Today, there is an entire generation of Americans that are not old enough to remember the Apollo moon landings. Sadly, this has led to the belief by many that the Apollo program, while real, did not actually land men on the moon. They argue aggressively using pseudo science and weak arguments. Yet the evidence that humans did walk on the moon is vast, compelling and in the end incontrovertible. Obviously the arguments against the validity of the Apollo landings is made to sound plausible and scientific. Yet these arguments can be used quite effectively to prove that the Apollo landings actually DID happen. Let us examine a few of these arguments.
Argument 1: In the photos of the astronauts there are no stars visible in an otherwise black sky. This is a true argument. In all the photos taken on the moon the sky is totally black. Those who argue that the Apollo landing was a hoax state this proves the whole thing was done on a sound-stage & NASA either couldn’t produce stars that looked convincing or didn’t think anyone would notice. However, let us examine what we do see in these pictures: astronauts in white space suits in front of a brightly lit, white (or gray) landscape. There is no atmosphere on the moon to diffuse the sunlight so the full effect of lunar daylight is blasted right into the aperture of the camera. Any amateur photographer will tell you that under such harsh lighting conditions subtleties of contrast will be lost. Therefor the light of small pinpoint stars are lost in the glare of the much brighter sunlight.
Argument 2: The camera on the lunar rover followed the path of Apollo 12 as it left the moon’s surface at the end of the mission. Those arguing for hoax state this proves that a model of a lunar lander was shot into the air like a model rocket and a person filming the launch panned the camera upward. This may be one of the weakest arguments in the arsenal. Remote controlled cameras have been in use for decades, and were easy to operate in the early 1970’s. In fact, the camera on the rovers could be controlled by either the astronauts themselves or by Mission Control in Houston. When Apollo 12 was ready to leave the moon, the rover had been parked close to the Lunar Module with the camera facing forward. As the upper stage of the LM blasted off, controllers at Mission Control simply followed the ascent.
Argument 3: There is no way we had the technology in 1969 to get to the moon. This argument could be subject to debate, and is in fact the crux of the whole argument. However, regardless of whether we had the technology or not, let us consider the political environment at the time. The United States and the U.S.S.R were embroiled in the depths of the cold war. The Soviets were also attempting a lunar landing; and up to that point had beaten the U.S. in almost every space goal. They were the first to orbit an artificial satellite, the first to send a man into space, the first to send a woman into space and they were also the first to arrive at the moon although with an unmanned probe. Given that the United States was actively working on a lunar project (and Apollo was NOT a classified mission), it is difficult to imagine the Soviets allowing a hoax of such magnitude to go unchallenged. Had they found out that the landing was a hoax they would have not hesitated to broadcast the fact to the entire world; the Soviets never turned down a chance to embarrass their western competitors on the world stage.
Yet even if the Soviets were also fooled, the axiom of the intelligence community: “if more than one person knows, it isn’t a secret” still applies. The Apollo program employed literally thousands of people, from the engineers who designed the Saturn V rocket, to the workers who actually built it and saw it safely off the ground. In the near 40 years since the event not a single person has come forward with a tell all book, sold a story to a major newspaper or been interviewed by a major news anchor. Those who believe in a hoax will stress that all those people were sworn to secrecy under pain of jail or worse. However, I find this argument less than compelling. Others in the course of this nation have sold secrets to foreign government while under similar threat; yet for these individuals the lure of money or ideology far outweigh the potential threat from the U.S. government.
I would be remiss indeed if I expected anyone to read these arguments and take them at face value with no further investigation. However, for those who are still in doubt (or for those who would like to learn more) check out a web site by Astronomer Phil Plait, http://www.badastronomy.com/. Phil has an entire section devoted to the argument that the Apollo landing was a staged hoax. It may not be enough to convert the hard shelled hoax mongers, but it may be enough to sway those who ride the fence.