Orion is NASA’s next-generation spacecraft, “built to take astronauts deeper into space than we’ve ever gone before”. The video was made to highlight the complexity of the design challenges, particularly the amount of protection needed to safeguard fragile equipment and astronauts as the craft hurtles through the Van Allen radiation belt. “Radiation like this could harm the guidance systems, on-board computers or other electronics on Orion,” says the personable narrator. “Shielding will be put to the test as the vehicle cuts through the waves of radiation… We must solve these challenges before we send people through this region of space.”
Aha! Cue moon landing conspiracy theorists. “If the moon missions were real”, says one then it seems the whole ‘punching through the Van Allen belt’ problem should have been solved over 40 years ago.”
Sadly, the problem wasn’t solved then. The Apollo astronauts were pushed through the belt on their way to the moon and back, on the basis that their exposure was brief and the amount of radiation they received was below the dose allowed by US law for workers in nuclear power stations.
Sigh. The “slaughter of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact”, as TH Huxley used to say.