There's plenty of people who said it would have been impossible for the astronauts in the Apollo 11 to film or take pictures in the moon due to the high radiation there's in the moon because of the lack of an earth atmosphere.

They compare it with some recordings of the Chernobyl accident which show some fast lights on the films. They say those are the radioactive particles hitting the film of the camera which doesn't seem to happen in the moon films.

Others say it would have been impossible to take any film outside the magnetic field of the earth as these would have been destroyed by the amount of particles in the outside.

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    $\begingroup$ Not saying thats their way but I can imagine if you expect it to be problem, enclosing camera in lead container and using glass with lead in it is a possible way to shield the camera and film. $\endgroup$
    – jkavalik
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 10:19
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    $\begingroup$ I'd note that many of those photos in Chernobyl were taken in areas safe to occupy for only minutes at a time before receiving dangerous doses. Space and the Moon, clearly, are occupiable for longer than minutes at a time. $\endgroup$
    – ceejayoz
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 18:23
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    $\begingroup$ Think about it for a second: if the radiation was that high, shouldn't you be worrying about the astronauts rather than the photographic film? $\endgroup$
    – pjc50
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 20:49

4 Answers 4


The radiation dosage for a year on the moon is between 110 mSv and 380 mSv. On Earth, that dosage is 2.4 mSv, or higher, depending on where you are exactly. Bottom line, the few days in Lunar orbit would have aged the film due to radiation between 50-150 days/ day in orbit maximum, thus it would be the equivalent of film that was aged a few years at most. The environment at the Moon is more likely to have high energy effects, which I'll get to later. Chernobyl produced about 80 mSv/ second after the incident, considerably more than on the surface of the Moon! To this day, the dosage at the center of Chernobyl is around 10 mSv/ second.

The Apollo missions were launched near the Solar Minimum, which would tend to have more higher cosmic ray strikes, and higher overall radiation, but fewer solar storms.

Furthermore, there actually ARE signs of radiation in some of the images, if you look carefully. At the very least, it's dust in on the film, the two can be difficult to tell apart. For instance, look in high resolution at the dark portion of this image. The lines that run through it are quite possibly signs of radiation strikes, or even (gasp!) stars.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Just to be clear, your first paragraph is saying that the radiation exposure on the Moon would create the same effects in the film used as leaving the same film on a shelf for six months on Earth and then using that film? And of course film is (or perhaps was, I should say) left on shelves for far longer in many cases and still used. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ I should clarify that a bit. The general exposure level would be the same, however, there would be a few high energy effects. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 12:58
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    $\begingroup$ In comparison to the 100-300 mSv/**year**, the radioactivity in the Chernobyl reactor core was about 100 mSv/**second**. To put things in perspective. $\endgroup$
    – MSalters
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 22:35
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    $\begingroup$ The 2.4 mSv is a bit low, at least for the US. The total from natural and artificial sources is about 6.2 mSv/year (e.g., nrc.gov/images/about-nrc/radiation/factoid2-lrg.gif). The film wasn't left out on a shelf. It was stowed in thick canisters until needed. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 23:13
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    $\begingroup$ Possibly even stars. I understand there are some experts who say there are signs of cosmic rays strikes in Apollo film, but this was the best I could find. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 1:23

Radiation can affect film - but bear in mind the radiation around Chernobyl was, truly, extremely high. The radiation in our region of space is not as extreme.

Also bear in mind that the earlier Lunar Orbiter probes used film cameras, the pictures were developed and scanned automatically (by machinery on board) and the results transmitted to Earth. The results were pretty good!

enter image description here

Very high resolution version at this link.


NASA studied the effects of radiation on film. Bright spots are just one of the possible results. Other effects include an increase in the amount of noise, and a decrease in contrast and color response. These effects are not easily detectable to the untrained eye and without access to the original material.

In this study, NASA also experimented with shielding. The shield in use provided little to no benefit.

Radiation levels during the Moon missions were far lower than in Chernobyl. Total mission dose was on the order of 1 rem (0.01 Sv).

  • $\begingroup$ That 1 rem figure is for the very short flight mostly around (rather than through) the Van Allen Belts. Total mission dose was almost certainly higher (and almost equally certainly, private medical information). $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 23:40

NASA used special, temperature-resistant, radiation-proof film for their photos.

That kind of film was not readily available in the Soviet Union - "not readily available" meaning the only rolls of the film they had were ones recovered from American spy balloons. These were used to take photos of the far side of the Moon by the Luna 3 probe.

A more primary account of the Soviets' use of American film is this translation of a St. Petersburg newspaper article.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you have a reference for NASA using radiation hardened film? This page mentions special Kodak emulsions, but nothing about radiation hardening. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 0:04
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    $\begingroup$ Radiation proof film... that would be like saying light proof film. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 12:49
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    $\begingroup$ B&W films were mostly panchromatic, sensitive to the whole visible spectrum, it was just photographic printing paper that was insensitive to red light. $\endgroup$
    – Mike H
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 4:25
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    $\begingroup$ I'd like to see a clear example of what "radiation hardened film" is and explanation of the science of how it could be substantially less sensitive to the types of radiation on the moon without being similarly less sensitive to visible light. Something more legit than a website called damninteresting. My gut feeling is that there is no such thing and it's a phony or "fringe" term for film used to take selfies with "the aliens living in area 51"; in other words, doesn't really exist. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 5:16
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh: I have located some better-sourced articles on the events around Luna 3 and that film. src1 src2 $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 9:44

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