Did NASA Fake the Moon Landings?
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first human beings to set foot on another world when they walked on the moon. It was the most spectacular technological achievement in human history. All over the world, people marveled and celebrated this triumphant accomplishment. Over the next two and half years 10 more Americans would visit the moon. It was the culmination of nearly fifteen years of research, dedication and hard work by millions of Americans who chose to take JFK’s challenge to attain this seemingly unattainable goal.
But in the few years after the astronauts got back from the moon, there were people who began to have doubts that we really attained this goal. Some of them went as far as to deny it ever happened, saying the broadcasts were done in a sound studio and the thousands of pictures were faked. Conspiracy Theorists claimed that the government destroyed some evidence, faked other proof and threatened people who knew that it was faked. Others denied it happened for religious and political reasons. A few were honest people who did not believe that it was possible for humans to achieve this goal for various reason. Others were people who were skeptical of anything the government does. And there were also a few shysters who supported the hoax theories because it put money in their pockets.
Do I believe we went to the moon? Yes, of course. None of the hoax theories holds any water. In fact, most of the hoax “evidence” shows a lack of knowledge of the situations, science, physics and technologies. Most of the theories have been shot down by NASA, National Geographic and various websites. Even if the moon landings had been faked, the theorists “evidence” would never stand up. Of all the conspiracy theories, and there are many, this one is the weakest.
But that doesn’t stop people from believing the hoax theories. A 1999 Gallup Poll said that 6% of Americans believed the moon landings were faked. That figure rose to 20% after FOX broadcast the pseudo documentary Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon? in 2002.
Theories about the moon landing hoax go back to the late 1960s, But they really caught on until the 1970s. In 1974, Bill Kaysing self published a book We Never Went to the Moon, America’s 30 Billion Dollar Swindle. Kaysing was head of technical publications at Rocketdyne until 1963 when he resigned “for personal reasons“. Rocketdyne was the the company that built engines for the Saturn V booster. He was not an engineer or scientist. In 1977, the Hare Krishna magazine Back to Godhead, claimed the landings were faked. According to Hindu mythology, the moon is nearly 94,000,000 miles from earth (it is really only about 230,000 miles). They theorized that in order to get there and back over the week it took, the craft would have to be going over a million miles per hour. The Flat Earth Society claimed that the landings were shot on a on a sound stage with help from the Walt Disney company.
In 1978, the movie Capricorn One was released. It was a story of a fictional flight to Mars. Before the flight, scientists realize that the astronauts will not survive, so as not to lose face the government fakes the Mars landing. This gave a boost to conspiracy theories surrounding the Apollo flights. Over the next few years, books, TV shows and written articles concerning the “hoax” were plenty. But why would they think that the whole thing was staged?
In the 1970s many people were disillusioned with the government. Watergate and the surrounding mania made many doubt the honesty of their elected officials. Theories state that the government faked the flights because (take your pick) going to the moon was a physical impossibility, the astronauts would not survive, it was a priority of national security to beat the Soviets to the moon, we had to get there by 1969 to meet JFK’s challenge to go to the moon before the 1960s ended, we weren’t going to make it and NASA had to justify the billions of taxpayers dollars that were spent.
Listed below are several subjects that conspiracy theorists like to point out in support of their determination that the moon landings were a hoax. Also I have written statements that debunk the theories:
The US Government
Theorist claim that the Nixon Administration, fearing failure of the moon trip and the resulting public relations nightmare, hired Stanley Kubrick (2001 A Space Odyssey) to film the lunar landings on a soundstage. While this was revealed by Kubrick’s widow after his death, I doubt this happened. It takes many people to produce a Hollywood production. Even if the number of people were minimal and they were all sworn to secrecy, people like to talk, someone would have spoken up after all these years. And what about the people in the space program? It is estimated that 400,000 to 500,000 people were involved in the space program. Not one of them has revealed that they were involved, nor has there been a deathbed confession revealing the hoax. And remember this is an Administration that could not cover up a “third rate burglary”
(It’s pure conjecture on my part, but I wouldn’t put it past Nixon to purpose having a faked, soundstage produced moonwalk to be broadcast in case the real mission failed. But I doubt it was ever produced)
In addition, there are claims that the ten people who died in the 1960s who were part of the Space Program were killed because “they knew too much”. In addition, Bill Kaysing claimed that the government murdered the crew of Apollo 1, before they could talk. These were astronauts, test pilots and engineers killed in plane crashes, car accidents or by natural causes. Compare that to the eight Soviet cosmonauts who died from similar causes in the same time period. I don’t believe that the Government had them killed. Astronauts were test pilots who led highly dangerous and risky lives.
By landing on the moon, the US won the Space Race against the Soviet Union. If the landings were faked, and the Soviets found out, they would have a huge propaganda victory. But conspiracy theorist and filmmaker Bart Sibrel (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon) said that the Soviets did not have the ability to track Apollo to the moon. He claims they did not have this technology until late 1972 and it was not a coincidence that the remaining 3 Apollo flights to the moon were cancelled. This is patently untrue. The Soviets had sent the first unmanned probe to the moon in 1959. Vasily Mishan, a Russian rocket scientist says the Apollo missions to the to the moon were tracked at the Space Transmission Corp in the Soviet Union which had the latest tracking equipment. In fact , on July 13, 1969 (3 days before Apollo 11 blasted off) the Soviets launched Luna 15. It was an unmanned probe whose mission was to soft land on the moon, scoop up some moon dust and rocks and return to Earth, thus stealing some of the US thunder. On July 21, while Armstrong and Aldrin were still on the moon, The Soviets lost control of the probe approximately 3 km above the lunar surface. The spacecraft crashed.
Theorists believe that the US faked the moon landings in order to distract the American people from the debacle in Vietnam. They point to the fact that as we pulled out of Vietnam, the remaining 3 scheduled moon missions were cancelled. In reality, the remaining missions were cancelled because they were horrendously expensive and the public wasn’t as fascinated by Apollo as they once were.
Moon landing hoax theorists point to several examples of photographic, mechanical and data anomalies that prove to them that the landings were faked. I have detailed a few of them below.
The Waving Flag
This is one of the most common points theorist bring up. They claim in several videos and photographs the flag is waving. It should not because the moon has no atmosphere. They say this proves the moon landing was filmed in a sound studio and the flag ripples because of a breeze caused by an air conditioner. The flag has an aluminum rod along the top to make the flag look as if it is unfurled. Roger Launias of the Smithsonian Institute says “the video you see where the flag is moving, is because the astronaut just placed it there and the inertia when they let go, kept it moving.” In addition, several astronauts bent the horizontal rod at the top and gave the flag a rippling look.
Who Took the Picture
One of the most iconic pictures of the Apollo 11 moonwalk shows Neil Armstrong’s image reflected in Buzz Aldrin face mask. But the image does not seem to show Armstrong taking a picture. Theorists claim a third party must have taken the picture. They point to this as further evidence that the moonwalk was staged in a studio. The picture was taken by one of the crew. This is wrong. There was a very simple answer to this: The photo was taken by a camera mounted on Armstrong’s chest.
A television camera recorded Neil Armstrong descending a ladder on the Lunar Module to the surface of the moon .Theorists stated this must come from another camera in the studio. Wrong. Very simply, the camera was located on another section of the LEM.
No Stars Visible
They claim Apollo was faked because no stars are visible on the photos and the astronauts never mentioned them. Wrong again. The lunar surface reflects the sunlight, so it’s kind of like being in a well lit city. Also remember, the side of the moon where the Apollo flights landed are constantly in daytime.
No Landing Crater
In science fiction movies spacecrafts land in a plume of smoke and dust. Because the there seemed to be no disturbance of the dust below the LEMs, theorists claim that there should be a crater below the spacecraft (or at least evidence of disturbed surface dust). Actually the main landing engine was throttled way down during descent and it did not hover. Also, the LEM was moving horizontally as well as vertically as it descended. This would not have created a disturbance on the surface
Van Allen Belts
The Van Allen Belts are areas of radiation in near space. The altitude varies from 100 km to 60,000 km. It was said that there is no way that the astronauts would survive in them. However, the design of the Apollo spacecraft protected the astronauts. They were in the Belts for a short time as they left earth orbit for the moon. NASA scientists designed the flight paths so the crafts would fly through a thin section of the belts.
There are other hoax myths that have been debunked. Theorists say that the light, shadows and terrain showed anomalies. Other concerned supposedly faked photos and date. All of these have been debunked.
At times the hoax sellers have gone overboard. In 1997, astronaut Jim Lovell called Bill Kaysing “wacky” for his theories. Kaysing sued the astronaut for libel, but the case was thrown out of court. After being refused interviews by many astronauts, Cab Driver and Conspiracy Theorist Bart Sibral lured Buzz Aldrin to a Los Angeles hotel under the pretext of an interview concerning space travel for Japanese TV. When he got there, Sibral attempted to get Aldrin to swear on a Bible that he had been to the moon. When Aldrin refused, Sibral called him “a liar, coward and thief”. Aldrin responded with a punch to Sibral’s jaw which knocked the younger man down. Sibral was not hurt, and the tape shows Aldrin was being harassed so ultimately no charges were filed.
In light of all this evidence that runs contrary to the hoax myths, why do Conspiracy Theorists continue to promote their disproven theories? Because they will profit. As Tom Hanks, the actor who portrayed Jim Lovell in Apollo 13, said “We live in a society where there is no law against making money in the promulgation of ignorance or in some cases, stupidity.“ A certain segment of society will believe the myths while another segment (with includes me) are intrigued and fascinated by them.