By: Lauren Nowakowski
We have all heard the phrase, “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” but what if that one small step didn’t actually happen? Some believe that the astronauts did not actually land on the moon, but simply set up and filmed a fake moon landing at a studio on earth. This belief that the moon landings were fake has been around since the first moon landings happened in the late 60’s and early 70’s, but it has become even more prominent since the internet. When typing in to google “Was the moon landing fake?” you get 20,900,00 results. This huge quantity of information demonstrates just how much there is out there covering the topic of a faked moon landing. But what really seemed to have sparked the fire of this conspiracy theory was a television special on Fox in 2001 called, “Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon” (Fuller)? The people who tend to believe that the moon landing was faked think it was because the United States wanted to prove that it had better space technology than the Soviet Union and wanted to do this without spending incredible amounts of money to actually send people to space (Fuller). This belief is important and extraordinary because supporters of this theory are going against all logic and evidence that is out there.
The first moon landing happened in July of 1969. Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon at exactly 4:18 p.m. EDT. After taking the first steps they spent a few hours taking photographs of what they could see and collecting samples from the surface. While on the surface they planted an American flag. A key point to this story is how bad President John F. Kennedy wanted to land on the moon, even announcing a goal to land on the moon by the end of the 1960’s (1969 Moon Landing). This was during an era known as the Cold War. The United States was not as advanced as the Soviet Union in terms of space, which led to an intense race to be the first to put a man on the moon (1969 Moon Landing). This is a point that believers in the “faked” moon landing are fascinated with.
Believers of this theory claim to have huge amounts of “evidence” to support their claim. First, believers state that there are shadows on the moon in photos taken during the moon landing. According to them, there are not supposed to be any shadows in Space. Next, they point at the image of the American flag appearing to “flutter” in the wind. They argue that there is no wind on the moon, therefore the American flag should not be fluttering at all. Lastly, they argue that the images of the astronauts driving the Rover as proof that the moon landing was faked. Even with all of this “evidence”, people who believe that the moon landing did in fact happen have points to refute each claim the faked moon landing believers have. First, they counter that there can be shadows on the moon because the sun is not the only source of light there, and that the moon itself can reflect its own light. When it reflects its own light, it can create shadows on the surface. Second, they state that objects on the moon, “don’t stop moving as fast as they do on earth” (The Moon Landing Hoax Conspiracy). The flag is moving like that because it has been disturbed, not because of wind. Evidence also exists that the astronauts driving the rover does not prove the moon landing as a hoax, because the moon does not produce dust. Dust on the moon returns right back to the surface, which is something we would not be able to control and create in a movie on earth during that time period (1969). Some of the most solid evidence that the moon landing did actually happen comes from pieces of the moon that we have to study. By scientifically dating these rocks you can see that they are 4.5 billion years old, which is older than anything dated on earth (Patel). Even though believers in the moon landing have logical arguments for all of the moon landing hoax believers, their beliefs persist.
There are many cognitive contributions that can be seen to explain the belief system of these people and the moon landing hoax. A definite misinterpretation of evidence is at play in this theory, because none of their proof holds any semblance of truth. As stated by Jan-Willem van Prooijen, “conspiracy theories help us to understand the unknown whenever things happen that are fearful or unexpected” (Svoboda). People who believe that the moon landing was a hoax fall prey to confirmation bias. They only look for evidence that confirms their theory. In the moon landing case, they look at the “waving” flag, shadows, and other images as evidence, even though each of these can actually be seen as disconfirming the moon landing hoax. These believers also partake in availability error when they focus on the fact that JFK wanted to beat the Soviet Union to the moon and use that strong desire of JFK’s to build up their belief, and to even make their confirmation bias worse. Conspiracy theories are made by people who wish to reject what is already known, and to go against the stream of common belief (Svoboda). Being a believer in a conspiracy theory can make you feel like you are in an exclusive club, and that can be difficult to give up. Even though there is knowledge out there to help get people out of conspiracy theories, it is tough, and the mind can have a hard time turning around.
The social state when this theory came to light was tense. The United States and Russia were in the Cold War, and both wanted to be the first to put a man on the moon. The United States, even though seemingly far behind the Soviet Union, were the ones to accomplish this feat. This tense political setting is what began guiding people to believe the theory that the moon landing could have been a giant hoax. People just want to understand what is going on around them, and sometimes this can lead to beliefs in outlandish conspiracies. Conspiracy theories also have a high tolerance for contradiction, and also offer ego boosts (Svoboda). This ego boost and choice to ignore opposing evidence allows them to sustain their beliefs, and even allow them to grow. For this reason, there are many believers of the hoax moon landing theory everywhere. Even when proof exists that contradicts and even disproves a theory, conspiracy theorists can still find ways to go around the proof and continue a belief in a faulty idea.
In conclusion, the moon landing brings a lot of strong opinions from both the people who believe in the moon landing, and those who think it is a hoax. Buzz Aldrin even once punched a man who accused him of not actually landing on the moon (Svoboda). This physical violence shows how fed up people can become on both sides. Those who believe the moon landing did happen can become very upset when people who believe in the moon hoax ignore all logical evidence. On the other hand, those who believe in a hoax moon landing can become aggravated and strengthen their own beliefs when they do not hear/see what they want to hear. All in all, we can agree that the moon landing did in fact happen, and that by arguing that it didn’t we aren’t achieving anything. There is too much evidence in support of the moon landing. If you still don’t believe, then maybe go see a test the samples we have from the moon. If they aren’t from the earth, and you do not believe they are from the moon then where are they from?
Fuller, John. “Why Do Some People Believe the Moon Landings Were a Hoax?” HowStuffWorks Science, HowStuffWorks, 8 Mar. 2018, science.howstuffworks.com/moon-landing-hoax1.htm.
Svoboda, Elizabeth. “Why Do People Believe the Moon Landing Hoax or Other Conspiracy Theories?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 20 July 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2018/07/20/why-do-people-believe-the-moon-landing-hoax-or-other-conspiracy-theories/?utm_term=.b97f649ca481.
Dunbar, Brian. “July 20, 1969: One Giant Leap for Mankind.” NASA, NASA, 19 Feb. 2015, www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/apollo11.html.
Editors, History.com. “1969 Moon Landing.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 23 Aug. 2018, www.history.com/topics/space-exploration/moon-landing-1969.
“The Moon Landing Hoax Conspiracy.” Moon Landing Hoax Conspiracy, www.moonconnection.com/moon_landing_hoax.phtml.
Patel, Neel V. “7 Easy Ways You Can Tell for Yourself That the Moon Landing Really Happened.” Popular Science, 10 Dec. 2018, www.popsci.com/proof-moon-landing-not-fake#page-8).