If astronauts had been on the Moon in early August 1972, they would have been at best terribly queasy, and at worst — dead. A burst of charged particles that suddenly erupted from the Sun would have caused severe radiation sickness, dosing any unlucky Moonwalkers with about 400 rem — almost 50,000 times the radiation dose you get from a chest X-ray. Fortunately, the burst, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), erupted during the months between Apollo 16 and Apollo 17, so no astronauts were harmed.
But as NASA looks to return astronauts to the Moon and send them beyond to Mars, the health hazards posed by these solar explosions are a serious concern. . . .