Why do so many people around the world believe the moon landing was staged?
It was one of the seminal moments of the twentieth century. The grainy black-and-white images coupled with Neil Armstrong’s immortal words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” All around the world, people celebrated.
The unthinkable had happened. People had gone to the Moon and actually walked on it. It was a great victory for the American space program and President Richard Nixon was waiting to greet the astronauts upon their return to Earth. However, some people contend that none of this actually took place.
NASA, they argue, knowingly mislead the public and either doctored, destroyed or otherwise invented evidence including photos, television and radio transmissions and samples of Moon rock. As late as 2001, a documentary called Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon? was aired on the US television network Fox and put forward the theory that the moon landings were faked in order for the US to win the Space Race.
What has given rise to this belief? One of the earliest and most influential sources of misgivings concerning the Apollo moon landings was the 1976 book We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle. Self-published by Bill Kaysing, an ex-US Navy officer who had worked for Rocketdyne, who built engines for space rockets. He calculated that the chances of a successful crewed Moon landing stood at no more than 0.0017% and asserted that a hoax would be easier than an actual landing despite the Soviet Union’s extensive intelligence network and close monitoring. As a result, Kaysing is considered a key founder of the Moon landing conspiracy theories. What
motivation could NASA and the US Government have for staging the Moon landings? Advocates point to the political climate of the time.
The Cold War was then ongoing and a successful Moon landing would be an astounding feat of scientific and engineering accomplishment that would garner much acclaim for the USA at the expense of the USSR. Defenders of the Moon landings’ authenticity point to the USSR’s considerable scientific community who could analyse data intercepted from NASA, their far-reaching intelligence network and their own lunar program which ran concurrently with that of the US and assert that had suspicions of a hoax been aroused, they would have cried foul and so gained a considerable propaganda victory for themselves.
Another motive commonly cited by proponents of the hoax theory is that NASA staged the landings in order to obtain funding to keep it operating and to avoid national humiliation. They claim that NASA raised around US$30,000,000,000 for the Apollo program. In his book, Kaysing claimed that this money was used to “pay” people off. The counter-argument is that NASA did in fact incur much humiliation and political opposition to the program, not least because of the tragic fire which killed the entire crew of Apollo 1 in 1967. NASA photos are where proponents of the hoax theories usually concentrate their attention.
They point to discrepancies and curiosities in photos and films taken on the Moon. These include crosshairs which are seemingly behind objects, which they say indicates that something has been pasted over the photo. Defenders of the Moon landings refute this by saying that such effects only appear in reproductions of the images and never in originals.
Another example is the inconsistency of both the angle and the colour of shadows present in NASA photos. Believers in the hoax
theory point to this as evidence of the use of artificial lighting. Sceptics refute this claim by pointing to the numerous conditions that complicate the projection of shadows on the Moon, including lunar dust, reflected light and uneven ground. One common assertion by those who believe the Moon landings were faked is that the US flag planted on the surface fluttered despite there being no wind and claimed this as evidence the footage was taken on Earth.
The explanation provided by NASA was that the flag did appear to flutter, but only as it was manoeuvred into position by the astronauts and that the lack of air drag resulted in the flag’s free corner to move in a pendulum-like fashion. Ripples caused by the flag being folded for storage purposes could conceivably be mistaken for movement in a photograph.
There are numerous other accusations of a photographic, environmental and mechanical nature, but these are among the most common. One of the key rebuttals of Moon landing hoax theories is the number of people involved who would have to keep silent. The Apollo project last for ten years and employed around 400,000 people.
These include the twelve who walked on the Moon, the six command module pilots and six additional astronauts who orbited the moon and the innumerable scientists, technicians, engineers and labourers who also contributed to the Apollo program. The consensus is that if claims of a hoax were founded, someone would have broken ranks in the fifty plus ensuing years. Another strong indicator that the Moon landings took place is the 382kg of Moon rock brought back to Earth after the program was complete.
Laboratories around the world have independently verified these as being lunar in origin. Additionally, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) routinely takes high resolution
photos of the Moon’s surface from a relatively low orbit. These photos include the original landing sites, abandoned equipment used during the program and even the preserved routes and footprints left behind by the astronauts. Finally, a device planted by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 landing, and which is still operational today, allows lasers to reflect off it and aids in measuring the distance from the Earth to the Moon down to the last centimetre.
A recent poll suggested that one in six people in the UK believe the moon landings were staged and a similar poll in the US suggests that up to 6% of Americans share the same view. The debates are sure to continue.
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