Tag: Moon

Could SpaceX Beat Artemis To The Moon? (And Other Questions)

From the mystery of what cars birds poop on to an update on the Dear Moon mission, these are the burning questions from Patreon this month.


Hey today we’ve got a lightning round video, which is where I take questions from Patreon supporters above a certain level, that level being $50 a month.

Yeah, I know, that’s insane but those insane people are the ones who help keep this channel going, so I want to make them glad they made this insane decision.

And the whole “get a question answered” thing is one of their perks. But there are other perks at much lower levels, like interacting with me in live streams and zoom calls, and access to a private Discord server, this has now become a shameless Patreon ad…

Anyway, sometimes in these lightning round videos I get asked a question and the answer goes to a place I really wasn’t expecting… And today definitely had one of those. Actually 2.

So I encourage you to stick around to the end because it does kind-of spark a debate that I would really love to know your thoughts on. Anyway, let’s start this thing.

Brian Beswick
The first images from Webb are a big deal, but we also heard something big too. What’s your thoughts on the new FRB discovered?
So Brian sent me to this Space.com page where somewhere in this sea of ads is an article about a weird new FRB that was discovered last month.

FRBs are Fast Radio Bursts and they’ve been kind-of a mystery for a while now, I think the first one was discovered in 2009, and they’re basically extremely short, like millisecond-long but can release as much energy in a millisecond as the sun does in 3 days.

And the spooky part? Nobody knows what causes them!

The most likely candidates are pulsars or magnetars but it’s still not completely settled.


What’s interesting about this new one is instead of the burst happening in milliseconds, this one is 3 seconds long, so like thousands of times longer.

And it also happens in regular intervals so they’re saying it’s kind-of like a universal heartbeat.

So poetic.

They named it FRB20191221A and what’s cool about it is they think it could help shed some light on what these things are but it s regularity could be used to help measure the expansion of the universe.

By the way, the instrument that detected it is called CHIME, which stands for Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment. Love me some acronym porn.

Are you planning on doing a speaking tour?

I was actually just talking to someone about that the other day. It’s being talked about. Nothing concrete but… Yeah. Maybe.

John Regel
Have you ever been recognized in public outside of Creator-specific venues? If so, would you mind sharing an anecdote about it from your perspective?

It doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens enough for me to always be aware that someone might recognize me, so I try to be on my best behavior.

The most recent one that really surprised me was when I was in Ireland, I got recognized in Galway, and I’m sorry his name dropped out of my head but that was a nice surprise.

For anybody who bumped into me out in the world, I guarantee I walked away from that encounter second-guessing everything I said.

What’s even weirder is when people see me and they don’t say hi but then they send a tweet at me like, “I saw you at the mall today.” (shiver)

But feel free to say hi if you see me, it’s always nice to meet viewers in person because this is so impersonal.

What do you think about YouTube thumbnails that are intentionally designed to make you “rage watch” the video? Example: The Empire Was Right in Star Wars.

I hate them. And I hate even more that they work.

“Rageonomics” is a term I’ve heard lately.

I don’t think anybody wants this to be a platform where people have to resort to that to get people to watch their videos. But here we are.

Robin Tennant Colburn
A friend told me that someone at a local scientific institution told her birds poop on blue cars more than any other because “that is the color of water, and birds tend to drop their and their offspring’s poop over water.” I started searching the internet for corroboration but I keep seeing the number one “pooped upon” car color is red. Is there a truth out there? Or is it really maybe just random?

RobIn always brings the weirdest questions. And I love it, because weird is fun. But I also kinda hate it, because they’re really hard to answer.

So Robin, love ya… But hate ya.

So I found this article from a site called the Charm City Circulator, which I can only assume is out of Baltimore, but it’s all about car repair and maintenance, but anyway, according to this article, a study was actually done on this in the UK by an auto parts company called Halfords.

They looked at over 1100 cars in five cities and found that red cars got it the worst at 18%, blue cars at 14%, black cars at 11%, white at 7%, gray or silver got 3% and green only 1%.

Now, they don’t provide a link to this study, so I don’t know exactly what their methodology was, like did they count individual droppings or was it just by car? Like did a car with 5 turds count the same as a car with 1 turd?

Actually the percentages only add up to 54 so I’m guessing they looked at 1100 cars, and of the cars that had turds on them, these were the colors.

But there’s still a lot I can’t know like what locations did they pick because different socioeconomic areas are going to favor different types of car, some of which are more popular in certain colors…

I feel like I’d want to see an experiment where they take 5 different colored cars and park them under a balcony, or around a tree and see if one consistently gets more than the others.

Like this is one of those studies that could be done in a million different ways and could lead to a million different conclusions.

In fact, the British Trust for Ornithology pushed back against the study saying, “We do know that birds can be attracted to certain colors during display but droppings on cars is probably more to do with where you park; if you park where birds roost, then you are going to get more droppings on your vehicle.”

So there you go guys, scientists have proven that if you park where birds poop, you’re more likely to get pooped on. (The More You Know jingle)

The article goes on to say that birds might poop on red cars because they think it’s food, because it’s the color of blood, so they’re drawn to red cars and therefore poop on them more.

Another theory is that red is a mating color, so birds might seek out that color to use to attract mates. And one theory even suggested that clean cars get pooped on more often because the bird sees their reflection and it scares them enough to poop.

“Females would poop because they thought they saw a male they could mate with. But they’d defecate out of frustration when they realized they couldn’t mate since what they thought was an actual bird was only their reflection.”

I mean who hasn’t been so frustrated with the dating scene that they physically shit themselves?

I don’t know, I think this might be one of those things like the claim that red cars get more speeding tickets, therefore if you drive a red car, you’re more likely to get pulled over?

And people look for all these reasons why that happens, everything from profiling to the color red messes with the cops’ radar guns…

When what it really comes down to is red is a popular color for sports cars. And people who drive sports cars tend to drive faster… Because that’s what they’re made for. Hence, more speeding tickets.

I imagine this is something like that, maybe red cars are more popular in places that have more pigeons, or I don’t know, park under trees more or something like that.

Assuming that this was even a real legit study, it was done by a company that sells car wash accessories. So take from that what you will.
And I saw a butt-ton of articles that referenced this study from back in 2012, it looks like it was first reported in the Daily Mail and even they don’t have a source linked so I can’t find the actual study to save my life. If any of you can find it, feel free to share in the comments.

So yeah, there’s a chance this whole study could turn out to just be one of those internet things where someone says a thing and then it gets passed around and eventually becomes common knowledge.

If Zoe chews shoes, whose shoes does she choose?

She wasn’t picky. Thankfully she doesn’t really do that anymore.

John Regel
How many Lowe’s could Rob Lowe rob if Rob Lowe could rob Lowe’s?

Okay, what happened on Patreon this month?


Cole Parker
What’s the update on Dear moon and would you think about applying to go yourself and do a few Answers with Joe in orbit around the moon!

Well they closed down submissions a while back and I did think about applying – and chose not to.

There really hasn’t been a lot announced, especially this year, but if you haven’t been following it since the first announcement, here’s some of the broad strokes…
It was first announced in 2018, it was the brainchild of Yusaku Maezawa and the original idea was he was going to invite 8-12 artists and entrepreneurs to fly around the moon on the SpaceX Starship so that they can share that experience with the world.

Actually, it was originally going to be on a Crew Dragon in 2018, but it would have required going up on the Falcon Heavy, and it hadn’t been crew rated yet. Eventually SpaceX decided not to crew rate the Falcon Heavy and focus on Starship.

So he upgraded the plan for Starship and set it for 2023.

In March of last year, Maezawa announced that he was going to open up 8 seats to the general public and encouraged people to apply with videos detailing why they wanted to go. Apparently they got over a million entries from all over the world.

They did close down applications later on last year and haven’t really made any announcements other than to say that they have narrowed down the finalists and are doing medical checks and testing qualifications and stuff.

And it hasn’t been publicly announced, but there are rumors that the crew has been picked… But I don’t know who those people are.

The only name that’s been floated around is filmmaker Damien Chazelle, he shot the movie First Man with Ryan Gosling and apparently in an interview Maezawa invited him to join if he wanted.

To my knowledge he hasn’t accepted. But they’re being super secretive around it so who knows.

Asking if I would ever want to do something like that… I mean… I’m probably not American Hero material but no, I’m not gonna be first in line to do something like that.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely a dream of mine to go to space someday and I hope space tourism becomes so commonplace that it becomes like taking a cruise or something, I would totally be up for something like that, but no… I’m not gonna be one of the pioneers.

I’ll just talk about it on my channel.

As for timelines and how realistic they are, it’s still being planned for 2023 from what I can tell but since SpaceX still hasn’t gotten it to space yet… Consider me super doubtful.

Now something I keep saying ad nauseum is that I think it’s going to be a while before they’ll be flying people on a Starship that involves propulsive landing, especially if the landing involves catching it in the chopsticks.

It’s just such a brand new thing that’s never been tried before (riff)

I know this is a private flight so it’s outside of NASA’s authority but I don’t know if they still have to be approved by the FAA… I’ll confess to ignorance on that.

So I think it’s more likely to get pushed to 2024 at least but if it does, that brings up a really interesting debate… Who’s gonna get there first? Dear Moon or Artemis II?

Because Artemis II is scheduled to go up in 2024, and it’s going to have almost the exact same flight plan.

Just sit with that for a second… if SpaceX sends a dozen artists and poets and dancers around the moon in a fully reusable ship BEFORE NASA can send 4 highly trained astronauts in a single-use ship that costs $2.2 billion… (shrug) I mean, I don’t think we’ll ever see SLS again.

BUT… And this is a big butt (sir mix-a-lot flash) that’s only if SpaceX can develop the Starship fast enough. Because as of the day this video goes out… assuming everything goes to plan… NASA will be ahead. Their vehicle will have gotten into space.

Of course, SpaceX could be right behind them, they might be doing their first orbital test in a month or two, so… Yeah. 2024 could be really interesting.

I’m curious to hear who you’d bet on in the comments but yeah… I guess we’ll have to wait and see.



The Full Plan For Artemis Part 1: The Robotic Missions

Artemis is NASA’s plan to return to the moon, and this time to stay. That’s something you probably already know. But there’s a lot more to it than picking a lander. This video is the first of 3 videos to explore the full plan for Artemis, starting with the uncrewed and robotic missions that will set the stage for a sustainable, long-term base on the south pole of the moon.


In 1609, the first image of the moon was drawn based on observations through a telescope. It showed the major craters and mare, with the termination line passing through them. That man, of course… was not Galileo.

It was actually a British guy named Thomas Harriot. He beat Galileo by 6 months.
Fast forward though 353 years of dreaming about going to the moon and all it took was one cold war, $24 billion dollars and hoocha hoocha hoocha – moonwalk.

650 million enraptured people watched in awe as human beings walked on the moon for the first time, and only 3 and a half years later the public was so disinterested, the entire program was cancelled.

But let’s talk some more about how TikTok is ruining our attention spans.

I mean, it is… But also people are just kinda shite.

In fairness, we were also dealing with proxy wars, runaway inflation and over-the-top gas prices at the time. Can’t imagine what that would be like.

So we didn’t stay. But that’s all right, we got what we came for, we took the W and went home. Besides, we didn’t even know if we could stay, not without any water on the moon.

And we really didn’t know how to reclaim water, grow food, or a million other little things one would need for long-term space travel.

So NASA focused on that, first with Skylab, then the Shuttle, and the ISS. And our moon ambitions kinda waned.

Get it? Like a waning moon?

But on July 31st, 1999, almost exactly 30 years after Apollo 11, something interesting happened.

NASA’s Lunar Orbiter called Prospector reached the end of its mission, and the plan was to go out with a literal bang.

They wanted to crash it in to the lunar surface, both to prevent a buildup of space debris but also, they were hoping the crash would create a plume that could be analyzed to determine what was under the surface.

That plume turned out to be smaller than they were hoping, but they did detect hydrogen. Which got NASA thinking…

And they decided to go bigger.

NASA had a companion mission for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission and that was LCROSS (The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite ).

They decided to do the same thing with LCROSS only this time they would crash the entire upper stage Centaur rocket into the surface and fly LCROSS through the plume.

And this time it worked. LCROSS’ spectrometers picked up water ice.

Just like that, the idea of returning to the Moon got a lot more interesting. Water ice meant lunar colonies, it meant fuel could be made from the water. And by this time we’d learned a lot more about long-term space habitation.

It was time to go back.
Okay so we found some water, but the question is how much?

Well, the estimates start at 108,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools to 240,000 Olympic swimming pools.
How big is an Olympic sized swimming pool? It’s this big.

And how much is 108,000? It’s a lot. Like… It’s a lot.

Fine, if you need something easier to visualize, it’s about the same as Lake Winnibigoshish in Minnesota.
And we could find more, missions like the LRO and LROC are still actively mapping the moon in greater and greater detail.
Of course it’s not just water, we’ve also found helium-3, which would be huge if we ever crack fusion as well as iron and thorium… I’ve done a whole video on moon mining, you can go check it out.

We are, of course, not the only country interested in getting a monopoly on those sweet sweet moon resources. Several private companies are investing in it but also China.

So if the only reason Apollo happened was because we were in a competition with another superpower, well… As OK Go once said…

All of which brings us to Artemis, which is super close to popping off, maybe in the next few months.

Actually as I record this, SLS is on the launch pad so it may have happened by the time this comes out.

So I decided to really do a deep dive into the Artemis program with a 3-part series. This is the first in the series, which will focus on uncrewed and robotic missions, Part 2 will focus on the scheduled crew missions, and Part 3 will explore the future of the program and where we go from there.

So strap yourselves in because it’s about to get lunar up in here.

he first thing we need to do before we put boots on the regolith is to find that sweet, sweet moon juice. I should just call it water, this is ridiculous.


So the first planned robotic mission is called Prime-1. No relation to Amazon.

Prime-1 is going to probe the lunar surface with its drill and will be able to accomplish depths of three feet!

Considering that Bruce Willis isn’t helping that is an impressive feat.

For perspective, the Mars rovers are some of the most advanced robots ever created and they can only drill a couple of inches.

Prime’s drill will hunt primarily for water ice, for all the reasons we’ve already talked about.

By the way, four astronauts on the moon require 12 gallons of water. Not to mention propellant use and growing food. So it’s important.

Prime-1 should be landing in December of this year. 2022.


Following Prime-1 is VIPER, which stands for Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover.

Just so you know, there’s going to be some major acronym game in this video.

VIPER will also be seeking water ice, but this one will be exploring sunless craters.

Just in case you don’t know what that means, there are craters around the poles where the angle the sunlight hits it means that there are spots at the bottom of the crater where the sunlight never hits, and it’s thought that there could be water ice down there. Like, a lot of it.

Think about what a cool job that is. Someone’s going to be piloting a remote control robot through a crater that hasn’t seen sunlight for billions of years.

And because it’s going to be shielded from the sun, it can’t power itself with solar panels, so it will only have 100 days of power.

VIPER will have a top speed of 0.45 mph, so not a speed demon, but that’s not what we’re there for. Ultimately VIPER will cover 12 miles and in that time hopefully find some great spots for astronauts to explore.

Another interesting fact, working in the shadows means VIPER will be the first rover sporting headlights.

VIPER should be landing in November of 2023 via Astrobiotics Griffin Lander carried by SpaceX Falcon Heavy.


But perhaps the biggest uncrewed mission won’t even land on the moon, it’s going into lunar orbit. A very weird lunar orbit.

What I’m talking about is the Lunar Operation Platform-Gateway, which sometimes goes by LOP-G, though these days it usually just goes by Gateway.

This is a space station, fifth space station ever built and the first space station in orbit around the moon.

Think of it as part space station, part laboratory, part fuel depot, part spacecraft launcher… It’s basically a swiss army knife in the sky, but for science.

So while I call it an uncrewed mission, I’m talking about the launch to the moon, later on it will definitely house a crew that will remain in orbit. And there will be a few launches because much like the ISS, Gateway will be put together in segments.

The first two modules to go up will be the power & propulsion element and the habitation and logistics outpost or the PPE & HALO.

Right now both modules are scheduled to launch on a Falcon Heavy in November 2024 and reach lunar orbit in 9-10 months.
And this orbit is wild.
It’s called a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit, or NRHO, and it’s a wildly elliptical polar orbit that swings as close as 3,000km from the surface all the way out to 70,000 miles. It’s an orbit that takes an entire week to complete.

This ensures that the station never goes behind the moon and lose radio contact with Earth but it’s also more efficient because it takes advantage of lagrange points.

In 2025 the first crew should arrive on Artemis III and new modules will be added – the Orion command module that got the crew there, and the European Service Module, made by ESA.

Following that is the I-HAB module and the ESPIRIT module. The I-HAB will extend the LOP-G’s communication capabilities and will feature a science airlock which can be used to release things like cube sats.

The ESPIRIT module will do many things. It will provide refueling, additional comms equipment, more habitation space, and an airlock.

In 2027 the Gateway will receive the CanadaArm3 made in, obviously… Croatia.

I hate that I have to do this… It’s actually Canada. That was a joke.

JAXA will also assist by providing habitation components and logistics resupply.

Russia was supposed to be helping down the line but uh… Let’s just say that’s iffy now.

Altogether the Gateway will provide 125 cubic meters of space or 4,400 cubic feet.

The idea of the Gateway is to serve as a way station, a hub of sorts between the lunar system and the Earth system, and it’s a pretty old idea.

I did a video a while back on the original plans that NASA had to follow the Apollo missions, and it did involve multiple stations in low and high Earth orbit and in lunar orbit. And it does kinda make sense.

But it’s not without its detractors. An ex-NASA director George Abby said, “…we should go directly there (moon) not build a space station around it.”

For many, it’s just an unnecessary extra step that only adds to the cost and complicates things as opposed to a moon direct approach.

And just as I was about to record this, an article was posted on Ars Technica that really throws a lot of cold water on the Gateway.

It talks about a recent NASA report that shows some delays on the Gateway, which is to be expected, but it reports that quote, “NASA’s revised schedules, will require most or all of the capability of the SLS rocket during that time frame, and they could preclude the agency from developing a greater focus on lunar surface activities.”

In other words, the Gateway is kinda taking up all the oxygen in the Artemis mission and could eventually be deemed unsustainable and scrapped.

But for now anyway it is still part of the plan. A very big part of the plan.

When Astronauts do finally return to the Moon it will be anything but a barren wasteland. They will have supplies sent before their landing so they can be fully equipped from the start.

NASA will make it rain supplies by partnering with private companies through their CLPS program, which stands for Commercial Lunar Payload Services.

They’re basically just creating a platform for commercial partners to fulfill orders for the cargo they need. They call this PRISM, the Payloads and Research Investigations on the Surface of the Moon.

Seriously with the acronyms in this program. It almost makes the whole thing worth it.

So basically NASA puts a call out for whatever type of cargo they need for the crew on PRISM, and their commercial partners can vie for the job and line up with a launch provider. It’s kinda like Match.com but for aeronautics!

If you don’t want a metaphor then according to NASA, PRISM is a solicitation for new PI-led investigations through individual suits of instruments that are either destination agnostic or uniquely adopted for certain lunar geologic terrains. Featuring a catalog of instrument and technology demonstrations that are available from the science community.

Or…match.com for space projects.

The PRISM program is expected to fulfill contracts till 2028 and will help supply astronauts after they land and before they arrive.

Some notable supply drops that are coming go as follows:

  • A solar cell demonstration platform that will enable long-term solar solutions for the Moon Missions to come. This will be in the first batch.
  • Stereo cameras to better study how engine plumes affect lunar dust, which is a major concern, so very important.
  • Ranger, an autonomous rover the size of a briefcase that will travel the moon and create a highly detailed 3D map.
  • Then there’s PlanetVac, from Honeybee Robotics, this will land and then take a sample which will then take off into space to be collected.
  • Coming a little bit later will be the LUNAR VERTEX, which will investigate the mysterious lunar swirl at Reiner Gamma which has been drawing speculation since the Renaissance.
  • And last but not least is the Farside Seismic Suite, which will place two seismometers on the far side of the moon.

Is is not, as the name suggests, going to drop off cartoons featuring overweight cows.

Other payloads to the Moon will be various supply drops for the crew once they get there, like any faraway operation, its success hinges on the ability to keep them supplied with necessities, and the PRISM program will facilitate that.

The Van Allen Belts Are Dangerous – But Didn’t Keep Us From The Moon | Answers With Joe

The Van Allen Belts are areas of high radiation where solar particles have been trapped and accelerated by the Earth’s magnetic field. This has long been touted as evidence by conspiracy theorists that we couldn’t have gotten to the moon. But while the Van Allen Belts are dangerous, the tenacity and genius of NASA engineers literally found a way around them. Here’s how.


I’m old enough to remember a time before the internet. In fact, that’s when I spent the most impressionable years of my life, I was molded before the internet as we know it changed the world as we know it.
So sometimes I find myself fascinated with Gen Z because these guys did grow up with the internet and were molded in a completely different world from me, with any information or entertainment they could ever want instantly available at all times.
And I worry about all the misinformation on the internet and what that does to someone who develops their worldview in a hurricane of clickbait and deepfakes and conspiracy theories.
Like you hope that someone who grows up in it might be more saavy to it because they’ve never known a time when you could just take information at face value, so they’re more aware of the manipulation and aren’t as taken by it.
Or… could growing up in a time of information chaos lead to a total abandonment of the very concept of truth? Where the loudest voices win?
You want it to be the first one… Until you hear that there’s a growing conspiracy theory amongst Gen Zers that birds aren’t real. And then you start to think it’s the second one.
Only you would be wrong, it’s actually totally the first one.
Birds Aren’t Real is a satirical movement that claims that birds aren’t really animals but sophisticated drones that the government uses to spy on you.
They’ve been showing up at protests around the country, putting up billboards in major cities, and driving vans covered in conspiracy lingo.
But Birds Aren’t Real… Isn’t real.
It’s a parody, meant to highlight the absurdity of the conspiracy theories that seem to be taking over the country.
Like any good satire, it walks the line to where you might not know if it’s real or not unless you’re in on the joke. For the people who are in on the joke, it serves as a kind of release. A way to thumb their nose at something that they see as dangerously destabilizing to the world they’re inheriting.
And it kind-of backs up the old adage that you can’t reason with crazy, you can only out-crazy them.
Oh, so you think JFK Jr is going to return from the dead and he’s going to do it at the place where his dad was murdered? Okay, well I don’t think birds are real. Top that.
Like people always say if you encounter someone who thinks the moon landings were faked, you should just say, “oh, you believe in the moon?”
Except there actually are people who think the moon is actually an alien spaceship so… yeah…

Birds Aren’t Real

A (Hoax) Theory Is Born

On July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 lander touched down on the lunar surface. It was watched live by 652 million people around the world, which was 1/5th of the entire world’s population at the time.
And yet, here we are some 50 years later and 11% of the US population either strongly believe or somewhat believe that the moon landing was faked. That’s nearly 40 million people.
But here’s the thing… That’s nothing new.
In fact, a poll by Knight Newspapers just a year after the Apollo 11 landing showed that millions of Americans already doubted that it ever happened.
The major reasons given were that the US made it up to fool the communists or to justify the expense of the space program.
This was written about by self-published author Bill Kaysing in his book, We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle in 1976.
 Yeah… this was the first book that really caught fire in the moon landing denier world, but some of what he talks about in it… I guess are understandable considering the time.
This was the early 70s, the height of the Cold War, and Vietnam and Watergate had just shattered most Americans’ trust in their government.
So the idea that the moon landings were the shiny object they were using to distract people from “what’s really going on” is not hard to understand.

Climate of Doubt

For some people, it was easier to believe they’d been lied to than that the Eagle had landed.
And of course once you believe in a conspiracy theory, you see evidence of that conspiracy theory everywhere you look, and one thing that many moon landing deniers locked onto was the Van Allen Belts.
Earth’s magnetic field creates powerful rings of radiation that circle the planet known as the Van Allen Belts… Wait a second… If the Earth is surrounded by intense radiation, then there’s no way they went to the moon. Busted!
This has become one of the biggest pieces of “evidence” that moon landing deniers reference, and I’ve seen it brought up in my comments for years, even though it has been disproven a thousand different ways, it keeps coming back up. It seems to be one of the stickier elements of this particular conspiracy theory.
And I think that’s because there is an element of truth to it. The Van Allen belts do exist. And they are dangerous.
But pretty much everything about the Apollo missions were dangerous. And they were only overcome by the grit and determination and sheer genius of the NASA engineers and astronauts. They literally problem-solved their way to the moon.
And I think that’s why this conspiracy theory is so aggravating, it’s just totally urinating over the herculean efforts of hundreds of thousands of people to do this one amazing and inspiring thing. And it’s so cynical, we have this one great thing that we did, why do you have to…
Sorry… That was… Off topic, we’re talking about the Van Allen belts.

James Van Allen

The belts are named after astrophysicist James Van Allen, who was a cosmic ray expert from the University of Iowa.
In the late 50s, he worked with graduate students to develop the Cosmic Ray Instrument, which included a Geiger counter that could register protons and electrons above a minimum energy.
Rocketry was in its earliest years and they hoped to be able to launch this into space to gauge what the radiation looked like above our atmosphere.
This proved to be a challenge. But not so much a technological one but a political one.

Army v. Air Force

This was in the days before NASA, when rockets were strictly a military thing, and the various branches of the military were competing to be the first to put a rocket into space.
The main competitors were the Army and Air Force. And each had a secret weapon in their corner.
The Air Force had the U. S. secretary of defense on their side; he wanted them to control rocket design.
And the Army had NAZIS… (long pause) Guess who won?
Specifically Werner von Braun who yes, was a Nazi, but he was also a genius.
So the Army was actually making some great strides but because the DOD was kinda on the Air Force’s side, advancement was stymied by infighting and red tape.

Enter Sputnik

But on October 4, 1957… things changed.
The first Soviet satellite, Sputnik I, was put into orbit and the second those beeps started sounding over American heads, well that clarified some things.
The Defense department fell in line behind von Braun and gave him all the resources he needed to launch a satellite.
And to distance the project from military goals — in the public eye at least — the decision was made launch a civilian satellite, something that didn’t have a military objective.
And von Braun was given a deadline of 90 days to get this thing up into space so he didn’t care what it was as long as it was ready to go.
And one satellite that was ready to go was Van Allen’s Cosmic Ray Instrument, so it got picked and was renamed Explorer 1.
Quick side note, Van Allen himself was in Antarctica when he heard the news so he contacted one of his grad students named George Ludwig to deliver the satellite. Which he did… in the back of his car.
He literally loaded up his pregnant wife and two young daughters and drove 1600 miles to Cape Canaveral with Explorer 1 – the first American satellite to ever reach space – in his trunk.
But I guess it paid off because he later became a chief research scientist at NASA. Good show, old chap.
So anyway, Explorer 1 launched on January 31, 1958, the United States was officially in space, and there was much rejoicing. (yaay…)
But while Americans were high fiveing each other over this accomplishment, Van Allen and his team went about interpreting the data that was coming back. (grand gesture) and THIS was…  not when the Van Allen belts were discovered.
Actually they were really disappointed with the data because half of it was missing.

Space is Radioactive

Where readings should have been, there were long gaps where the detector didn’t pick up any particles. And they couldn’t quite figure out why.
So for Explorer Two, they added a magnetic recorder to keep a log of the detector’s measurements. Previously, they were just reading it live.
And THIS was… (down energy) not when they Van Allen Belts were discovered because Explorer 2 blew up (didn’t make it to orbit), but Explorer 3! Haha! Explorer 3 in March 1958, that one got up there and everything worked perfectly.
Same as the first time, there were giant gaps where the detector didn’t pick up anything, but this time they were able to pin those gaps down to specific locations in orbit.
At the same time they ran some tests on one of the Cosmic Ray Instruments and discovered that the effect could be simulated by bathing it in X-rays.
And THIS is… where he figured out that there were belts of intense radiation around the Earth, that’s how we got the Van Allen Belts.

Starfish Prime

So, what to do with this information? (thinking) Radiation belts… So many ideas… (idea) Let’s nuke it.
(sigh) Yeah, the US nuked the Van Allen belts in 1962.
It was actually part of a series of 5 atmospheric nuclear tests because that was a thing we just used to do.
But one particular test was called Starship Prime, and it was aimed at the Van Allen Belts.
They were testing to see if they could use the belts to create a radioactive shield that could protect targets on the ground from missile attack. It didn’t work. But the EMP from it did manage to disable 1/3 of all satellites that were in orbit at the time.

The Inner and Outer Belts

The inner belt extends from about 600 kilometers to nearly 10,000 kilometers above Earth’s surface, and it’s mostly made of protons.
Some have been stripped from the solar wind by the Earth’s magnetic field, while others are supplied by the upper atmosphere
The outer belt stretches from about 13,500 km to nearly 60,000 km, but this is highly variable, it kinda depends on how you measure it.
The outer belt especially can swell at times as low-energy electrons and other particles rush in, but that diminishes gradually, sometimes in a few minutes, sometimes it takes days.
And there are still a lot of questions around how exactly the belts work, but we do know the basics.
Earth’s magnetic field captures the particles and funnels them around the planet, kinda the same way particle accelerators and fusion reactors contain particles in a magnetic field.

And Other Surprises

But recent measurements by NASA’s Van Allen Probes has shown the belts are more dynamic than we thought.
In one observation period, a solar storm caused a surge of electrons in the outer belt
Five days after the energy dissipated, there was another major surge... but there wasn’t a storm this time. They don’t know what caused it.
The Van Allen probes also revealed the existence of a third belt. Briefly.
This one popped up in what they call the “slot region” between the inner and outer belts in 2012.
It existed for 4 weeks and then a shock wave from the Sun wiped it out. It’s never been seen again.
So yeah, the belts are super dynamic, they grow and change according to solar activity and other things we still don’t understand. And they are powerful. Any conspiracy theorist that says these are dangerous is absolutely right. But are they deadly?

How Deadly Are They?

Studies have shown that inside the typical shielding of a satellite, an astronaut could absorb as much radiation in an hour in the belts as most people absorb in eighteen months on Earth.
Scary… sure, but notice I said “survivors.” A fatal dose of radiation is far higher than that.
So talking about radiation measurements gets tricky because there are many different units scientists use but I’m going to try to stick to the Sievert, because that measures damage done to living tissue.
Symptoms of radiation poisoning appear at 400 millisieverts.
A dose above 2000 millisieverts can be fatal.
But even double that dosage is survivable, with treatment. I don’t recommend you try this.
With that in mind, an astronaut in our hypothetical spacecraft would absorb 6 millisieverts of radiation per hour. So not too bad.

Damage Over Time

But there is a catch — small amounts of radiation damage can accumulate over time.
According to the FDA, doses of 5 to 20 millisieverts of ionizing radiation may increase the risk of fatal cancer.
A typical CT scan can deliver a dose in that range, which is why doctors don’t give them to everybody.

Must Go Faster

So, obviously, you wouldn’t want to hang out in the Van Allen Belts any longer than you have to. Thankfully, rockets go really fast.
When we talk about how NASA minimized the risk to the astronauts, the first thing they did was to limit the time astronauts spent there.
When the Apollo astronauts entered the inner belt, they were traveling just over 38,000 kilometers per hour.
That means the trip through both belts was under two-and-a-half-hours long. Not great, not terrible.

Apollo’s Trajectory

But that’s not all they did to minimize exposure.
Long before Apollo 11, Van Allen and his team had mapped the radiation in the belts, and there are certain regions of the belts that are stronger than others. So they didn’t go through there.
Yes, they developed a complicated maneuver called (look at paper), Going Around It.

Average Mission Dosage

The next precaution they took has to do with the command module capsule.
So remember earlier when I mentioned how much radiation an astronaut would receive in a typically – shielded satellite? Well they weren’t in a typically-shielded satellite.
One of the mandatories of the Apollo command module was that they be engineered to survive the largest solar flare then on record.
So, special materials and coatings in the hull, water shielding, and even their suits provided a bit of shielding.

Solar Event Monitoring

And one last thing NASA did was they monitored the sun for solar events.
Like I said before, the size and strength of the belts fluctuate quite a bit. Usually due to solar activity.
So NASA created the Solar Particle Alert Network, or SPAN, which carefully monitored solar activity leading up to the missions.
They advise NASA on periods of high solar activity, so astronauts can be ordered to shelter in the shielded areas of spacecraft, which thankfully never happened on any of the missions.
Although there was a close call between Apollo 16 and 17 (August 1972) where radiation went as high as 4000 millisieverts.
But even if there had been some astronauts caught in that, the shielding would have reduced that dosage to 350 millisieverts, which according to a NASA news article, “That’s the difference between needing a bone marrow transplant, or having a headache.”
The crew of the Apollo missions carried personal dosimeters that measured radiation exposure from launch to landing.
And because of the efforts I just listed, the average dose ranged from a low of 0.18 rad on Apollo 11 to a high of 1.14 rad on Apollo 14.
As I mentioned before there are lots of different radiation measurements and rads don’t convert directly to Sieverts, but for reference, 70 rad is considered dangerous, while 120 rad can be fatal.
So, long story short, the Van Allen Belts are not as deadly as conspiracy theorists seem to think. NASA was well aware of their danger long before Apollo 11 took flight, and they took the proper precautions.
Of course if you’re dedicated to the conspiracy, none of this matters, these are all just lies to cover up the fraud and anybody and everybody who can validate these facts are in on the conspiracy. Including me.

Small Price to Pay

When it comes down to it, the Van Allen Belts are just one of MANY concerns to deal with regarding space travel, like orbital debris or thermal management.
They definitely put a limit on the altitude of crewed missions, but it’s not a danger to anything like the ISS, they orbit thousands of kilometers below the belts.
In fact, those dosimeters on the Apollo astronauts showed that they probably received twice as much radiation on the moon as a typical astronaut does in low Earth orbit.
So you might say the Van Allen Belts are a small price to pay for the protection of Earth’s magnetic field.

No Fatal Radiation

Moon hoaxers would of course move on to all the other “evidence” that has all been thoroughly debunked, I’m not going to spend time on any of those. And I’m sure that as we go back to the moon with the Artemis program, these theories are going to crop up all over again.
But I for one choose to celebrate the moon landing, and instead of focusing on all the things that might disprove it, focus on the amazing people who contributed to this program and tell their stories.
Like George Ludwig driving 1600 miles with Explorer 1 in his trunk, these people embodied the best of what it means to be human, doing whatever it takes to advance and explore and push past boundaries. Even massive particle accelerators in space.

Why Moon Mining Will DEFINITELY Be A Thing

With Artemis 1 stacking right now and the first launch planned by the end of the year, the moon is getting more attention than we have seen since the 1960s. The plan this time is to stay in a permanent moon colony, supported by mining operations on the lunar surface. But what could we mine there? And why will it be necessary for our future moon ambitions as well as interplanetary travel?

There’s gold in them there craters. Let’s take a look.

5 Reasons Why You Wouldn’t Exist Without The Moon

We really take the moon for granted. But without it, we may not even exist. Here’s 5 reasons why.

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