In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took a “giant step for mankind” by being the first humans to walk on the moon. CBS News covered the historic event, broadcasting live audio and animations of Apollo 11’s landing. In 1999, approximately 6% of Americans believed that the first steps on the moon were fabricated by the media, and that percentage is still growing today. While some aspects of the TV broadcast seem unusual, science proves that the moon landing couldn’t have been faked.
The conspiracy theories about the moon landing have been surfacing for nearly 50 years. Bill Kaysing published a book in 1976 titled “We Never Went to the Moon: America's Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle.” The book sparked conversation about the theory and garnered skepticism about the moon landing. The Fox documentary “Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?” also promoted the theory.
Many believe the government was motivated to fake the moon landing in order to win the Space Race. Theorists think that NASA and the government worked with Hollywood and media companies to stage the moon landing with a spacelike set, props and movie magic.
Supporters of the theory base their beliefs on a few key oddities of the moon landing evidence. In video from the media coverage, the American flag appears to be rippling. Theorists claim that the video proves there’s wind present, and since wind can’t occur on the surface of the moon, it must’ve been faked. They also posit that the astronauts wouldn’t have been able to pass through the Van Allen belts, which are belts of radiation created by the Earth’s magnetic field. There’s a picture of a moon rock that appears to be labeled with a C, which some consider as common way to mark props on the set of a movie or television program.
The ripple of the flag can be attributed to human manipulation. NASA claims the wrinkles of the flag aren’t from a breeze but from Aldrin twisting the rod of the flag into the moon soil. The gravitational forces are so strong that the flag remained in a wrinkled state. The flag doesn’t move in between frames of video, proving that it couldn’t have been a gust of wind.
Further evidence to disprove the conspiracists’ claims is that the astronauts traveled through the Van Allen belts when they were at their lowest intensity. The levels of radiation at that point weren’t high enough to cause radiation sickness. NASA also ensured that the spacecraft was insulated adequately to limit radiation exposure.
Additionally, the original photo of the rock labeled with a C doesn’t have the C on it. There likely was a small thread or piece of hair on the photo that was copied. Some refute this claim, as props wouldn’t usually be labeled with letters that would be visible during filming.
An often overlooked detail of the moon landing case is the shadows. Recreating the light that the sun emanates in a studio would have been extremely challenging in 1969. The shadows on the surface of the moon run parallel because the sun is 93 million miles away. Studio lighting would cause the shadows to diverge. The only way to create this kind of effect in a studio is with millions of tiny laser lights, which wouldn’t have been plausible during this time period.
The technology in 1969 was likely not advanced enough to pull off this hoax. While the theories surrounding the moon landing are compelling, the science justifies that the moon landing did occur.
Diana Witt is a freshman theatre and media arts and design double major. Contact Diana at firstname.lastname@example.org.