But Moon hoax theories and doubts about the Moon landings are widespread in public opinion. Try an informal poll among your friends and relatives and you’ll notice this, especially in younger people. Modern cynicism and distrust of government, the passage of time and the gradual passing of the living witnesses of the Apollo missions will increase the appeal of conspiracy theories if nothing is done to expose their fallacies. These are the same processes that, on a very different level, feed Holocaust denial.
Besides, dealing with these claims is an excellent opportunity to retell the fascinating story of the Moon missions in a way that’s not pedantic but often lively and sometimes truly amusing.
4.1 How many people believe these theories?Between 1995 and 2013, the percentage of American adults who believe that the Moon landings were faked in some way has remained stable around 6%.
In 1995, a Time/CNN/Yankelovich Partners, Inc. poll found that 6% of Americans believed that “the government staged or faked the Apollo Moon landing”, whereas 83% disagreed and 11% said they had no opinion. A similar Gallup poll taken in 1999 indicated the same 6% figure, but with 89% disagreeing and 5% having no opinion [Landing a Man on the Moon: The Public’s View, by Frank Newport, Gallup.com, 1999].
A 2001 Zogby poll yielded essentially similar results: 7% hoax believers, 87% convinced that the Moon landings were real and 4% not sure [As Seen on This Morning’s NBC Today Show: Truth or conspiracy: Lunar landing – Did the mission to the Moon really get off the ground?, Zogby.com, 2001].
Public Policy Polling found similar results in a 2013 US voter poll: 7% supported the claims of fakery, 9% were not sure and 84% said they believed the Moon landings were real [Democrats and Republicans differ on conspiracy theory beliefs, PublicPolicyPolling.com, 2 April 2013].
Six or seven percent might seem a small figure, and Gallup explains that the margin of error in its poll was 3%, adding that “it is not unusual to find about that many people in the typical poll agreeing with almost any question that is asked of them”, but even so it means that several million Americans believe Moon hoax theories.
Moreover, the figure is considerably higher in a specific age group: young people. A poll taken in 2006 by Dittmar Associates among young American adults indicated that 27% expressed some doubt that NASA went to the Moon, with 10% of the overall sample indicating that it was “highly unlikely” that a crewed Moon landing had ever taken place.* The Zogby poll mentioned earlier concurs, noting that “fewer 18-29 year olds than any other age group believe the Moon landing occurred” [Engaging the 18-25 Generation: Educational Outreach, Interactive Technologies, and Space, Mary Lynne Dittmar, in AIAA 2006-7303 (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics)].
Informal polls in other countries suggest highly variable percentages of hoax believers. In the United Kingdom, a 2008 Internet poll on a sample of 1000 people, arranged by 20th Century Fox for the launch of the movie X-Files: I Want to Believe, indicated that 35% of the participants thought the Moon landings were faked. A 2009 survey yielded an estimate of 25% [US Base Leads Poll’s Top Conspiracy Theories, in The Guardian, July 31, 2008; Britons Question Apollo 11 Moon Landings, Survey Reveals, in E&T Magazine, 2009].
In Germany, an ongoing Internet poll launched in 2001 by Der Spiegel magazine reported that 47% of the participants agree with hoax theories. Other similar surveys suggest hoax theory support at 44-62% of participants in France, 40% in Sweden, and 49% in Russia [Ein kosmischer Streit in Der Spiegel; 20min.ch and Pourourcontre.com; Aftonbladet.se; Cnews.ru; polls surveyed in June 2013].
However, these polls are not based on a statistically representative sampling of the population, but rely on volunteer participation, and since hoax theory supporters tend to be rather active in spreading their beliefs these percentages should be considered with a degree of caution.
Moon hoax belief also has significant political overtones. Admitting that Americans landed on the Moon entails acknowledging their technological superiority, and some ideologically-driven people and regimes aren’t very keen to do so.
For example, space historian and journalist James Oberg noted in 2003 that “many Cuban schools, both in Cuba and where Cuban schoolteachers were loaned, such as Sandinista Nicaragua, taught their students that Apollo was a fraud” [Lessons of the "Fake Moon Flight" Myth, in Skeptical Enquirer, March/April 2003; Getting Apollo 11 Right, ABC News, 1999]. It should be noted, however, that Oberg based his claim on just three anecdotal reports and that Moon landing denial does not appear to be the current position of the Cuban government, at least according to the official Ecured.cu encyclopedia.
When British documentary film maker Sean Langan was kidnapped by the Taliban in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region in 2008, “during his three-month ordeal he was interrogated by his captors many times and he was often surprised by what they wanted him to confess to. One subject they kept returning to were the Moon landings. They refused to believe that America had put men on the Moon and, again and again, they tried to browbeat him into admitting that NASA’s programme of manned space flight had been an elaborate hoax” [Obama’s cancellation of moon landings is a case of ‘No we can’t’, not ‘Yes we can’, by Toby Young, The Telegraph, 2010].
Anti-Americanism is a significant driving force behind lunar conspiracy claims, like it is for theories regarding the 9/11 attacks and UFOs, even in some moderate countries where popular resentment against US government policies is widespread. Within the United States, this resentment takes the form of a specific distrust of the federal government and of authorities in general, as clearly shown by the writings of Bill Kaysing, Ralph Rene and many other Moon hoax theorists.
4.2 Healthy doubt versus misinformed paranoiaPeople who have no doubts that the Moon landings really happened often make the mistake of thinking that hoax theorists are all stupid and paranoid. This misconception is a frequent cause of embarrassment when it turns out that people whom they hold otherwise in high esteem are doubters or conspiracy believers.
Unquestionably, some of the hoax theory supporters are very paranoid: they believe not only in the Moon hoax but also in the many other conspiracy theories that are especially abundant on the Internet, such as “chemtrails”, 9/11, the Kennedy assassination, earthquakes controlled by the US military, alternative medical treatments suppressed by multinational pharmaceutical companies, contacts with extraterrestrials covered up by the world’s governments and all sorts of secret power cliques, from “international banking cartels” (a euphemism for Jews) to the Illuminati and the Reptilians.
However, not everyone who leans towards alternative theories regarding the Moon missions is like that. There’s nothing wrong in questioning any officially dispensed truth, at least until it is corroborated by reliable independent sources. After all, governments do lie and conspire, as was shown at the time of the Apollo flights by the Watergate scandal and the misinformation about the war in Vietnam.
Many people are simply misinformed or not informed at all: they have only seen some of the many Internet sites and TV programs that support the Moon hoax theories and are unaware of the immense amount of information and evidence that debunks them. Part of the reason is that most of the in-depth evidence is only available in highly technical jargon.
There’s also nothing stupid or paranoid in being seduced by the powerful, professionally packaged images of a biased television show designed to grab attention at any cost. We’re naturally inclined to assume that what we see in a documentary or a book is true and authoritative because it’s backed by a publisher or a national radio or TV network and it’s labeled as journalism. Sadly, that’s not always true.
The difference between a poorly informed or misinformed person who has doubts and a hardcore conspiracy theorist is very simple. The doubter, after being presented with all the facts, realizes that he or she has been misled and accepts those facts; the conspiracy theorist will deny the evidence, hold on to some trivial unexplained detail as if it were definitive evidence of the hoax, and often accuse those who argue that the Moon landings were real of being “sheeple” or paid shills of America or of the hidden forces that organized the conspiracy.
Basically, a Moon hoax believer is someone who after being shown that two plus two is four, keeps on arguing that it’s actually five. Spending time in a debate with such people is therefore pointless. It is instead time well spent with a doubter, who will often be grateful after seeing all the evidence that has dispelled his or her doubts. So if you decide to debate, choose your sparring partner wisely.
Wide but shallow media coverageOne of the reasons why some people have been taken in by Moon hoax theories is that the media coverage during the Apollo missions was vast but nonetheless surprisingly shallow if compared to today’s drinking-from-a-fire-hose standards.
In the Sixties and Seventies it was very complicated and prohibitively expensive for an ordinary person, especially outside the United States, to go beyond what was offered by the media and obtain copies of NASA’s technical reports or of a complete, high-resolution series of the photographs taken on the Moon, which would have to be printed or microfilmed and mailed.
The only sources of readily available information were the press and the radio and TV networks: most people got only what these sources deemed fit to broadcast or publish, which rarely included technical minutiae. Astronomy and aviation magazines provided more detail, but they were read only by enthusiasts; the general public didn’t get that kind of in-depth information. Today, instead, thousands of pages of original, complete technical reports and tens of thousands of Apollo photographs are just a click away on the Internet.
Information regarding the Moon flights was also politically sensitive and therefore subject to control, not necessarily as censorship by government order but as self-censorship of news organizations, which often chose to promote America’s image of technical prowess and declined to publish unsavory details that would spoil it and damage the political competition with the Soviets on the world’s highly volatile stage.
The end result was a widespread but false impression of magically flawless missions, on which Moon hoax theorists often prey. At the time, only the people who were closely involved in the Moon missions knew otherwise. Today, now that the Cold War is essentially over and many confidential files (such as spy satellite photographs of the Soviet lunar spacecraft and N-1 booster) have been released by the US and Russian governments, everyone can find out how things actually went. It’s a fascinating journey of discovery even for non-doubters.
This dearth of material to show and the highly technical nature of the subject sometimes led the media to publish their own little Moon hoaxes. For example, for Apollo 11’s first Moon landing, the front page of Italian newspaper Il Messaggero of July 21, 1969 was noted by Time magazine, and is currently featured in the Kennedy Space Center exhibition, for spectacularly covering three-quarters of its front page with three words: “Luna – Primo Passo” (“Moon – first step”). But since the now-famous photograph of Buzz Aldrin’s bootprint was not available at the time (it was still undeveloped in a Hasselblad film magazine on the Moon), the newspaper nonchalantly faked it by using the print of an ordinary fishing boot, as shown below.
The front page of Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, July 21, 1969. Notice the fake lunar bootprint made with a fishing boot.
Of the thousands of photographs that were taken, the general public only got to see the small set chosen and published by newspapers and magazines or issued by NASA, and even those images suffered from several analog transfers that eroded the quality and sharp detail of the originals.
Top: a scan of an original 1975 NASA print of photo AS11-40-5949 (cropped) showing Buzz Aldrin on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Bottom: a scan of the same photo taken directly from the original film and now downloadable from NASA’s website.
The color film and television recordings were available only when they were broadcast by the TV networks or shown in movie theaters, often in the form of faded, grainy, low-quality transfers that don’t do justice to the actual clarity and definition of the originals.
Today, instead, anyone can buy DVDs and Blu-ray discs with direct digital scans and transfers of the entire Apollo visual record and view the original detail and the pictures that the media, at the time of the Moon landings, didn’t show due to inevitable space and time constraints.
The complete recordings of the radio transmissions of all the missions are also available to download. Even the audio and transcripts of Apollo 11’s onboard voice recorders are now online in NASA’s archives and at Live365.com.
Rather paradoxically, we have a far more complete and detailed coverage of the Moon landings today, over forty years later, than we had while they were taking place.
Media misdirectionThere were no live TV transmissions from the Apollo spacecraft during the lunar module’s descent to the surface of the Moon, so most newspapers covered the first Moon landing by showing artist’s renderings of the event. For Walter Cronkite’s famous live TV coverage of the Apollo 11 landing, CBS showed an animation which was timed to match the scheduled timetable of the landing but went confusingly out of sync when Neil Armstrong delayed the actual touchdown to find a safe landing spot (Cronkite, however, correctly announced “We’re home. Man on the Moon!” and exclaimed his famous “Oh, boy!” after Armstrong had radioed that the LM had landed).
These renderings and animations were dramatically effective but often quite inaccurate in their artistic license and created misleading expectations in the public. For example, they almost invariably depicted visible stars and a bright, fiery exhaust plume from the LM’s descent engine, although in actual fact the stars would be too faint to see against the glare of the daylit lunar surface, and the LM engine plume was colorless and essentially invisible in the vacuum of space. Aesthetics took precedence over scientific accuracy, and the visible exhaust was also a very convenient visual shorthand to explain how the spidery spacecraft could fly and hover in a vacuum. Moreover, the same inaccuracy occurs in many NASA illustrations.
A truly unbelievable journeyOther extenuating circumstances must also be considered when looking back at the birth of Moon hoax theories. The space age had begun only twelve years earlier: Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, had been launched in 1957. The first human space flight had occurred in 1961, yet just eight years later mankind was walking on the Moon. In a world that had just begun to see the introduction of jet airliners to replace propeller-driven aircraft, this kind of progress was literally beyond belief. Many people simply didn’t have the time to get accustomed to the reality of spaceflight.
Moreover, until Apollo 8 flew around the Moon in 1968, no human flight had ever gone beyond low Earth orbit. Going to the Moon meant flying suddenly three hundred times farther than any other crewed mission – the previous record belonged to Gemini 11, which had attained an altitude of 1,374 kilometers (854 miles) – and reaching a highly symbolic destination.
In other words, it should not be a surprise that the Moon missions were met with some disbelief. Considering that all subsequent human spaceflights, even Shuttle and Soyuz missions to the International Space Station or to service the Hubble Space Telescope, have never climbed more than 600 kilometers (372 miles) away from the Earth’s surface, it’s almost understandable that there is still some doubt about the Apollo flights, which reached a distance of four hundred thousand kilometers (nearly a quarter of a million miles).
Such vast distances are hard to visualize. Consider that if you shrunk the Earth to a 40-centimeter (16-inch) ball, the Moon would be 10 centimeters (4 inches) in diameter and the Earth-Moon distance would be 11 meters (36 feet). At this scale, a flight to the International Space Station would rise above the Earth by a single centimeter (less than half an inch).
4.3 Origins and history of Moon hoax theoriesHoax claims regarding the crewed lunar missions are not a recent phenomenon. In his book A Man on the Moon, Andrew Chaikin notes that they circulated even before the landings, questioning Apollo 8’s flight around the Moon in December 1968.
There are anecdotal reports of doubters in the newspapers of the time, but it’s difficult to find any hard figures. One year after the first Moon landing, an informal US poll by Knight Newspapers reported that over 30% of the 1,721 respondents were suspicious of NASA’s claims.
The figure rose to 54% among African Americans, although space historian Roger D. Launius notes that this “perhaps said more about the disconnectedness of minority communities from the Apollo effort and the nation’s overarching racism than anything else.” [A Moon Landing? What Moon Landing? by John Noble Wilford, New York Times, 18 December 1969, p. 30; The Wrong Stuff, in Wired 2.09, September 1994; Newsweek, 20 July 1970; Many Doubt Man’s Landing on Moon, Atlanta Constitution, 15 June 1970; Roger D. Launius, American Spaceflight History’s Master Narrative and the Meaning of Memory, in Remembering the Space Age, Steven J. Dick (ed.), 2008, p. 373-384].
Many sources report that the very first pamphlet dedicated to the subject was Did Man Land on the Moon? by mathematician James J. Cranny, who self-published it in Johnson City, Texas, in 1970. Little is known, however, about its content or its author.
Moon hoax claims were soon referenced in popular culture. For example, in the movie Diamonds are Forever (1971), secret agent James Bond escapes by driving a stolen “Moon car” through a wall of an elaborate set where a moonwalk is being simulated.
The “Moon set” in Diamonds are Forever (1971). Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
Bill Kaysing, grandfather of Moon hoax proponentsThe first widely publicized book promoting Moon hoax claims appeared in 1974, two years after the end of the Apollo lunar missions, when William Charles Kaysing (1922-2005) self-published the book We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle, which presented a long list of alleged evidence that the lunar missions had been faked.
The cover of Bill Kaysing’s book as currently available on Amazon.com.
In We Never Went to the Moon, Kaysing presents a letter from the Rocketdyne Division of Rockwell International, which states that he was hired as senior technical writer in 1956 and subsequently worked there as service analyst, service engineer and publications analyst until he quit for personal reasons in May 1963. Rocketdyne built the Saturn V’s rocket engines, so this would appear to qualify Kaysing as a significant authority on the Apollo project.
However, as his online biography acknowledges, Bill Kaysing had no formal technical education: he had a bachelor’s degree in English literature. In his book he actually states that his “knowledge of rockets and technical writing both equalled zero” (page 30).
Moreover, Kaysing left Rocketdyne in 1963, well before the Moon missions began. It is therefore unlikely that his experience in the aerospace industry allowed him to acquire any special knowledge of the Apollo vehicles and technologies, which were still in the early stages of development when Kaysing quit and in any case were massively redesigned after the fatal fire of Apollo 1 in 1967.
Indeed, Kaysing makes the following remarks about the period after his employment at Rocketdyne:
I had not really given the Apollo program much thought in the years since leaving Rocketdyne. I had followed it in a cursory fashion, becoming aware of it only through the more startling developments: the fire on Pad 34, for example. [...] I watched none of the moon “landings” nor did I pay much attention to print media presentations. [...] I paid even less attention to the follow-on “flights” of Apollo and noticed that many others were equally neglectful.”
– We Never Went to the Moon, page 7.
He also states that his disbelief was not based on the technical documents to which he had access, but on “a hunch, an intuition; information from some little understood and mysterious channel of communication... a metaphysical message” (ibid.). In other words, Kaysing had no hard evidence to support his conviction.
As often happens with supporters of many kinds of conspiracy theory, their alleged authoritativeness vanishes when their credentials are cross-checked. Indeed, so far nobody having any significant qualification in the aerospace industry or at least in special effects technology has ever supported the “Moon hoax” theories.
Capricorn OneA major boost to the popularity of hoax theories came from the movie Capricorn One, directed by Peter Hyams in 1978. Its entertaining story of high-level rogues within NASA trying to save their face by faking a crewed Mars landing on a secret soundstage is often mentioned in all seriousness by conspiracy theorists as a prime example of how easily the Moon landings could have been staged.
The poster for Capricorn One (1978).
Rather amusingly, conspiracists hail Capricorn One despite the fact that the attempted fakery depicted in the movie actually fails: the fakers forget a crucial technical detail and their deception is spotted by a NASA engineer and disclosed spectacularly by a journalist. Moreover, the movie’s technical explanation of the effects used to fake the landing is riddled with implausibilities and absurdities.
Nevertheless, the story played well on the theme of distrust of government, and the allusion to the Moon missions was rendered even more explicit by using Apollo hardware for the faked Mars landing and by the tagline “Would you be shocked to find out that the greatest moment of our recent history may not have happened at all?”
Ralph ReneRalph Rene (1933-2008), a self-taught American writer and inventor with no formal background in spaceflight, self-published several editions of his book NASA Mooned America! in the early 1990s, which rapidly became popular among conspiracists. His Moon landing fakery claims led to interviews for several television programs produced by The History Channel, National Geographic, Fox TV, Showtime and other networks around the world.
The cover of Rene’s book NASA Mooned America! (1994 edition).
The 2001 Fox TV show Did We Land on the Moon? described him as a “physicist” and as an “author/scientist”, but Rene acknowledged in his own online biography that he “did not finish college and is, therefore, without ‘proper academic credentials.’”
However, the same biography claims that he was a former “consultant to NASA and the Rand Corporation” with “impeccable” credentials because he had been contacted by Rand “pleading for contributions of free inventions or thoughts relating to space for NASA”, “at least one of his ideas” had passed “three sequential screening committees,” and his name had been published in a NASA “propaganda document” regarding possible crewed missions to Mars.
On his website and in his book The Last Skeptic of Science (1988), Ralph Rene argued that the official value of pi is wrong, that Einstein’s theory of relativity is not valid and that Newton’s law of universal gravitation is in error.
Despite Rene’s questionable background, his claims regarding the Apollo missions continue to this day to be quoted in traditional media and on the Internet. They will be discussed in detail in the chapters that follow.
Fox TV’s Conspiracy theory: Did We Land on the Moon?In February and March 2001, the Fox TV network broadcast Conspiracy theory: Did We Land on the Moon?, a one-hour show which gave ample space to the allegations of hoax theorists (Ralph Rene, Bill Kaysing, Paul Lazarus, David Percy, Bart Sibrel and others) without any basic fact-checking and without providing any significant time for a technical rebuttal.
As a professionally-produced show broadcast on a national network, Did We Land on the Moon? appeared to be authoritative and consequently had a far greater impact on public opinion than the self-published efforts that had preceded it.
A still from the main title sequence of the Fox TV show.
The show caused outrage in the aerospace community, yet was picked up and translated into several languages around the world, continuing to circulate despite the fact that each one of its claims has long been debunked by the astronomers and space professionals that Fox chose not to consult [Conspiracy Theory: Did We Go to the Moon?, Prof. Steven Dutch, University of Wisconsin; Fox TV and the Apollo Moon Hoax, Phil Plait, Ph.D., astronomer].
2002, the year Buzz made contactThe advent of the Internet as a popular medium in the early 1990s allowed hoax theory proponents to spread their ideas rapidly. Low-cost camcorders and video editing systems gave them the means to produce many home-brew videos, disseminating them at first on videocassettes for sale and later directly on the Internet and on DVD.
This, together with the Fox show, led to an explosive production of Moon hoax videos and spawned a new generation of conspiracy theorists and theories. One of these theorists is Bart Sibrel.
Bart Sibrel in 2001.
In 2001, Sibrel released a 47-minute video, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon, in which he claimed to have found a “secret” videotape of the Apollo 11 mission that proved the fakery.
The footage was actually a test TV transmission performed during the mission and was well-known to space experts and historians, but Sibrel’s allegation and his appearance in the Fox TV show propelled him to great popularity in conspiracy theory circles.
Sibrel began following the Moon astronauts (even when they went to the supermarket) and asking them to swear on the Bible that they had really walked on the Moon. Some did; others refused.
On September 9, 2002, Sibrel chased Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin with a cameraman and a sound technician in front of a Beverly Hills hotel and accused Aldrin of being “a coward and a liar”. Aldrin, who was 72 at the time, replied with a punch to Sibrel’s face.
Buzz Aldrin (right) initiates a hard docking maneuver with Bart Sibrel (far right).
The first reaction of the 37-year-old hoax theorist was to ask his cameraman “Did you get that on camera?”
The incident attracted worldwide media attention and inevitably rekindled the Moon hoax debate. Charges against Aldrin were dropped when “witnesses came forward to say that Mr Sibrel had aggressively poked Aldrin with the Bible before he was punched”. Moreover, Sibrel “sustained no visible injury and did not seek medical attention, and Mr Aldrin had no previous criminal record.” [Ex-astronaut escapes assault charge, BBC News, September 21, 2002].
Sibrel continued to pester Moon astronauts Alan Bean, Gene Cernan, Michael Collins, Al Worden, Bill Anders, John Young, Neil Armstrong and others, sometimes presenting fake credentials (for example to Edgar Mitchell). According to Clavius.org, he trespassed on Neil Armstrong’s property while trying to confront him with his hoax allegations (Armstrong called the police). Sibrel was subsequently fired from his job as a cameraman for a Nashville TV station.
Another Sibrel video, Astronauts Gone Wild (2004), showed Cernan, Bean and Mitchell swearing on Sibrel’s Bible that they did go to the Moon, as the conspiracy theorist demanded. Despite this, Sibrel still claims that the Apollo Moon landings were faked. The video also showed Armstrong politely refusing and saying “Mr Sibrel, knowing you, that’s probably a fake Bible.”
Other notable hoax proponentsMoon hoax theorists and their claims have achieved significant popularity in many other countries besides the United States. British film and TV producer David Percy co-authored a book, Dark Moon: Apollo and the Whistle-Blowers (2001), and produced a video, What Happened on the Moon? (2000), alleging varying degrees of fakery. French writer Philippe Lheureux argued in his book Lumières sur la Lune (“Lights on the Moon”, 2002) that Americans went to the Moon but published fake photographs to prevent other countries from making use of the scientific information gathered by the flights.
German author Gernot Geise published three books, Der Mond ist ganz anders (“The Moon is completely different”, 1985, republished in 2003), Die dunkle Seite von Apollo (“The dark side of Apollo”, 2002, republished in 2006), and Die Schatten von Apollo (“The shadow of Apollo”, 2003), arguing not only that the Moon landings were faked, but that key facts about the Moon itself, such as its true gravity and the presence of vegetation and ancient buildings, have been kept secret by NASA.
Geise’s allegations were promoted on German TV in the documentary Die Akte Apollo (“The Apollo File”, 2002) by Gerhard Wisnewski and Willy Brunner. Wisnewski also published the book Lügen im Weltraum (“Lies In Space”, 2005) covering the same themes.
Roberto Giacobbo, anchor and assistant director of Italy’s national TV network RAI, brought Moon hoax theories to large television audiences with his Voyager series in 2009.
Italian TV anchor Roberto Giacobbo talks about Moon hoax theories in an episode of Voyager (2009), The upper caption says “Moon, another story?”.
Several Russian authors, such as journalist and politician Yuri Mukhin and science professionals such as Alexander Popov and Stanislav Pokrovsky, have also voiced their claims of conspiracies in articles, books and websites.
4.4 The four fundamental hoax scenariosThere are many Moon hoax claims, leading to multiple alternative explanations of what allegedly actually happened. As is often the case in the bizarre world of conspiracy theories regarding many events, for the Moon landings there is a single “official” version, which is self-consistent, extensively documented and widely accepted by the experts, and there are many alternative versions of the hoax scenario, which contradict each other.
Accordingly, it can be highly instructive, and sometimes entertaining, to avoid the usual debate between “believers” and “skeptics” and instead arrange a confrontation among Moon hoax proponents that support different and mutually incompatible versions of the way the events were faked.
Knowing these various aspects of Moon hoax theories is important, because it highlights their inconsistencies and shows that many conspiracy theorists and doubters haven’t really thought through the consequences and implications of their pet arguments and therefore end up making self-contradictory statements, as detailed in the chapters that follow.
We never went. EverSupporters of this theory allege that NASA lacked the technology for a Moon landing and that even today the radiation of the Van Allen belts that surround the Earth is a lethal barrier to any crew venturing away from our planet.
Accordingly, they argue that all crewed flights to the Moon, including Apollo 8, 10 and 13, which orbited around the Moon without landing, had to be faked.
Therefore, they claim, all the photographs and film footage, the radio and TV broadcasts and the telemetry from the lunar surface and from lunar orbit had to be faked by using special effects. Likewise, the lunar rocks and all the science brought back from the Moon had to be fabricated or acquired through other means.
Artist’s impression of Moon fakery movie set. Credit: Moise.
This scenario implies the need to fake every detail of nine complete lunar missions: six Moon landings and three flights around the Moon.
Supporters of this theory allege that NASA failed in this immensely complicated simulation of so many missions and that the skeptical eye of hoax theorists was sharper than the experts’ vision in spotting mistakes and anomalies in the pictures and in noting scientific impossibilities.
We went, but the first landing was fakedSome conspiracy theorists argue that the first Moon landing (Apollo 11) was faked because the vehicles were not ready or were untested, but all the previous and subsequent missions were real.
Artist’s impression of true/fake mission sorting process. Credit: Moise.
This theory seeks to explain, for example, the difference in quality between the grainy, black-and-white television footage of the first landing and the sharper color images of the subsequent Moon missions.
It also appears to justify the difference in quality and quantity between the photographs taken by Apollo 11 and those taken by all the later missions, as well as the use of different spacesuits and the far longer duration of the moonwalks: the Apollo 11 astronauts made a single lunar excursion that lasted two and a half hours, yet Apollo 12 already had two moonwalks that lasted almost four hours each.
The fact that the Apollo 11 moonwalkers stayed very close to their landing spot, differently from all the other missions, is explained by the need to stay within the confines of the movie set.
The initial fakery, in other words, was meant to fool the Soviet Union into believing that it had lost the race to the Moon and gain time to go there for real later.
We went, but the photos were fakedAnother school of thought claims that the Moon missions were all real but their photos were unusable and had to be faked. The films, it is argued, were fogged by cosmic radiation, melted by the excessive heat in the sun, or frozen by the extreme cold of lunar shadows, or the lighting on the Moon was so unearthly that the camera settings were wrong and the resulting photographs were unacceptable in terms of propaganda effectiveness.
Artist’s impression of film liquefaction issues. Credit: Moise.
A variation on this theory suggests that the real photos contained scientific information that the US did not want to share with rival countries and therefore a set of simulated pictures was prepared.
We went, but we found ETThe fourth main scenario of Moon hoax theories argues that perhaps not all the landings were real, but we did go to the Moon sooner or later, only to find that it was already occupied by extraterrestrials.
Artist’s impression of unexpected discoveries on the Moon. Credit: Moise.
Proponents of this theory say that some photos show UFOs in the lunar sky and that clandestine recordings document the astonishment of the astronauts as they discovered that they were not alone on the Moon.
Some claim that mankind has not returned to the Moon since those first landings because the aliens have told us to stay away. Others say that additional secret Moon missions were carried out to recover abandoned alien vehicles, from which NASA extracted the technologies for the Space Shuttle and for many other covert military projects.
That’s really what they sayBefore you ask: no, these four main scenarios are not fabrications of the supporters of the “official” story, designed to ridicule Moon hoax proponents. Each one of these scenarios is documented in the books, videos and Internet sites of the various conspiracy theorists. There are even more ludicrous ones.
More importantly, the supporters of each one of these four main theories claim that they have incontrovertible evidence of their allegations, which contradict the other competing conspiracy scenarios. Standing aside and watching these people argue among themselves, therefore, can be extremely enlightening.
4.5 None of the experts have doubtsSupporters of Moon hoax theories claim to have found many anomalies in the photographs and footage of the Apollo missions and to have identified several technical and physical impossibilities that prove their hoax claims.
In actual fact, these alleged anomalies and impossibilities exist only in the opinion of people who are not experts in the relevant fields. Anyone who is professionally involved in photography, space technology or astronomy knows very well that what a layman might consider strange or implausible is instead exactly what science expects to occur in the unfamiliar environment of space and on the Moon.
Only incompetent amateurs question the authenticity of the Moon missions. In over forty years, no real expert has ever raised documented doubts.
On the contrary, many of the apparent anomalies actually authenticate the visual record of the Apollo missions, as explained by Dennis Muren, winner of six Academy Awards for the visual effects of movies such as Jurassic Park, Terminator 2, The Abyss, E.T. and Star Wars:
“A moon landing simulation [produced with the special effects of the 1960s] might have looked pretty real to 99.9 percent of the people. The thing is, though, that it wouldn’t have looked the way it did. I’ve always been acutely aware of what’s fake and what’s real, and the moon landings were definitely real. Look at 2001 or Destination Moon or Capricorn One or any other space movie: everybody was wrong. That wasn’t the way the moon looked at all. There was an unusual sheen to the images from the moon, in the way that the light reflected in the camera, that is literally out of this world. Nobody could have faked that.”
– The Wrong Stuff, by Roger van Bakel, Wired (1993).
The second part of this book will sort the alleged hoax evidence into categories and debunk each claim systematically by using technical facts.
You probably won’t be surprised that the house of cards of the lunar conspiracists’ “evidence” ultimately collapses completely; but it’s very insightful to explore the nature of the recurring errors and patterns of thought on which these theories are based.
Moreover, disproving some of this evidence requires considerable research, especially because hoax theorists usually present documents, photographs and videos without specifying their source or the mission to which they relate, and also requires familiarity with the errors and deceptions often made by hoax theory proponents. This makes it hard even for many experts in astronomy or aerospace technology to find the exact technical explanation of some alleged anomalies and to provide accurate answers to the Moon hoax questions that often come up during their public talks. One of the purposes of this book is to gather the explanations that have already been provided over the years and offer a handy guide to answering these questions.
In particular, the printed version of this book is useful for settling discussions with the most obstinate Moon hoax theorists: it can be used as a highly persuasive blunt instrument.