No one talks about it much, but NASA dodged a bullet last time we sent people to the moon. Right in between two of the Apollo missions, the sun belched a massive cloud of radiation that struck the lunar surface. If Neil Armstrong’s Giant Leap for Mankind was happening then, he’d have been hit with so much of the fallout he’d probably have puked in his suit. With this level of radiation sickness, and without treatment, even death couldn’t be ruled out. The human body is not designed for space travel.
It’s a thought to keep in mind as NASA prepares for the first launch of its next moonshot – the Artemis program. The goal is to have American moonboots back on the surface by 2025, and the first stage in the program is the launch of Artemis I.
The NASA moon rocket at the Kennedy Space Centre before the Artemis 1 mission to orbit the moon at the Kennedy Space Centre.Credit:AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
Luck hasn’t been on NASA’s side with this though: there have been two aborted blast-off attempts so far and their engineers are currently trying to solve a fuel leak problem.
While this maiden voyage will go to the moon, it will not land – it’ll just be a few orbits and then back home to Earth. But even on a journey like this the space capsule will be exposed to the sun’s radiation wrath. If our fiery orb does let loose, the crew on board would be exposed. Although on Artemis I there is no drama as the crew are mannequins. They’ll be fitted with all sorts of equipment and sensors, like souped up crash test dummies, and among other things, will measure the radiation levels human crews will be exposed to on the trip. That way, hopefully, NASA can come up with good protections for both the journey and on the lunar surface.