Radiation EXPOSURE at higher altitudes.

X-rays? Why does it still have an X in front of it? Do we not know what it is and thus have not given a name to it. Or have we gotten used to the word and do not want to change it. X is the unknown equivalent of not knowing what something is. It is this unknown knowledge that need to be dissected upon to reveal its inner functions. We are being exposed to unknown and un-quantifiable amount of cosmic and other rays that exists naturally in the Universe. Some of them are known and some others unknown to Man. Knowingly or unknowingly we are getting exposed to it each and every day.

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Rays that are unknown to man may not pose a threat because we do not know anything about it. Even if it may do us some harm, we may never know its course nor its origin. But it is this Unknown that raise red flags in our mind. This radiation of various rays from multiple unknown sources is something that we cannot see, touch or even feel. On top of it there is the fear of the unknown which increases the anxiety within us, just because we do not know what it is, and which may be causing health issues far and wide on Earth. There has always been and there will always be the fear of the unknown unless and until Man dives into this realm, learns about it and then dwells on how to conquer it before it conquers us.

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Radiation exists all around us, from both natural and artificial sources. It presents itself in two forms: ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. On the ground we may even be exposed to artificial waves such as microwaves, magnetic fields, X -rays and radio waves. Then we have different technologies that are currently in existence that have made our lives much easier such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to name a few. But do we know anything about these nor its health implication on our bodies. We are still continuing to use them without even knowing anything about them. What may be its long term side effects on us and other life forms on Earth, if any? All of us has learned to accept technology without ever questioning it because it has made our lives a lot easier and made us much lazier in the process. But don’t you think that this may come down to bite us in the future. Most of us don’t even think about it because all we do think is about the present comfort and the convenience that we derive from it. In the end all we seem to care is our COMFORT FOR NOW. We may think about worrying about it years down the line, if at all it surfaces. It’s just a MAYBE. Science may have supporting evidence to suggest that these waves may interfere with the migration of various bird species and even whales that get affected by sonar. But what do we need to face or will be facing when we are flying high above the clouds? Our concern should be targeted at High energy ionizing radiation which falls within the danger zone that may affect our body in many ways.

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Flying is an amazing experience. What lies below looks so beautiful, with clouds displaying various shapes that are just floating around surrounded by dark blue skies, showcase of various textures and colors of Earth, vast deep blue oceans, tall mountains that seem to reach for us and the majestic views of sunrise and sunsets. At night we get to see the stars, moon and the galaxies that stand out apart from the rest. But what are we putting our self into by flying out of our abode, outside our comfort zone and into the vast space that surrounds us? Do we know that much about space and its residents that we are risking an arm and a limb and our very lives to venture out into the unknown? Cosmic rays are ever present in this zone of darkness along with thin air. As we climb higher we enter the zone where the air is thin, resistance to the aircraft decreases and so does turbulence which decreases drastically. As we fly higher and higher in to the upper atmosphere, we are constantly being bombarded with rays from the Sun and possibly even from many unknown rays of cosmic origin. How do we know that these rays are safer for us? Are there any possible implications of flying at even higher altitudes that is greater than 60,000 feet? Most commercial jets fly anywhere from 30,000 feet to about 40,000 feet. As we edge higher and deeper into space our body does take a toll. Our muscles suffer from disuse atrophy, our heart, lungs and blood vessels may have problems functioning, cell division may diminish and mind may suffer from impaired judgement calls. Once our spacecrafts enter deep space they are open to deadly radiation that can wreck havoc on the Human body if exposed to it. Virtually any cell in the body is susceptible to radiation damage. It may have the potential to even affect our own DNA within each cell.

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We all know that there are dangers associated with flying.  Science has exposed some of these risks and it has given us answers on what need to be done to prevent exposure to these Cosmic particles in the first place. Our Earth’s magnetic field protects us in many ways from solar flares by deflecting these particulates away from us by shifting it high above the poles. Hence we tend to receive much more radiation at the poles than in the equatorial belt which encircles the Globe. Long distance flights are much more exposed due to their longer duration of flight time than domestic flights. The higher we fly the exposure metrics increase correspondingly with increasing altitude thereby magnifying its associated risk. We are also being exposed to this radiation even at ground level but at much lower levels. This also occurs on a daily basis from our birth to death. There is no escaping it.

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People go to their Dentist or their Physician’s office for their Annual physical or their periodic 6 month Dental check up. This may involve the use of X-rays in most cases. Most people panic on hearing the word X-rays. What most people do not realize is that they are being exposed to it each and every day. Most people are not even aware that they are being exposed to higher levels of radiation while flying. Pilots and astronauts are exposed to this radiation at a much higher level than you and me who do fly occasionally. They are THE frequent fliers of the skies above us. This is all what they do everyday and this is what they are trained to do. They are aware of it as well and have learned to accept it as an occupational hazard. This applies to all crew as well.

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As we look forward to reaching far off galaxies that are off the charts, we will need to take into considerations the inherent risks that we are putting ourselves into by doing so. Most importantly the dangers of space exploration along with its detrimental effects on the Human body. With the ever growing need for faster and safer aircraft’s that are being hurled out into the skies above, there will be an ever growing trend to satisfy the safety requirements that go along with it prior to its implementation. As we head deeper and deeper into space and the higher we choose to go, we can be sure that someone will be waiting for us up there waiting to challenge us. The dark silence of deep space and tons of radiation to satisfy our curiosity.




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