Moon landing: Neil Armstrong on 'conspiracy theories' in 2011
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Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin became the first men to walk on the surface of the Moon, 52 years ago on July 20, 1969. Together with Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, the trio of NASA astronauts cemented America’s victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War Space Race. But on the eve of Apollo 11’s 52nd anniversary, many conspiracy theorists remain unconvinced by humanity’s greatest feat of exploration.
Whether it’s claims about the Moon landing being faked in a Hollywood studio by director Stanley Kubrick or about it being filmed in an Area 51 hangar, social media is rife with unfounded claims and theories.
One doubter recently said on Twitter: “I didn’t use to think the Moon landing was fake, but seeing these billionaires work so hard just to sorta get into space has me rethinking some things.”
Another person said: “Moon landing. I hate admitting I struggle with it: Van Allen radiation belt aside, the thing that gets me most is the communication.
“In 2022 you can’t watch a live interview from 30 miles away and not have an audio delay – but in ’60, from the Moon, the spoke with no delay.”
And a third person said: “NASA is full of government propaganda, like the fake Moon landing was filmed in the Nevada desert. Don’t believe anything that comes from NASA.”
So is there any reason whatsoever to doubt the veracity of NASA’s Moon landing credentials?
According to the scientific community, the answer is an emphatic no. Here is why.
1. We built everything needed to fly humans to the Moon
Neil deGrasse Tyson, the famous astrophysicist and author, challenged Moon landing conspiracies in 2019 in partnership with the book publisher Penguin UK.
When asked whether the Moon landing was faked, the expert said the evidence to the contrary is insurmountable.
For starters, he argued, the thousands of hours of work that went into designing and building NASA’s iconic Moon rocket, the Saturn V, is there for everyone to see.
Dr Tyson said: “Have you really thought about what it would take to fake a Moon landing?
“Because the rocket did launch. We all saw the rocket launch, okay?
“So there’s hardware there, there are like office buildings of blueprints for the design of the Saturn V rocket.
“Hundreds of thousands of engineering hours that went behind this and the record of those designs.”
Faking the Moon landing would require NASA to fake all the documents and make sure the 400,000 people involved in the effort never let it slip they were in on the hoax.
Dr Tyson added: “It just seems to me it’s way easier to just go to the Moon.”
2. The Van Allen belt of radiation would not fry astronauts heading into deep space
A popular claim against the Moon landing is the presence of radiation belts around our planet.
These doughnut-shaped belts are known as the Van Allen belts and conspiracy theorists claim they are too dangerous for humans to cross.
However, according to the UK and Ireland-based Institute of Physics (IOP), this is simply not true.
The IOP explained: “Some people believe humans couldn’t have passed through these belts without being exposed to lethal doses of radiation.
“This was a genuine concern before the Apollo missions. And it is the reason scientists behind Apollo 11 made sure they protected the astronauts as best they could.
“They insulated the spacecraft from radiation with an aluminium shell.”
The Apollo 11 astronauts flew on a trajectory that would minimise their exposure to radiation.
Data collected on nine Apollo flights also found the astronauts’ exposure was in the range of 0.46 rads – less than that experienced by some nuclear power plant workers.
3. NASA’s astronauts couldn’t snap pictures of stars from the surface of the Moon
This is another popular conspiracy but one that can be debunked by anyone with a camera.
If NASA’s photos were truly taken by astronauts on the Moon, then surely the sky should be filled with thousands upon thousands of stars?
Well no, and this is because the Moon’s surface is lit up by harsh, direct sunlight.
In order to snap their photos, the astronauts had to fire their cameras at fast shutter speeds, which would not reveal the twinkle of stars.
Experts at the Royal Observatory Greenwich said: “If you’re going to take a photo of a brightly lit scene, your camera’s shutter speed needs to be fast and your aperture incredibly small.
“In that situation, faint objects like stars simply aren’t going to show up.”
If you have a camera with an adjustable shutter speed, like a DSLR, go outside in the evening and take a five to 10-second exposure of the sky.
You might be surprised how many stars suddenly appear in your photo despite you not being able to see them with the naked eye.
The key is to allow enough time for the light from the stars to hit your camera sensor – or in the case of NASA’s analogue cameras, the film stock.
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