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The Moon Hoax or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Space Program

Updated on June 3, 2014

An Introduction

Of all the conspiracy theories that exist in our world, the majority are concerned with not only the United States but also with events of the last one hundred years. Americans, some say, have turned into a devious lot, scheming elaborate events that alter history at every turn. The attack on Pearl Harbor, JFK’s assassination, the moon landing, the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, recent mass shootings, and more. Most of these conspiracies have at least a shred of intrigue to them, with elements in them all being believable . . . its just too bad that the conspiracy itself typically has such gaping holes that it just does not add up. However, in most cases, so does the official story.

A person could literally spend a lifetime investigating most of these claims and really, who has time for that? So instead of spending my lifetime looking into why some individuals advocate that Sirhan Sirhan was a CIA rogue, I’d like to attack something that seems much more controlled. What I mean by that is, I'm lazy. What I also mean by that is that many of the above events have a lot of circumstantial intrigue and whatever ‘dots’ are connected come from hearsay, assumptions, outlying reports, and bizarre items surrounding the event. Of the above conspiratorial subjects, however, only one is extremely well-documented from start to finish, having tons of empirical data and evidence, tens of thousands of survivors, and not only that, it happened repeatedly. That one event is the moon landing.

Freudian Test - Do You Subconsciously Believe the Moon Landing was a Hoax?


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Why do people question the moon landing? I don’t know, because they can? Honestly though, I can understand why one would begin to pursue the thought but, as I did upon writing this article, they soon find out that most of the ‘evidence’ of a moon hoax is already-refuted conjecture. So that you can better appreciate who I am and the angle at which this article is being written, let me tell you where I stand on conspiracies. This is a subject in which, before writing this article, I was mostly unbiased – I say this because I used to think we landed on the moon, then I thought it might be a hoax, then I kind of changed back to thinking we have landed on the moon. For any other event in human history, I am not nearly as open. For instance, I am not a 9/11 ‘truther’ and I think conspiracies surrounding that day are ignorant. In contrast, I don’t buy the demise of Osama bin Laden as told to us and actually believe he died in late 2001. So, in essence, you’re getting a viewpoint from a guy who claims to be neither a nut job, nor a sheep.

But for the 'moon landing hoax' I actually did the research and came to a conclusion that millions of humans had already understood well. So what was it that convinced me to turn to the dark side (of the moon – sorry, I had to) and accept the official story from NASA, the US government, the Smithsonian, National Geographic, Wikipedia, and my Grandpa? Without further ado, let’s look at some of the reasons why a number of Earthlings don’t believe the original Apollo moon landings were real . . . and the reasons why they are often ignored.

When you wish upon a star . . . wait, there are none!!!
When you wish upon a star . . . wait, there are none!!!

1) “Shoot for the Moon and You’ll Land among the Stars.”

In all of the photographs of the moon landing, there are a few constants. The moon is covered in whitish/grayish dirt. There are rocks and craters everywhere. There are no stars. There are no Soviet cosmonauts. Wait – there are no stars? One of the main talking points of the conspiracy theorists is that in no photographs are there stars shown in the heavens above the moon. The moon, being a big rock with no atmosphere, would have no reason to hide the vast array of stars in the night skies. There would be no cloud coverage and the 'sky blue' we see on our Earth would not exist on the moon. So why are there no stars in all of the images captured?

The answer: Sharpie markers.

Okay, but seriously, those who believe we did not set foot on the moon (as proposed) say that this is evidence that the whole landing was filmed on a sound stage. The suggestion is that stars are spaced particularly, each having its own brightness and specific hue and that the time and effort required to recreate this without being caught would have been excessively inhumane. I agree with this – if I’m paying a NASA scientist with my tax money, he’d better be working on an everlasting gobstopper instead of just spacing light bulbs with yarn in a planetarium.

However, to believe it was beyond the scope of NASA to recreate the night sky seems to be a bit rude. These are professionals who are well educated in regards to advanced physics, calculus, and other subjects that seem far too scary to mention. Telling me that they would not be able to simulate star patterns, hues, and intensities is a hard sell. Do I have evidence for this? No but let’s step away from the moon for a moment and look at the achievements of mankind as of the mid-1960s. Humanity was pulling off remarkable feats in regards to electronics and technology. Bright minds were doing great things and yet to think that a team of scientists would not have the collective knowledge to recreate the night sky seems unpalatable.

To counter this suggestion, one must take into account that photographs still are not equal to what the human eye sees. At night, your eyes can focus on objects near and far (unless you’ve been drinking) but if you’ve ever taken a picture at night prior to the year 2000, depending on your camera, you would have noted that objects in the distance were either not visible or hard to see. It’s not hard to imagine photographs on the moon not being able to capture star light, considering the film technology available at the time, the fact that the astronauts were not Cecil B. Demille, the capture rate of the cameras used, and that the sun was glaring off of the white surface of the moon. Try looking at the stars at night while standing at a gas station and you’ll find yourself struggling. In this case, the sun reflecting off of the light surface of the moon is like a lunar gas station, only with less creepy people.

Photo by Sorapop. Notice the lack of stars on a cloudless night.
Photo by Sorapop. Notice the lack of stars on a cloudless night. | Source

Where I draw the line between provocative questioning and ignorance is where the events required for the alternate explanation seem more complicated than the proposed story. In this case, does it seem so far-fetched that photographs taken simply didn’t pick up the stars based on contrast, lighting, and quality? Or am I to assume NASA scientists were puzzled by how to incorporate stars into the setup? I don’t want to go ad hominem here but if night observers in the Arizona desert can calculate star placement when viewed from the moon, why wouldn’t NASA scientists also be able to do the same?

2) “Oh, Say Does That Star-Spangled Banner Yet Wave?”

This might be the granddaddy of them all. My own wife scolds me and points to the iconic image of our stars and stripes waving on the moon. I’ll be straight forward – this seems like one of the weaker arguments to me for several reasons. First, however, let’s take a look at what some question.

Salute Your Shorts.
Salute Your Shorts.

In all honesty, that flag looks like a pair of boxer shorts pulled out of the hamper so I’ll ignore the area around the stars and chalk that one up to be squished in a compartment for days. The concern is that the flag appears to be waving which is an issue because there is no air flow on the moon. With no wind, that flag should have been sticking out like a billboard yet it appears that the unanchored portion is flapping in the breeze. What is a modest young man to think?

The scientific response is that the inertia kept the flag moving for a moment after Neil Armstrong let go of it. This makes sense because if you watch the video below of a later Apollo mission, the flag is moving but only when it is being manhandled. Also note in this video that the speed is increased (as seen by the astronaut in the foreground running around like Benny Hill) so the flag necessarily looks like it is flapping around.

Wave to the Camera!

There is no video of the flag without it being held but if there were, one would expect the flag to be still (unless bumped.) This is a bit of a double-edged sword because a conspiracy theorist would say that there is no video of the flag standing alone because it would prove that the flag is waving.

What I find most interesting about this point of contention is that our knowledge of how anti-gravity appears is limited to whatever NASA and other space programs have presented to us. Despite the fervent protests that the flag is waving in these images, nobody actually has seen how a thin, lightweight object would respond in space (assuming you don't believe Neil Armstrong was literally inches away from it.) The fact is that it would float still until another force acted upon it. In all of the videos of the flag, an observable force is acting upon it.

C for "Copyright 1969 by NASA"
C for "Copyright 1969 by NASA"

3) What Do You “C”?

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this one. There is a rock that has an apparent letter ‘C’ on it. Experts say this was either added later on or it was a foreign object (like a hair) that made it into the image. Theorists claim that this is evidence of props on a set. I contend that, when considering the scale of the operation, would a photograph of a prop with an obvious imprint on it go unnoticed by numerous officials and then be released to the public? That seems plain sloppy, and although it is not outside of possibility, it is way outside of probability.

Shadows at different angles.
Shadows at different angles.

4) “There is A Strong Shadow Where There is Much Light”

The surface of the moon is covered in shadows – rightfully so since the sun is shining brightly on its landscape. In every photograph of the moon there are shadows being cast by rocks, craters, lunar rovers, flags . . . basically by everything except Soviet cosmonauts. However, to the astute observer, the shadows do not line up and are often contradictory. Is there a natural reasoning for this or is this the result of stage lighting? Let’s take a look at the example to the right, grab a drink, and talk about it.

Did you see the shadows? Do you have your red wine? Let’s keep this rolling. If I’m starting to sound like a guy who believes we actually landed on the moon, it’s because the evidence being presented to the contrary is rather . . . bleh. Here is another prime example. The sun is shining on the moon, giving it light, but the sun’s light is also reflecting off of the Earth and shining on the moon. That alone gives you two huge sources of light. Add in other reflective objects nearby (the Eagle, amongst other things) and now there are suddenly multiple light sources. Not to mention the surface of the moon is as imperfect and cratered as a ‘People of Wal-Mart’ collage, it’s no wonder there are shadows going every which way.

It appears that the more people dissect and scrutinize pictures, the more they make themselves believe something is odd when it is totally natural. Of the millions of pictures on the planet Earth, tons of strange things have been captured and I would bet money that there are countless images out there where shadows are not uniform. I would even go so far as to say that taking a picture with a singular light source, based on perception and seeing only an image, shadows could still be slanted at different angles. For instance, here is a picture of my family room.

Look at the ottoman and note that it has two shadows, yet there is only one light source – the window. Sure, we say, because there is a single light source that is concentrated and the objects are moving around it. There is no reason to believe the ottoman won’t cast a shadow in the directions of the light, based on its position. Now, let’s look at a picture of an outdoors landscape:

That’s me raking the leaves and my son ‘un-raking’ the leaves. So why am I looking at this? Well, notice the shadows of the trees. There is a maple tree to the right that is casting a shadow towards the camera whereas the other two trees in the background – the small one nearest me and the tree even further back by the neighbor’s house – are casting shadows away from the camera. Is this an optical illusion? My legs are causing steep shadows, as compared to those of the trees. Even look at the broom lying on the sidewalk, if you must – there are literally shadows going every which way, generally in one direction but not totally equal. Why would we expect photographs on the moon to appear any different? Because there are less objects off of which to reflect light? Because there are more defined curves and bumps on the moon? I’m not analyzing these images with anything more than an untrained eyeball and it is telling me that multiple shadows are possible from a single source (whether alone or reflected.) It seems perspective is at play.

5) “Who’s Behind the Camera?”

When Neil Armstrong steps off of the lunar module, he gives his historical remark before planting his feet into the cheese that makes up the moon. Millions of Americans watched Neil hop onto the moon and, yet, if he were truly the first man on the moon then who filmed it? I thought this was the smoking gun for years as a teenager because it wreaked of deception . . . that and I saw it on TV and did no further research because I did not own a computer in the year 2000. It has since been stated over and over again that the lunar module had a camera on it for this very reason – to show Neil Armstrong stepping foot on the moon and making history (possibly.)

6) “What’s in A Picture?”

Many other issues seem to be the result of copies of the photos and not from the original images. For instance, bright spots on the moon and objects in front of crosshairs are both seen in copies of the images but do not appear in the originals. Below are comparisons for the sake of, well, comparison:

On the left - an image of Buzz Aldrin 'enhanced' showing the bright spot behind him. On the Right - the original photograph. No bright spot!
On the left - an image of Buzz Aldrin 'enhanced' showing the bright spot behind him. On the Right - the original photograph. No bright spot!

7) “Not Here, O Apollo!”

Take a look at this picture and let it sink deep into your mind. This is an image near the landing site of Apollo 15. Now, take a look at the second picture – taken miles apart from the first.

The backdrops appear similar, so much so that one might believe that the entire moon landing was filmed on a stage with limited space. Considering you can only fit so much landscape into a studio, it would be nearly impossible to recreate such a vast backdrop. So, necessarily, you would have to manipulate the same set pieces . . . or spend weeks tearing it all apart and creating a new set.

This falls into the same category as the ‘C’ inscribed rock – why would the minds behind the hoax use the exact same set piece knowing very well that it is both obvious and easily recognizable? Something so blatant is unlikely to slip through the cracks. The reasoning offered against conspiracy theorists for the near-identical backdrops is highly plausible and easily understood. To take a direct quote from Wikipedia (citing http://www.iangoddard.com/moon01.htm):

Backgrounds were not identical, just similar. What appear as nearby hills in some photos are actually mountains many miles away. On Earth, objects that are further away will appear fainter and less detailed. On the Moon, there is no atmosphere or haze to obscure faraway objects, thus they appear clearer and nearer. Furthermore, there are very few objects (such as trees) to help judge distance.”

Makes sense to me.

8) "1969: A Space Parody"

I’m skipping a whole slew of other, minor notes from conspirators to focus on one last one that is very much out there . . . yet might be the most fun. Stanley Kubrick was working on 2001: A Space Odyssey from 1964 to 1968, a film which involved expansive backdrops and amazing effects for the time. Some have suggested that Kubrick, with this timeline and budget, along with whatever credits he gave to NASA for helping with the film, was secretly filming the moon landing hoax. There is even a website dedicated to showing how Kubrick utilized the ‘Front Screen Projection’ process to make vast landscapes in 2001 and thus he did the same for the moon landing hoax. I’ll even give you the link to it:

I’ll admit, that article was intriguing but what I took away from it was that every image has some sort of observable ‘break’ running across it which would be where the set covered the edge of the projection. Well, mostly every image. The number one image when you think of the first moon landing – Buzz standing in full view, show above – does not have this distinct line running all the way across it. That’s one way to defeat the cherry-picking done in the article. A second way is to just look at any image in general. Take the picture of me raking the yard for instance. There is a distinct line from my neighbor’s driveway that runs all the way across the picture. For all you know, I projected the rest of that scene so that it would fit into what I wanted to suggest about shadows. Devious, indeed!

Regardless, here's a fun video to make you think that Stanley Kubrick directed the whole thing and used his later movie, The Shining, to give the audience the hidden truth. He also did weird things like change the color of the family's car for no known reason but that doesn't explain the moon hoax so we'll ignore it.

Final Thoughts

I honestly appreciate the individuals who take the time to look into every aspect of an event and try to conceive hidden messages for several reasons. First, it’s entertaining – and I’m not saying that in some snide, condescending way. I read about these ‘discoveries,’ no matter how right or wrong they are, with great delight. Second, it’s our duty to not be spoon-fed anything and I truly believe we must be vigilant in the event of a true conspiracy having taken place. Third, it opens our eyes to the truth – the truth in how an event actually occurred and the nuances that needed to take place. I don’t think most conspiracy theories are right but they do bring out more information about the real way events occurred that might otherwise go unnoticed or unanswered. I didn’t write this article to dig up philosophy but it found me, anyway.

So in the end, the moon landing – correction the multiple moon landings - lean far away from being hoaxes if only because the evidence given for a hoax has marginal substance. Reasons can be given that respond to every conspiratorial point but, more importantly, the reasons given are uncomplicated. Nature always finds the easiest way, chemistry teaches us. Well, so do humans and logic. Usually the simplest answer is the right one. To believe that thousands and thousands of people kept hush-hush on the matter is more ridiculous than thinking that we actually strapped three guys to tons of gasoline, ignited it, and shot them at the moon. That’s saying something.

In fact, to that point, let me end by quoting Penn Jillette from 2005 (and filtering his language):

Faking the Moon Landing is easy. You need dirt, wardrobe, a sound stage, a lot of black paints, and some stupid suits. The hard part is shutting people up. It's been 36 years! You'd think the technicians, and prop people, camera people, directors, everyone who works at NASA, and the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, and all the nice folks at Cape Canaveral in Florida, plus members of the US Congress and the White House all shut up about this amazing cover-up for all that time? The Government couldn't even [expletive] cover up a break-in to a psychiatrist's office in a [expletive] cheesy hotel! Watergate is the answer to all this [expletive]. If they couldn't cover that up, they [expletive] can't do anything.

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      Sanxuary 3 years ago

      In Political terms they have always changed the story to serve the agenda they intend. The consequences to any lie no matter how small always creates greater skepticism. One small lie makes it easier to tell a bigger lie and human nature believes that one small lie is a hoax. Imagine if the mission had failed and it took another few missions to get there. We still got there later, only failure at the time was not an option. Beat the Soviets, save political face and after spending trillions of dollars the pressure would have been huge. Have you never been a part of something only to read about it later and say it never happened that way. Everyone wants to be on Bourbon street winning free plastic beads. Try unruly people heavily intoxicated and the smell of urine and stale alcohol. I believe this was to big to say we never did it and I am sure someone legitimate would have told the truth by now. A few little lies to make the story better is not enough reason to tear down a huge success. Success is more important then failure always.

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      Mr-Mediocre 3 years ago

      Sanxuary - I would be more likely to believe that version of events than a full-blown hoax. At least that way you dwindle the number of people 'in on it' to a few dozen.

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      Sanxuary 3 years ago

      There is a whole other argument that pertains to the technology at the time. One assumes that the photography was so terrible that we needed a stage to acquire the propaganda they needed. We after all had to beat the Soviet's and produce undisputable evidence. In other words we most likely got there and they turned it into a Hollywood movie. A little truth and a few lies perhaps. There is a litany of other arguments that dispute the technology at the time.