It was 41 years ago today when mankind completed the greatest feat of exploration in history: men setting foot on another world, Earth’s Moon. After the Apollo 11 landing when Ohio’s own Neil Armstrong and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon, NASA would land 10 more men on the Moon through 1972 via 5 successful Apollo missions.
However, there has been doubt in the minds of some.
In 1974, Bill Kaysing published We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle. This book was the event that launched the conspiracy theories. The 1978 film Capricorn One, which depicts a fake Mars landing, added fuel to the conspiracy fire. The timing of these two events also added weight to the idea of government conspiracy, with memories of Watergate and the Vietnam War still fresh in the national consciousness. After this, the Moon hoax industry died down for over two decades. Then, in 2001, FOX presented a special broadcast titled, “Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?” The initial broadcast on February 15, 2001 was so successful that it was rebroadcast a month later. This program singled-handedly reignited conspiracy theorists, who are continuing to insist that Americans never went to the Moon.
So, did we land on the Moon or not?
In short, yes, Americans landed on the Moon. Earlier this year, NASA released pictures from its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) probe, some of which featured the Apollo landing sites and even astronauts’ equipment. What more need of proof is there? In the past, some conspiracy buffs said that they would only believe that Apollo astronauts went to the Moon with pictures of the landing sites. well, that day has come, but the winds of conspiracy have not abated.
Below are 5 of the conspiracy buffs’ most popular theories that claim to offer “proof” that the Apollo astronauts never went to the Moon along with the facts that prove these ideas wrong.
Conspiracy theory: objects/astronauts in shadows are well lit
Fact: There were multiple light sources on the Moon, as in the Sun and the lunar lander itself. The lunar landers were metallic and therefore, reflected a lot of light in their immediate area. As a result, astronauts in shadow would be lit by this reflected light. So there goes the arguments of movie lights in the desert.
Conspiracy theory: there are no stars in the pictures
Fact: the Moon landings were done during the day (the astronauts had to see what they were doing!), even the conspiracy theorists admit that. With the Sun lighting the Moon’s surface and the astronauts, a quick shutter speed only several hundredths of a second long is required. To get stars to show up in pictures, one needs several seconds of exposure.
Conspiracy theory: no blast crater despite all the lunar dust
Fact: the astronauts didn’t come in at full speed. By watching video from the approaches, one sees that the pilot slowed the lunar lander on approach, much like a helicopter. By the time the lander touched down, the retro-rockets were barely firing at all, hence no crater.
Conspiracy theory: waving flag
Fact: there is no air in space, but that doesn’t mean that a flag can’t move. In video of waving flags, the movement occurs as the astronaut is trying to plant the flag or after he has just done so as the last of the vibrations die out.
Conspiracy theory: space radiation with the Van Allen Belts
Fact: yes, there is radiation in space and yes, the Van Allen Belts would be dangerous if the astronauts had stayed in them for a long period of time. However, with the great speed of the Apollo spacecraft, the astronauts were through the radiation belts very quickly, thus spending too little time in them to get even the slightest degree of radiation sickness.
For more conspiracy theory rebuttals:
Moon Base Clavius
University of Arizona
Funny Neil Armstrong urban legend
Apollo on PBS tonight!