Apollo and the Van Allen Belts


By Robert A. Braeunig
© September-2014

Conspiracy Theories

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Radiation is a favorite topic of many moon landing hoax theorists. No matter how badly they may lose the debate on other issues, they believe that space radiation is the one thing that trumps all others. If it were impossible for spacefarers to survive the Van Allen radiation belts then Apollo was hoaxed regardless of what all other evidence suggests. The argument typically goes like this:

Radiation is bad + There is radiation in space = Space is bad


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That’s generally all you’ll get because that’s all they know. It’s no secret that space radiation exists, and we all know radiation can cause death, so, to the conspiracy theorist, the only conclusion is that space is a maelstrom of deadly radiation that will fry any outbound astronaut. Unfortunately this is a very simplistic and naive way of looking at the problem. Radiations vary dramatically in strength and intensity, with some being dangerous and some being harmless background radiation. Whether or not a human will experience illness or death is related to the radiation dose received. It is a problem with a very real answer that can be determined quantitatively.

I have seen only one hoax proponent attempt to prove the radiation claim mathematically, but his attempt was marred by many egregious errors and omissions, leading to wildly inaccurate numbers (see review here). It is fair to say that no conspiracy theorist possesses the expertise to correctly solve the problem, for if he did, he would know better than to subscribe to the hoax theory. Absent the ability to perform a proper quantitative solution, the conspiracists are forced to look for circumstantial evidence. They can generally do little more than point out what they believe to be suspicious activity or resort to quote mining.

Quote mining is the deceitful tactic of taking quotes out of context in order to make them seemingly agree with the quote miner’s viewpoint. Below is one such example. In this case I’ve provided the accompanying text that the conspiracists are likely to omit, or at least draw your attention away from. The bolded text is the part the conspiracists highlight as being relevant to their argument.

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