In 1969, the world held its breath as it watched Apollo 11 touch down on the surface of the moon. It is regarded as one of the greatest achievements of the human race; a technological marvel that allowed us to leave the confines of our planet and set foot upon a celestial body. But was this one small step for man, really, a giant lie for mankind?
Conspiracy theories regarding the lunar landing have been circling for decades. And no matter how much they are debated, or debunked, the idea that the landings were hoaxed can never be put to bed. If there is a consistent truth that runs throughout all the various theories, it’s that the United States had a legitimate reason to fake a moon landing.
During the height of the Cold War, the Americans and Soviets were posturing their strength in every way possible. But nothing captured the imagination, and patriotic reverence, of their citizens as much as the Space Race. In the pursuit to gain technological superiority over the other, putting a man on the moon was seen as the ultimate propaganda triumph.
Having a motive, however, is not enough to prove guilt. So where do the other accusations come from? One of the most infamous bits of evidence is the film of Buzz Aldrin planting a waving American flag in the surface of the moon. The flag should not be moving in the vacuum of space, which critics say proves the ‘astronauts’ were not really on the moon.
Where were they then? Well according to sceptics, they were either filming the sequence in the nirvana of all conspiracies – Area 51 – or they were in Hollywood (obviously). Theorists suggest it was none other than Stanley Kubrick who helped NASA film the iconic sequence. They say the legendary filmmaker’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey proves the technology of the era was capable of producing footage comparable to that of the Apollo landing.
It’s so ridiculously farfetched, you kind of want it to be true. But NASA have said the flag simply moved because Aldrin is trying to twist it into the lunar surface. The space agency has provided similarly brief and deft rebuts when responding to other ‘evidence’ too. Why are there no stars in the background? Well, the light from the sun hitting the surface of the moon is just too bright. What about the rock with a letter ‘C’ on it? (Proof it’s a stage prop). That’s simply a stray hair that found its way into the developing process.
And even though six different Apollo missions brought back 382kg of verified lunar material, some people still doubt the missions took place. Perhaps one way to prove if it really ever happened would be to just point a bloody telescope at the moon and see if all the gear NASA left behind is still there. Sadly, however, no telescope on Earth has the capability to discern the equipment that remains on the moon.
The largest piece of equipment left behind is a 17.9-foot-high by 14-foot-wide Lunar Module. But with the Hubble’s 94.5-inch mirror only capable of detecting around 300-feet in visible light, you can understand why telescopes here on Earth would struggle. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), however, has no problem focusing on small objects on the moon. Skimming only 31 miles above the surface it has been able to capture the sharpest images of the lunar sites ever taken from space. They even show the twists and turns the astronauts made as they walked across the lunar surface.
So why are these conspiracy stories still circulating? Well, it’s not only Russian bots that spread fake news.