Forty years after man landed on moon on 21 July, 1969, the claim that the event was stage-managed continues to garner attention in the US. In the paranoid world of conspiracy theorists, the Moon landing generates almost as much business as the Kennedy assassination. Ten years ago, a Gallup poll found that 6 per cent of the American public continues to doubt the Moon landing happened. The number reportedly increased to about 20 per cent in 2001 after Fox network aired a show titled ‘Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?’ We take a look at some of the more plausible claims made by the conspiracy theorists and show why they don’t hold up.
The flag placed on the surface by the astronauts flapped despite there being no wind on the Moon. According to filmmaker Bart Sibrel: “The wind was probably caused by intense air-conditioning used to cool the astronauts in their lightened, uncirculated space suits. The cooling systems in the backpacks would have been removed to lighten the load not designed for Earth’s six times heavier gravity, otherwise they might have fallen over.”
The astronauts were moving the flag into position. Without air drag, these movements caused the free corner of the flag to swing like a pendulum for some time. A horizontal rod, visible in many photographs, extended from the top of the flagpole to hold the flag out for proper display. The flag’s rippled appearance was from folding during storage. These ripples could be mistaken for motion in a still photograph. The top support rod telescoped and the crew of Apollo 11 could not fully extend it. Later crews preferred to only partially extend the rod. Videotapes show that when the flag stops after the astronauts let it go, it remains motionless. At one point, the tapes show, the flag remained completely motionless for well over 30 minutes.
There are no stars in any of the photos. The Apollo 11 astronauts also claimed in a press conference after the event to have not remembered seeing any stars.
The Sun was shining. Cameras were set for daylight exposure, and could not detect the faint points of light. Even the brightest stars are dim and difficult to see in the daytime on the Moon. The astronauts’ eyes were adapted to the brightly Sunlit landscape around them so that they could not see the relatively faint stars. Camera settings can turn a well-lit background into ink-black when the foreground object is brightly lit, forcing the camera to increase shutter speed in order not to have the foreground light completely wash out the image.
There seem to be ‘hot spots’ in some photographs that look like a huge spotlight was used at a close distance.
Pits in Moon dust focus and reflect light in a manner similar to minuscule glass spheres used in the coating of street signs, or dew-drops on wet grass. This phenomenon creates a glow around the photographer’s own shadow when it appears in a photograph.
If the photographer is standing in sunlight while photographing into shade, light reflected off his white spacesuit produces a similar effect to a spotlight.
The rocks brought back from the Moon are identical to rocks collected by scientific expeditions to Antarctica.
Chemical analysis of the rocks confirms a different oxygen isotopic composition and a lack of volatile elements. There are only a few identical rocks, and those few fell as meteorites after being ejected from the Moon during impact cratering events. The total quantity of these lunar meteorites is small compared to the more than 840 lb (380 kg) of lunar samples returned by Apollo. Also the Apollo lunar soil samples chemically matched the Russian Luna space probe’s soil samples. In addition, unlike the Antarctic lunites, rocks recovered from the Moon do not exhibit the effects of atmospheric friction.
The Lander weighed 17 tonnes and sat on top of the sand making no impression, but footprints can be seen in the sand directly next to it.
The Lander weighed less than three tonnes on the Moon. The astronauts were much lighter than the Lander, but their boots were much smaller than the 1-metre landing pads. Pressure, or force per unit area, rather than force, determines the extent of soil compression. In some photos the landing pads did press into the soil, especially when they moved sideways at touchdown. (The bearing pressure under the Lander feet, with the Lander being more than 100 times the weight of the astronauts, would in fact have been of similar magnitude to the bearing pressure exerted by the astronauts’ boots.)
The air conditioning units that were part of the astronauts’ spacesuits could not have worked in an environment of no atmosphere.
The cooling units could only work in a vacuum. Water from a tank in the backpack flowed out through tiny pores in a metal sublimator plate where it quickly vaporised into space. The loss of the heat of vaporisation froze the remaining water, forming a layer of ice on the outside of the plate that also sublimated into space (turning from a solid directly into a gas). A separate water loop flowed through the LCG (liquid cooling garment) worn by the astronaut, carrying his metabolic waste heat through the sublimator plate where it was cooled and returned to the LCG. About 12 lb [5.4 kg] of feedwater provided some 8 hours of cooling. Because of its bulk, it was often the limiting consumable on the length of an extra-vehicular activity (EVA). Also, as this cooling system could not work in the presence of an atmosphere, the astronauts had needed large external chillers to keep them comfortable while training for the missions on Earth.
Compiled by Hartosh Singh Bal