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The Van Allen Radiation Belt and Space Travel

  1. Nov 3, 2009 #1
    [Post edited by Ivan] I've heard that the intense radiation from the Van Allen belt would make it impossible to travel to the moon or send anything to Mars etc. It's obviously possible to have satellites or the ISS (which is only I think 330 miles above us). People say that the radiation from this belt can be avoided and isn't strong enough while I've heard others say that you'd need a minimum 3 meter belt of led around a shuttle to protect it from this radiation.

    So...what's your opinion or debunk for this?
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 4, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 3, 2009 #2
    I have very little to offer in the field of astrophysics but I remember hearing Phil Plait, an American astronomer, talk about this on a radio show a few years ago. Here is a link I found from his website: http://www.badastronomy.com/bad/tv/foxapollo.html (find 'van allen'). I'm sure google could yield you some more results.
  4. Nov 3, 2009 #3


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    Moon landing conspiracy threads are supposed to be on our banned topics list. I will lock this for now.
  5. Nov 4, 2009 #4

    Ivan Seeking

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    All conspiracy theories are already banned, but we should probably specify the moon landing hoax theories in the banned topics list.

    I am moving this to physics with the understanding that the question is: How can astronauts survive the Van Allen Radiation Belt? The op has been edited.

    I believe the short answer is that the radiation levels aren't that high.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2009
  6. Nov 4, 2009 #5


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    Radiation levels certainly wouldn't be high enough to cause instantenous death or anything like that. You need something really bad, on the order of 10s of sieverts to cause that. Possible (read: probable) that there is an associated increased risk of cancers and the like, but that's true for all radiation intensive activities.

    Side note: 3 meters of lead effectively decreases radiation by about (1/2)^300, or ~10^-91. That should make you realize the absurdity of the claim.
  7. Nov 4, 2009 #6

    Andy Resnick

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    Radiation exposure on deep-space missions (long term moon habitat, mars missions) is probably the #1 outstanding problem facing NASA in it's effort to fly those missions and keep the crew alive. The other major unresolved problem is having enough potable water.
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