by Emily Koch
In July of 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins landed on the moon along with their rocket Apollo 11. While this was literally a huge step for mankind, many people then and some today believe that the landing never happened and was instead staged. According to The Skeptic’s Dictionary, the theory became popular in the 1970’s and a couple decades later in 1999, 30 percent of Americans were skeptical of the moon landing. That number today has lowered to 6 percent, but the theory still remains well known throughout the internet and our society. This belief is extraordinary because it uses the appearance of science to persuade people into believing in it. It is also important that the public recognizes that this belief is not true as it discredits the extreme risk that the astronauts took to go to the moon and their success in doing so.
Those who are believers in the idea that the moon landing was a hoax state many reasons as to why it could never have actually happened, and most of them deal with their ideas of how physics works. The most widely known piece of evidence is the fact that the flag placed on the moon by the astronauts seemed to have been waving in the footage taken by the astronauts. If this was the case, as many skeptics of the moon landing believe, then there is no way they were actually on the moon because that would mean there was enough wind to make the flag wave. Since there is no air let alone wind on the moon, then it would have been impossible for this to occur. But to contradict this “fact” many scientists have said that the flag was placed in a bent shape by the astronauts and because there is extremely low gravity on the moon, the flag stayed in the bent position. If you look closely at the footage, you can see the flag in fact doesn’t wave at all and instead stays still in its bent position.
A second, lesser known argument for a conspiracy is the idea of the Van Allen Belts. The Van Allen Belts are two regions of high radiation that surround the earth and are located inside the earth’s magnetosphere. For the astronauts of Apollo 11 to have passed through these belts would have caused more than a normal amount of radiation exposure, which could lead to radiation sickness. Because the astronauts did not show any symptoms of this, many believe that they did not actually pass through these belts and did not go to the moon. Oppositely, according to NASA, the astronauts were in the Van Allen Belt for only a short time, sustaining .18 rads of radiation- which is about the same dose of radiation one gets from an x-ray. So, although it seems like the hoax believers are presenting scientifically back facts about the Van Allen belts, they are in fact incorrect about the amount of radiation one is exposed to when passing through the belts.
A third attempt to prove that the astronauts did not go to the moon is the fact that there was not a single star in any of the pictures taken when the astronauts landed. This is used as evidence to prove that those pictures were not taken on the moon because, if you are in space, then how could there not be any stars around? With this piece of evidence, there are two sets of conspiracies that emerge about the moon landing: there are those who believe it never happened and then there are also those that believe the astronauts made it to the moon but faked the pictures on earth. But according to astrophysicist Brian Koberlein, this is actually a common phenomenon in photographs. Because the moon is quite bright in comparison to the sky around it, the light of the stars gets drowned out and overpowered by the light of the moon when standing on it. This is why no stars can be seen in any pictures taken on the moon and therefore debunks the conspiracy that the pictures were not taken on the moon.
Those who believe that the moon landing was a hoax, mostly misunderstand how perception works. Because many of the hoax believers state evidence that is not supported by science, they are misinformed about the way that science and physics can alter the perception of something, such as the stars in the night sky or the movement/non-movement of the flag. They also fall victim to the outward appearance of science in the explanations given to support the hoax theories. Several of those who believe it was a hoax also disregard any evidence contradictory to their own ideas and tend to think that the only evidence that is correct is evidence that supports their theory. This belief, although it was largely popular in the decade following the Apollo 11 moon landing, is still widely known today. Because it is so largely spread throughout the media, many people take it as fact since they see the media as a credible source. Those who believe in the hoax today are largely American youth, as they were not around when the moon landing occurred and so they find it easier to believe something that they hear or read claiming the landing was faked. Other hoax believers tend to be those who supported the idea of the faking of the moon landing around the time when it was most popular in the decade following the landing.
Although the conspiracy that the moon landing was faked is a widely known idea, only 6% of U.S. citizens today believe in it. Whether persuaded by what looks like scientific explanations for the phenomena or the misunderstanding of how perception works, hoax believers stand strong in their belief and neglect to listen to any opposing evidence presented to them. Recently, the media has been causing the public to become more exposed to the idea that the landing was faked although there are few that actually take this belief seriously. As a society, it was very important at the time of the space race that we make it to the moon first. Because Apollo 11 made it there first, Americans see this as quite an accomplishment and it is something we are very proud of. Hoax believers fail to recognize this very important achievement, which is detrimental to our society because they are failing to give the astronauts the recognition they deserve. If the number of hoax believers rises, it will be very sad and discouraging to all of those who support the three astronauts and those who helped them make it there.
- Apollo Hoax Frequently Asked Questions, www.apolloarchive.com/apollo/moon_hoax_FAQ.html
- “Apollo Moon Landing Hoax.” Apollo Moon Landing Hoax – The Skeptic’s Dictionary – Skepdic.com, www.skepdic.com/apollo.html
- Davis, Scott. “How Do We Know The Moon Landing Really Happened?” The National Space Centre, 15 June 2017, www.spacecentre.co.uk/blog-post/know-moon-landing-really-happened/
- Scudder, Jillian. “Why Aren’t The Van Allen Belts A Barrier To Spaceflight?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 16 June 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/jillianscudder/2017/06/16/astroquizzical-van-allen-belts-barrier-spaceflight/#3d90d44d6f8d
- Weiner, Sophie. “Why Faking the Moon Landing Was Impossible.” Popular Mechanics, Popular Mechanics, 14 Nov. 2017, www.popularmechanics.com/space/moon-mars/news/a28814/moon-landing-faking/
- “Why Do People Persist in Denying the Moon Landings?” National Air and Space Museum, 22 Mar. 2017, www.airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/why-do-people-persist-denying-moon-landings