10.1 Were the Soviets bribed to keep quiet?When a Moon hoax believer is asked to explain why the Soviets didn’t denounce the alleged US fakery, one frequent reply is that the Soviet government was silenced by a bribe it couldn’t refuse. Ralph Rene, in Nasa Mooned America!, claims that this bribe was a huge amount of grain sold below cost by the United States to Russia in 1972.
However, a little fact-checking of history files shows that there was no secret deal between the two rival countries: on the contrary, the Soviet Union contrived a clever plan to covertly purchase on the free market, through shell companies, 30% of the US grain crop and even managed to take advantage of the US government’s farming export incentives. The press aptly called this scam The Great Russian Grain Robbery, as a reference to the then-famous British great train robbery of 1963.
Contrary to Rene’s claims, the grain wasn’t sold below cost, but the huge purchase triggered a market rush which tripled the price within a year. The Russians even managed to pull a similar trick again in 1975.*
* What Land Crash? by Marcia Zarley Taylor, AgWeb.com (2007); Another Soviet Grain Sting, in Time, Nov. 28, 1977.
It should be noted that US grain sales to Russia were not unusual: smaller negotiated deals had been made even during President Kennedy’s term and West European countries had also been involved.
In other words, Rene is reversing cause and effect in order to make the events fit his preconceptions: the US didn’t sell the grain below cost, but rather the Russian purchase made grain prices rise later on.
There’s also a bigger picture to be considered: if a discounted sale of grain was really all it took to keep the Russians quiet and convince them to lose face in the space race, then why wasn’t this leverage used to obtain other, perhaps more useful results, such as keeping the Russians out of the Vietnam War or ending the nuclear arms race? Instead of solving a contradiction, this justification merely leads to an even bigger absurdity.
This bribery scenario also entails a further increase in the number of participants to the conspiracy and in the consequent risk of someone, sooner or later, spilling the beans: the Russians, too, would have to be in on the fakery and would have to keep the secret flawlessly for over forty years.
Moreover, if the Russians were paid off to let the US win the race to the Moon, why did they bother to design and build a rival Moon rocket, the giant N1, that they would never use (Figure 10-1)?
10.2 Were the Moon rocks faked?Some conspiracy theorists argue that the rock samples allegedly returned from the Moon were actually created in a laboratory so that they would fool even the experts: an easy task, they say, since there were no other Moon rock samples to which they could be compared. As an alternative, meteors of lunar origin found on Earth were used. It is alleged that only trusted geologists were allowed to examine the samples, which were tightly controlled with the excuse that they were rare and valuable.
The facts, however, don’t support these claims: every year, approximately 400 samples from the Apollo Moon rocks are given out to the public for scientific and educational purposes. Requesting a sample is a fairly simple procedure. For example, the Lunar Sample Disk Kit, containing Apollo Moon rocks encapsulated in transparent material, is available to any teacher that follows a three-hour certification course.
Many samples of these Moon rocks have been donated to museums in over 100 countries of the world and are on public display (Figure 10-3).
Moreover, it is incorrect to claim that no comparisons were possible, because the Soviet probes Luna 16, 20 and 24 returned lunar soil samples to Earth between 1970 and 1976.
The idea to use lunar meteorites found on Earth and pass them off as samples brought back by the Apollo astronauts is shot down by the fact that the Apollo samples have many features that lunar meteorites can’t have. One of the most conspicuous is that the surface of the Apollo Moon rocks is pockmarked with minute craters produced by the high-speed impact of micrometeoroids (Figure 10-4).
This feature could not be replicated in a laboratory in the 1960s and is not observed in lunar meteors found on Earth because the heat and friction of their fiery dive through the atmosphere erodes their surface.
The characteristics of the Apollo rocks also confirm their nonterrestrial origin: they lack water-bearing minerals and show none of the geologic changes that characterize Earth’s rocks. For example, here’s the opinion of Steven Dutch, professor of geology at the University of Wisconsin, who examined the Apollo samples personally and replied to the allegations of fakery:
Water is ubiquitous on earth - it’s present in magma, rocks deep in the crust are changed by hot fluids, and rocks near the surface are altered by surface water. Olivine in particular is easily altered. In the second picture [Figure 10-5], the olivine is fractured but the fractures are absolutely clean. You simply do not see unaltered olivine on earth.
This could not have been faked. These rocks have grains easily visible to the unaided eye, which means they cooled slowly. To have made these materials synthetically would have required keeping the rocks at 1100 C for years, cooling them slowly at thousands of pounds per square inch pressure. It would have taken years to create the apparatus, years more to get the hang of making the materials, and then years more to create the final result. Starting from Sputnik I in 1957, there would not have been enough time to do it. And, you’d have to synthesize several different types of rock in hundred-pound lots.
...Why create absolutely water-free rocks? Nobody was expecting that - it would have been much easier to fake rocks with water in them (for one thing, you could use terrestrial rocks) and nobody would have been suspicious. And you’d have to put in exactly the right amounts of radioactive elements and daughter products to get the rocks to date radiometrically at 4 billion years old - older than any terrestrial rocks. And you’d have to anticipate the development of new dating methods not in use in 1969 and make sure those elements are present in the correct abundance. And it’s not like adding carrots to a stew, either. To mimic the results of potassium-argon dating, you’d have to add inert argon gas and trap it just in the potassium-bearing minerals, and in exact proportion to the amount of potassium.
– from a review of Conspiracy Theory: Did We Go to the Moon?
10.3 Did Stanley Kubrick shoot the fake footage?The name of movie director Stanley Kubrick, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, is mentioned often as the creator of the faked Apollo footage. However, his biography clearly shows that his whereabouts at the time when he was supposed to be shooting the Apollo fakery were well-known. He was busy shooting 2001 from 1964 to 1968 and then focused on the preproduction of Napoleon, which was never completed because United Artists went broke, and on directing A Clockwork Orange (1971). Famous for his obsessive attention to image composition and cinematography and for his glacially slow production pace, Kubrick simply wouldn’t have had the time to direct the dozens of hours of moonwalk footage needed to cover six Moon landings (leaving aside the problem of how to fake them with 1960s visual effects technology).
Moreover, since the early Sixties, Kubrick no longer lived in the United States. He lived in the United Kingdom, where he shot all of his movies (including 2001) and had a well-known fear of travel, especially in aircraft. This would have made any participation to the fakery even more complicated.
Kubrick was probably aware of the allegations of his involvement in a movie simulating the Moon trips (Arthur C. Clarke, co-writer of the 2001 screenplay with Kubrick, certainly was: he even wrote a facetious letter to NASA’s chief administrator, demanding prompt payment for the job). It is probably not coincidental that Danny, one of the key characters in Kubrick’s 1980 movie The Shining, wears a sweater that depicts a rocket and the words “Apollo 11 USA” (Figure 10-6).
Some Moon hoax theorists, such as Jay Weidner, instead argue that this choice of sweater isn’t an in-joke but is actually a silent act of confession by Kubrick, therefore bizarrely justifying one conspiracy claim by means of another one.
One astute objection to the claim that Kubrick shot the fake visual record of the Apollo missions has been suggested by Christian Blauvelt of Hollywood.com: “the moon footage would have looked a hell of a lot better if Kubrick really had directed it.”
10.4 Did the Apollo astronauts never leave Earth orbit?Another popular twist on the Apollo fakery claims is the idea, championed for example by Bart Sibrel, that the Apollo astronauts did indeed go to space on their Saturn V rockets and returned with the splashdowns that the world watched on TV, but didn’t go all the way to the Moon: they hid in Earth orbit.
In this way, it is argued, they didn’t have to cope with the allegedly lethal radiation of the Van Allen belts and they were able to shoot the TV and film footage in which they are seen to be weightless inside the spacecraft. This solved the problem of simulating weightlessness, and only the footage on the Moon would have to be faked, greatly reducing the workload and the number of participants involved in the hoax. The spacecraft would actually be fully functional and would actually fly, and only a small group of people would need to know the actual flight plan.
The liftoff would be real, and so would the reentry, and the astronauts would actually be in space, where nobody could bump into them by mistake and where they would be subjected to the physiological effects of weightlessness.
Conspiracy theorists make it sound easy, but this scenario clashes with the basic fact that the lunar TV and film footage of the Apollo missions was nevertheless impossible to fake with 1960s-era movie effects.
There’s also the problem that the astronauts’ radio and TV transmissions would arrive from Earth orbit instead of from deep space, and this would entail a very conspicuous difference in the aiming of any radio antenna that received these signals. An orbit around the Earth below the Van Allen belts last no more than a couple of hours and therefore the antennas would have to swing rapidly to chase the spacecraft as it moved across the sky, whereas real lunar transmissions would instead require them to stay trained on the Moon. The wrong aiming would be obvious not only to local technicians but also to anyone nearby, who would wonder why the giant dish-like antennas were not pointed at the Moon.
Moreover, the Soviets, who were competing with the United States for the prestige of the first Moon landing, would have been able to detect the fakery by using their own radio telescopes.
Ham radio operators such as Sven Grahn, who listened in on the radio transmissions from the Apollo spacecraft, also would have noticed that the signals were not coming from the Moon or its vicinity: they would have found that the signal vanished periodically when the spacecraft, as it orbited around the Earth, went beyond the local horizon.
There’s another objection that renders the Earth-parking scenario visibly absurd: the Apollo spacecraft would have been observable from the ground by any amateur astronomer. Even small satellites can be spotted because they reflect sunlight and therefore stand out as bright moving specks against the dark sky after sunset or before dawn. A vehicle of the size of Apollo (with or without the S-IVB stage) would have been very easy to spot, giving away the secret.
For example, the International Space Station, the Chinese Tiangong-1 space station or the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which orbit the Earth at much higher altitudes than those alleged for the Apollo spacecraft, are visible to the naked eye and can be photographed in detail with a good telescope (as demonstrated magnificently by Thierry Legault’s images) and their transit times and paths are easily available. Indeed, the Apollo flights were spotted in this way not only during their brief period in Earth orbit but also during their journeys to the Moon and back by professional and amateur astronomers all over the world.
The photographs shown in Figure 10-8, for example, were taken by the Smithsonian observatory in Maui on December 21, 1968 and show Apollo 8, the first crewed mission to leave low Earth orbit and fly around the Moon, as it fires its engine to accelerate toward the Moon. The subsequent dumping of the residual fuel from the S-IVB stage was even visible to the naked eye and was documented by many amateur astronomers in the United Kingdom.
During the Apollo 13 crisis, the initial explosion released a cloud of oxygen that was documented visually from Earth. NASA, moreover, resorted to help from the professional astronomers of the Chabot observatory in Oakland to determine the exact position of the crippled spacecraft so as to calculate the last firing of the lunar module engine, used as an emergency retrorocket, and bring back safely the three astronauts. Details of these and other Apollo sightings are in Bill Keel’s Telescopic Tracking of the Apollo Lunar Missions.
Figure 10-9 shows, at the center, the command module, the service module and the lunar module of Apollo 13, over 23,000 kilometers (14,300 miles) from Earth, en route to the Moon, before the accident. The other four dots are the fairing panels that enclosed the lunar module and had been jettisoned.
The picture was taken through the 60-centimeter (24-inch) telescope of Table Mountain, in California. The diagonal streaks are stars, distorted by the motion of the telescope to chase the spacecraft during the five minutes of the exposure of the film. The same observatory saw the Apollo 8 S-IVB stage and command and service module when it was nearly 320,000 kilometers (200,000 miles) from Earth.*
* The Apollo 13 CSLM, W7ftt.net.
It should be noted that the locations and events reported and recorded by amateur and professional astronomers correspond perfectly to the ones described in NASA’s technical documents for the individual missions.
10.5 Did the radio and TV signals come from an orbiting satellite?Another frequent conjecture among Moon hoax theorists is that the live TV broadcasts and the radio communications were prerecorded and then sent from an uncrewed satellite that orbited the Earth or the Moon.
An Earth-orbiting satellite would have been out of the question, however, for the same reasons mentioned earlier: the Soviet space surveillance system and ham radio users worldwide would have been capable of intercepting the direct feed from the satellite and would have realized that its signal wasn’t coming from the Moon because its source changed position constantly. Even a geostationary orbit would have revealed the trick, because it wouldn’t have followed the orbital motion of the Moon.
Placing the transmitter in orbit around the Moon or on the lunar surface would have solved these problems, but it would have left another very conspicuous clue to the fakery: the frequency of the radio transmissions from a moving spacecraft varies depending on the speed with which it moves toward or away from the receiving station, just like the sound of an ambulance siren changes pitch as it approaches or moves away. This variation, known as Doppler effect, would have been detectable by any well-equipped radio enthusiast.
The transmitter would have to travel through space (or vary its transmission frequency artificially) by following exactly the mission profile stated by NASA, simulating not only the trip but also every lunar orbit, which entailed an increase and a decrease in the distance to Earth, with a consequent continuous frequency variation. A second transmitter, simulating exactly the movements of the lunar module when it detached from the command and service modules, would also have been necessary.
To add to the complexity of this concept, it would have been necessary to transmit not only the radio and TV communications but also fake telemetry data that reported the state of the spacecraft to Mission Control. All these data would have to be created from scratch with perfect authenticity and would have to match exactly the speed and direction of the spacecraft, which would have been detectable by means of the Doppler effect.
Worse still, any mistake in the characteristics of the transmissions from the fake spacecraft would have exposed the conspiracy.
Moreover, the deep space monitoring and transmission network wasn’t entirely controlled by NASA or the US government. For example, most of the radio communications of the various missions and in particular the live TV broadcast of the first landing on the Moon went through the Australian radio telescopes of Parkes and Honeysuckle Creek, which were operated by local engineers.
These weren’t nameless minions; they were (and many still are) very real people, who don’t mince words about their role in the Apollo project and about the conspiracy theorists who accuse them of collusion. Here’s what Mike Dinn, deputy manager of the radio monitoring station of the Manned Spaceflight Network in Honeysuckle Creek, Australia, during Apollos 7 to 13, has to say:
...as I was the Australian citizen employed by the Australian government responsible for running the operations at the prime Australian tracking site here near Canberra I can vouch for the scientific/engineering fact that we pointed our antenna at the trajectory to, at and from the moon and transmitted and received radio signals containing commands, telemetry, television together with navigation info from antenna angles, Doppler frequencies and two way range delays. Impossible to fake.
I actually talked with Apollo 8 on the way out (see ALSJ for details) and my assistant ops man John Saxon spoke to Young and Duke on the lunar surface during Apollo 16.
– my personal communication with Dinn, 2010
10.6 Were the mistakes left in on purpose by whistleblowers?One of the most interesting and creative justifications in the alternative vision of reality proposed by conspiracy theorists, both regarding the Moon landings and other historical events, is the so-called whistleblower theory.
Sooner or later the conspiracy theorist has to deal with the fact that there are, paradoxically, just too many apparently revealing mistakes in his reconstruction of the events. If this was supposed to be a colossal deception, organized by the highest levels of government, with access to vast funding and resources and top experts in fakery, and if the nation’s reputation was at stake, why is the resulting conspiracy riddled with blatant blunders and amateurish mistakes?
A typical answer to this conundrum is to explain away the missing stars and fluttering flags by arguing that these flubs were left in intentionally by the perpetrators of the conspiracy. They were ashamed of the deception into which they had been forced and so they tried to warn people through these mistakes. Astute observers and true free thinkers would detect these coded messages and reveal the truth to the world.
The logical flaw of this explanation is that it uses a totally unproven conspiracy theory to prop up another conspiracy theory and it implies that the organizers of the fakery were so dumb that they didn’t notice the telltale mistakes that had been left in by the whistleblowers. It is rather difficult to believe that nobody along the chain of command of the conspiracy would notice, for example, a letter “C” left conspicuously on a rock or the crosshairs drawn behind objects.
This conspiracy-within-a-conspiracy theory also entails assuming that all the experts in the science fields touched by the Apollo missions are blind and incompetent: today’s astronauts, aerospace engineers, astronomers, including those of countries that don’t exactly hold the United States in high regard, would all have to be so dumb that they fail systematically to notice the alleged intentional errors that conspiracy enthusiasts, despite knowing little or nothing about spaceflight or astronomy, claim to find so easily.
Unfortunately, the kind of person who is convinced that he or she is the only one who has the insight and the intelligence to grasp the truth that is hidden to others usually is unable to abandon this pathological world view and will resort often to an ever-expanding web of conspiracies to hold on to that view. In such cases, arguing over details is pointless: the problem is not in the Moon landings, but in the denialist’s overall mindset.