Rationality is one of the features that distinguish humans from other beings on earth. It is the process of trying to understand various phenomena through analysis of events and/or prior information. Since the earliest of times, human beings have attempted to know how the world and different things work. In that respect, they used their rational abilities to make deductions. At times, they were right, and many times wrong. When they failed to understand some things, they identified them as acts of supernatural beings. With the advent of science, some of these misconceptions have been corrected. However, knowledge of scientific concepts has also been used in spreading further misconceptions. A conspiracy theory is a belief about some powerful organization being responsible about an unexplained event, through use of covert actions. Since the Apollo missions, NASA has been accused by some conspiracy theorists of fabricating the lunar landings. This essay seeks to explore various arguments in support and against the claims on NASA’s lunar landings.
Conspiracy theorists have agreed on several motives behind the alleged fabrication of the lunar landings. Firstly, it would allow the United States to win the space race against the Soviet Union, which has benefits in the form of propaganda. This achievement would allow the United States and its allies to win the ideological conflict. It is important to note that, at the time, ‘the Soviet Union lacked the capabilities of tracking lunar landings as they happened’ (Apfn.org, 2013). Once they had adequate technology in 1972, the United States halted its Apollo programs. It may, therefore, be argued that these programs were mere propaganda instruments that could not be proven.
Secondly, the landings were regarded as a distraction to political events of the time, such as the Vietnam War. Once these events had taken place, it is argued that the United States Government and NASA did not intend to continue with the fabricated lunar landings. NASA carries out extensive research projects over each year. In that respect, it requires a lot of funding to operate them successfully. At the time, the organization faced limited funding from government departments. It has, therefore, been argued that the landings were faked in order to access support through funding, from government departments.
Numerous arguments have been brought up against the legitimacy of the landing. Most of them are based on evidence from footage of the first moon landing. The first argument concerns the American flag that was planted by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. During the live TV coverage of the landing, it was seen that the flag fluttered around. Various images of the flag also show folds in the fabric, probably because of a breeze and its ripples. Conspiracy theorists have disputed the landing since there is no air in the moon’s atmosphere. Therefore, the presence of blowing wind as seen through the flag is very questionable. In response, NASA explained that the tube was stored in a narrow tube on the journey to the moon. As a result, the ripple effect on the flag resulted from its unfurling. Another explanation in support of the landing explains that the ‘ripples on the flag were caused by a reaction force from the astronauts’ grip on the pole’ (Oberg, 2013).
Physics dictates that a collision between objects has three effects. One of these is that, the objects may develop motion in a common direction. It is, therefore, argued that once the lunar module landed on the moon, there would be a blast crater due to the force involved during touchdown. Evidence from the alleged landings is very questionable indeed. There appears to be no marks or depressions following the landing of the spacecraft. Conspiracy theorists have, therefore, argued that the module was simply placed there. Furthermore, the moon is covered in fine dust. Small forces are capable of developing depressions on the lunar surface. However, the dust appears settled in the photographic evidence provided, contrary to scientific arguments. Various arguments have been presented in response to the conspiracy theory. NASA explained that the vehicle required little thrust in the low-gravity atmosphere of the moon. Similarly, it has been argued that the lunar surface consists of solid rock. A blast crater would, therefore, be unlikely to happen. An example of a landing aircraft has been related to this argument, in that; it does not cause a depression on a runway.
The Van Allen radiation belt is an area around space that is held in place by earth’s magnetic field. In order to reach the moon, it is necessary for astronauts to pass through the radiation belt. Conspiracy theorists have argued that the levels of radiation that are found in the space would have disastrous effects on human beings. Some have even stated that the ‘radiation would cook the astronauts’; irrespective of whatever protective gear they wore (Oberg & Plait, 2002). NASA’s missions were the first attempts at crossing this area. The lack of radiation, therefore, questions the legitimacy of the missions. In response, NASA argued that the astronauts were exposed to the radiation for a very brief period due to the speed at which they crossed the belt. As a result, they experienced minimal doses of the radiation (Apfn.org, 2013).
On the observation of space, it is expected that one would see stars and other bodies. From the provided evidence of the landings, it is seen that there is not even one star in presence. Only the earth and its atmosphere are seen. The moon’s atmosphere does not feature clouds. As a result, ‘it is expected that stars would be observed, albeit brighter than they are on earth’(Phillips, 2001). Conspiracy theorists have argued that NASA was unable to map locations of the stars in a convincing manner, and therefore left them off the footage and images. However, the organization argued that the quality of the footage or images impeded accurate observations from being made. This has been questioned following the quality of some photographs on close observation. Most signs imply that the landings were fabricated (Phillips, 2001).
In the solar system, the primary light source is the sun. Therefore, shadows of objects are expected to run parallel. On an observation of images of the landing, it is seen that ‘shadows of rocks and other objects do not run parallel’ (Reynolds, 2013). They are, in fact, facing different directions altogether. As a result, conspiracy theorists have argued that the landings were orchestrated on a film set, hence the multiple light sources. NASA has offered explanations for these discrepancies. The organization explained that the uneven landscape on the moon is what has caused the erroneous lighting effects seen through shadowing. In an interesting twist, Conspiracy theorists have outlined the 45 degree bank that can be observed from the different directions that the shadows have formed (Phillips, 2001).
The Apollo 15 mission involved a miles wide exploration of the lunar surface. NASA provided various images as evidence of a several miles drive by the lunar module. Conspiracy theorists have pointed out the common features of images from the different missions. They have argued that the missions were fabricated on common sets, as seen in the images. When layered upon one another, the images of different regions of the moon share a common background. The mountainous region fits perfectly on different images. In response, NASA postulated that horizons may appear similar to the eye, considering that the moon is smaller than the earth. However, conspiracy theorists have argued that the commonalities on different images are too obvious to ignore (Reynolds, 2013). It may therefore be stated that there are questions regarding the legitimacy of the lunar landings. Arguments and evidence mainly point against NASA. Similarly, the organization has failed at providing reasonable evidence.
Apfn.org (2013). Was The Apollo Moon Landing Fake?. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.apfn.org/apfn/moon.htm [Accessed: 10 Dec 2013].
Oberg, J. (2013). ABCNEWS.com: Misremembering Apollo. [online] Retrieved from: http://web.archive.org/web/20030402094521/http://abcnews.go.com/ABC2000/abc2000science/oberg2000.html [Accessed: 10 Dec 2013].
Oberg, J. & Plait, P. (2002). One giant leap of imagination – theage.com.au. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/12/24/1040511043172.html [Accessed: 10 Dec 2013].
Phillips, T. (2001). The Great Moon Hoax – NASA Science. [online] Retrieved from: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2001/ast23feb_2/ [Accessed: 10 Dec 2013].
Reynolds, M. (2013). An Interview with Photo Analyst Jack White On JFK, Apollo and 9/11. [online] Retrieved from: http://nomoregames.net/2010/04/13/an-interview-with-photo-analyst-jack-white-on-jfk-apollo-and-911/ [Accessed: 10 Dec 2013].