There are certain questions relating to the sphere of science that are raised again and again despite repeated explanations: Does abominable snowman-yeti really exist? What is the reason for the growth of hair and fingernails even after death? Is it true that man uses only 10% of his brain? What is the mystery of Bermuda Triangle in which airplanes and ships have vanished without a trace? Does a monster really infest Scotland’s Loch Ness? Is there life anywhere else in the universe? Is there any element of truth in the news about sightings of flying saucers? And finally, one evergreen question wroth adding to the list and which is refusing to rest for the last 35 years: Had Neil Armstrong and other astronauts of the spaceship Apollo really gone to the moon and landed on it, or NASA had constructed elaborate studio set of the moon landing to misguide the world?
It is a principle of psychology that if a matter of public knowledge is contradicted with apparently logical proof then many will start believing it. The first instigation that the Moon landing was a hoax came from an American author named Bill Kaysing in 1974, two years after the last Apollo mission. He wrote a book titled, ‘We never went to the Moon…’ containing some sensational arguments which succeeded in confusing the readers. His extensive arguments appeared convincingly logical to the ordinary readers so this book became a best-seller. The book sowed the seeds of doubt about NASA’s claims regarding the Moon landings in the minds of many. People got an exciting and spicy topic of conversation. If the Moon missions of staggering 30 billion dollars were really a figment of imagination then it was a mind-boggling scam indeed.
Even this confounding revelation would have eventually taken a back seat and people would have ultimately forgotten it as a baseless canard. But in 1978 a film titled ‘Capricorn One’ was released. It was about a fictitious journey to the planet Mars and the spaceship in the film resembled Apollo spaceship. According to the plot of the film the astronauts had not gone to Mars at all but had staged a drama as if they had actually gone to the red planet. Popular imagination connected the subject matter of the film with the Moon landing missions. The film had been released at a very inopportune time. The credibility of the American government was at the lowest ebb due to misleading statements about the Vietnam War and Watergate scandal in the previous years. People had lost faith in the official announcements. In the prevailing atmosphere of doubt no wonder the needle of suspicion pointed towards the moon landings also.
Despite passage of time suspicion did not lie down. Years later an opinion poll in 1999 revealed that 6% of the persons polled believed that the Moon landings were nothing but conspiracy and hoax perpetrated by NASA. In terms of percentage the figure may appear small but in terms of absolute numbers this group formed a sample representing the opinion of 15 million American. Further 20% persons polled though did not reject the moon landing outright were not ready to accept them as a fact, i.e. they were uncertain. In this atmosphere of persistent disbelief Fox TV network’s program titled, ‘Conspiracy theory: Did we land on the moon?’ telecast in 2001 contributed only in making many people of the generation born after the great technological achievement skeptical about it.
The present day position is not much different. Though the section of population which believes that Apollo project was a hoax is a minority, it is quite substantial in numbers. They have reasons for upholding their beliefs which they present as proofs. There are more than a dozen reasons but the main reasons are 10 in number and here they are:
1. The photographs taken by Neil Armstrong and other astronauts on the moon show the Lunar module, instruments for experiments, rocks, mountains and pitch-black space but they there are no stars visible in the sky? (See accompanying photo). Seen from the Earth the night sky appears studded with the stars then why not from the Moon? Actually the stars should be clearer from the Moon as there is no atmosphere to impede the visibility.
2. Why shadows of the astronauts, Lunar module, rover vehicle and the mountains appearing in the photograph are not wholly black? The surface of the Moon on which the Sun’s rays fall directly should be lit up brightly and the surface on the shady side should be completely dark due to the absence of atmosphere on the Moon. But the shadows in the photograph are not completely black. In fact the name plate of Lunar module which is on the shady side can be read easily. How can this happen as there is no atmosphere on the Moon to scatter the rays of light? Obviously this scene was shot in studio where another source of light had inadvertently remained on, or the rays of light were scattered by the atmosphere.
3. The astronauts had landed Lunar module on the Moon using the module’s rocket engine. The exhaust of rocket engine was directed towards the surface of the Moon. Lunar module made a soft landing after descending at a gradually reducing speed. As the descent and landing were made by the reverse thrust how come extremely hot and powerful blast of rocket engine failed to make the mark on the ground leave alone making a pit or hole in the topsoil? The photographs show the spot of Moon landing in its level and pristine undisturbed condition.
4. Why is the flag of USA erected by Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin fluttering? Since there is no air on the Moon from where did the wind blow to flutter the flag? Live telecast of the flag hoisting had clearly shown that the folds in the fabric had traveled like wave from the mast side to the opposite side, still pictures taken after the flag raising also show it fluttering. The people who reject the claim of landing on the Moon want to know how such a phenomenon can take place in the airless vacuum.
5. Two photographs are produced as additional evidence to lay bare the conspiracy of NASA. Both the photographs show Lunar Mountains in the background. One photo has Lunar module in the foreground whereas the other doesn’t. Obviously, the other photo without Lunar module could not have been taken before the landing or after the departure. Neither there is any difference in the shape of the mountains nor in their distance from the camera. The mountains appear exactly the same in both the photos. This leads one to infer that NASA has got studio set of the mountains made and used it as background for the photos taken on different days.
6. There is one more argument regarding the exhaust of Lunar module’s rocket. Logically speaking, the exhaust of rocket engine should have blown away the layer of dust from the spot of landing exposing hard ground beneath it. But Neil Armstrong’s boots left deep footprints in the dust. Many impressions formed in the dust near the module as the astronauts walked about – an impossible phenomenon because existence of dust is not possible on the Moon.
7. Photographs of Moon landing show the shadows of the astronauts, Lunar module and other scientific equipments etc. If the Sun is the only source of light on the Moon then all the shadows should be parallel to one another where as it is not so in the photographs. The photos show that if shadow A is straight then shadow B is slanting. This is possible only when two source of light are situated near each other. Since this is not the case on the Moon, the non-parallel shadows indicate employment of more than one floodlight by NASA in the studio.
8. There are two invisible rings of radiation trapped by the Earth’s magnetic field in the upper atmosphere situated about 3,000 and 15,000 kilometers above the surface. These belts of radiation are named Van Allen radiation belts after the physicist James Van Allen who had discovered them in 1958. Van Allen belts contain high-energy, charged subatomic (electrons and protons) particles emitted by solar flares and carried by solar wind. If the Earth’s magnetic field had not trapped these subatomic particles and held them in the form of thick belts or rigs away from the Earth their radiation measuring 3,00,000 electron volt would have charred all the living beings to death. The astronauts going to the Moon have to go through these belts and the journey through these belts would have been fatal for them. Conclusion: Manned Moon missions have not taken place.
9. At the end of Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin’s sojourn on the Moon when they took off in the Lunar module (minus its stand that had become superfluous now) to reunite with the command module that was making orbits of the Moon, the event was photographed by the third astronaut Michael Collins from the command module. The question is: Why the exhaust flames of Lunar module’s rocket engine are not captured in the photographs? How can one believe that the rocket was firing and its thrust was propelling Lunar module towards the commend module in the absence of the rocket engine’s exhaust flames?
10. So as far the Moon’s rock samples are concerned, they were not gathered from the Moon. The skeptics point out an incident of the year 1967 in support of this contention. The director of NASA had led a scientific expedition to Antarctica to collect the samples of Moon rocks. The impact of large meteorites and asteroids that had crashed on the Moon in the primeval times had flung Moon rocks in the space. After orbiting as debris in the space for millions of years these rocks came under the influence of the Earth’s gravitational pull. Those that fell in Antarctica remained undisturbed for millions of years on the vast ice-cap. The team of NASA’s director recovered some such rocks and passed them off as the proof of manned missions to the Moon. The scientific fraternity believed NASA’s claims because the rocks were really Moon rocks.
Foregoing arguments refuting the Moon landing are apparently logical, sound and can easily convince an average person. However, all the brouhaha about the astronauts never having gone to the Moon raises one question in the mind: Let us assume that 12 American astronauts including Neil Armstrong had never landed on the Moon in various Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972. But what could have compelled NASA to enact the drama of sending manned missions to the Moon?
The skeptics about the Moon landing counter this question by asking to recollect the circumstances prevailing in the decade of 1950-60. There was tremendous rivalry between the American capitalism and the Russian communism in those days. Russia had stolen a march over USA by launching the first satellite in 1957. The first spaceship to visit the Moon in 1959 was also Russian. Again Russia was the first to send an astronaut in the orbit of the Earth in 1961. Each time USA was relegated to the second position. Smarting under the lead established by Russia President John F. Kennedy vowed in 1961 that USA would be the first to send a man on the moon before the end of that decade. Since this pledge remained unfulfilled till the fag-end of the decade of 1960s NASA was left with no option but resort to subterfuge.
As these aspects are easily convincing a section of the people are still suspicious about the Moon landings. Communication through internet has only helped to swell the ranks of skeptics. Many websites have come into existence seeking explanations from NASA. But if the doubts of the skeptics are addressed with well-grounded scientific explanations without dragging NASA into the picture, it is possible to refute all these allegations. Now let us see other side of coin and consider each rebuttal one by one.
1. It is not difficult to understand the reason why the stars have not been captured in the photographs taken by the astronauts. All the Moon landings had taken place during the daytime on the Moon. Ordinarily the sky appears completely black from the Moon even in daytime because there is no atmosphere to light up the sky by scattering the Sun’s rays. Therefore, the stars should be visible in the pitch-black sky even in daytime.
However, the photographs taken by astronauts did not capture the stars as shiny dots in the background sky because the activities of the astronauts and their equipments that were being photographed were under the dazzling light of the Sun. This called for minimum aperture and high shutter speed. Longer exposures might have captured the stars but would have reduced the pictures of the astronauts to white silhouettes.
Our eyes also function like a camera. The pupils become smaller in the bright light and larger in the dark. The astronauts engaged in the construction of the space station cannot see the stars having low or medium brightness. The photographs taken from the space station have not been able to capture the stars. In short, with the same shutter speed and aperture setting employed by the astronauts on the Moon it is not possible to take photographs of the stars from the Earth also.
2. The second allegation: Why the shadows seen in the photographs are not wholly black? Reply: Atmosphere-less Moon is not only bright, its surface also reflects considerable proportion of the sunlight falling on it. Lunar rocks, stones, shingles and dust all reflect the sunlight falling on them. Therefore, it should not come as surprise if the sunlight reflected by the ground somewhat lights up Lunar module’s side in the shade. The shadows of the astronauts are not entirely black in some photographs due to reflection light by Lunar module.
3. The exhaust blast of Lunar module’s rocket engine was not sufficiently powerful to form a pit or hole in the ground at the time of touch-down. Although rocket engine could produce thrust up to 10,000 lbs it had been reduced to 3,000 lbs for smooth landing. Further, the rocket engine’s nozzle had area of 2,300 square inches so the pressure of jet would have amounted to less than 1.5 lbs per square inch. Airless environment on the Moon would dissipate the blast and the resulting pressure quickly hence, there is no question of the rocket engine’s blast making hole in the ground.
4. What made the American Stars and Strips planted by Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin flutter in the Moon’s atmosphere-less environment? Two reasons were responsible for this. Folded nylon flag was already attached with the flag pole. The flag pole also had a horizontal tube attached with it to hold the upper edge of the flag all along its length. Both the flag poles as well as the horizontal tube were foldable like telescope. When the astronaut pulled out the horizontal tube the flag opened up. But inadvertently it was not pulled out to the fullest extent hence the folds in the flag did not get smoothed. Although it was possible to stretch the horizontal tube to make the flag taut the astronauts found that the flag with folds gave the impression as if it was fluttering. As the scene appeared natural they left it undisturbed.
The reply to the question, why did the lower portion of the flag undulate like a wave when it unfolded is also quite simple. Specially designed flag pole could be driven in the ground by turning it like a screw. The rotation movement imparted for planting flag pole invariably gave rise to vibrations in the fabric of the flag. Wouldn’t quickly repeated tugging on one end of a curtain create a wave like movement in the fabric up to the other end? It was the vibrations received by the fabric that created wave like movements. Air had no role to play in this phenomenon.
5. The similarity between two photos of the mountains is also quite easy to understand. The Lunar module is visible in the first photograph but not in the second. Keeping in mind the fact that the environment on the Moon is not like the environment on the Earth will help understand the mystery of the missing Lunar module in the second photograph. Thick atmosphere of the Earth makes distant objects and physical landmarks appear somewhat hazy. The human eye tries to gauge the distance of the object in terms of blurriness of the picture. (No doubt, apparent size of the object also helps in this process.) Absence of atmosphere on the Moon makes very distant objects appear very clear and sharp. Hence, it becomes difficult to gauge the distance. It is not possible to estimate accurately whether 1 cubic meter sized boulder on the Moon is 100 meters away or 100 cubic meters sized rocky outcrop is 10 kilometers away.
In case of the two photographs showing mountains in the background it had so happened that Lunar module was 20-30 meters away so it was included in the first photograph. Thereafter, the astronaut shifted a few hundred meters left or right and took another photograph. As he had shifted by a degree or two there is no visible difference in the perspective. Further, the mountain was actually quite far hence it appeared identical in both the photographs. This scientific explanation disproves the allegation that NASA had surreptitiously filmed the Moon landing somewhere in the USA and had got the set made having that mountain.
6. What is the mystery behind the exhaust blast of Lunar module’s rocket engine not blowing away the dust from the landing spot as well as the footprints of the astronauts? There is no mystery except the fact that Moon is an entity quite different from the Earth. Take the example of wheat flour and a blow of one’s breath instead of the Moon’s dust and exhaust blast of the rocket engine to understand this phenomenon better. Almost weightless and microscopic particles of flour are blown by a blow of air from the mouth. They travel quite far floating in the air before settling. These particles do not travel in the air on their own but the air blow given from the mouth pushes them. Can particles of dust on the airless Moon get transported like those of flour? The question does not arise. The blow of rocket engine from its 54” diameter nozzle would certainly affect and displace dust particles beneath it. In fact the dust blown by it had settled around the base of Lunar module and made imprints of the astronauts’ boots clearer.
7. It is only natural that the shadows on the Moon are not parallel to one another. They will always appear like that when three dimensional objects are presented on two dimensional photographs. The perspective invariably undergoes a change. Peruse accompanying diagram for clarification. The bodies of both the persons shown in the standing pose are parallel but not their shadows. Their shadows are due to the sunlight. Hence, the source of light is one, not two. Assume for the time being that two sources of light were employed to shoot the scenes of fabricated Moon landing as maintained by the skeptics then there should be two shadows of astronauts – i.e. four shadows in all. Why only one shadow of each astronaut is seen in the photographs? The skeptics have to answer to this question.
8. The argument that severe radiation of highly charged subatomic particles in Van Allen belts surrounding the Earth would have charred the astronauts is also not tenable. Not only did the astronauts pass through these belts in 45 minutes but they remained safe and sound in Apollo spaceship made of special alloys of great strength. A person not having adequate protection would have invariably perished in these belts but the astronauts were fully protected in their cocoon.
9. Exhaust flames were not seen coming out from the nozzle of the rocket engine when Lunar module took-off from the Moon at the end of the Apollo astronauts’ visit because conventional rocket fuel was not used for the rocket engine. Hydrazine was used as fuel and dinitrogen tetroxide was used as oxidizer (substance that gives oxygen). Coming together of both these chemicals automatically starts combustion but without any visible flare.
10. What is the element of truth in the allegation that the samples of Moon rocks were gathered from Antarctica? Consider the quantity of rock samples. Various Moon missions brought back 382 kilograms of rock samples in all. This is a substantial quantity when compared with the recovery of less than 30 kilograms Moon rocks that have fallen on the Earth as meteors. Although scientists have been exploring Antarctica for many years they have been able to recover only a few specimens. When the entire quantity of the Moon rocks is only 30 kilograms where did the weighing 382 kilograms come from? Where else but from the Moon.
Having given 10 rebuttals to 10 allegations of the skeptics holding that the Moon landings are figment of imagination there remains one final point which is also very important. If 30 billion dollars spent by the American government on the Moon landing missions had not been actually spent on them then it would not have remained secret in that country’s highly transparent system of governance. More than 4,00,000 persons were engaged in myriad activities connected with this project Obviously it is neither possible to include so many people in the conspiracy nor keep them in doubt about it. Some portion of the live telecast of the Moon landing was relayed from Australia whereas the control stations of NASA in different countries relayed the remaining portions with the help of the local networks of those countries. Had the Moon landings been mere dreams staged by NASA, wouldn’t they have been unmasked in different countries involved?
The most important evidence in favor of the Moon landings is provided by Russia, albeit indirectly. Russia had observed each Moon landing very closely with the best electronic surveillance equipments at its disposal. Had Russia found anything doubtful wouldn’t it have informed the whole world?
Although foregoing arguments demolish the allegations of the skeptics it must be noted that the needle of suspicion that has been pointing towards the Moon landings for all these years will keep on pointing in that direction for years to come. The reason lies in human psychology. The evidences in favor or against a case are rejected by the opposing parties – and no dispute ever comes to an end unless the evidence is accepted. Hence, the question, ‘Did the astronauts really go to the Moon?’ is going to remain evergreen.
Neil Armstrong (Wikipedia)
Moon landing (Wikipedia)
Moon landing conspiracy theories (Wikipedia)