Review of Jarrah White's "Radioactive Anomaly III"

Robert A. Braeunig

Jarrah White (b. 1980) is an Australian conspiracy theorist known mostly for his long-running series of YouTube videos claiming that the Apollo Moon landings were hoaxed. While researching my web page article, Apollo and the Van Allen belts, I came across his video titled "Radioactive Anomaly III". While I typically avoid watching Mr. White's videos, this one I watched only in the name of research. In "Radioactive Anomaly III" Mr. White attempts to compute the radiation dose that an astronaut would receive from the Van Allen radiation belts. Along the way he makes numerous errors that result in widely inaccurate results. Thanks to my own work on this topic, I've been able to identify where Mr. White has gone so horribly wrong. What follows is my review of "Radioactive Anomaly III". All of my comments are time stamped to identify where in the video the specific item I'm discussing can be found.


Let's start with the title. Unless Mr. White is trying to be cute by suggesting something like, "this anomaly is so hot it's radioactive", he's using the wrong word. His alleged anomaly has to do with "radiation" and not "radioactivity".


White references an article written by Dr. James A. Van Allen that appeared in Scientific American, March 1959. White highlights two passages from this article:

"Instruments borne aloft by artificial satellites and lunar probes indicate that our planet is encircled by two zones of high-energy particles, against which space travelers will have to be shielded."

"The discovery is of course troubling to astronauts; somehow the human body will have to be shielded from this radiation, even on a rapid transit though the region."

Here we see that Dr. Van Allen simply states that the human body must be shielded to achieve safe passage through the radiation belts. Nothing is revealed by these statements that isn't already acknowledged by both sides of the debate, i.e. the need for shielding. Dr. Van Allen says nothing to suggest that it is impossible to provide the necessary shielding, nor is it impossible to attain safe passage through the belts if properly shielded. It is important to note that at this early date (1959), neither the problem nor the solution had yet been fully developed. By the time of Apollo, however, the radiation problem was well understood and a spacecraft had been designed and built that was up to the task.


White references a second article by Dr. Van Allen that appeared in Space World, December 1961, from which the following passage is highlighted:

"... a living organism cannot survive this level of radiation damage. Hence, all manned space flight attempts must steer clear of these two belts of radiation until adequate means of safeguarding the astronauts has been developed."

The full context of this quote can be found in the part that White doesn't highlight (with emphasis by me):

"The successful operation of the solar batteries and the transmitter of Vanguard I (Satellite 1958 Beta) for over two years (as of the present date of writing) and the successful operation of similar equipment in Sputnik III (Satellite 1958 Delta) over a similar period provide the most direct evidence for the survival of electronic equipment in space vehicles. The integrated radiation exposures in these two cases are still much below the level at which serious deterioration may be expected.

"But, though mechanical and electronic equipment can operate within the high radiation areas, a living organism cannot survive this level of radiation damage. Hence, all manned space flight attempts must steer clear of these two belts of radiation until adequate means of safeguarding the astronauts has been developed."

Here we see that the "level of radiation damage" to which Van Allen refers is the integrated radiation exposures from two cases that were each over two years in duration. This statement is clearly not applicable to the Apollo scenario, where the region was traversed in hours rather than years. As before, Dr. Van Allen reveals nothing in this quote that precludes the possibility of safely transiting the radiation belts using high-speed trajectories. And even if he were referring to very short durations, he still doesn't say it is impossible, only that means of safeguarding the astronauts must be developed. Also note that this is 1961, leaving many years to develop those means before the first Apollo flight through the Van Allen belts in 1968.


White states that, "Subsequent to the Apollo missions, Van Allen reportedly recanted on his stance about deadly radiation." Dr. Van Allen recanted nothing and his statements on the subject were consistent throughout the years. Dr. Van Allen's writings, both before and after Apollo, clearly indicate that the radiation belts are deadly only if an astronaut is inadequately shielded. And nowhere does he suggest that such shielding is impossible to provide, nor that rapid transits through the belts are impossible to achieve. Dr. Van Allen never made the statements he has been accused of recanting—White and other conspiracists have simply taken his quotes out of context.


White refers to an "alleged" email authored by Dr. Van Allen, in which Van Allen calls the claim that radiation exposure during the Apollo missions would have been fatal to the astronauts an example of nonsense. There is nothing alleged about it. In 2004, two years prior to his death, Dr. Van Allen confirmed in writing to the webmaster of Moon Base Clavius that the quote is authentic and accurate.


Referring to Dr. Van Allen's email, White states that "nowhere in it does he offer reconciliation for his previous statements about the radiation belts being deadly within a short period of time." Dr. Van Allen never made any such statements, unless in reference to an unprotected astronaut. All his early statements indicate that the belts are survivable for short-durations with adequate shielding.


Referring to my web page article, Apollo 11's Translunar Trajectory, White states that I "attempted to explain how the Apollo 11 astronauts avoided the radiation belts." I didn't attempt to explain how, I succeeded in deriving the orbits and showing how they bypassed the most intense regions. If White can find some fault in my trajectory computations he's free dispute them, however he apparently finds me a trustworthy enough source to base his radiation computations on my results.


Referring to a figure from my web page, in which I plot the outbound trajectory of Apollo 11 over an electron flux map, White states that he's surprised I didn't use that figure to calculate the dose rates. The reason the figured was not used is because it lacks the detailed information needed to perform such a computation. That is, the figure gives us no data about how the flux varies with increasing electron energy. This will become more apparent later when we see how White makes widely inappropriate assumptions about electron energy and flux.


White refers to a different figure in which the Apollo trajectory is plotted over a map showing radiation dose rates, where different rates are represented by different colors. He says that the graph "laughably downplays the dose rates into the millirad range." He shouldn't find this so laughable because, when he gets around the computing his own dose rates, even his widely exaggerated numbers are also in the millirad range. The difference is that he computes his doses by the hour and my graph shows them by the second. Divide White's numbers by 3600 and the difference isn't as outrageous as he implies.

In full disclosure it should be noted that subsequent analysis did reveal to me that the dose rates in the referenced figure were too low, by a factor of about 10. (That's what I get for not fully vetting the source.) I have since removed it from my web page and replaced it with a separate article that is a much more in-depth and scientific analysis of the radiation dosages.


Referring back to the electron flux map, White correctly states that the figure gives the flux for electrons with energies greater than 0.5 MeV. He then asks the question, "But just how high is greater than 0.5 MeV?" This is a very important question that has a quantifiable answer. Unfortunately White doesn't refer to the appropriate source—the AE-8 radiation belt model, which is the bible for Van Allen belt electron fluxes. The AE-8 model allows one to look up integral fluxes based on electron energy and location within the belts.

When studying the models it is easy to see that fluxes decrease very rapidly with increasing energy (see Figure 1 below). For electrons >0.5 MeV, there is a vastly larger number of them with energies near 0.5 MeV than with higher energies. In fact, in the outer radiation belt we find that about 75% of electrons with energies >0.5 MeV have energies <1 MeV, and 97% have energies <2 MeV. The model registers no flux for electrons ≥7 MeV at any point along the Apollo 11 trajectory, and in the region highlighted by White, no flux ≥6 MeV. Since AE-8 shows all fluxes <1 as 0, this doesn't mean there are no electrons above 6 MeV, it just means that they exist in insignificantly small numbers.

Figure 1


White references the Wikipedia article on the Van Allen radiation belts, highlighting the part that states, "The outer belts consists mainly of high energy (0.1-10 MeV) electrons trapped by the Earth's magnetosphere." White states he will focus his discussion on electrons with energies between 1 MeV and 10 MeV. Of course had White referenced AE-8 instead of Wikipedia, he may have been able to work out for himself that his selected range represents only about 3% of outer belt electrons ≥0.1 MeV. White would be better served focusing on 0.1 MeV to 3 MeV electrons, which represents about 99.95% of all outer belt electrons along Apollo 11's trajectory. For all practical purposes, electrons ≥6 MeV do not exist.


White states that attenuating electrons with 1 MeV of energy requires a shield rated at 0.545 g/cm2. He further states that a general rule of thumb is the higher the energy level the further the electrons will penetrate, so 10 MeV electrons would require a shield rated at 5.45 g/cm2. This part I agree with in principal, however for my analysis I used equations given by L. Katz and A. S. Penfold that produce slightly lower numbers—0.412 g/cm2 for 1 MeV and 5.194 g/cm2 for 10 MeV. These numbers are close enough to White's that the difference shouldn't be a major point of contention.


White states that even if you had the shielding rating indicated above, you would still require an inner layer of high-Z material to attenuate the bremsstrahlung. What White is describing is, as we will see latter, exactly how the command module hull was constructed.


White states that the 7-8 g/cm2 shielding rating cited by NASA applies only to the heat shield, with the rest of the ship rated at about 3 g/cm2. This is factually incorrect. The 7-8 g/cm2 rating applies to the entire hull. The heat shield alone has a mean areal density of about 2.36 g/cm2, and the spacecraft structure has a mean areal density of about 4.35 g/cm2. The rest of the ship; i.e. internal equipment, instrument displays, propellant tanks, etc.; contributes an additional areal density of about 9 g/cm2.


White now contradicts himself by stating that the 7-8 g/cm2 figure refers to the hull. Seconds early he said it was the heat shield only.


White highlights and reads a passage that describes the construction of the command module. Included in this is a poorly worded description of the heat shield that mentions "stainless steel honeycomb." All of White's subsequent discussion ignores this mention of stainless steel. Other sources describe the structure better, such as "Apollo Spacecraft News Reference", 1969:

"The CM consists of two shells: an inner crew compartment (pressure vessel) and an outer heat shield. The outer shell is stainless steel honeycomb between stainless steel sheets, covered on the outside with ablative material (heat dissipating material which chars and falls away during earth entry).

"The inner shell is aluminum honeycomb between aluminum alloy sheets. A layer of insulation separates the two shells. This construction makes the CM light as possible yet rugged enough to stand the strain of acceleration during launch, the shock and heat of earth entry, the force of splashdown, and the possible impact of meteorites."


White shows an illustration that includes a cross-section view of the hull. As described above, it shows an outer ablative layer, followed by layers of stainless steel honeycomb, insulation, and aluminum honeycomb.


White shows a photo of an actual sample of the CM's heat shield, accompanied by this narration: "The CM walls where a thin aluminium (British spelling) honeycomb bonded together between aluminium sheets." He follows this with a photo in which calipers indicate the face sheet thickness to be 1.90 mm. The narration continues, "These sheets were around 2 mm each, and the honeycomb added another millimeter at most; bringing the total aluminium thickness to 5 mm." These photos are clearly showing the outer shell consisting of stainless steel honeycomb between stainless steel sheets. White incorrectly identifies this metal as aluminum.


White computes the areal density of the outer metal shell, obtaining a value of 1.35 g/cm2. However, because of his earlier misidentification, he incorrectly uses the density of aluminum (2.70 g/cm3) in his computation. Since the metal is, in fact, stainless steel, he should have used a density of 8 g/cm3. Correcting for this error, White's calculation should have resulted in an areal density of 4 g/cm2.


White states that his computation is "a good deal less than the 7-8 g/cm2 he cites, wouldn't you say?" Even allowing for White's error, yes, the calculation is a good deal less than 7-8 g/cm2, but then it should be. The 7-8 g/cm2 rating is for the entire composite hull, not just this one layer.


White now states, "And then, as a last resort, the vandal goes on to claim that the ablative phenolic resin also acted as a radiation shield." Any material placed in the path of the particulate radiation acts as a radiation shield, so is White actually claiming that the heat shield wasn't a radiation shield? The heat shield was, in fact, the first layer of protection, as it provided a thickness of material covering the entire outside surface of the CM. And, as we'll soon find out, it was a very effective radiation shield.


White states that phenolic resin has a density of 1.1 g/cm3, which he uses to compute the areal density of the ablative heat shield. The Apollo heat shield was actually made from a product known commercially as AVCOAT 5026-39-HCG. The resin is very light, having a published density of 32 lb/ft3 (0.51 g/cm3). This resin was injected into the cells of a honeycomb matrix, made of denser fiberglass-phenolic (~1.8 g/cm3). I estimate the density of this composite to be about 0.7 g/cm3, but even that is a bit of a guess.


White computes the areal density of the heat shield at its thickest and thinnest points, 7.59 g/cm2 and 1.98 g/cm2 respectively. These numbers are likely inflated because of the density White uses in his computations. Nonetheless, we can compute the mean areal density from the known mass of the heat shield (848 kg) and the known exterior surface area of the CM (36 m2). This number works out to 2.36 g/cm2.

Now let's see how well the heat shield acts as a radiation shield. Recall that White said an electron will penetrate a density thickness of 0.545 g/cm2-MeV. He now claims the areal density of the heat shield at its thinnest point is 1.98 g/cm2. Therefore, using White's numbers, the energy require to penetrate the heat shield is, 1.98 / 0.545 = 3.6 MeV. Referring back to Figure 1 we can see that about 99.99% of electrons ≥0.1 MeV have energies below 3.6 MeV. Therefore about 99.99% of Van Allen belt electrons will be stopped in the material of the ablative heat shield. That's a pretty effective radiation shield, wouldn't you say?


Using his areal density value of 3.33 g/cm2, White calculates that the hull will attenuate electrons with energies up to 6.1 MeV. We saw earlier that the flux for electrons ≥6 MeV is negligible, thus, accepting White's calculation, we see that effectively no electrons will penetrate the hull. But remember, White miscalculated the mass of the stainless steel, which, when corrected, gives an areal density of 5.98 g/cm2. This areal density will attenuate electrons up to 11 MeV. According to both AE-8 and White's Wikipedia source, there are no electrons having energies this high.

Also note that White's areal density computations included only the outer stainless steel hull, which he mistakenly called aluminum. In addition to this is the inner pressure hull, which is the actual aluminum hull. Adding for the aluminum hull brings the total areal density to about 7 g/cm2, which is in the range cited by NASA.

Since we've now seen that the hull will effectively block all electrons, most of what follows is moot. This doesn't stop White's errors from compounding. Even though it no longer has any direct bearing on Apollo, we'll continue through the remaining video and grade White on his upcoming computations.


White states that even if the entire craft were rated at 8 g/cm2, it would still need an inner layer of high-Z (i.e. high atomic number) material to block out the x-rays (i.e. bremsstrahlung). White fails to recognize that the 7-8 g/cm2 shielding already includes the multiple layers needed to block both the electrons and the bremsstrahlung. As I've already shown, nearly all the electrons will be stopped in the outermost heat shield, thus the bremsstrahlung resulting from these electrons will be generated inside that material. For these x-rays to reach the crew cabin, they must pass through both the stainless steel and aluminum hulls. These hulls, particularly the stainless steel, are very effective x-ray shields. Even the most energetic electrons found in significant numbers (5-6 MeV) will not penetrate beyond the first stainless steel sheet, thus leaving the remaining stainless steel and aluminum to block the x-rays. Also note that there is a significant amount of secondary shielding distributed about the interior of the spacecraft, such as display panels, electrical and environmental equipment, propellant tanks, etc.


It's advisable at this point that we take a timeout. So far White's presentation, despite its errors, has been reasonably coherent. That's about to change. What we see over the next several minutes is increasingly muddled logic and meaningless computations. To fully appreciate the folly of White's computations, we need to put them into an easy to understand context. This can best be done with an analogy.

Let say we have a pile of coins that includes 100 pennies (1¢), 50 nickels (5¢), 20 dimes (10¢), 5 quarters (25¢), and 1 half-dollar (50¢). Each coin represents an electron, where the number of coins is analogous to particle flux and their denomination is analogous to energy. The amount of money is analogous to the energy flux (particle flux × energy), the total of which is

(100 × 0.01) + (50 × 0.05) + (20 × 0.10) + (5 × 0.25) + (1 × 0.50) = $7.25

The only electrons that are of interest to White are those that penetrate the shielding, which he believes are those >6.1 MeV. This is apparently why he focuses his upcoming discussion on 7 and 10 MeV electrons. Let's say these are represented by the quarters and half-dollar in our pile of coins (i.e. coins ≥25¢). The smaller coins represent the electrons that are blocked by the shielding. To compute the dose, he must know the energy flux of >6.1 MeV electrons, that is, the value of the quarters and half-dollar,

(5 × 0.25) + (1 × 0.50) = $1.75

The above is all that should matter to White. The problem it that White has no idea how many quarters and half-dollars there are—all he knows is that there's 176 coins in the pile (i.e. the ≥0.5 MeV electron flux). He doesn't have the data to do what he wants to do, or what he should do. He says he wants to calculate the value of the half-dollars (i.e. 10 MeV electrons), but instead of using the correct quantity of half-dollars (which he doesn't know) he inexplicably uses the number of coins ≥1¢,

176 × 0.50 = $88.00

He then does the same thing for the quarters,

176 × 0.25 = $44.00

He next decides to average these values,

(88.00 + 44.00) / 2 = $66.00

Not content with these bogus numbers, White now claims there are dollars in the pile and computes,

176 × 1.00 = $176.00

These computed values—$44.00, $66.00, $88.00 and $176.00—have nothing whatsoever to do with the number White should have actually computed—$1.75. In fact, White's numbers are completely fabricated nonsense that have nothing to do with anything. Although this is just an analogy, the logic behind White's real computations is exactly as demonstrated above.

Let's now continue with the video to see where these mistakes are made.


White says "let's look at the highest primary dose from 10 MeV electrons alone", which is accompanied by a graphic showing the flux as 106 electrons/cm2-s. This is the flux for electrons with energies >0.5 MeV, not for "10 MeV electrons alone." The actual flux of 10 MeV electrons is ≪1. White obviously doesn't understand the meaning of integral flux. This egregious error leads to the first of his flawed dose rate computations.


Here White begins his computation of the dose from 10 MeV electrons. We already know that his result will be wrong due to the simple principle of garbage in, garbage out. I will instead grade him strictly on his math skill. On that basis he scores well, however he still makes some logic errors.

First, he multiples by the front surface area of an astronaut, 0.85 m2. Since radiation belt fluxes are omnidirectional, he must multiply by the astronaut's total surface area.

Second, White completely ignores the shielding. Before an electron can enter an astronaut, it must pass through the shielding, which means some loss of energy. White's computation assumes 100% of the energy is deposited into the astronaut. This isn't all that bad of an assumption, however. When penetrating material an electron gives up almost all of its energy at the end of its track. If the electron has enough energy to completely pass through the material, little of its energy will be lost before emerging. Ignoring the energy loss gives an upper limit to the absorbed dose, with the actual dose being somewhat less. However, since White doesn't even mention the shielding or its effect on the passing electron, I believe its exclusion is most likely an error of omission rather than a conscious choice.


It is at this point that White gives his dose rate for 10 MeV electrons, 65.28 rad/hr. This is, of course, a nonsense result for the reasons already given.

Interestingly, however, the same computation can provide a meaningful result by making a couple alterations. Since the flux represents all electrons with energies >0.5 MeV, then multiplying the flux by the average energy of these electrons gives the energy flux, from which we get the dose rate. The actual average energy of these electrons is roughly 1 MeV. By making this substitution, and also doubling the surface area, we can re-compute the dose rate to obtain a more reasonable value of about 13 rad/hr. Dividing by 3600 s/hr and we get 0.0036 rad/s. Remember White's mocking of those millirad rates? Of course this is the unshielded dose rate; our astronauts don't have much to worry about.


White now applies the same calculations to "the region with double the flux" (i.e. 2×106 electrons/cm2-s) and obtains a dose rate of 130.56 rad/hr. This is the exact same horrendous mistake, just with different numbers. He again uses the flux for the entire spectrum of energies >0.5 MeV.


White applies the calculations again using the same fluxes, but this time for 7 MeV electrons. As before he obtains fanciful numbers.


White now begins his computation of the absorbed dose. He takes his previously computed dose rates and multiplies them by the time spent in the belts. He does this twice, once for 7 MeV electrons and again for 10 MeV electrons. Although this is mathematically correct, the resulting numbers are meaningless because of the garbage input.


White notes that since Apollo was a two-way trip, he must double his numbers. While it's true that Apollo 11 made two trips through the Van Allen belts, the return trip resulted in a much smaller dose. Apollo 11's inbound trajectory was at a higher geomagnetic inclination, which allowed the spacecraft to pass through less intense regions closer to the outer edge of the belts, and to complete the transit in less time.


White now takes an average of the 7 MeV and 10 MeV doses, but his reason for doing so is not clear. He earlier stated that he was computing the "primary dose from 10 MeV electrons alone." If he thought he was computing the dose from just the 10 MeV electrons, and later from the 7 MeV electrons, it would follow that he would want to add these results, not average them. Although it's difficult to decipher his logic, it now appears White believes he has calculated two hypothetical integral doses, one based on 10 MeV mono-energetic electrons, and one based on 7 MeV mono-energetic electrons. Since the real dose, he believes, is somewhere in between, he averages them. This logic would make some sense had he computed his doses based on the flux of ≥7 MeV electrons, but he didn't. His constant use the >0.5 MeV flux renders all his computations pointless.


Not content with just 10 MeV electrons, White now ups the ante. He references a NASA public outreach web page that states, "Electrons in this outer belt carry between 10 to 100 million volts of energy, on average." This passage is clearly in error and shouldn't be trusted. Even after correcting the obvious error in units, no other credible source gives electron energies in the 10-100 MeV range "on average". Any Van Allen belt electron approaching 100 MeV would be exceedingly rare. Despite the obvious contradiction with other sources, White believes that since he read it on the Internet it must be true. He now assumes an average electron energy of 55 MeV and repeats his calculations, obtaining absurdly high doses. Further note that the average particle energy is not the average of the minimum and maximum energies (as White computes). It's the total energy of the particles divided by the number of particles. As we know, there are far more electrons with low energies than with high energies.

Note that the quoted questionable sentence has been repeated in multiple web pages, but that just means the same bad information has been copied and pasted from one page to another. It doesn't mean verification or consensus. The general agreement among multiple independent sources is that the information is not credible.


White calculates the penetration depth of a 55 MeV electron and concludes that it will go right through the spacecraft. Of course this also means it would go right through an astronaut. In this case, a high-energy electron would retain most of its energy and deposit very little into the astronaut. Nonetheless, White performs his computation as if 100% of the electron's energy is absorbed into the astronaut's body.


White states, "Now assuming that the electrons have been attenuated we should also calculate the bremsstrahlung." I want to emphasize the qualifying assumption, "the electrons have been attenuated." White's earlier computation of the "primary dose" assumed no attenuation (i.e. all the electron energy is deposited into the astronaut's body) His current computation of the "secondary dose" from bremsstrahlung assumes 100% attenuation (i.e. all the electron energy is deposited into the shielding). Please note that these primary and secondary dose computations are mutually exclusive.


White computes the fraction of electron energy given up as bremsstrahlung. He does this for 55 MeV electrons stopped by aluminum, obtaining 0.5005. First we have to realize that 55 MeV is a ridiculous number that comes from a dubious source. White should know not to trust it but he embraces it anyway (likely because the exaggerated energy fits his narrative that the belts are dangerous). Second, White said that 55 MeV electrons would pass right through the spacecraft, so why is he now computing bremsstrahlung for what is, according to him, an impossible scenario? All he's doing is concocting big fanciful numbers to try to make a point. If White were sincere, he'd compute the bremsstrahlung for the electrons he believes would actually be stopped by the shielding, not those he thinks would pass straight through.

The truth is very different than what White calculates. As I stated earlier, 99.99% of the electrons will be stopped in the heat shield, with the remainder stopped in the stainless steel. The actual energies are nowhere near the wild numbers White uses—less than 1 MeV for the electrons stopped by the heat shield and about 5 MeV for those stopped by the stainless steel. The heat shield is a low-Z material (Z≈4) and stainless steel is a high-Z material (Z≈26). Using White's equation (which I agree with), we find that the fractions of energy given up as bremsstrahlung for the 1 MeV and 5 MeV electrons are 0.0028 and 0.091 respectively. This is many times less than what White claims.


White multiples his fraction by the original electron energy to obtain the energy given up as x-rays, about 27.5 MeV. Form this he concludes that the energy of the x-rays is 27.5 MeV, which he classifies as hard x-rays. Not surprisingly White gets it wrong again. 27.5 MeV is the total energy given up in the form of x-ray photons (i.e. the sum of the photons). What defines whether an x-ray is soft or hard is the energy of the individual photons. The electron bremsstrahlung spectrum is predominately in the soft x-ray category, i.e. <5-10 keV. These x-rays are not very penetrating and are easily attenuated by the stainless steel and aluminum hulls.


White calculates the bremsstrahlung given up by 1 MeV electrons. He repeats the same mistake as before, claiming his 9.1 keV answer is the energy of the x-ray photons. And even if he were right, 9.1 keV is on the border of soft x-rays, not hard x-rays as he claims. Furthermore, his calculation uses Z=13 for aluminum, but 1 MeV electrons will be stopped in the low-Z heat shield, thus his answer is inflated.


White begins his computation of the expected dose from x-rays. As in his previous computations, he uses the >0.5 MeV electron fluxes (106 and 2×106 electrons/cm2-s), along with his exaggerated 55 MeV electron energy and the 0.5005 conversion fraction that goes with it. As with his previous dose calculations, the answer he gives is a meaningless fabrication.


White summarizes his dose calculations: Primary dose = 478.72 rad/trip, Secondary dose = 239.6 rad/trip.

Although White repeats that the secondary dose assumes all electrons have been attenuated, I still find this graphic misleading because it implies the doses are additive. He leaves it up to the viewer to understand that they are mutually exclusive, but it is White who should make this perfectly clear. Of course all of this is moot because White's analyses and computations are just smoke and mirrors. It's fabricated nonsense based on misconceptions and bad assumptions. To see a proper analysis I again refer you to my article: Apollo and the Van Allen belts (an estimate of the radiation dose received).


White states, "At best 8 g/cm2 will stop all electrons with energies up to only 14.7 MeV." That statement is really all you need to know. After correcting for White's errors in his computation of the hull's areal density, we see that the 7-8 g/cm2 figure quoted by NASA is accurate. We also see that, according to credible sources, there are virtually no electrons above 14.7 MeV. In fact, the definitive source, AE-8, shows nothing ≥7 MeV anywhere along the trajectory of Apollo 11. Case closed.

Update, 16-October-2014. In response to this article, Mr. White has made two additions to his video as reviewed below.


White has mined a couple more quotes from Dr. James Van Allen, starting with the following from Scientific American, March 1959,

"Our measurements show that the maximum radiation level as of 1958 is equivalent to between 10 and 100 roentgens per hour, depending on the still undetermined proportion of protons to electrons. Since a human being exposed for two days to even 10 roentgens would have only an even chance of survival, the radiations belts obviously present an obstacle to space flight. Unless some practical way can be found to shield space travelers against the effects of radiation, manned space rockets can best take off through the radiation-free zone over the poles."

Dr. Van Allen does not specify under what conditions the above computations apply. However, in his 1961 Space World article he cites comparable exposure levels in the "heart" of the inner and outer radiation zones behind shielding meeting "minimum structural considerations for space vehicles" (i.e. about 1 g/cm2). As we have seen, Apollo was shielded far beyond "minimum structural considerations", and it did not fly through the "heart" of the radiation zones. As Dr. Van Allen suggests, Apollo effectively flew over the "poles" of the radiation belts. Although Apollo did not completely reach the "radiation-free zone", it did skim along the northern and southern edges of the belts where the exposure levels are greatly reduced (see Apollo 11's Translunar Trajectory). Rather than this quote casting doubt on the feasibility of Apollo, Dr. Van Allen provides the solution to the problem.

And from Space World, December 1961, White quotes,

"effective shielding is quite beyond engineering feasibility in the near future"

White has deceptively stripped this quote of its context. The full quote is,

"The exposure level in the heart of the inner zone is about 20 r/hr within a shield of 1 g/cm2 of iron. Owing to the great penetrability of the high-energy protons therein, effective shielding is quite beyond engineering feasibility in the near future. Hence the inner zone must be classed as an uninhabitable region of space as far as man is concerned."

First, we see this quote is about inner belt protons, not the outer belt electrons that White has based his argument on. Second, Apollo was shielded to many times the density thickness upon which Dr. Van Allen bases his computations. Third, Apollo did not fly through the "heart" of the inner zone. And fourth, Apollo didn't "inhabit" this region of space, it skirted by it in a matter of minutes (less than 15 minutes total for both trips).

As before White seems totally incapable of comprehending that none of these quotes by Dr. Van Allen suggest in any way that Apollo was impossible. His selective editing of the second quote goes even further, suggesting dishonesty on White's part rather than simple incompetence.


White adds a notation stating that I neglected to inform my readers that his source for the 10-100 MeV electron claim is a NASA site that specifically covers the MAARBLE project. White clearly states in his video (to which I link) that it's a NASA site, so I did not anticipate that I'd be accused of hiding this information. I have since provided a direct link to the page (see my comments at the 16:25 time stamp).

The referenced page is actually located on a NASA public outreach site that has nothing to do with the MAARBLE project (the NASA page predates the MAARBLE project web site by over a decade). It is intended to provide basic information to teachers, students and other interested parties; it is not intended for scientific use. The errors contained within are likely typographical. The 10-100 MeV claim is an obvious outlier that contradicts all other authoritative sources, thus we must disregard it. The fact it is on a NASA server is irrelevant. The MAARBLE Project web site, to which White refers, appears to have simply copied and pasted the information from the NASA page word for word, obviously without confirming its veracity. Also note that the NASA page specifically repudiates the notion that the Van Allen belts were deadly to the Apollo astronauts.

Update, 22-October-2014 — I have received email confirmation from the author of the NASA web page, Dr. Sten Odenwald, that the 10-100 MeV claim is an unfortunate error. It has not been corrected because the web page is old and no longer maintained.