The 1960`s Moon HoaxDuring the Cold War years, the rivalry between the United States and the USSR was played out quite significantly through the Space Race (Space Race – Wikipedia). This was an informal competition between the two countries, beginning with the USSR’s successful launching of Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, on 4 October 1957, and ending in 1975, with the historic docking of the US Apollo and the USSR Soyur while still in orbit.
During this period, the countries strove to outdo each in the development and deployment of space technology, the tangible milestones being the exploration of outer space through manned and unmanned missions and to have their people be the first to land on the moon.
While the Soviets focused on unmanned missions through their Luna space program and successfully landed spacecraft on the moon, the Americans were the first to actually set foot on lunar soil. The three men who were part of the successful Apollo 11 mission to land on the Moon were Neil Armstrong, the Commander of the mission, Edwin Aldrin, the lunar module pilot, and Michael Collins, pilot of the command module Columbia.
17:42 pm, Eastern Daylight Time, the lunar module Eagle landed on the surface of the moon and Armstrong stepped out, watched by over 500 million people on television all over the world. Aldrin and Armstrong planted a US flag on the surface of the moon, and unveiled a plaque affixed to the side of the lunar lander. The lunar lander itself, along with the plaque was left behind, and is still present on the Moon’s surface. The inscribed plaque, signed by then President, Richard Nixon and the three astronauts, stated: “Here men from the planet earth first set foot upon the Moon July 1969 AD.
We came in peace for all mankind”.Historically, conspiracy theories surrounding the missions to the Moon began even before December 1968, the time of Apollo 8’s mission (Chaikin). One of the strongest voices for this theory was the late Charles K. Johnson, president of the International Flat Earth Society.
In his inimitable style, he stated that reports of the moon landings were “nonsense” and that they were “faked by Hollywood studios” (Schadewald). In 1974, shortly after the series of Apollo moon missions were completed, William Charles Kaysing, wrote We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle (Kaysing), a book that established him in infamy as the father of the Moon hoax movement. Ever since, a significant number of people has subscribed to the view that the moon landings were staged by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Just a year after the first Moon landing, an opinion poll by Knight Newspapers indicated that more than 30% of the 1721 US residents polled were “suspicious of NASA’s trips to the moon” (Bakel).
In a 1999 Gallup poll, 6% of the US population believed that the moon landings did not occur (89% felt they did and 5% had no opinion) (Gallup poll 1999). This percentage appears to have remained consistent till the end of last century (Apollo Moon Landing hoax accusations). Possibly the most influential move to propagate the idea of the hoax was a Fox Television Network special on February 15 2001(and replayed on March 19), entitled “Conspiracy Theory: Did We Really Land on the Moon?” (Fox Television) that had a viewer-ship of 15 million. The 60-minute program featured interviews with several people who believed that NASA faked the Moon landings, the most notable of these being Bill Kaysing.
The program ends with the conclusion that the entire incident was staged in the Nevada desert. The television station later reported that up to 20% of the population was now skeptical of the moon landings, although this number has been debated since, and is probably much lower. Nevertheless, this program did put the element of doubt into the minds of the general public who, at the suggestion of the mass media, generally find it easy to believe that the government is trying to dupe them.The exact hoax claims differ among proponents of the conspiracy theory.
They do not even have a consistent view of the extent of the hoax. Some believe it was a complete hoax, others that only part of the scenario was falsified. Here, we will examine some of the main hoax allegations and the rebuttal to these claims.1.
Conspiracy theorists state that blueprints, design drawings, telemetry tapes and original video footage are missing, and conclude that these have never existed.David Williams (an archivist at NASA) and Gene Krantz (flight director of Apollo 11) have acknowledged that some of the Apollo 11 telemetry tapes have been lost. However, the scan-converted tapes are available, and telemetry tapes from subsequent moon experiments still exist (Apollo Moon Landing hoax accusations). If all the moon landings were staged, there should be no records at all.
Restored and unused Lunar Modules are also on display at several national museums, clear proof that they were built and existed.2. Another claim is that NASA simply lacked the technical expertise at the time to put a man on the Moon.In his book, Bill Kaysing claimed that “NASA couldn’t make it to the moon, and they knew it”(Kaysing).
According to him, when he worked at Rocketdyne (the engine contractor for Apollo) in the late 1950s, a feasibility study on astronauts landing on the moon suggested only a 0.0017% chance of success. “In other words, it was hopeless.” He also stated that it was “…well documented that NASA was often badly managed and had poor quality control”, and that it was “against all statistical odds” that they could suddenly from 1969 onwards, pull off a series of moon landings with complete success (Kaysing).
Other hoax proponents are softer in their claims, stating that the US was less technologically capable than the USSR to perform these feats, and were hence unlikely to have done it.The achievements of the USSR prior to 1969 are indeed stunning (Apollo Moon Landing hoax accusations). They were the first to send a manmade satellite into orbit (October 1957, Sputnik 1), a man into space (April 1961, Vostok 1), a woman in space (June 1963, Vostok 6) and a man to orbit the Earth (April 1961, Vostok 1). They were also the first to have two spacecraft in orbit simultaneously (August 1962, Vostok 3 and Vostok 4), and to have a crew of three astronauts on board one spacecraft (October 1964, Voskhod 1).
They also performed the first spacewalk (March 1965, Voskhod 2). Up to the start of the Apollo flights, they had clocked five times more manned space hours than the US.It is important to keep in mind that even though all these achievements are impressive from a “world-record” perspective, they did not significantly improve the technology, and many of them were achieved at great risk, perhaps just to make the point of achieving these milestones in the Space Race. Furthermore, by the time of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the US had far overtaken the USSR in the number of manned space hours (List of human spaceflights, 1960s) and it is hence not surprising that they were completely on track to be able to make the milestone of putting a man on the moon first.
3. Hoax proponents have had the most issues with alleged anomalies in photographs taken during the moon landing (examination of Apollo moon photos).Some conspiracy theorists have gone to the extent of claiming that people have deliberately tampered with the photos to expose NASA. Among the issues raised are the positions of the crosshairs on the photographs: some appear to be behind objects rather than in front of them (as expected), and some are off-center.
The former claim is easily explained by experts as an artifact of saturation effects in the film emulsion, and indeed argues for the authenticity of the photos. Among the thousands of photos taken, NASA had selected only the best for public release. Many of the photos were cropped to eliminate badly exposed areas, or to improve composition. Hence it is not surprisingly that the fiducials are off-center in some photographs.
The improvement of composition by cropping also rebuts claims that the photos are of better-than-expected quality – the best photos were handpicked for release and are not representative of the entire set of photos taken. Still, on the whole, the photographs were of good quality because, for one thing, the astronauts were obviously adequately trained for their mission, and secondly, they used state-of-the-art hardware: Hasselblad cameras with Zeiss lenses, and 70-mm medium format film.Based on a comment from Yuri Gagarin (the first man to orbit the earth in a manned satellite) in 1961, that the stars were astonishingly brilliant when viewed from above the earth’s atmosphere, hoax proponents claim that the absence of stars in the photos is worthy of suspicion. Some have suggested that NASA left out stars from the “staged” pictures to prevent astronomers from drawing inferences from their celestial positions and exposing the hoax.
However, it has been demonstrated that stars are not dramatically brighter in space, and have not been seen in several Earth observation photos taken on several other space missions (Plait). The ability to capture stars on film is also related to the exposure time and the existence of brighter objects in the field of view. Clearly, the photographs not containing stars were underexposed; the objective of taking these photographs was not to capture images of stars. It has also been claimed that the color and angle of shadows in the photos are inconsistent.
Shadows of parallel objects do not appear to be parallel. These observations can be easily explained by the fact that there were several sources of light – the Sun, the Earth and the moon, and this light was scattered by lunar dust. Also, the ground was not even, distorting shadows – common occurrences on Earth. Other claims such as there being identical backgrounds in photos listed as being several miles apart, and the number of photos obtained being too high to be accounted for in the amount of time available for photography, have been demonstrated to be baseless (Lunar anomalies).
In several photos, mountains are seen in the background, many miles away. The absence of air made even distant objects appear close and with surprising clarity. Hence it was difficult to get a sense of relative distance and the scale of geographical features. This made the background of several photos similar, though not identical.
Arguments based on artifacts in the film have been also been shown to be either exactly that – printing imperfection artifacts – or blatantly false (Examination of Apollo moon photos).4. Moon landing skeptics claim that radiation from the Van Allen radiation belt and galactic ambient radiation would be lethal to the astronauts.They have not considered that the space shuttle would have traversed the belt in only 30 minutes, and that the metal hull of the space ship would have been sufficient to shield them from the harmful radiation.
The trajectory through space was also specifically chosen to minimize exposure to the radiation, and readings from dosimeters worn by the crew members confirmed that they had not been exposed to hazardous radiation levels. Film was also stored in metal containers, and was hence not subject to exposure. It has also been suggested that the film ought to have melted due to the heat of the lunar surface. However, heat transfer in a vacuum occurs only by radiation, and passive optical coatings and paints were used to keep this under control.
It is on record that no large solar flares occurred during this period either – another source of unbearable heat that is suggested would have been lethal to the moonwalkers.5. The mystery of the undulating American flagHoax proponents claim this as one of the definitive proofs for their point of view – the fact that the American flag planted on the moon’s surface flapped though there is no wind on the moon, since it has no atmosphere. However, the fact that there is no air on the moon and hence no friction, is precisely why the undulating movements of the flag persisted (by inertia) longer than usual after the astronauts set it in place.
Furthermore, the flag looked like it was rippling in the still photographs, but in reality, since it was unfolded before being displayed some of the creases still remained, giving the illusion that the flag was in motion. Time lapse photographs provide evidence that the flag was motionless for well over 30 minutes. 6. Deaths of personnel involved in the missionThe Fox Television special (Fox Television Network) insinuated that the deaths of twelve people (ten astronauts and two civilians) related to the Apollo missions occurred under suspicious circumstances and suggested foul play – part of the cover-up to the hoax.
Several of the deaths were due to accidents and were related to their jobs with NASA or the Air Force. Only one person died of “natural” causes – a heart attack. However, a closer look at this list (Apollo Moon Landing Hoax Accusations) will clearly show that there is very little correlation between all the deaths. James Irwin, who died of a heart attack, had a history of heart problems.
Two of the astronauts under the spotlight were not even involved with the space program. All the remaining deaths, except for one, occurred before the manned moon landing actually occurred. Finally, as a comparison, there is a list of other astronauts, unrelated to the Apollo missions, who also died during this time period – twelve of them. Therefore the number of deaths was not unusually high, and there is no reason to suspect that foul play was involved.
7. Miscellaneous issuesSkeptics point out that no blast crater was created from the landing, and given the powerful exhaust of the lunar module engine, there should not have been deep dust surrounding it. However, the engine was throttled down very low prior to landing, and there was very little fuel left in it, since it was to be left on the surface of the moon, and not needed subsequently. More importantly, since there is no atmosphere on the moon, there was no turbulence to kick up dust to the extent observed on the earth.
The only displacement in moon dust was due to the direct action of the engine exhaust, which was minimal.It has been claimed that rocks brought back from the moon are no different than those found in Antarctica. However, isotope analysis does indicate significant differences. Of course, some of the rocks on Earth have a similar composition, but these are from meteorites ejected from the moon due to cratering events.
Furthermore, the Apollo rock samples matched those from the USSR Luna space probe expedition (Papike).There have also been several issues raised by hoax proponents regarding transmission of the signals including live feeds from the spacecraft, revolving around potential anomalies with the delay time or in clarity of the signal. However, all of these issues have been satisfactorily answered by NASA, and ultimately reflects a lack of understanding of what actually occurred, by hoax proponents. For example, they point to the lack of more and a two-second delay in two-way communication, as seen on television.
In the interest of clarity, this was edited out in subsequent documentary films.In addition to providing “evidence” for the hoax, proponents have suggested motives that might have led the US government to perpetrate the hoax. One-upmanship on the USSR is the first suggested reason. Achieving a milestone such as this would certainly bring pride to the country and may even be construed as winning the Space Race.
Hoax proponents say that actually making the journey to the moon would have been expensive and risky and it would be in the economic interest of the country to fake it rather than go through with it. The estimated funding raised for the trip to the Moon was $30 billion, an amount insinuated to have been used to pay for the silence of those in complicity. Finally, proponents point to the fact that the lunar missions ceased at the same time as the US involvement in the war in Vietnam, using this to justify their claim that the Moon landings were staged to take the public eye off the war, which was a thorn in the American side (Apollo Moon Landing hoax accusations).However, to arrive at a scientifically satisfying conclusion, we must ask ourselves which of the two accounts – the NASA account or the hoax hypothesis – fits the facts better.
The NASA account is clearly a single coherent story from a single source, while the hoax hypotheses are diverse. Evidence independent of either NASA or the US government – and hence unbiased – is available in the form of peer-reviewed moon rock analyses by scientists worldwide, presence of retro-reflectors left behind on the Moon (Abandoned spaceships) and sightings and radio trackings of multiple Apollo missions by amateur and professional astronomers at several locations all over the world (Independent evidence for Apollo Moon landings). It is also interesting to note that though the Space Race was part of the Cold War, the large majority of the people who believed the hoax and made an outcry belonged to the American public. There was no protest from the Soviet Union, who had equal access to the data that the rest of the public were privy to.
They had every opportunity to analyze the data, and every motive to point out to the world that the Americans had cheated. Of course, hoax proponents try to explain that away by suggesting that the USSR was paid off, but there is no evidence for this.Overall, an honest look at the point-by-point rebuttal of each of the claims of the hoax proponents does indicate that these are entirely reasonable. In fact, there is not a single instance where one of the hoax claims does not have a credible scientific explanation (for example, see How Apollo Moon landings really happened, and Hoax busters).
In 2002 NASA had commissioned an official rebuttal to be written, but later withdrew this as it was felt that in doing so they would only support hoax proponents by taking their claims seriously. In 2004, Hendry and Skeldon (Glasgow University) were awarded a grant by Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (UK) to investigate the hoax and present their data, which they did convincingly (Apollo Moon Landing Hoax Accusations). This whole issue has spawned hundreds of internet web sites – the unofficial literature supporting both sides of the debate. It has become a part of popular culture either as a serious debate or in parody in music, books, films, television shows, television commercials and even video games (Apollo Moon Landing Hoax Accusations).
There will always be people who wish to believe conspiracy theories. But for the rest of us, there is no really no compelling reason to believe that the moon landings did not occur. BibliographyAbandoned spaceships. http://science.
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