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Monday, July 20, 2009

40th Anniversary of Moon Landing Resurrects Hoax Theories

On July 20th, 1969, the whole world stared into their television sets and watched blurry, flickering, black and white images as Apollo 11’s lunar excursion module, nicknamed “The Eagle,” descended from orbiting around the Moon and touched down on the Sea of Tranquility. In 1960, deep in the heart of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, President John F. Kennedy had upped the stakes in the “space race” between the two superpowers by proclaiming that the U.S. would land a man on the Moon “before this decade is out.” Apollo 11 had managed to pull it off with just months to spare.

It was truly the technological achievement of the century, and perhaps the greatest milestone in the annals of mankind. And yet, the day after astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the first human footprints on another world, there were those who didn’t believe it was possible. One woman interviewed by Newsweek proclaimed that she didn’t believe it because she didn’t think her TV set could pick up a transmission from the Moon. A rumor began to spread across the countryside: Maybe the Moon landings had been staged.

Bear in mind that, from a sociologist’s viewpoint, the 1970’s were a time of rampant distrust of the U.S. government because of the Vietnam era, the aftermath of the Watergate scandal and subsequent resignation of President Richard Nixon, along with a general hippie-era dislike of the Establishment. It was unfortunate timing that the greatest technological accomplishment of mankind came along at one of the most cynical periods of history. It's curious to note that, depending on whose poll you look at, somewhere between 70% and 85% of Americans believe that this planet has been visited at some point by extra-terrestrial forms of life, and the overwhelming majority believe that the government has been hiding it from us. Yet, in a poll just this year in Britain, 25% of those questioned don't believe men ever walked on the Moon.

Various claims have been made over the last three decades about ways in which the Moon landings might have been faked, and why. Some of the more common ones include:

· NASA’s first manned test flight of the Apollo space capsule and Saturn-series rocket resulted in a tragic fire that killed astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. In a test on January 27th, 1967, fire broke out in the oxygen-rich cockpit, and the three men died within 17 seconds. The claim goes that the fire set the program back so badly that the Moon landings had to be completely or partially fabricated in order to make it look like the U.S. had achieved its goal on time.

· Some have claimed that the Van Allen radiation belts that surround the earth were far too deadly to allow Apollo spacecraft to pass through without killing the astronauts inside. Most scientists (including their discoverer Dr. James Van Allen) reject this claim, since radiation poisoning is dependant upon the amount of time a person is exposed, and Apollo astronauts passed through too quickly to have received a dangerous dose.

· Conspiracists claim that the astronauts were launched into low Earth orbit, and that the Moon landing was videotaped in a studio. Then, after the appropriate amount of time, the orbiting Apollo spacecraft splashed down, all on international television.

· According to some conspiracists, Stanley Kubrick, hot on the heels of directing the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which contained the first realistic and convincing special effects depicting spaceflight ever put on film, was brought from England to direct the Apollo 11 telecast. Anyone who knows anything about the famously temperamental and perfectionist director knows what a howler this claim is. Others have claimed that special effects were created by 2001 effects artist Douglas Trumbull in a studio in Huntsville, Alabama, home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

· A variation on the claim is that only some of the six successful Moon landings were faked, while NASA had extra time to work on its faulty technology. Apollo 13’s almost fatal accident was staged in order to refocus a bored public on NASA’s need for greater funding. And Apollo 17, the final mission to the Moon, was the only authentic trip, because it had a civilian crew member who couldn’t be threatened or bought off.

· The 1978 film Capricorn One added fuel to the hoax claims, by telling a fictional story of NASA faking a landing on Mars, while filming the events in a studio – using spacecraft virtually identical to the Apollo missions.

There is too much evidence and far too many participants in NASA’s Apollo program to convince the overwhelming majority of people that the Moon landings were anything but authentic. The Apollo missions involved $30 billion in federal dollars, and 400,000 employees with nary a squealer in the bunch. That has not prevented a small cottage industry of authors from crying “hoax.” The 842 pounds of lunar rocks returned to Earth by Apollo astronauts over the course of six missions is not proof to them. Conspiracists claim unmanned NASA missions brought the rocks to back Earth before Apollo 11 ever launched, or they were simply cooked up artificially in a high-temperature kiln.

In spite of piles of photographic and physical evidence, this conspiracy theory hangs on, first promoted by late author Bill Kaysing. He was a librarian at Rocketdyne, an early NASA supplier, and claimed (without proof) that the space agency never had the expertise needed to actually land men on the Moon. He further alleged that the Apollo 1 astronauts (and later the Challenger Space Shuttle crew) were murdered because they were about to reveal the “truth” about NASA. Kaysing claimed that the astronauts were actually in the Nevada desert putting on the “moonwalk show” during the day, and hanging out with strippers and Las Vegas showgirls at night – requiring years of psychological therapy before they could get over the guilt of duping the public.

Amateur filmmaker Bart Sibrel has taken a more confrontational approach to the issue. In 2002, he accosted Buzz Aldrin in front of a Beverly Hills hotel, demanding answers to his questions about the so-called Moon landing “hoax,” calling the astronaut a “coward, a liar and a thief.” Aldrin reacted in a less than Socratic method over the controversy and busted Sibrel right in the kisser. Other Apollo astronauts have characterized Sibrel as a “stalker.”

A new round of Moon landing "hoax" claims have resurfaced in the last few weeks with the announcement by NASA that the original videotapes of downloaded and encoded video transmissions of the Moon walk were recorded over on subsequent missions to save money (!).

The first time men from Earth stepped onto a new world had a profound effect on Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and both men grappled long and hard with their public and private reactions to an event that the whole world was watching. There are two little known items about Aldrin, in particular. Professional atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair had sued NASA for violating church/state separation by allowing government-employed astronauts to read from the Book of Genesis during Apollo 8’s Moon orbiting mission in 1968. So, on his own, Aldrin (a Presbyterian) privately gave himself Communion when Apollo 11’s Eagle landed. Aldrin is also a Freemason, and he carried a special document proclaiming the Moon as being under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Texas of Free and Accepted Masons. Which means the Masons control not just the world, but the Moon!

Adapted from Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies


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