And Now for a Real Conspiracy Theory

A friend sent the following article about faked moon landings and wanted my commentary. With our faltering trust of everything government it is instructive to note that not everything is fake.

And—talking about fake—what do you think of this article?


My commentary:

When I was a teenager I avidly watched the progression of space technologies that eventually led to the Apollo flights and the moon landings. I wasn’t able to watch the first Apollo 11 landing, I was bird-banding in the Arctic and our only connection to the outside world was short wave radio, we listened. 

To get some idea of special effects of the time we were watching Star Trek on TV, and 2001 a Space Odyssey had just been in the theatres. 2001 had great special effects but nothing on today’s CGI – computers at the time were primitive. Weightlessness was difficult to simulate and movie scripts often bungled the physics. I remember one show where the crew in orbit around the Earth got rid of a hydrogen bomb gone bad by pushing it out the hatch towards the Sun. Couldn’t possibly work but the audience bought it.

The launch of the Apollo missions were, as were all previous Mercury and Gemini missions, very public with people watching these monstrous 100 m machines roaring into space. The capsules were followed moment by moment by radio telescopes around the world in England, Africa and Australia, handed off one to the other as they were eclipsed by the Earth. The flights to the moon were tracked, each radio telescope taking over as the Earth rotated beneath the astronauts. The communication with the astronauts was frequent, the signals coming from a distant point in space. Reaching their destination, the communications were blacked out as the command module went into orbit around the dark side of the Moon then reappeared as the module came backer the Moon’s horizon. If all of this had been scripted and done live in one take it would have been an amazing Oscar worthy accomplishment, even today, and yet it was done 53 years ago. If there had been any faulty physics, the competitive USSR would have surely have called foul.

During the landing on the Moon, film showed surface particles being blasted radially away in straight lines, not forming the turbulent clouds which would be produced if there was an atmosphere. This would have been very difficult to simulate without CGI. Once out on the surface the movements of the astronauts in their heavy spacesuits showed the lightness of low gravity, something that  again is very difficult to simulate. One astronaut hopped over the surface in great bounds that would even today be a great special effect even today. High resolution photos of the reflective curved visors of the astronauts failed to reflect a production crew or the stage lighting. When the rovers rolled across the Moon’s surface, the dust was picked up and flew backward in neat parabolic arcs leaving no cloud of fine dust. Difficult to duplicate in special effects on a planet with an atmosphere. The lunar lander, astronauts, rovers and surface rocks all had the high contrast light and dark one would expect from a single light source with no atmosphere to soften the shadows. The faraway mountains had the illusion of being close because there was no suspended haze which on Earth blurs distant features. 

For most of the time, the flag planted on the moon sat lifeless, held out by a straight pole, the fabric wrinkled to suggest a breeze. In the ‘NASA admits’ video the flag moves but that is because it is being turned around by an astronaut and the shape of the fabric gives the illusion of flapping. The only other time I saw the flag wave was when the lander took off and the exhaust gases buffeted the flag.

The reentry of the command modules into the Earth’s atmosphere also followed the Physics with the blackout occurring as air ionized around the capsule. Some of the Apollo missions were filmed returning and landing in the ocean. Again, highly public events watched by shiploads of sailors and TV watchers everywhere. Pretty awesome production for 1969.

The ’NASA admits’ video makes a point about not seeing stars in the Moon’s sky, but if you go outside on Earth on a bright moon-lit night it is difficult to see stars near the Moon. When there is a full Earth in the sky as seen from the Moon, the sky is several times brighter, making it even more difficult to see stars. Any camera would be stoppered down by the bright Earth and the much dimmer light of the stars would not be picked up.

The video goes on a lot about Thermospheres and Exospheres with temperatures higher than the melting points of spacecraft materials, therefore … Such a suggestion would also falsify the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft, the Kepler telescope, all those Mercury, Venus, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn missions, those myriad high altitude telecommunication satellites. What the narrator misses is that the hot gases at these extreme altitudes are highly rarified and have little effect on spacecraft. Even meteors travelling at 20,000 km/h don’t heat up until they hit the inner mesosphere. The main heating problem for spacecraft is solar radiation. To control this the spacecraft have reflective metal or white surfaces and they rotate, heating on the side facing the Sun and cooling as they radiate that heat on the side opposite the Sun. Any tiny conductive heating by the superheated thin gases of the thermosphere would also be quickly reradiated on the dark side of the spacecraft.

Then there are those Van Allen belts, donut shaped radioactive bands that circle the Earth. The Van Allen belts get their radioactivity as particles in the solar wind are trapped in the magnetic fields of the Earth and this radioactivity varies with the Sun’s activity. Before manned spacecraft launch, the Sun is monitored for flares, sun spots and prominences and if the Sun is too active the missions are scrubbed. Even so as the spacecraft travel through the Van Allen belts the astronauts are inevitably bombarded with radiation and for the rest of the trip they are exposed to cosmic rays from deep outer space. Radiation exposures for the Apollo crews were measured at 1.6 to 11.4 mSv, an increase of about 1000 times normal but smaller than the yearly 50 mSv maximum recommended by the AEC. Generally there is no measurable increase in cancer risk up to a 100 mSv acute exposure. A 1000 mSv sudden exposure can increase cancer risk by 10%, cancer fatality by 5%.

On long duration space flights there are risks of too much radiation. Astronauts on the space station have received up to 2000 mSv in a 6 month mission. It is thought that the cosmic ray radiation and solar storms will be unavoidable risks to Mars missions and will limit their duration and perhaps make them impossible.

Would it be have been possible to fake the Moon landings? With 1960s technologies it would have been very difficult to get the physics and timing right even in post production let alone in real time and a lot of it would have had to happen in real time. If all you have to disprove the landings are some distorted physics of waving flags, Van Allan belts and Exospheres you are going to have to up your game.

Without convincing physical evidence that the Moon landings were faked I remain unmoved.


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