Can a human safely pass through the Van Allen Radiation belts?
If so, what would be the minimum amount of lead or protective materials nec. in the space craft to allow this to happen...Do we have the technology to produce such a ship?
- Jason TLv 71 decade agoFavorite Answer
The van Allen radiation belt is a zone of energetic charged particles from the sun, trapped by Earth's magnetic field. Despite the common media misconceptions about radiation, lead is not required to shield against that type of radition, and is not even a very good shielding material because of a phenomenon called 'bremsstrahlung'. Essentially that is when the collision of a high-energy particle with the shielding material causes a secondary emission, often of X-rays.
The best type of shielding against the radiation in the van Allen belts is light metals, such as aluminium, plastics and water. And even better, you don't need a huge thickness to do it. All the Apollo spacecraft passed through the van Allen belts. But in case you doubt the Apollo missions were real, you might be more interested to know that the shuttle and ISS routinely pass through a small region of the van Allen belts called the South Atlantic Anomaly. This is a region where the belt dips down towards Earth, and the orbits of the shuttle and ISS carry them through this region on every orbit. In that sense the vehicles suffer worse exposure than the Apollo spacecraft, since Apollo shot through the belts in a couple of hours, whereas the orbiting craft pass through a region of the belt every ninety minutes for days, weeks or months. Where radiation exposure is concerned repeated short exposures are worse than a quick blast.
You might also be interested to know that Dr James van Allen himself has said on several occasions that the van Allen belts are no barrier to manned deep-space flight.Source(s): A-level physics and extensive reading about the space program.
- Chug-a-LugLv 71 decade ago
It's been done..! All of the Apollo manned lunar missions passed through the Van Allen belts without any harm to the astronauts. Their spacecraft were in the belts for only an hour or so, thus the radiation received was small. Even though the skin of the spacecraft were very thin, they too provided protection.
- Charlie BravoLv 61 decade ago
With enough protection from the radiation, yes, a human can safely pass through the belts.