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Thread: Statement from James Van Allen on radiation effects

  1. #1
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    Hello, all.

    I recently received the following e-mail from James Van Allen in response to a request for his comments on the radiation effects of the Van Allen belts. I post it here as a possible aid to other debunkers. I have edited out sections of my original e-mail for length; Professor Van Allen's response is reprinted in its entirety.

    My request:
    My question to you, Professor Van Allen, is this. I have read that you have "denounced" the conspiracy theorists' claims that radiation in the Van Allen belts would have killed the astronauts. I have also seen a quote from you about what utter nonsense the Fox special was. Could you please, if possible, point me to any sources in print or on the web where you have been extensively quoted? If there are none that you know of, and it wouldn't be too much trouble, I would appreciate it if you could reply with a brief statement on the subject. In all my recent studies about the moon-conspiracy theories, the cornerstone of most arguments appears to be that radiation is what makes interplanetary space travel impossible. I feel that there is no person better qualified to debunk this absurd claim (and no one more likely to be taken seriously) than you. Of course, some conspiracists will say that you are in on the conspiracy yourself, but we can never hope actually to convince them.
    Professor Van Allen's response:
    Dear Mr. Lambert,

    In reply to your e-mail, I send you the following copy of a response that I wrote to another inquiry about 2 months ago --

    The radiation belts of the Earth do, indeed, pose important constraints on the safety of human space flight.

    The very energetic (tens to hundreds of MeV) protons in the inner radiation belt are the most dangerous and most difficult to shield against. Specifically, prolonged flights (i.e., ones of many months' duration) of humans or other animals in orbits about the Earth must be conducted at altitudes less than about 250 miles in order to avoid significant radiation exposure.

    A person in the cabin of a space shuttle in a circular equatorial orbit in the most intense region of the inner radiation belt, at an altitude of about 1000 miles, would be subjected to a fatal dosage of radiation in about one week.

    However, the outbound and inbound trajectories of the Apollo spacecraft cut through the outer portions of the inner belt and because of their high speed spent only about 15 minutes in traversing the region and less than 2 hours in traversing the much less penetrating radiation in the outer radiation belt. The resulting radiation exposure for the round trip was less than 1% of a fatal dosage - a very minor risk among the far greater other risks of such flights. I made such estimates in the early 1960s and so informed NASA engineers who were planning the Apollo flights. These estimates are still reliable.


    The recent Fox TV show, which I saw, is an ingenious and entertaining assemblage of nonsense. The claim that radiation exposure during the Apollo missions would have been fatal to the astronauts is only one example of such nonsense.

    James A. Van Allen
    As a side note, here is an excellent newspaper article about James Van Allen: http://www.press-citizen.com/progres...h/vanallen.htm

    --Doug

    [edited for extraneous carriage return]
    [ditto]
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    <font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: SpitfireIX on 2003-03-05 08:00 ]</font>

    <font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: SpitfireIX on 2003-03-05 08:20 ]</font>

  2. #2
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    Well at least now we have a concise answer to the radiation question. And it's put in simple enough terms that even most of the HB's will understand it.

  3. #3
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    On 2003-03-05 08:10, Mainframes wrote:
    Well at least now we have a concise answer to the radiation question. And it's put in simple enough terms that even most of the HB's will understand it.
    The HBs will just say he's a NASA stooge (as I mentioned in my e-mail to him). The value of Professor Van Allen's comments is that they are perfect for countering the HBs' disinformation, vis:

    HB: "The Van Allen radiation belts would have killed the crew."

    Person on street: "Wow, that sounds reasonable."

    Debunker: "Well, here's what James Van Allen himself had to say on the subject."

    That's why I wanted to pass Professor Van Allen's comments along to everyone here. Happy debunking [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_wink.gif[/img]

    --Doug

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    "The resulting radiation exposure for the round trip was less than 1% of a fatal dosage."

    I suppose that when there is a "bus" between earth and moon -a reusable vehicle making regular runs from earth orbit- that it would need to have a constantly rotating crew to keep each crewmembers over all exposure time to a minimum.

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    On 2003-03-05 08:10, Mainframes wrote:
    Well at least now we have a concise answer to the radiation question. And it's put in simple enough terms that even most of the HB's will understand it.
    Most will probably stop after the third paragraph and claim that JVA agrees with them, the belts are deadly.
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    On 2003-03-05 09:20, Rue wrote:
    "The resulting radiation exposure for the round trip was less than 1% of a fatal dosage."

    I suppose that when there is a "bus" between earth and moon -a reusable vehicle making regular runs from earth orbit- that it would need to have a constantly rotating crew to keep each crewmembers over all exposure time to a minimum.
    If it all it does is go between earth and luna orbits then you could probably afford to clad it to lower the effects of radiation on the crew, but even then i think crew rotation would be necessary

  7. #7
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    Well done, Spitfire.

    Conspiracists now face a serious problem (as if they didn't before). The have to disregard Van Allen's statement as being 'NASA spy bunk' as the Dark Lord might phrase it. But the problem with that is that this is the man who discovered the Van Allen Belts in the first place. It's completely unparsimonious to take onto the record some things the guy says (things that favour what they've chosen to believe) and disregard others (things that contradict them) without any backing. Of course, conspiracists are remarkably light on backing ("How do you use a femtometre?")

    "Audiatur et altera pars" as Jay once said.

    Of course, at the end of the day, that's never stopped the conspiracists before.

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    Awesome, simply awesome. [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_wink.gif[/img] I shall make a copy of these comments of the good Professor for future encounters with nomoonie bunk.

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    Most will probably stop after the third paragraph and claim that JVA agrees with them, the belts are deadly.

    Which is why I quote only the last paragraph of his letter on Clavius -- the paragraph where he unambiguously repudiates the hoax theory.


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    "How do you use a femtometre?"

    Do you want the short version?

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    On 2003-03-05 09:22, Jim wrote:
    On 2003-03-05 08:10, Mainframes wrote:
    Well at least now we have a concise answer to the radiation question. And it's put in simple enough terms that even most of the HB's will understand it.
    Most will probably stop after the third paragraph and claim that JVA agrees with them, the belts are deadly.
    I agree, this is the perfect quote to be 'mined' and taken out of context like the Creationists do all the time.
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  12. #12
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    Well, the comment that the Van Allen belts are, indeed, deadly is similar to the statement that chlorine is deadly. It is, but we use it all the time. We even put in our drinking water! It's all a question of exposure/dose.

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    On 2003-03-06 12:07, calliarcale wrote:
    Well, the comment that the Van Allen belts are, indeed, deadly is similar to the statement that chlorine is deadly. It is, but we use it all the time. We even put in our drinking water! It's all a question of exposure/dose.
    Drinking water - or should I say dihydrogen monoxide? - is deadly, too, but that doesn't seem to bother people much.
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

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    On 2003-03-06 12:39, ToSeek wrote:
    Drinking water - or should I say dihydrogen monoxide? - is deadly, too, but that doesn't seem to bother people much.
    Exactly. I recently had a patient who spent some time in the hospital last year because she essentially overdosed on water. There was some unusual circumstance involved, but if you drink enough water to cause the flow across the cell membranes to reverse, you're in deep doo-doo. There are all sorts of things that are perfectly safe in certain doses that become toxic in high levels.

    In fact, I read an article not all that long ago about a scientist investigating if certain herbicides in very low doses actually cause plants to grow faster rather than kill them. Interesting stuff...

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    I just don't have the desire to look it up right now, but last year I read an interesting article about bear repellant. I think the article was in an outdoor magazine of some sort. It said that there is some evidence that bears actually really like the repellant at low levels. There have been sightings of bears rolling around vigorously on the ground in places where the spray had been discharged. There is also growing anecdotal evidence of increased bear activity near campsites where people have spray-tested their repellant cans.


  16. #16
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    Yep; if you screw up the level of electrolytes in your blood, you're in serious trouble because many of the processes used to transfer nutrients into your cells are passive; they work purely on the basis of ion concentrations on either side of the cell membrane. If you really really really work at it, you can get enough water into you that it messes this up. But you're more likely to get the opposite problem, as a result of dehydration or over exertion (since you lose salt through your sweat).

    Of course, *anything* can be deadly. A wise-acre in my confirmation class years ago talked about the answer he put down on a biology test when he couldn't remember the correct answer. The question was "How does tobacco damage the body?" He replied, "Tobacco can be very damaging if dropped on your head in large quantities." [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_razz.gif[/img]

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    What puzzles me, according to my moon souvenir newspaper, is that when the astronauts first got back to the Earth and were quarrantined, was that they checked for possible moon diseases but they never bothered to check for any sign of radiation poisoning (or at least there is no mention of it). On later trips, they even did away with the quarantine time, having decided that the moon didn't contain any diseases.

  18. #18
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    For me, this is a rather confusing paragraph...

    Van Allen
    The very energetic (tens to hundreds of MeV) protons in the inner radiation belt are the most dangerous and most difficult to shield against. Specifically, prolonged flights (i.e., ones of many months' duration) of humans or other animals in orbits about the Earth must be conducted at altitudes less than about 250 miles in order to avoid significant radiation exposure.
    The first time I read this, I thought the inner radiation belt extended to infinity because you have to be lower than 250 miles for safety. Confusing. Do a re~mix on this e~mail if you wanna use it for argument. Also, the order of the paragraphs favours the hoaxsters using the first parts as propaganda and editing out the rest for reasons of...length. [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]

    Also, Van Allen is no fan of manned spaceflight so its hard to call him a NASA stooge.
    ---

    Rue
    I suppose that when there is a "bus" between earth and moon--a reusable vehicle making regular runs from earth orbit--that it would need to have a constantly rotating crew to keep each crewmembers over all exposure time to a minimum.
    Depends on the mass ratio of crew compartment to payload. If 2 crew perseons/personettes drive 50 passengers, the crew compartment alone can be sheilded and each trip the crew can stay in it for the 15 minutes mentioned by Dr. Allen. This would not add much mass compared to the already massive ship.

    RustyLander
    ...according to my moon souvenir newspaper, is that when the astronauts first got back to the Earth and were quarrantined, was that they checked for possible moon diseases but they never bothered to check for any sign of radiation poisoning (or at least there is no mention of it).
    Because they never left low Earth orbit. [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif[/img] [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif[/img] [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]

  19. #19
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    Radiation exposure and effects were already pretty well understood. The astronauts wore dosimeters - devices that measured the actual level of radiation that they encountered. These dosimeters were read. So there was no need to check for radiation poisoning - the measuring devices did that for them.

    However, after the quarantine period, they were also checked out medically.

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    "How do you use a femtometre?"

    Very,very carefully! [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]

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    Nothing new, all well known he found them less sea of deadl radiations.

    His site say it all, so what is the need of this, trying to reassure yourself(s)?
    Your facts still need defending? After 4..7 years? Boy that's strange!
    This is the same man how tryed to blow them up? Van Allen agreed with the military to get involved with a Starfish Prime project to set off atomic bombs in the magnetosphere to see if they could disrupt it."
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/20...bombs-in-space
    Or is it the Century Projet one... In 1964, a U.S atomic bomb blast in the Van Allen belts surrounding the earth almost permanently ended the U.S. space program, according to retired Gen. Ken Hannegan of the Defense Nuclear Agency.
    http://www.flybynews.com/cgi-local/n...77435363,53228,

    Well nice to see you Apollo beleivers still worried and fighting for faith. NASA is proud of you.

    1)Sept 2013, NASAs Mona Kessel:Some of the discoveries weve made are going to rewrite the textbooks on the radiation belts. And while those discoveries are fascinating and merit more research, were still focused on the question we asked when we designed the mission: What are the primary mechanisms of particle loss and acceleration in the belts?

    2)The Van Allen Probes observations challenged our current views on the physics of the radiation belts, said study co-author Yuri Shprits, a space scientist at UCLA. In the past, we made estimates and thought they looked reasonable.

    3) The Van Allen Probes; Mazur said. "We're able to measure at the one billion electron volt level; particles at that energy are virtually impossible to shield against. They will easily penetrate half-inch thick aluminum plate." Particles at that energy level are known to cause a range of damages to spacecraft, from physical degradation to instrument malfunctions and false readings. http://phys.org/news/2012-12-van-all...amics.html#jCp

    Oh by the way the man did not discover the belts, just the radiations, Nicholas Constantine Christofilos suggested it.

  22. #22
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    ELEVEN years... it took you ELEVEN years to come up with this response?
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    Maybe 11 years to create a correctly spelt userid is next

    I wonder if "truthbeleiver" is aware that all the Apollo missions took routes around the outside of the belts? That is the truth, believe it.

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    Quote 1 in context: http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/...t-anniversary/ - This one is all about structure and origins of the belts and has nothing saying that they are substantially more dangerous than thought.

    Quote 2 in context: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla...on-248209.aspx - key point it is talking about a short lived structural change to the belts due to different populations of energetic particles. So largely irrelevant to the argument.

    Quote 3 just talks about what we already knew were there.

    So 2 quotes taken out of context and implied to be more threatening than they are (and conveniently their cource not cited) and one that doesn't say anything all that new. As arguments go that rates as somewhere between woeful and pathetic in terms of how convincing it is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slang View Post
    ELEVEN years... it took you ELEVEN years to come up with this response?
    Maybe he wasn't born when the original post was made.

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    Personally I think Stephen Hawking sums up the whole cover up and conspiracy theory thing with his rather succinct quote:

    "And if governments are involved in the cover up, they are doing a much better job of it than they seem to be doing at anything else."

    I think that about says it all really ... probably use that for my sig too ...

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    I've tried that argument on several occasions.
    The response?
    "Well what about Watergate?" "What about Iran-contra?" "what about x?"
    They don't understand that a conspiracies do get revealed in a reasonable amount of time. Usually within one administration.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    I've tried that argument on several occasions.
    The response?
    "Well what about Watergate?" "What about Iran-contra?" "what about x?"
    They don't understand that a conspiracies do get revealed in a reasonable amount of time. Usually within one administration.
    That's the most frustrating thing. With a true conspiracy, someone always talks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by primummobile View Post
    ...someone always talks.
    How else would you know about it...unless...
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  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clanger View Post
    I wonder if "truthbeleiver" is aware that all the Apollo missions took routes around the outside of the belts? That is the truth, believe it.
    And that Dr. Van Allen helped NASA design the trajectories.

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