radiation from x-rays and radon, if not exposure to sunlight that causes basal and squamous cell skin cancer and melanoma, than there was for the Apollo astronauts going to the Moon.

In Daniel Drasin's perceptive satire Zen and the Art of Debunkery, he published "indispensable guidelines for the zealous skeptic." It satirically lays out precisely what the Moon debunkers and promoters of anti-scientific attitudes have tried to do.

Substitute ‘scientistic propaganda for scientific method.’

However, in this case they foolishly stepped over the line and tried to bite off more than they could chew -- by trying to debunk a clearly proven era of science: the sojourns of Apollo. They have failed. Because their miserable attempts have now been recognized for what they are (ignorant and temporary "distractions"), perhaps we can finally move on to more significant issues ... about what NASA really doesn't want us to know. As Mike Bara said in his second piece in this series, maybe it's a case of ignorance obviating the rational mind. Perhaps their agenda (the "Moon Hoaxer" crowd) is political, and they're hooked up with other "higher-level distracters." They have desperately and deliberately attempted to take the focus off of what is really important about our Moon, by making the mistake of challenging the validity of Apollo and the integrity of scientific fact. Like thieves, they have chosen to make their dollars off of the impressionable American public, and they'll have to live with that when all is said and done.

NASA spent millions to insure that the astronauts that went to the Moon were protected from the physical threats of deep space. We now know (from literally hundreds of thousands of pages of official documents) that the Space Agency literally spent billions doing the necessary research and developing the necessary technologies to get them there and back safely. These are not really the issues.

The underlying reasons for NASA's deception and duplicitousness regarding what is really on other planets in our solar system -- including the 30+ year pattern of withholding crucial Lunar information from the people who paid for Apollo in the first place, and what we now know  from NASA's own photography is on the Moon -- are the REAL issues here.

It is TIME to get the focus back on track where it belongs.


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