On this day 50 years ago, a landmark of human achievement occurred when Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin set foot on the lunar surface. However a danger present to all, including Michael Collins in lunar orbit, was the very real threat of radiation exposure. En route to the moon, the crew needed to go through the upper and lower Van Allens belts, doughnut shaped belts around the Earth filled with captured radiation trapped within the Earth’s magnetic field. Even after passing the Van Allen Belts, the crew was vulnerable to unpredictable solar flares.
Each crew member carried a Personal Radiation Dosimeter that detected the amount of radiation they were exposed to. Surprisingly, the Apollo 11 crew received one of the least amounts of radiation in the Apollo missions. The crew got very lucky that no major event occurred during and they were routed safely around the more dangerous parts of the Van Allen belts.
A major concern for future manned space missions is radiation exposure, especially when considering a mission to Mars. The NEUDOSE mission aims to shine more light on the nature of ionizing radiation on the human body. Our team hopes that one day we will look back on the first manned mission to Mars in the same way we reflect on the success of Apollo 11 today.