Skeptic Project

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Space - Moon Landing Hoax, Debunked

Author: Dave Sorensen
Added: January 21st, 2010

Note: This page is still a work in progress and may be missing sources.

1.The Van Allen Belts contain deadly radiation for astronauts

The Van Allen Belts were discovered in 1957 when the United States launched the Explorer 1 satellite.  Physicist James Van Allen was the first to identify the belts and also the first to correctly interpret their radiation. "The radiation was composed of particles from the Sun's solar wind trapped in the Earth's magnetic field. Like a bar magnet attracting iron filings, the Earth's magnetic field captures these energetic protons and electorns from the sun's wind, keeping them confined to a doughnut-shaped series of belts." (1)

There are two zones of these radioactive belts simply called the inner and outer belt. The inner belt is smaller and contains dangerous radiation. The outer belt is bigger and contains less dangerous radiation. The belts range as high as 40,000 miles above the Earth. One of the problems NASA had to overcome was how to protect their equipment from the radiation. This involved containing all of the computers and on board electronics in radiation hardening equipment. The film used to take pictures was also in a metal container, which protected it from radiation.The shuttle itself acted as a saftey barrier to shield the astronauts from serious harm.NASA had concerns for the radiation levels so they planned the shuttle route so it would just nick the inner core and spend most of its time in the outer core.

"The spacecraft moved through the belts in about four hours, and the astronauts were protected from the ionizing radiation by the aluminium hulls of the spacecraft. In addition, the orbital transfer trajectory from the Earth to the Moon through the belts was selected to minimize radiation exposure." (2)

The amount of radiation the astronauts ended up receiving on average was about 1 rem. This is equivalent to the amount of radiation received living 3 years at sea level. (3) Even the discoverer of the Van Allen belts had this to say when he heard this claim on a FOX documentary about the moon hoax conspiracies.
"The recent Fox TV show, which I saw, is an ingenious and entertaining assemblage of nonsense. The claim that radiation exposure during the Apollo missions would have been fatal to the astronauts is only one example of such nonsense." -- Dr. James Van Allen

Lastly, the Van Allen belt radiation actually provides us good evidence that the astronauts went to the moon.
"At least 39 former astronauts have suffered some form of cataracts after flying in space, according to a 2001 study by Francis Cucinotta of NASA's Johnson Space Center. Of those 39 astronauts, 36 had flown on high-radiation missions such as the Apollo Moon landings. Some cataracts appeared as soon as 4 or 5 years after the mission, but others took 10 or more years to manifest." (4) This shows that the radiation from the Van Allen belts has effected the astronauts, but that it obviously didn't kill them on their mission.
2. There aren't any stars in the pictures

When going on a mission to the moon, you would want to take some pictures of the MOON! Not the stars. This claim can be explained with simple photography. The cameras were all set for daylight exposure. This would result in a nice focused clear shot of the moon, but the more fainter stars in the background would not have enough exposure time to be captured in the shot. This is an experiment you can try for yourself tonight! Another misconception about stars and how they appear in space is that they would brighter.
"Ron Parise a two time space shuttle astronaut said he could barely see the stars at all.  He had to turn off lights in the shuittle to even glimpse the stars." (1)

3. There's a letter "C" on one of the rocks. (Its a prop rock)

We all know that professional set designers label props with letters... oh wait no they don't. Besides this problem, the alleged "C" drawn on this rock turns out to be a hair caught in the negative that was produced some time after 1996. The original NASA photos and negatives don't contain the "C".

4) Intersecting shadows means there are two light sources

In 2008 mythbusters made a scale model of the lunar lander and the moon's surface. They blacked out the room and exposed this set to one light source. The result? Intersecting shadows. This can be done a many number of ways and it is an experiment you can try for yourself.
Check out this five minute clip of their episode where they compare their model to the actual NASA photo. But wait a second. Doesn't this mean that NASA could have faked the images just like the mythbusters? Yes they could have, but this is missing the entire point of this claim. The claim is that you cannot have intersecting shadows from only 1 light source. This is demonstratively false. Not to mention that the moon's surface reflects light from the sun (or the light) and creates a secondary light source. So the claim itself is riddled with errors in logic.

5. A Nazi rocket scientist went to Antarctica to recover lunar meteorites

In 1967, an employee of NASA and a former nazi rocket scientist, Verner van braun went to Antarctica. Conspiracy theorists claim that he went there to collect lunar meteorites. This is their way of explaining away where the 800 pounds of  moon rocks came from. Several issues here. Why would they send a rocket scientist to collect rocks? Wouldn't a geologist be a better choice? And without any expertise in geology, how would von braun know what lunar meteorites would look like?

Another issue here is that it was Japanese scientists in 1969 that first discovered that Antartica was a haven for meteorites. The first lunar meteorites from Antartica were discovered in 1979. (5) To this date, there has only been around 20 lunar meteorites found in Antartica. Another troubling fact is that the entire geological community has only been able to find around 50 kg of lunar meteorites. (6) And that's not just in Antartica, but the entire planet.

A more important point is that there is a fine difference between lunar meteorites and actual moon rocks. Since the moon lacks an atmosphere entirely, all of the micrometeorites, which can fly as fast at 50,000 mph, penetrate the rocks on the surface. What you get is whats called a "zap pit". These types of penetrations would not be possible on Earth because such small meteorites would burn up in our atmosphere. These zap pits can only be seen under the microscope, and they appear on all of the rocks brought back from the Apollo missions. They do not appear on any of the lunar meteorites because all of their outer layers have been burned off after entering the Earth's atmosphere.

6. The American flag was blowing in the wind (Someone left a door open in the sound stage!)

In a video, the American flag can be seen moving. This is expected when it is touched by the astronauts because of inertia. You can see that the flag also moves when the astronaut lets go of the flag pole. This is because the pole is simply bouncing back and forth in place. Some very simple ideas that debunk this claim is if there was wind, we would see the dust blow around. Second, where would this wind be coming from? What kind of air conditioning did this sound stage have? Do the conspiracy theorists really believe that during the hoax of the century, someone would be allowed to open up a door during a shooting? (Wouldn't we hear a door?) And if this happened why wouldn't they just reshoot the scene? To conclude I bring you to another mythbusters experiment! In it, they place a flag in a vacuum and see if it "flutters" like in the Apollo footage. It does!

7. Most of Apollo 11's telemetry data and tapes went missing

Before we discuss the veracity of the claim itself, let's go over some basic logic. Conspiracy theorists claim that the telemetry data went missing for two reasons: because they didn't go to the moon and you can't fake telemetry data.
If this is true, then why do we have the telemetry data for all of the other Apollo missions? If they can't be faked, then surely all of the other trips were genuine. This is of course following CT logic, but let's get back to reality.

Since Apollo 11 was the first manned moon mission, this was a huge televised event. On July 21, 1969 the world got to see the live footage. The SSTV and telemetry tapes functioned as a back up source of information, in case the live feed failed. The lunar module broadcasted the SSTV (Slow scan televison) recordings to Earth, where radio receivers converted the images to be seen live on television.  Many videotapes and kinescopes of the Apollo 11 footage are still kept in archives, but most of the SSTV and telemetry tapes have either been reused or went missing. This led conspiracy theorists to believe that its disappearance meant that they never existed in the first place. The real reason is because NASA didn't find these backups to be important, since they already had copies in other formats. In 2009, NASA released high quality footage of the Apollo 11 mission online. (7)

According to NASA's final report of the telemetry issue: "All that could be said with any certainty, is that NASA and the Goddard Space Flight center followed all procedures in storing the Apollo telemetry tapes, the search team has concluded. After reviewing their content and determining that Apollo program managers no longer needed the data, Goddard personel shipped the telemetry tapes to WNRC for storage. Over the ensuing years, Goddard recalled them and either reused the one-inch tapes to meet a network shortage in the early 1980's or disposed of them because of the high cost of storing them." (8)

During the Apollo 16 missions, there was a massive solar flare storm the astronauts should not have survived

The Apollo 16 mission began on
April 16 and concluded on April 27 1971. Solar flare storms would have been deadly if their arrival coincided with the astronaut's mission. The problem didn't. There was a big solar flare storm in 1971, but it occurred in August, months after the Apollo 16 mission.  (9) (10)

9. There was no flame visible when the rocket took off.

This claim is entirely true but very misleading. It gives you the idea that there was no flame, thus no rocket take off. There was a flame but the reason it isn't visible is because it wasn't ordinary fuel burning up. The lunar lander's ascent engine used Aerozine 50, a trade name for a half-and-half mixture of hydrazine and unsymmetric dimethylhydrazine (UDMH). When these two chemicals ignite the product is transparent. (11) The below picture was taken from rocket engine tests at the U.S. Air Force's AEDC rocket propulsion laboratories. This used the same exact fuel mixture as the lunar lander.

10. Nasa played the videos at half speed to simulate moon's gravity

This claim is something I reccomend you check out for yourself. Not because their analysis is inconclusive, but just to give you an idea why CT's believe it is. Youtube features many videos of  both official footage and the 1/2 speed footage. Conspiracy theorists like to isolate certain clips of video where when sped up,  looks similar to how gravity works on Earth.  However, the majority of clips viewed in their entirety show the exact opposite. For example, their hands move way too fast and they are unrealistically too well balanced to be bunny hopping at those speeds. Another example would be the lunar rover driving around(look at the dust) and videos of the astronauts throwing objects. (12) Another clip which is interesting shows an astronaut dropping both a hammer and a feather at the same time. The way they dropped them could only be done in a vacuum, contrary to what the man in this video claims. ( This conspiracy theorist tries to recreate the footage in his background, except for some reason uses a sledgehammer. When he drops the two, notice that the feather is in a vertical position, removing air resistance. The astronaut on the moon clearly is holding the feather horizontally. This is a key difference between the two experiments.

11. The Apollo astronauts act suspicious and become angry when questioned about the moon hoax theory

Imagine all of the hard work Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and the other Apollo astronauts had to accomplish during their years working at NASA. Imagine all of the simulations on Earth and the countless hours on board the space shuttle. When they are ambushed and called liars or frauds in public, this is not evidence that they faked the moon landings. This is something you would expect. If I were in Buzz Aldrin's shoes I would have done the same exact thing. He was harrassed and followed by conspiracy theorist Bart Sibrel for several minutes which led up to a right hook to the chin. ( Sibrel had it coming. Why should Buzz Aldrin have to swear his name on the bible for something he knows he did? Other astronauts have been approached with Sibrel's "bible challenge". Nine in total were "interviewed" by Bart Sibrel and all are featured on his DVD "Astronauts gone wild." (13) Alan Bean, Gene Cernan and Edgar Mitchell all swore on the bible that they went to the moon. Michael Collins, Al Worden, Bill Anders, John Young and Neil Armstrong have all pretty much avoided Sibrel, once they found out he was a conspiracy theorist. Armstrong has said: ""It doesn't bother me. It will all pass in time."

Edgar Mitchell had this to say: "Sibrel faked his way into my home with false History Channel credentials for an interview. After about 3-4 minutes, he popped the Bible question. Realizing who he was, I maintained my cool enough to swear on his Bible, then ended the interview and tossed him out of the house, with a boot in his rear."

12. Mysterious deaths part of NASA cover up
First, if NASA had to kill a dozen people to shut them up, why haven't they tried to kill any of the leading conspiracy theorists? One could argue that this would be evidence of foul play, but if the government is really as secretive and competent as conspiracy theorists claim, they should be able to find a way around it. For example, they could have the CT poisoned at a restaurant, plant phony evidence of food poisoning and cover up the medical records. Having trained marksmen shoot them in a public setting would be a little to obvious.

But let's examine these "mysterious" 12 deaths. We have three deaths from the Apollo 1 fire, three deaths from the T-38 crash, two jet crashes and an automobile accident. ZI'm not sure how Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr., or Michael J. "Mike" Adams fit in. They are neither NASA employees nor affiliated with the Apollo missions. The start of the Apollo 1 fire is still unknown, but the intial spark inside the cabin caused many combustible items to ignite. (16) Again, why would they kill off Apollo 1 astronauts?  The same could be said about the T-38 accident. What are the  motives for killing most of these people? If there is no motive or evidence for these claims they are just wild speculation. The only "mysterious" death on this list would be NASA worker Thomas Ronald Baron. He allegedly took his own life as well as his family's by driving into a train with his car. Baron was an outspoken critic of the Apollo program and was also critical about the Apollo 1 fire. This conspiracy theory connects to the Apollo 1 fire but how does it connect to all of the other Apollo missions?

  • Theodore Freeman (T-38 crash, 1964)

  • Elliot See and Charlie Bassett (T-38 accident, 1966)

  • Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom (Apollo 1 fire, January 1967).

  • Edward Higgins "Ed" White (Apollo 1 fire, January 1967)

  • Roger B. Chaffee (Apollo 1 fire, January 1967)

  • Edward "Ed" Givens (car accident, 1967)

  • Clifton "C. C." Williams (T-38 accident, October 1967)

  • X-15 pilot Michael J. "Mike" Adams (the only X-15 pilot killed during the X-15 flight test program in November 1967 - not a NASA astronaut, but had flown X-15 above 50 miles).

  • Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr., scheduled to be an Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory pilot, who died in a jet crash in December 1967, shortly after reporting for duty to that (later canceled) program.

  • NASA worker Thomas Ronald Baron (automobile collision with train, 1967 shortly after making accusations before Congress about the cause of the Apollo 1 fire, after which he was fired). Ruled as suicide. Baron was a quality control inspector who wrote a report critical of the Apollo program and was an outspoken critic after the Apollo 1 fire. Baron and his family were killed as their car was struck by a train at a train crossing. (14)(15)

13. The moon contains very little water, therefore foot prints should not form on its surface
We all know that footprints retain their shape much better in wet sand than dry sand. But what about in a vacuum? The mythbusters managed to test this myth.

14. There is no blast crater
Conspiracy theorists often cite the fact that the lunar lander had 10,000 pounds of thrust. This is true, but it also had a throttle. To take off it did not need to blast off like on Earth because of the moon's low gravity. It only needed to use 3000 pounds of thrust. The nozzle was 54 inches across, which means it had an area of  2300 inches. (17)  The pressure generated only comes out to around 1.5 pounds per square inch, which will not leave a blast crater. Another claim made is that the dust should have been blown around by the lander. Dust behaves a lot differently on the moon than Earth because there is no air to carry it.

15. In some of the photos, cross hairs appear behind objects, indicating a composite photo
The technical name for the cross hair is a fidicual. The reason why there are pictures with the fidicuals behind the foreground, is because of lighting. When you have something sufficiently bright in color, the fidicual can become too faint to see. That's why in the below picture, you see it faded next to the white object.

There are many of examples of photos where the cross hairs are semi-faded. Something the CT's simply ignore.

16. The astronauts covered up the window to fool everyone into believing they were half way to the moon
This claim is trumpeted in Bart Sibrel's "A funny thing happened on the way to the moon" documentary. He claims that this is secret footage that he's been able to get ahold of which shows the Apollo astronauts staging a shot to make it look like their half way to the moon, while they are really in Earth's orbit. This "secret footage" is available from other sources such as the Apollo 11 dvd set(18). But that's besides the point. The main problem with this hypothesis is that somehow, everyone on earth would fail to see a bright object orbiting for two weeks. In the night's sky their shuttle would be one of the brightest objects and be moving at fast speeds, yet no one witnesses this for any of the Apollo missions. What the footage really shows is the astronauts experimenting with different camera angles and equipment.

17. The Russians should have beat us there
The Russians did have the advantage in the 1950's and early 60's. They set a lot of records like "first woman in space" and "first man to orbit earth," but when it came to the mid sixties, NASA began to surpass them in technological advances and man hours in space. "T
he U.S. had accumulated 1,864 hours in space prior to Apollo 11 compared to the Soviet Union's 697 hours at the completion of Soyuz 5 (the last Soviet mission prior to Apollo 11)." (19)(20)

18. Compartmentalization led to the three year secrecy of the Manhattan Project which contained 100,000 scientists
This is true, but how does this have anything to do with the NASA program? Their work in research wasn't exactly "secretive" and its been 40 years since Apollo 11. If there were 1000's of people who knew of the program, you don't think one of them would have blew the whistle by now? With the lack of any death bed confessions or memoirs from deceased NASA employees, this claim holds little value to the conspiracy argument.

19. Neil Armstrong has never given a public interview
False. Neil Armstrong has never given public interviews to conspiracy theorists, but he has discussed in length his trips to the moon in public places. Neil Armstrong has given multiple press conferences, was interviewed extensively for the Lunar surface journal and appeared on the BBC program The Sky At Night, in 1970. He also hosted an American documentary entitled "Man on the moon."

20. Space shuttle required 6 inches of lead to protect the astronauts from radiation
There is never any actual figures or estimates to back up this claim. Probably just an internet fabrication. And an experiment done by the Russians shows that it is demonstrably false. 6 inches of lead would be required for radiation resulting from an atomic explosion, but not the van allen belts. In 1968, the Russians sent the
Zond 5 rocket,equipped with live turtle, around the moon and back. They successfully returned to Russia alive, without anywhere near than 6 inches of lead to protect them. (21) Also, Gemini 10 ascended to 475 miles, which is well into the lower reaches of the Van Allen belts, and Gemini 11 went even higher. These were both manned missions, and they too lacked this "6 inches of lead." Those two Gemini missions aided scientists to both prepare the Apollo 11 shuttle for the radiation effects, and to learn about the radiation in general. (22)

21. In the 1980's astronauts on board the space station ventured 350 miles out and started seeing "shooting stars" because of the van allen belts. The Apollo astronauts did no report such sightings
Nonsense. The Apollo astronauts are on record describing such lights on their way back from the moon! There has also been a series of studies done in the 1970
's to better understand the radiation's effects on the astronauts. (23)(24)(25)

22. Why haven't we gone back?
The expenses are tremedous, and we went there seven times. It would be impractical to keep spending billions of dollars on something we already did multiple times. We do plan on going back in 2020, but to set up a permanent base for research. (26)

Arguments for authenticity
Russian and Chinese scientists both think the missions were genuine
If NASA faked all seven of the moon missions, don't you think Russia or China would rat them out? They would be extremely skeptical of such claims, and able to expose lies much more efficiently than guys like Bart Sibrel. Why hasn't any foriegn countries' space programs taken this conspiracy theory seriously? Wouldn't they benefit from exposing the United States, especially in the 1960's when the space race was still on? And to think that NASA would try this hoax seven times, expecting the Russians and Chinese to be fooled each time? Why would'nt they just fake one moon mission?

2009 images of the lunar sites
In the summer of 2009, NASA released images of the lunar landing sites. (27)

They obviously faked these images!

This is a great example of pseudoscience at its finest. We can never convince the moon hoax proponents that their religion has been falsified because they claim that "all of the counter argument and evidence to the contrary is all part of the conspiracy." This is the same for most conspiracy theories, and it's one of the biggest blunders in reasoning they make. If the proposition is unfalsifiable it isn't scientific and is thus meaningless speculation.

+ Sources
1) Bad Astronomy by Phil Plait.   Pg. 160
2) Woods. 2008 pg. 109
3) Bad Astronomy by Phil Plait Pgs 160-162
13)Sibrel, Bart (Director). (2004). Astronauts Gone Wild [DVD]
23.Benson, R.E.; and Pinsky, L.S. "Biomedical experiments: part c. visual light flash phenomenon." Apollo 16 Preliminary Science Report. NASA SP-315, 1972.
24.Pinsky, L.S.; Osborne, W.Z.; Bailey, J.V. "Visual light flash phenomenon." Apollo 17 Preliminary Science Report.NASA SP-330, 1973.
25.Pinsky, L.S. et al. "Light flashes observed by astronauts on Apollo 11 through Apollo 17." Science v. 183, 1974, pp. 957-959.