The Greatest Conspiracy Theory of All Time
Quick and easy responses to moon landing hoax claims
Posted Jul 10, 2016
What is the single best conspiracy theory of all time? Which one is so ambitious in its reach, so outrageous in structure, that it deserves top ranking? Sorry 9-11 Truthers, great effort but no gold. No glory for the chemtrails crowd either. Illuminati, Antichrist, and grassy knoll enthusiasts must accept disappoint as well because the single greatest conspiracy theory ever cooked up by a human mind is the Apollo Moon landing hoax claim. This is one so bold and audacious that the Earth itself could not restrain it.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, millions of sober and sentient beings around the world at this moment reject the six Apollo lunar landings of the 1960s and 1970s as real events. Millions more have significant doubts about whether or not they occurred. Some say this is not worth paying attention to because it is too silly. I disagree for two reasons. First, it’s sad that these believers are missing out on the greatest of all human adventures. They are human, too, and should enjoy some of the awe and pride that comes with feeling connected to it. Second, the Moon hoax belief should be explored and addressed because it offers us a brilliant example of how anything can be believed when intellectual waters are muddied and people fail to protect their thoughts and dignity with good thinking.
Make a short list of important and spectacular historical events, and it’s clear that the Apollo Moon missions were unique in the way they were documented. There were no cameras at the Battle of Marathon. No NPR reporters at the French Revolution. The Mongol invasions came and went without a single press conference. Nor was their extensive print or web news coverage of the invention of the first stone tool or the first time a human created fire. Even most of World War II took place off camera.
By contrast, every step of NASA’s effort to get to the Moon was meticulously documented from within and without. This thoroughness left behind many thousands of documents, photographs, and audio/video recordings, as well as millions of typed and handwritten words. Artifacts, the tangible hardware, from lunar mission are currently on display in numerous museums around the world. And there is the Moon itself. Astronauts returned with more than 842 pounds (382 kilograms) of Moon rocks that have been shared and studied by scientists in many countries for decades. None of these experts have expressed doubts of the rocks’ origin.
Crossing 240,000 miles of cold, hostile space was a technological achievement ahead of its time, an amazing moment of intelligence and courage. I have discussed the hoax claim with believers in several countries and found the following to be the most common reasons people doubt or reject Apollo. I offer rebuttals here as brief as possible for ease of use. Please arm yourself with these quick answers so you can push back against the idea that one of our greatest moments never happened wherever you encounter it.
• The US government has lied about other things. Of course it has, and will again. However, pointing out that the US government is capable of lying does not prove that it lied about Apollo. Watergate is not evidence of Moongate.
• The absence of stars in photographs. Cameras were set for the proper exposure to photograph well-lit astronauts wearing white suits and the highly reflective Lunar Module, not the faint light of distant stars in dark space. Had the cameras been set to properly capture the light of stars, the astronauts would have been overexposed.
• No blast crater under Lunar Module. In order to land, the Lunar Module’s descent engine was throttled back and shut down prior to contact with the surface of the Moon. If the vehicle’s engine had been engaged at anything near its ten-thousand-pound thrust capability, it could not have landed.
• The flag moved. The American flag that was displayed on a rod extending horizontally from a flagpole did not move because of wind. It moved because of the astronaut’s manipulation of the flagpole during his effort to drive it into lunar soil.
• They lied. Hundreds of thousands of NASA personnel and contractors might have lied and then kept lying about it for all these decades, but I doubt it. Over the years I have interviewed more than twenty Apollo engineers, mission control personnel, and astronauts. Maybe they lied to me about their work and personal memories, but I doubt it. There are too many people telling the same story. Faking a Moon landing would be easy compared to the challenge of getting thousands of conspirators to keep the lie all these years.
• The US lied because it was determined to win a public relations war with the USSR. And the Soviet Union could have won by exposing such a vast American fraud. But the Soviets, also technologically sophisticated in space, knew the landings were real and acknowledged it.
• NASA could have faked it. Maybe NASA could have produced convincing video on a terrestrial sound stage that was good enough to fool non-experts. But why do it so many times? There were nine missions to the Moon, six of which landed. The Apollo 16 and 17 crews each spent three days there. Why? If this was all a daring PR stunt, why increase the risk of discovery with multiple missions? Why make it necessary for so many astronauts and ground personnel to lie and maintain the cover up? If this were a hoax, doesn’t it seem more likely that NASA would have faked one landing, had a big parade, and then promptly shut down the operation?
Like all conspiracy theories that are short on evidence, the Moon-hoax claim relies on the absence of good thinking. Please don’t let irrational beliefs like this one set up shop in your head without a fight. Force unusual claims to earn their way in with an abundance of evidence and logic. Make sure you understand and never forget how vulnerable the human mind is to falling for even the craziest of claims. Never forget that believing nonsense is only human. None of us are immune. There is no shame in this vulnerability. But there is no excuse for anyone to embrace nonsense as a result of being intellectually passive and lazy. Get your own house in order when it comes to conspiracy theories. Be diligent. Work at culling your own bad conclusions within and then offer a helping hand to your fellow humans so they might do the same.
Guy P. Harrison is the author of six books, including Good Thinking: What You Need to Know to be Smarter, Safer, Wealthier, and Wiser and 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True. The latter includes a chapter on the Moon landing conspiracy theory. Connect with Guy on Facebook and twitter.