The Myth of Apollo By an Anonymous Author Did the USA really go to the Moon?
Reuters, August 14, 2006 — The U.S. government has misplaced the original recording of the first moon landing, including astronaut Neil Armstrong’s famous “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” a NASA spokesman said on Monday.
Armstrong’s famous space walk, seen by millions of viewers on July 20, 1969, is among transmissions that NASA has failed to turn up in a year of searching, spokesman Grey Hautaloma said.
“We haven’t seen them for quite a while. We’ve been looking for over a year and they haven’t turned up,” Hautaloma said.
The tapes also contain data about the health of the astronauts and the condition of the spacecraft. In all, some 700 boxes of transmissions from the Apollo lunar missions are missing, he said.
“I wouldn’t say we’re worried — we’ve got all the data. Everything on the tapes we have in one form or another,” Hautaloma said.
NASA has retained copies of the television broadcasts and offers several clips on its Web site.
But those images are of lower quality than the originals stored on the missing magnetic tapes.
Because NASA’s equipment was not compatible with TV technology of the day, the original transmissions had to be displayed on a monitor and re-shot by a TV camera for broadcast.
Hautaloma said it is possible the tapes will be unplayable even if they are found, because they have degraded significantly over the years — a problem common to magnetic tape and other types of recordable media.
The material was held by the National Archives but returned to NASA sometime in the late 1970s, he said.
“We’re looking for paperwork to see where they last were,” he said.
— NASA can’t find original tape of moon landing
- A brief history of the 'Space Race'
- A few problems to be going on with
- Disaster strikes
- The mysterious rise and fall of the Saturn V rocket
- Apollo 8: 'A Most Fantastic Voyage'
- Pictures from the Moon
- Video footage of the Moon landings
- The man behind the lens
- More anomalies
- The final enigma: the strange tale of Apollo 13
1. IntroductionThe belief that the USA faked its Apollo Moon missions in the late sixties and early seventies is not a new one. It has been in circulation pretty much since the missions began. Even before Apollo 8 had taken off, allegedly taking Lovell, Borman and Anders on the first manned mission to the Moon (which we're told they orbited but did not land upon), the International Flat Earth Society roundly denounced the whole venture as an enormous hoax. NASA was more than happy to draw the world's attention to this seemingly ridiculous claim.
Despite its rather inauspicious origins, others have regularly revived the hoax theory. Today some people are engaged in poring over the still photographs from the Moon landings — now widely available on the Internet — and claiming to detect in them anomalies and inconsistencies which throw doubt on their genuineness. Personally I am unconvinced by the majority of these claims, which more often than not reveal basic misunderstandings of optics and lunar conditions as we believe them to be.
Despite this, I have nonetheless come to the conclusion that the Moon landings were most probably a hoax and the photographs and video footage faked. I am satisfied that the whole enterprise was not an exercise in scientific endeavour but in myth-making. The myth of Apollo was a fine myth; one of the best. It told of the time mankind left its native Earth and set foot on an alien land. Like most myths however, it was really just a story. The Apollo missions were, as Arthur C. Clarke has rightly observed, "a great hole in human history". The purpose of this essay is to cast some light into that hole to see what is really lying at the bottom.
The most persuasive evidence for my conclusions lies, not in photographs, but elsewhere. I believe much of it can be derived from a careful analysis of the USA's space program before and after Apollo, as well as the Apollo project itself. The first two sections give a concise overview of the historical context in which the Apollo project took place and the technological challenges it entailed. It is not until the third section that my findings lead me to deviate from the official account. If you're tempted to skip the first two sections I'd advise you not to; much of the key evidence is to be found there.
I draw on no data that is not readily available in a modestly stocked library. The evidence is largely circumstantial and I produce no 'smoking gun'. It might not convince a Court of Law, but I feel it is compelling evidence nonetheless.
2. A brief history of the 'Space Race'
In May 1961 President J. F. Kennedy made a bold announcement to U.S Congress. He said that the USA would send a man safely to the Moon and back by the end of the decade, less than nine years away. Though his undertaking was, on the face of it, a scientific and technical one, the speech itself was wholly political in nature. Kennedy's true audience was not his own rocket scientists but the American public and the world beyond. Kennedy was asserting the USA's strength and might, and giving notice to the Soviet Union that space was to become a major theatre in the enactment of the Cold War. It can also be seen as a tacit admission that, up until then, the USA had been distinctly overshadowed by the Soviet Union in this regard.
It is important to remember that when Kennedy made his momentous announcement, the USA had yet to put a man into orbit around the Earth. The nearest it had come was with Alan Shepard's 15-minute sub-orbital flight earlier that same month, but that hardly counted. The flight was sub-orbital because the Redstone rocket that powered it simply could not reach the required velocity fully to leave the Earth's atmosphere and Shepard merely skimmed briefly along its outer edge before falling back to Earth.
Rocket power was something the USA greatly lacked and so far it had only been able to launch small probes and satellites into true orbit. The Soviet Union on the other hand was proving remarkably adept in rocket technology (despite the disastrous accident at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in October 1960, known as the 'Nedelin catastrophe', which the US learned of only in 1965), and by the time of Kennedy's announcement, had already launched the first satellite, the first dog, in November 1957, and, in April 1961, the first man into Earth orbit.
The reasons for the Soviet Union's superiority in rocket technology can be traced to the end of the Second World War. The Germans had greatly impressed the Allies with the power and accuracy of their rockets — the famous V1 and V2 in particular — and both the USA and the Soviet Union were keen to recruit to their own side as many of Hitler's rocket scientists as they could. The USA's most famous recruit, Wernher Von Braun, led its post-war drive to develop missile systems and begin the exploration of space. The Soviet Union's German rocket scientists were charged with doing pretty much the same thing. The two sides however adopted quite different strategies.
The Soviet strategy was to integrate as much as possible its weapons and space projects and concentrated most of its resources on building powerful missiles. If it could develop a missile that could send substantial payloads into space, it would provide the basis not only for an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile system but also for launching men, satellites and space stations into orbit. It may have been crude, but putting a man on the top of a massive rocket and blasting him into space was to prove pretty effective.
Under Wernher Von Braun, the USA's strategy was different. Weapons and space research were treated as separate projects. In fact, throughout the forties and fifties the USA's vision of space flight did not involve missiles at all; it was after something rather more sophisticated and useful. It wanted a rocket-powered plane that could fly into space then land on Earth again. It wanted a reusable rocket plane which, shuttling easily and economically to and forth, would enable the USA to build an orbiting space station from which more ambitious space projects could be launched, unhampered by having first to escape the Earth's atmosphere. If any of that sounds familiar then you'd be right.
From the late forties onwards, the USA developed and tested its X (for experimental) series of rocket planes, the most famous of which was the X-15 which could fly so high its pilots were deemed astronauts. Progress in creating such a plane was steady but slow and by 1957, when the USSR surprised the world by announcing the successful launch of its first satellite, Sputnik 1, critical eyes were already being cast at the program's whole approach. It was not good news that the Communists were appearing technologically superior to the USA and winning admiration from all round the world; something had to be done.
Around 1958 the USA appeared to put its plans for a functional rocket plane on the back-burner and decided instead to adopt the crude but effective Soviet approach of simply building a powerful enough missile to blast a man into space. It may not have been the best long-term strategy, but the realities of the Cold War demanded it. It did mean however that the USA was several years behind the USSR in developing such a missile (or rocket) and it had a lot of catching up to do. Its first effort, the aforementioned Redstone, proved reliable enough to carry men but didn't have sufficient power to send manned capsules into space, as Shepard's flight demonstrated. By the late fifties therefore the USA was frantically trying to perfect a new rocket, the Atlas Centaur, which had the required power but was unfortunately proving extremely unreliable in testing.
It was not until February 1962, nine months after Kennedy's speech and almost a year after Gagarin, that the USA finally claimed to have got its first man truly into space. John Glenn bravely placed his trust in an Atlas Centaur and circled the Earth three times in Mercury 6.
In little over seven years time the USA would be claiming to have sent three men to the Moon and back, with five months to spare on Kennedy's arbitrary deadline.
3. A few problems to be going on with
It is not surprising to learn that NASA, the USA's fledgling space agency, was not very pleased with Kennedy's announcement. Kennedy was not a scientist but a politician. It was rash and foolhardy publicly to commit the nation to such a monumental undertaking on the basis of one sub-orbital foray into the Earth's upper atmosphere. The Soviets did things differently; they didn't make their missions public until those missions had been successfully completed. This policy protected its scientists from undue pressure and allowed them to fail as a normal part of scientific endeavour.
Kennedy's words put NASA on the spot. NASA would receive enormous funding of course, but what if the mission faltered on account of problems that could not be solved simply by throwing dollars at them?
As I see it, in 1961 NASA's newly-christened Apollo Program had at least three fundamental obstacles to overcome before Kennedy's pledge could be fulfilled. There were certainly more than three, but the three I highlight were more than enough to be going on with.
The first problem was this. No one actually knew how to fly to the Moon and back, or even if it was possible. At the time, the USA had barely been able to get a man fifty miles up into the air; the Moon was almost a quarter of a million miles away, a round trip of almost half a million miles. NASA had no system or plan for executing a mission of this nature, nor even a proper way of assessing its feasibility. NASA's first task therefore was to devise a methodology for reaching the Moon. Having done that it would have to design, build and test all the equipment required and train the astronauts in its use — all in little over eight years.
There was a second major problem. It was something that, at the time, only NASA itself and Soviet space scientists fully appreciated. This was the problem of the Van Allen belts. In January 1958 the USA launched a small probe, Explorer 1, which was designed to escape the Earth's gravity, fly past the Moon and carry on into space. It carried a number of scientific instruments that would transmit data back to Earth, including a Geiger counter (specially designed by physicist Dr. James Van Allen) to measure radiation in space. At around 25,000 miles out — a mere 6 Earth radii and just one tenth of the way to the Moon — it ran into an unexpected problem. Explorer 1 suddenly veered off course and, rather than escaping Earth's gravity, adopted instead a wide Earth orbit — making it, technically, the USA's first successful satellite. Additionally, its systems failed and the transmissions of scientific data ceased almost immediately. Dr. Van Allen's Geiger counter however did manage to transmit a few seconds of extraordinary data back to Earth before it too was lost. That data showed levels of radiation in near space over ten thousand times more intense than had been anticipated.
Explorer 1 had run into something of which scientists had previously been unaware. This was the Earth's invisible magnetic shield, now known as the Van Allen belts. Between 1958 and 1964 the USA and Soviet Union launched over thirty satellites and probes between them in an attempt to find a way of sending a controllable craft through the Van Allen belts and back again, while at the same time sending and receiving serviceable data. During this period, most of these probes (the Able, Pioneer and Ranger series for the USA and the Luna and Zond series for the Soviet Union) failed for one reason or another.
To understand why, it is necessary to understand what the Van Allen belts actually are. The Van Allen belts mark the boundary of the Earth's own magnetic field. They serve as its first line of defence against the intense radiation of the Sun, the so-called solar wind. They comprise two distinct belts of dense plasma made of ultra-high charged particles, protons and electrons, trapped between the Earth's strong magnetic field and the 'blow' of the solar wind. Up until 1964 at least, the Van Allen belts were clearly proving to be a major, unforeseen obstacle to space flight beyond the Earth's own orbit. This manifested itself in two distinct ways. Firstly, they clearly presented some form of physical obstacle to escaping much beyond the Earth. Several of the probes from the era, like Explorer 1, simply failed to pass through them and instead skewed over into a wide Earth orbit. If this taught space scientists of the time anything it probably taught them this: Einstein's theoretical hypothesis, that an object must acquire a velocity of just over 24,000 mph in order to 'glide' thereafter out of the Earth's gravitational pull, was in practice incorrect. It failed to account for the presence and effect of the Van Allen belts and was therefore an underestimate. Secondly, the later probes that did breach the Earth's magnetic shield were immediately beset with equipment failure, presumably burnt out by the intense electromagnetic activity presented by the Van Allen belts. The probes simply went out of control, stopped sending or receiving data and careered off to crash into the Moon or hurtle towards the Sun. It was not until July 1964 (over three years into the Apollo project) that the USA's Ranger 7 probe apparently breached the Van Allen belts and was able to return photographic data from the Moon's Mare Nubium.
Here's a curious thing. It's something you can try at home (or at least in your local library). Find a modern, detailed book about the Solar System and find the chapter about the Earth. Then find the section that deals with the Van Allen belts. I predict that it's probably quite short and describes them pretty much as I have above. If you're lucky you may also get a diagram, showing how they serve to protect the Earth from the radiation of the Sun. What you won't find, I believe, is a great deal of hard, quantitative data, detailing the actual intensities of the belts' radioactive layers.
Now turn to the chapter on Jupiter and find the section that deals with its magnetic field. Notice the difference? If your book is advanced enough, that section will give you a great deal of hard information. Tables and tables of precise measurements, telling you more than you will ever want to know about the relative radioactive intensities of its protons and electrons. The chapter may mention that Jupiter's magnetic field is 10,000 times stronger than the Earth's, but it won't supply the comparative data necessary to corroborate that assertion. Am I right?
This strikes me as being rather odd. Why is it that we have so much data available on Jupiter's magnetic field while that about the Earth's is so sketchy by comparison? Shouldn't it be the other way round? After all, between them the USA and the Soviet Union have sent hundreds of probes through the Van Allen belts and, given their importance both to the Earth itself and space travel, must have gathered reams of highly accurate and precise information about them.
Whether or not Jupiter's magnetic field is 10,000 times more powerful than the Earth's, the Earth's must nevertheless be very strong indeed. The Van Allen belts, as I have said, serve as a vital first line of defence against the Sun. Earth (unlike Jupiter) is an inner planet, only the third from the Sun. It passes through very high concentrations of solar radioactivity and is very susceptible to solar flares and periods of increased solar activity. The Earth's atmosphere alone would give only short-lived protection against this bruising solar assault. Without the Van Allen belts, life as we know it may never have developed on Earth at all. They must therefore be strong enough to have provided a stable envelope of 'containment' for millions of years.
Could it be that the Van Allen belts proved a rather greater obstacle to space flight — and getting to the Moon — than the USA or the Soviet Union have so far been prepared to let on? Is this why they have been so coy about releasing hard facts? They must at the very least have had severe concerns about the effects that passing through the Van Allen belts — and into the unprotected space beyond — might have on the human body.
It is not only the matter of the Van Allen belts' strength where basic factual information seems strangely hard to come by. It's difficult for instance to get a clear idea of quite where the Van Allen belts actually start and how far into space they extend. My figure of 25,000 miles derives from the original research, undertaken when the Van Allen belts were first discovered. Nowadays however some sources maintain that the Van Allen belts begin at around 250 miles above the Earth and that an inner belt extends out to around 13,000 miles. Clearly there is a big difference between these two sets of figures and it is perhaps surprising that scientists should be unable to agree on such a fundamental point of fact. There is however a very straightforward — and revealing — reason for this apparent discrepancy. This is that in 1958 and again in 1962 the USA created new and massive man-made radiation belts around the Earth, which are now included by some authorities as part of the Van Allen belts.
It is not a widely known fact that, on at least two occasions, the USA has detonated nuclear warheads in space. The first occasion involved the detonation of five one-ton warheads at heights of between 100 and 300 miles above the Earth. This took place over the course of a three-week period spanning July and August 1958 and was called Project Argus. It resulted in the severe disturbance of the Earth's ionosphere and the creation of a new radiation belt round the Earth. The USA's response to this calamity was to repeat the exercise, only using a much bigger warhead. In July 1962 the USA unleashed Operation Starfish Prime. It involved the detonation of a single 1.4 megaton nuclear warhead 400 miles or so above the Earth. The result was, perhaps not unexpectedly, catastrophic. The ionosphere was disrupted for several months and the Earth was subjected to a huge dose of radiation. The electromagnetic pulse produced by the detonation destroyed communication systems throughout the South Pacific and knocked out all satellites orbiting the Earth. Operation Starfish Prime also created a new radiation belt around the Earth that is believed to be several times more intense than the Van Allen belts themselves.
When you consider the respective dates of these operations, it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that one of the primary objectives of both Project Argus and Operation Starfish Prime was to blast a hole in the Van Allen belts, so controllable craft from Earth could pass through them. Project Argus took place in July 1958, six months after the Van Allen belts were first discovered by Explorer 1. The much bigger Operation Starfish Prime took place in July 1962, a year or so into the Apollo Program. Were these terrifying exercises the USA's first serious attempts at overcoming the obstacle of the Van Allen belts? If so, they appear to have failed utterly and indeed made matters far worse. But if so, they demonstrate also the magnitude of the problem as the USA saw it in 1962.
NASA's third problem was a little more down to earth, literally. It was the problem of rocket power. Whatever strategy it chose and whatever difficulties the Van Allen belts posed, NASA knew it wasn't going to get to the Moon with the Atlas Centaur. It needed a brand new rocket, the biggest and most sophisticated rocket that man had ever devised. However, in this matter at least, NASA seemed to have some cause for optimism.
The Saturn rocket was the brainchild of Wernher Von Braun. It was a bold new design and was developed in two distinct versions. The first of these, the Saturn 1, was expected to deliver a mighty 1.3 million pounds of thrust at lift-off. Power of this size would make it capable of delivering 40,000 pound payloads into Earth's orbit, enabling NASA to send three-man crews into Earth orbit. Getting to the Moon however would need much more power than this. NASA was therefore simultaneously developing a vastly more powerful version of the same basic design called the Saturn V. The Saturn V, it was believed, would develop a take-off thrust in excess of 7.5 million pounds, enabling it to send payloads of almost 300,000 pounds into space. While the Saturn 1 would provide the opportunity to give astronauts the opportunity to test the basic Saturn design, the Saturn V would be the rocket to carry men to the Moon. Its development progress however was dependent very much on that of the Saturn 1.
Unfortunately, following a pattern that was becoming all too familiar in the USA's space program, testing of the Saturn 1 showed it to be unreliable and unpredictable. Its first manned flight could not be scheduled until February 1967, less than three years before the end of the decade and almost six years after Kennedy's speech to Congress. The Saturn V was correspondingly also well behind schedule. With time rapidly running out it was essential that the Saturn 1, the basic foundation of the whole Apollo enterprise, at last proved itself capable of the task.
4. Disaster strikes
Although the inaugural Apollo mission was taking place rather late for comfort, NASA had not been idle in the meantime. While the Saturn 1 booster was being tested and modified, NASA had arrived at what it believed to be a feasible plan for sending men to the Moon and back. Saturn V would launch into space the following items: three astronauts; one Command Module, containing the astronauts and the instrumentation; one Service Module, attached to the Command Module, carrying life-support systems and fuel for its own engines; one Lunar Module, with two engines and fuel, to carry two men from the Command Module to the Moon's surface and back; another rocket stage and fuel to complete the push out of the Earth's atmosphere; a third rocket stage to deliver the vital Trans Lunar Injection which would accelerate the Command Module and its contents out of Earth's orbit; plus a few other bits and pieces. NASA originally considered using a single craft both to make the journey and land on the Moon, but had calculated that the chosen method delivered a superior fuel to weight ratio and would therefore result in a lower payload overall. Altogether, the package of items weighed in at around 280,000 pounds, just within the projected capacity of the Saturn V. The major component parts were being designed and tested by various contractors in the USA and astronaut training was also well in hand. The Mercury program had been continuing, running alongside the more ambitious Gemini program, which sent two-man crews into Earth orbit for the first time. These programs used the old Atlas Centaur or the newly recruited Titan, a modified ICBM. Mercury and Gemini provided NASA with the opportunity to give its astronauts much-needed experience in space and to start drawing up its shortlist of candidates for the Moon landings. In many ways then, the Apollo Program was still on course. It just needed the all-important Saturn 1 rocket, so beset by problems over the previous six years, finally to succeed.
It did not. The much-vaunted Apollo 1, the opening shot in the USA's bold quest to reach the Moon, didn't even leave the ground. Worse still, on January 27 1967, in a rehearsal exercise one month before the planned mission itself, its three-man crew, Astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee, were incinerated in a ferocious fire which swept the capsule moments after the hatch was sealed. Although there is still some uncertainty over the precise causes of this fire, it is generally believed that an electrical short-circuit ignited the capsule's pressurised atmosphere of pure oxygen.
Whatever the actual cause of the fire, NASA had received a cruel and devastating blow to its lunar ambitions. With less than three years to go before the end of the decade, the Apollo project was practically back to square one. With the Saturn 1 booster again undergoing intensive modifications, NASA had to cancel its next six proposed Apollo missions. These would not resume until October 1968 with the launch of Apollo 7 on a modified Saturn booster called the Saturn 1B.
1967 was a dangerous year to be a NASA astronaut. As well as the three Apollo 1 astronauts, four others met sudden, violent deaths. Ed Givens was killed in a car crash and C.C. Williams in an air crash. Robert Lawrence also died in an air crash and X-15 pilot Mike Adams was killed on a mission. NASA came under a great deal of public criticism in the wake of the Apollo 1 tragedy, not least from its own Safety Officer, Thomas Ronald Baron. Baron produced a highly critical 500-page report outlining NASA's failings and suggesting that the Apollo Program was so far adrift of its targets it would never reach get to the Moon. NASA's Program Director for the Apollo missions, Lt. Gen. Sam Phillips (USAF), launched a thorough investigation. Phillips's vigorous response to the tragedy was widely regarded as the key event that swept away NASA's inefficiencies and got the Apollo project back on track. But Thomas Ronald Baron himself also met a violent and untimely death. One week after testifying to a Senate Committee, he — and his wife and daughter — were killed when the car he was driving was struck by a train. His report into the Apollo 1 tragedy has never since been subjected to public scrutiny and is presumed lost.
If the Apollo 1 disaster and the unreliability of the Saturn 1 rocket seemed a major setback, the dismal progress of the Saturn V posed an even greater threat to Apollo's success. The Saturn V's awesome power was derived from five separate engines (the F-1), each delivering 1.5 million pounds of thrust, more than an entire Saturn 1. These engines were proving enormously problematic. Indeed Rocketdyne, the company responsible for building them, had not been able to build a single F-1 engine that could reach full power without exploding or becoming uncontrollable. By 1967, the Saturn V had not achieved a single successful launch despite over five years of development.
I believe this problem was so great it effectively made the successful fulfilment of Kennedy's promise impossible. I believe it was this problem that caused NASA, through its inability to admit to failure, to shelve indefinitely its plans to go to the Moon and thereafter focus its efforts simply on convincing the world that it had done so.
In my view, it was the lack of reliable rocket power that finally killed off the Apollo project. NASA knew it was simply not possible to design a rocket of the required size in the time remaining. It had, after all, taken six years to get the Saturn 1 to its current state and that wasn't even working yet. The development of the Saturn V was even more hopelessly adrift of its targets. So the USA sensibly dumped its plan to go to the Moon and went back to its rocket plane idea.
Instead of announcing to the world the cancellation of the Apollo Program however, NASA decided on a different strategy. Publicly Apollo would be seen to continue and, ultimately, succeed. Its missions would in reality only go into Earth orbit; evidence that they achieved any more than this would be faked. It was a desperate strategy, fraught with risks. But the political risks of telling the truth were clearly calculated to be much greater.
As far as the rest of the world was concerned nothing changed. Contractors carried on working round the clock to build and test all the equipment and components, unaware that they were no longer building spacecraft parts but film props. The vast majority of NASA's own employees thought the Apollo Program was still a serious enterprise and so did most of the Senate. It was all to culminate in what must go down as one of the finest, most cynical hoaxes in history.
This is of course only my opinion. It is not what most people believe and it is certainly not what the history books record. However, what the official account records as happening next is, in my view, even more unbelievable.
5. The mysterious rise and fall of the Saturn V rocket
According to the official account, what happened next was this. NASA took the Saturn V project away from Rocketdyne (the world's foremost rocket engineering company) and handed it over to its own engineers. Under Wernher Von Braun's personal supervision, NASA's in-house team solved, within a matter of months, all the technical problems Rocketdyne had grappled with for over five years. By late 1967 NASA was claiming it had conducted very successful unmanned tests of the Saturn V and that a manned trip to the Moon would be possible within a year.
That, then, is the story of the Saturn V's unprecedented rise to greatness out of the ashes of failure. Despite the USA's short and troubled history in space flight and the lengthy record of failure of both Saturn boosters, NASA somehow conjured up, in little over a year, the biggest, most powerful and most reliable rocket the world had ever seen — and has not seen since. In short, it was the most astounding technological feat mankind has ever achieved, a quantum leap in science and engineering. And for an Apollo project seemingly dead in the water, with less than three years to meet its deadline, the breakthrough was certainly timely, to put it mildly.
If NASA is to be believed, the new Saturn V underwent further rigorous testing throughout most of 1968 and it was found to be almost entirely trouble-free. It worked perfectly. It was scheduled for its first manned flight in December of that year, the Apollo 8 mission. There was however one Apollo mission to complete before then, the October launch of Apollo 7.
On the face of it, Apollo 7 seemed a pretty pointless and redundant exercise. If it were to test the Saturn V rocket in near Earth orbit, before the more ambitious Apollo 8 mission, then that would make sense, but it was not. Apollo 7 did not even use the Saturn V, despite its magnificent test record. Apollo 7 actually sent a three-man crew into orbit on top of a Saturn 1B rocket, a modified version of the one that had failed tragically twenty-one months earlier. It seems then that, despite the fact that the Saturn 1 had never been more than a stop-gap and the true Apollo rocket was now ready for manned flights, NASA was still taking the trouble to test it. Why?
I believe the answer is that the Saturn V rocket did not really exist. I believe its apparent existence was fabricated in 1967 to show the world that the USA had the power to get to the Moon. By this time however, NASA knew full well it wasn't going to the Moon at all; it was merely going to pretend. NASA also realized that if the pretence was to be at all credible, it still needed to get a three-man crew into Earth orbit so that genuine footage of the astronauts in weightless conditions could be shown on TV. The old Atlas Centaur was under-powered and unreliable and in any case was too recognisable. The same went for the Titan. NASA still needed a new rocket, even if the Moon landings were to be faked. And although this rocket didn't have to be hugely powerful compared with the Saturn V (its actual payload being quite modest), it did have to look and sound the business. The Saturn 1B was to be the real rocket to send the Apollo astronauts into orbit. Its appearance was to be modified and it was going to re-emerge as the Saturn V. I believe the purpose of Apollo 7 was to test this rocket, in its undisguised form.
If you still can't believe the Saturn V never existed, take a look at the history of the USA's space program since Apollo. Let us suppose for a minute that everything I am saying is wrong and NASA's version is correct. When the Apollo missions ended in 1972, where did that leave the USA in terms of space exploration? Pretty much top dog, I would say. Though the Apollo project may have come to be seen in retrospect as extravagant and overblown, there were nonetheless immense practical and technological advantages generated along the way. Not least of these was the fabulous Saturn V. Consider again its vital statistics. Its five F-1 engines delivered a mighty 7.6 million pounds of take-off thrust and could lift 300,000 pounds into Earth orbit. Its record of reliability was matchless: ten trouble-free lift-offs and no failures — perfect. It was — and remains — the greatest rocket ever built. Even if NASA never returned to the Moon and brought its ambitions closer to home, the corner-piece of its space program would surely be the Saturn V. If nothing else, it would be ideal for carrying large satellites into space and would therefore have enormous commercial potential, far outstripping any of its rivals for load capacity, reliability and cost. With the Saturn V dwarfing every other rocket built by man, the USA would surely take the opportunity to recoup some of the cost of its space research and cash in on its achievements. Well you'd think so wouldn't you?
What NASA actually did was scrap it. After the Apollo missions, the Saturn V made only one more flight. In 1973 it was used to launch Skylab into orbit. Skylab itself was made out of a section of a Saturn V booster. Then the Saturn became history.
Isn't there something wrong here? What on earth was NASA playing at? It had just sweated blood creating the finest rocket ever seen, giving it almost limitless potential for the future, then decides to scrap it and use its spare parts for a space station! It's comparable to a racehorse owner who, having brought on the finest thoroughbred ever and seen it win every race in its first season, decides the best plan is to turn it into dog-meat.
The official reason given for the Saturn V's demise is this. Even before the Apollo missions finished in 1972, the costs of the whole exercise came under a great deal of public scrutiny and, despite its success and the technological and political benefits gained, the response was not unanimously favourable. There were those who thought the Apollo Project was a massive waste of effort and money when there were more pressing problems closer to home. Prominent among these voices was one William Proxmire, a US Senator from Wisconsin. Proxmire believed his country had no business exploring space and tirelessly denounced it as a ridiculous waste of taxpayers' money. As an influential member of Budget and Space Committees, Proxmire was apparently responsible, almost single-handedly, for determining the drastic curtailment of the USA's space program. He successfully campaigned for the end of the Saturn rocket program and even saw to it that the machinery, dies and tools for building the Saturn V were destroyed. It seems very curious to me that an unknown Senator from Wisconsin should be allowed to scupper a superpower's whole rocket program in this way.
Having scrapped the Saturn V, NASA focused its attention on a brand new rocket system. This was the rocket that would power its next big project, the Space Shuttle, the reusable rocket plane that would fly into space and land back on Earth. Though not as ambitious as Apollo, the Shuttle would certainly need a very powerful rocket system. The size and weight of the Orbiter itself demanded that. Once such a rocket could lift the Orbiter into orbit, all the additional thrust it could achieve would determine its all-important cargo capacity. It was crucial therefore that NASA developed the biggest and most reliable rocket it could.
In 1981, nine years after the last Apollo mission, NASA proudly launched its very first Space Shuttle. Its rockets' statistics were impressive. They developed a massive 6.6 million pounds of thrust at lift-off and could lift 240,000 pounds into orbit. Well done NASA! Unfortunately, most of this was accounted for by the Orbiter itself and cargo capacity was a rather modest 50,000 pounds.
Am I alone in finding it almost incredible that NASA spent almost ten years and billions of dollars developing a rocket whose power and capacity turned out to be 20% less than its predecessor's — a predecessor that had only taken a few months to throw together? Yet this is precisely what NASA would have us believe. It simply doesn't make any sense. Senator Proxmire may have killed off the Saturn V, but surely this did not mean that the huge technological advances made in its development had to be disregarded also? Taking advantage of new materials and modern electronic systems, wouldn't NASA have been able to produce a new rocket that squeezed a few more percentage points out of the Saturn's performance? Its engineers would be pretty disappointed if they couldn't, I would have thought. Yet there was at least one area in which the Shuttle appeared to mark a curious backward step in basic technological terms: this was the fuel it had to use.
The Saturn V — and indeed all previous manned rockets — used liquid hydrogen and oxygen rocket fuel. Liquid rocket fuel of this type enables rocket scientists to build rockets that are controllable, because the thrust of any or all of its engines can be varied. This means that a pilot can vary the speed and direction of the rocket once it is in flight and can also cut the fuel supply should a problem arise. NASA's engineers however were unable to utilise liquid fuelled engines on the Shuttle, except for the Orbiter's own rather small engines (each developing 375,000 pounds of thrust as against the 1.5 million pounds of the Saturn's F-1) fed by the huge, central external fuel tank. This is because liquid-fuelled engines didn't deliver enough thrust. Instead, NASA had to opt for two main boosters fuelled by solid rocket fuel that between them provided 5.5 million pounds of the 6.6 million pound total take off thrust. Solid rocket fuel offers greater overall power but, because it offers no controllability once ignited, had previously always been considered too unpredictable and dangerous for manned flights. Has rocket science really regressed? Why was NASA forced to employ solid rocket fuel engines when only a few years earlier it had been able to achieve a significantly greater performance with the safer and more functional liquid-fuelled Saturn V?
The truth is that Space Shuttle was indeed an enormous achievement. It was the culmination of the USA's true space program, the result of everything it had been working towards since the late forties. Those rocket boosters, developing 6.6 million pounds of take-off thrust, were indeed a magnificent technological feat, the result of several decades of research and development. Watch footage of the Shuttle taking off and then compare it with similar footage of the Saturn V; which one is clearly the more powerful? Which one is producing the most noise and smoke? The Shuttle is, by a mile. Yet NASA would have us believe that the Shuttle is 20% less powerful than the Saturn V.
NASA is pretty vague these days about the Saturn V. After the Shuttle disaster in 1986, caused by a problem with one of its solid rocket fuel boosters and killing all its seven crewmembers, NASA had to suspend Shuttle operations for over two years while it sorted its rockets out. This is of course a familiar story, typical of the USA's space program since the beginning (the great exception being the 100% reliable, super-powerful Saturn V, which of course was scrapped). The suspension of the Shuttle program was a bitter blow, particularly because it meant cancelling several lucrative satellite-launches. NASA revealed that it was unable to launch these satellites by other means because it didn't have another rocket in its inventory capable of the task. All it had was seven Atlas Centaurs and these, of course, were hopelessly under-powered. Since then, puzzled scientists have regularly questioned NASA about the Saturn V. It was the greatest rocket ever; why not rebuild it? It would solve all NASA's payload capacity problems overnight. NASA says that the Saturn V would take too long to rebuild. Proxmire after all had ensured that the tools and dies had been destroyed. It says also that the Saturn V wouldn't fit on the new launch pad. Admittedly, it falls short of saying that the designs were accidentally destroyed in a fire, but in these feeble responses — and in the improbable account of the Saturn V's stunning fall from grace — I hear the sound of something that never really was being airbrushed out of history.
Do you still think the Saturn V rocket really existed? Do you still think it carried men to the Moon? If the history books are to be believed, it did that very thing on its maiden manned flight. This was the famous Apollo 8 mission, which took Astronauts Lovell, Borman and Anders to orbit the Moon then returned them safely to Earth. One way or another, it was a pretty extraordinary flight.
6. Apollo 8: 'A Most Fantastic Voyage'
When you consider the facts as provided by NASA, Apollo 8 was without doubt the most challenging, hazardous and foolish enterprise ever undertaken by mankind. It took place over Christmas week of 1968. It was a journey of many firsts, so many that it is instructive to list them. It was the first manned flight on a Saturn V rocket. It was the first manned test of the third-stage rocket booster, which would accelerate the Command Module to over 24,000 mph to escape the Earth's gravitational pull. It was the first time human beings had travelled at this velocity. It was the first time that human beings had attempted to pass through that dense soup of electromagnetic energy and charged particles called the Van Allen belts (although in 1968 Zond 5 had carried living creatures and returned them). It was the first time that an Apollo craft's equipment and instrumentation had passed through the Van Allen belts. It was the first time human beings or an Apollo craft had experienced the environment of space beyond the Van Allen belts. It was the first time NASA had tried to use the Service Module's engines to negotiate a safe orbit of the Moon. It was the first time that men had attempted to orbit a celestial body other than the Earth and the first to fly round its far side. It was the first manned craft to attempt re-entry into Earth's orbit from space. Incredibly, if it were not for apparent last minute technical problems with the Lunar Module, it would have been the first mission to land men on the Moon as well.
Looking through that list, it's obvious that there were, to say the least, a lot of things to worry about. In fact there were so many firsts, so many unknowables, so many points where it could all go horrifically wrong, the mission was more than hazardous; it was suicidal. NASA however was confident enough about the whole thing to agree to five live TV link-ups for viewers back on Earth, the first of which was due to take place while Apollo 8 was emerging for the first time from the Van Allen belts.
Sometimes it's what people don't do, rather than what they do, which gives them away. Looking at the scale and nature of Apollo 8's mission it strikes me that, if NASA was really serious about going to the Moon, there was something oddly lacking from its schedule. There was a simple, obvious and essential test-flight it didn't, for some reason, perform. Surely, before sending three men on such a mission, it would have found time to include a mission that would send a dog or monkey into space aboard the Command Module. Such a mission could perform several key tests. It could test the effectiveness and safety of the third-stage rocket, the rocket that would accelerate astronauts to over 24,000 mph and beyond the Earth's gravity. It would provide an opportunity to test the effectiveness of the Service Module's own engines, crucial in Apollo 8's safe negotiation of the Moon's gravity and that of the Earth. It would test the capacity of the Command Module's instrumentation and equipment to cross the Van Allen belts without damage. Last but not least, it would gauge the effects of crossing the Van Allen belts on another, non-human, creature. Of course NASA did not conduct such a test mission. In the face of such negligence and corner cutting we can only be grateful that things turned out so splendidly for the crew of Apollo 8.
The May 1969 edition of the National Geographic magazine contains a long and informative article about the Apollo 8 mission entitled 'A Most Fantastic Voyage'. It's written by none other than Sam Phillips, NASA's Program Director for the Apollo missions. Though it's hardly the first place you might expect to find evidence that Apollo 8 was faked, it does, I believe, contain the occasional tantalising hint.
Helpfully, the article includes a fairly detailed, chronological schedule of the major events as they happened on the whole 147 hour voyage. It also carries a fair number of transcripts of actual conversations between the crew and Mission Control, including the five live TV transmissions. The first of these takes place 31 hours into the flight, when Apollo 8 is supposed to be around 100,000 miles from Earth. Thankfully, it's got through the Van Allen belts OK and all the communications equipment is working fine. The astronauts have a small TV camera, but for some reason they're unable to show us the Earth out of their window. "I certainly wish that we could show you the Earth", says Borman. "It is a beautiful, beautiful view." They decide instead to show us Anders goofing around with his toothbrush and toothpaste in zero gravity. Never mind; perhaps on the second live transmission they would make the effort to show viewers the Earth from such a great distance? Unfortunately, they can't manage it then either.
The second transmission takes place 55 hours into the journey when they are supposed to be 200,000 miles from Earth. Lovell says: "We are manoeuvring now for the TV. Bill has got it set up in Frank's left rendezvous window, and I'm over in Bill's spot looking out the right rendezvous window. The Earth is now passing through my window. It's about as big as the end of my thumb." Once again, viewers at home are deprived of the picture they must have wanted. If only Bill had thought to hand the camera over to Lovell! Curiously, the crew is also unable to show viewers the Moon, even though the Apollo craft is by now less than 50,000 miles away.
The third transmission, 69 hours into the mission, comes as Apollo 8 is making its first orbit of the Moon. It is a tense moment on the journey and viewers are made to wait as the Command Module returns from the Moon's far side, where it has been out of radio contact. When it does so, viewers on Earth are treated to pictures of the Moon for the first time. It is seen as an off-white globe, randomly covered in well-defined bumps and shallow craters. Lovell gives his impressions: "The Moon is essentially gray, no color. Looks like plaster of Paris. Sort of grayish sand ..." I consider this representation of the Moon more closely in the later section on the video footage of the Apollo 11 mission.
The fourth transmission takes place 86 hours into the mission as the Command Module is apparently starting its tenth and final orbit of the Moon. The astronauts, each in turn, give their reactions to the Moon, which they phrase in poetic terms. "The Moon is a different thing to each one of us," swoons Borman. "My own impression is that it's a vast, lonely forbidding type of existence, a great expanse of nothing." Not to be outdone, Lovell chips in: "The vast loneliness of the Moon up here is awe-inspiring ...the Earth from here is just a grand oasis in the big vastness of space." Moonstruck, the astronauts seem by now to have forgotten all about pointing their camera at the Earth.
On the fifth and final transmission, 128 hours into the historic flight, Apollo 8 is on the way home. It nevertheless still has over 100,000 miles to go. The crew appears relaxed, expansive even. Anders remarks: "I think I must have the feeling that the travellers in the old sailing ships used to have, going on a long voyage away from home ...proud of the trip but still happy to be going home." Sorry Bill, but isn't it a bit early to be getting out the rum? In around two hours time for instance they're due to pass through the Van Allen belts again, this time from the other side. Then they're going to be accelerated to over 24,000 mph by the Earth's gravitational pull and will have to perform critical, corrective engine manoeuvres in order to slow themselves down and safely enter Earth's orbit prior to splashdown. No one had ever attempted this before. One small error or malfunction would have seen them smashing helplessly into the Earth or hurtling right past, never to return. I need hardly add that the astronauts also choose not to point the camera out of the window, their final opportunity to do so.
I believe the reason the Apollo 8 astronauts were unable to show the Earth (or the Moon, bar the one occasion) out of the windows is because if they had, it would have given the game away. They were still in Earth orbit and a glance out of the wrong window would prove it.
There is at least one other fascinating feature about Phillips's article and that is its title, "A Most Fantastic Voyage". Look up the word 'fantastic' in a dictionary. Mine defines it as: fanciful; not real; capricious; whimsical; wild; incredible. I couldn't have put it better myself. But that's the word chosen, consciously or not, by the Apollo Program's own director! Apollo 8 certainly was a fantastic voyage and so were the Apollo missions that came after. It was a fantasy the world has enthusiastically shared in ever since.
NASA would have us believe that Apollo 8 was the mission that let it know that landing on the Moon was possible. I would suggest that it was the mission that let NASA know that faking it was possible. NASA wasn't testing the technology, it was testing the media reaction and the credulity of the public. On both scores it passed with flying colours. Apart from the International Flat Earth Society no one, publicly at least, questioned a thing. As far as the whole world was concerned, Apollo 8 achieved exactly what NASA said it achieved. There were no respectable doubting voices, no awkward questions about absent Earths and Moons. The Apollo 8 mission gave the green light to NASA's next great technological challenge: faking the Moon landings.
7. Pictures from the Moon
I said at the very beginning of this essay that I am generally not swayed by those who argue that evidence of fakery can be found in the hundreds of photographs purportedly taken on the Moon. They point out seemingly anomalous shadow behaviour for instance, consistent not with sunlight but with a giant arc lamp only a few metres away. They suggest there is evidence of secondary light sources and the use of backdrops. Some of these suggestions can seem quite interesting, but then someone else comes along who seems to know a lot more about optics and photography and convincingly debunks it all. Although I do believe the photographs must, by necessity, be faked, I tend to go along with the debunkers on this one.
Apart from a few kilos of Moon rock (which can be collected and returned to Earth more easily by unmanned probes), the photographic and video record is the only hard evidence NASA has given the world to prove it landed on the Moon. Indeed it is the only evidence there is; there is no external corroborative proof whatsoever. It has all come from, or through, NASA. Getting that evidence right was NASA's most pressing task from 1969 to 1972 and I credit it at least with getting its facts straight. It is unlikely that it would make public a photograph that gave too much away.
Having said that, there are at least a couple of photographs that I really think NASA should have shredded. They both concern the Lunar Module and are reproduced below.
It's worth pausing a moment to remind ourselves of a few facts about the Lunar Module. It weighed almost 36,000 pounds, or 18 tons (US). Given that it was designed to be as light as possible that may seem a lot, but over half of its weight was taken up by its two engines and fuel. In its descent from the Command Module to the lunar surface the Lunar Module's engine would need to be delivering thrust of around 6,000 pounds, virtually to the point of touchdown (the engine was cut at around two metres above the surface and it dropped the rest of the way). This figure allows for the fact that the Moon's gravity is one sixth that of the Earth. It is not unreasonable to conclude that an engine creating that amount of thrust, to within two metres or so of the Moon's dusty surface, would generate a good deal of dust as it landed. Also, following the two-metre drop, the Lunar Module's feet would surely cause some cratering in the Moon's surface as they settled beneath their eighteen-ton load.
Look at the first photograph. It purports to show one of the four lunar pods, the large circular feet of the Lunar Module, resting on the Moon's surface. The foot itself looks shiny and spotless, despite the great dust cloud it has undoubtedly passed through. The lunar surface on which it sits shows no sign of a crater or print where the pod has landed, yet the footprints of astronauts are clearly to be seen only inches away. It looks much more consistent with a shiny new Lunar Module that has been gently lowered to the surface.
The second picture raises similar doubts. It shows the whole Lunar Module supposedly standing on the Moon's surface. Note how shiny and clean it looks, right down to the cone of its engine, clearly visible on the Module's under-side. The ground beneath the engine cone shows no sign of disturbance and is indistinguishable from the ground elsewhere. The one visible pod again seems to have landed gently, producing no discernible crater.
Are we really supposed to believe that this eighteen-ton vehicle (three tons in lunar gravity) has come to within a couple of metres or so of the Moon's surface, with a rocket engine blasting out 6,000 pounds of thrust, then dropped the rest of the way? It seems to me that nothing of the sort has happened here.
There may be a convincing explanation for these apparent anomalies, though I haven't come across it yet. In any case, the real evidence of fakery does not, for me, lie in the photographs; it is to be found simply by comparing the USA's known capabilities at the time with the amazing achievements of Apollo. When you look at it closely and timetable it all out, it simply doesn't add up. It doesn't seem real. It's too fantastical; too much like a film.
It's perhaps ironic then that, if one thing did make the Moon landings appear real, it was the magnificent video footage with which NASA was able to provide the waiting world.
8. Video footage of the Moon landings
As official history has it, the first man to set foot on the Moon was Astronaut Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969. He was closely followed by his colleague, Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin. Astronaut Michael Collins maintained a lonely vigil in the Command Module, orbiting the Moon seventy miles overhead. The Lunar Module, now called Eagle, with Armstrong and Aldrin inside, had detached itself from the Command Module and, under its own power, safely landed in the Mare Tranquillitatis. The crew of Apollo 11 had finally fulfilled Kennedy's pledge, with over five months to spare. We all know it happened because we've all seen the video.
Faking movies is not the same as faking photographs. It's a different order of deception altogether. It's much more difficult. It's hard to pinpoint quite why, but we just know, immediately and intuitively, the difference between reality and artifice, between documentary fact and cinematic fiction. Or do we?
The video documentary record of Armstrong and Aldrin's historic hop to the Moon's surface and back is perhaps the single most powerful and lasting image of the Apollo missions. If there was one piece of evidence that satisfied the world, beyond doubt, that the USA had gone to the Moon, it was this sequence of film. Even now, when I look at the sequence again and coolly tick off each one of its blatant and obvious inconsistencies, it's the moment when I doubt most the opinions that I hold. It really makes me want to believe that Armstrong stepped onto the Moon. It's so stirring, so tense and yet so real. It just has to be true.
It isn't though, it's a fake. It's a movie, a piece of cinema and should be read as such. Its purpose is to make you think it's real and it succeeds brilliantly. It is a work of cinematic genius, because it makes you keep on believing even though the clues to its true nature are right there before your eyes. The sequence in question is widely available. The NASA video "The Eagle has Landed" carries all the most famous scenes. It really is a laugh to watch it again.
The sequence contains a number of very definite scenes. The first, point-of-view Collins in the Command Module, shows the Lunar Module as it undocks, extends its legs and moves slowly away towards the Moon. Its movements are graceful and balletic. We see no Moon in the background, just the blackness of space. The next scene is point-of-view the Lunar Module, the camera seemingly attached to the underside of the craft. In a scene of high drama, the craft descends rapidly to the lunar surface while the crew urgently exchanges flight data with Mission Control in Houston. Throughout this scene, the Moon's surface is very clearly seen. It appears as an off-white globe, randomly covered in well-defined bumps and shallow craters. It is just as it was seen on the Apollo 8 mission.
The third scene is a real classic; the first peep out of the Lunar Module window, point-of-view Aldrin. Eerily, we see the great shadow of the Lunar Module stretching out into the alien void. We then see Armstrong make his descent to the Moon's surface. After a few moments we're treated to a superbly graceful touch: in the blackness of the Lunar Module's shadow we suddenly glimpse the reflection of Aldrin's helmet and visor against the window, grotesquely magnified by the camera's lens and eye-piece. Armstrong is then seen again, this time point-of-view a camera attached to the outside of the Lunar Module, descending to the Moon's surface. There is footage of both men walking around on the Moon and the first appearance of that strange 'slow motion' movement that was adopted. All the action is confined to a very small area in front of the Lunar Module. There are no sweeping, panoramic shots to show us the lunar landscape all around. The Moon's surface is very dark, bar the small brightly-lit patch where the astronauts have landed. Armstrong and Aldrin then depart the Moon.
The two final scenes are essentially reversals of the first two. In the first of these we are again on the underside of the Lunar Module and see the pale, clearly pockmarked lunar surface retreat as the craft rapidly climbs.
In a long final scene, the Lunar Module gradually approaches the Command Module. We are once again point-of-view Collins. In the background the Moon is seen as a dark, blurred sphere. The Lunar Module comes ever closer, making small corrective movements as it prepares for docking. The docking itself is not shown.
It is one of the most famous and awe-inspiring pieces of 'documentary' footage ever. It still stirs the heart and makes us proud to be human. It is also riddled with flaws and inconsistencies that I believe we see, but which we choose to ignore for the sake of the story and the drama. Mesmerised, we willingly suspend our incredulity and our common sense. I really recommend you look at it again for yourself.
So what are the problems with it? Actually there are quite a lot, but admittedly it gets off to a very good start. The view of the Lunar Module moving away from the Command Module is highly convincing. It looks for all the world like a small spacecraft undocking from another and manoeuvring in space. It's odd perhaps that there's no Moon to be seen in the background, but I'll let that pass for now.
It's the next scene where the fun really starts, the scene where the Lunar Module approaches the lunar surface, as seen from a camera attached to its underside. Let's consider those radio conversations for a start, those between the crewmen and Mission Control. There is something seriously wrong here and it crops up on all the Apollo missions: there's no regular time lag between Mission Control speaking and an astronaut replying. Those guys were supposed to be almost 250,000 miles away. Travelling at the speed of light (around 186,000 mile per second) the radio waves carrying Mission Control's words would have taken approximately 1.25 seconds to reach the Moon and a reply from the astronaut would take the same time to come back. There should therefore be a definite (and tiresome) pause of at least 2.5 seconds between Mission Control speaking and an astronaut replying. There isn't. The only pauses are natural pauses, while someone thinks or is distracted; for the most part the astronauts and Mission Control are chatting away in real time, with no time lags. This is simply not possible. It is worth noting also that, despite the fact that the Lunar Module's descent engine is supposedly running at almost full throttle during this scene, no engine noise whatsoever can be heard in the background.
Returning to the film footage itself, the descent and landing of the Lunar Module is frankly preposterous. The problem is that Moon. Watch the sequence again and listen to the conversations going on. At various points the crewmen give their altitude: twenty-one thousand feet, forty-two hundred feet, three thousand feet, fourteen hundred feet ...then they're down. If you concentrate on the Moon's surface, it's hard to figure out what's going on; the Moon doesn't seem to change or really get any closer. At no time do its craters or rocks seem to be more than and inch or so deep or high. The surface doesn't get any more detailed, nor its features any larger or more three-dimensional. It looks pretty much the same from four thousand feet as it does from three feet. Features that should have been great rocks or craters when seen from a great height turn out to be tiny pebbles or depressions beneath the Lunar Module as it lands. The perspective is just all wrong. If you run the sequence through at double speed you'll see exactly how the effect of descent is achieved; by the camera lens simply zooming in.
There's another thing about the Moon. I noted earlier its similarity to the pictures used for Apollo 8 and this in itself might not seem unusual. If you look closely however you will see that they are identical. Though the pattern of craters and other features is largely random, this not entirely the case. There is at least one singular feature, a distinctive tadpole-shaped crater, which can be seen on both occasions. Though it may just be within the bounds of coincidence that the two crews should pass over this same feature with cameras rolling on both occasions, the point is that it is actually the same piece of film. The light, angle and distance are identical; the feature passes across our screens in precisely the same way. The same footage is clearly being used again. To be perfectly frank, the 'lunar surface' is simply a large plaster of Paris model — just as Lovell wryly remarks on Apollo 8.
The next major problem I'd like to highlight is the final scene, in which the Lunar Module slowly returns to the Command Module. It is an obvious process-shot in which a small plastic model has been super-imposed over a filmed backdrop. It helps to watch it with the sound down, so the heroic commentary doesn't distract you. It soon becomes apparent how bogus the shot is. It has that distinctive 'super-imposed' look which Hollywood, at the time, had not been able to eradicate. It is immediately obvious. If you're still doubtful, watch closely for the small corrective movements the Lunar Module makes as it gets closer. They are much too quick and shaky for a craft of several tons. They are consistent entirely with a small plastic model being operated remotely.
Something that baffled me about this blatantly phoney scene was the fact that its companion scene — the first scene as I have called it — is by comparison so convincing and good. Why is there such a disparity? Why do they not look basically the same? To answer that I think we need to go back a few months before Apollo 11 to the spring of 1969. In March and May, Apollos 9 and 10 respectively were launched. They were both ostensibly to test the Lunar Module, first in Earth's orbit then, with Apollo 10, in the Moon's orbit. The Apollo 10 mission almost ended in tragedy, we are told; while manoeuvring the Lunar Module above the Moon, Astronauts Cernan and Stafford briefly lost control of the craft and it went into a wild spin. An abort system switch had been in the wrong position, NASA later announced.
I believe the real purpose of Apollos 9 and 10 was not to test the Lunar Module but to film it, for later use in the Apollo 11 transmissions. NASA wanted to use authentic footage wherever it could and the scenes of the Lunar Module leaving and then returning to the Command Module should have been within NASA's capability. It was a genuine craft after all, with engines to make it controllable. It should have been able to dock and undock from another craft while in Earth orbit. I suspect that for some reason the Lunar Module was not able to dock properly or cleanly on either occasion. Undocking was not a problem of course, hence the magnificent footage available for the opening sequence. After two attempts to get useable docking material, I believe NASA gave up and reluctantly decided to fake that bit too. This is why the two scenes are so different. It may also have been on these occasions that NASA acquired the strange, blurred representation of the Moon as seen from the Command Module. It may well be a specially photographed and treated image of the Earth.
Once you realize the footage is all faked, signs of fakery queue up to jump out at you. They're everywhere, if you only have the heart to look for them. But I have focused mainly on these classic, opening scenes from the Apollo 11 mission because they are the ones that everyone remembers, the ones that truly convinced the world. I have pointed out some of their most blatant flaws and give-away signs, yet in a way it doesn't really matter. Those scenes remain a masterpiece of cinematography and editing, of the building and maintaining of tension. It seems not to matter that our eye sees all the signs of fakery; we somehow let it pass. Even now, having seen through its trickery, I still cling on somehow to the conviction that it's real. It is cinema of the very highest order and it required a very special director to realize it.
9. The man behind the lens
There is a certain degree of unanimity among other hoax theorists as to the identity of the director responsible for the early footage of the Apollo Moon landings. I agree with them that the most likely candidate is Stanley Kubrick.
Many critics have innocently and correctly observed that Kubrick's monumental "2001: A Space Odyssey", released in 1968, shows remarkable accuracy in its portrayal of space flight, given it was made well before the Apollo missions began supplying pictures of the real thing. They usually suggest this convergence of fiction with fact is an indication of Kubrick's prescience, his technical mastery and sheer film-making genius. Though Kubrick was all of these things and more, I suspect the reason on this occasion was a little more prosaic. Those striking similarities are more probably explained by the fact that both film and space footage are the work of the same man. Stanley Kubrick simply used the same techniques he'd used in "2001: A Space Odyssey" to convince us, a year later, that we were seeing reality. It was a remarkable instance of life imitating art. Kubrick himself described "2001: A Space Odyssey" as 'a mythical documentary'. I believe it was his undeniable talent for mythical documentary making in space that rapidly drew him to the attention of NASA, which realized it had found the very man it needed.
It is interesting to look more closely at what Stanley Kubrick was up to in the late sixties and early seventies. In April 1968 "2001: A Space Odyssey" was released to huge acclaim. By the end of that year he was engaged in preparing his next project, a lavish epic about the life of Napoleon. He was busy on the script and had hired a general staff of historians and researchers to gather every detail about Napoleon and his life. Then, in the early part of 1969 and well into pre-production, Kubrick suddenly announced the project's cancellation. The explanation given at the time was that it was not proving financially viable, not attracting sufficient backing. In retrospect, this is perhaps rather odd, considering Kubrick had just stunned the world with his most recent film. It's perhaps also odd that a man so renowned for his persistence and tenacity should give up so readily. He was, after all, only a few months into what was by all accounts a very serious project. I can't help thinking that he gave up because in reality he had found something rather more pressing to do.
Kubrick next shows up in the middle of 1970, when he started preparatory work on his next official project, an adaptation of Anthony Burgess's novella "A Clockwork Orange". There is therefore a distinct gap in the known whereabouts or activities of one Stanley Kubrick between the cancellation of the Napoleon project early in 1969 and his reappearance in the middle part of 1970. I wonder what he was up to?
There's another interesting detail about Stanley Kubrick and it concerns his 1975 masterpiece "Barry Lyndon". The film is a lavish historical drama and we can only be grateful that, on this occasion, Kubrick was able to secure sound financial backing. As well as being a superb film, "Barry Lyndon" is unique in at least one respect: it was the first film ever to use no artificial lighting whatsoever, even for indoor scenes. The reason Kubrick was able to achieve this is well-documented; he had the use of ultra-high speed film stock and a specially adapted Zeiss lens which had hitherto been unavailable. Any decent film-guide will tell you that both the film and the lens were supplied to Mr. Kubrick courtesy of NASA, for whom they had been specially developed for filming the Apollo missions. You've got to admit it was jolly decent of NASA to hand over its still-classified technology to such a controversial film director. This was the man after all who, only a few years earlier, had mercilessly ridiculed the USA's conduct of the Cold War in the devastating "Dr Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1963).
These details scarcely constitute proof of Kubrick's involvement in the Moon landings, but they are nonetheless revealing. In particular, they establish his availability over the key period and clearly point to a relationship between Kubrick and NASA that has not been publicly explained.
If my interpretation of events is correct then NASA certainly chose the right man for the job. It is to be commended, at least, for that. Kubrick was not only a fine film-maker, he was a notorious perfectionist. Furthermore, he lived as a virtual recluse in England and never gave interviews to the press or appeared on chat shows. He was perhaps the only man who could do the job. Kubrick's work for NASA should rightly go down as his great missing masterpiece.
I do not think any the less of Stanley Kubrick for agreeing to NASA's desperate request. He was a moviemaker after all; the offer was surely irresistible. I'm sure Kubrick was well paid for his work, but he was not a man driven by money alone. The Apollo project offered far more precious rewards. Firstly, it gave him a superb opportunity to achieve, on a mammoth scale, the master film-maker's ultimate goal: to create a cinematic artifice so convincing it is taken for reality. Few film-makers before him had achieved this. Only Eisenstein and Welles had managed it before. Eisenstein's footage of the massacre on the Odessa steps, in "Battleship Potemkin" (1925), is often used as documentary footage of this event, yet the history books tell us that this so-called 'massacre' never actually happened; it was only ever a powerful scene in a film. Similarly, Orson Welles's classic radio dramatisation of H.G. Wells's "The War of the Worlds" in 1938 was so life-like it scared half the USA out of its wits. For Kubrick, the Moon landing project was an opportunity to surpass even these past masters in a manner they could not have dreamed of.
It also gave Kubrick one other golden opportunity, an opportunity unlikely ever to present itself again in his lifetime. This was the opportunity to go into space. I believe that Apollos 9 and 10 carried one passenger whose name does not appear on the official crew-list, a passenger with a beard and a movie camera. Stanley Kubrick was probably the true first civilian in space. He did not even have to insist on it as a condition of his co-operation; it was a prerequisite of the job itself.
I believe Kubrick's involvement ended after the Apollo 12 mission in November 1969. Whether this was planned from the beginning, or whether Kubrick walked out or was fired, I do not have a view. I discuss the matter again in the later section on Apollo 13. It is certainly the case that by the time of the next Apollo mission to the Moon, Apollo 14 in January 1971, Kubrick was busy filming "A Clockwork Orange" in London and someone else had taken over the Moon landings. Kubrick's absence is immediately apparent. As well as changing from black and white to colour, the footage becomes somehow more workaday, more banal. Gone are the shots of the Lunar Module undocking from the Command Module and landing on the Moon. An increasingly uninterested public receives pictures only from the Moon's surface and here everything seems subtly different. The lunar landscapes get a little more expansive, with mountains starting to appear in the background. The lunar surface looks a little friendlier, the sand dunes of desert locations having replaced Kubrick's forbidding set. The sharp warm colours of the later videos contrast strongly with Kubrick's grainy black and white. Astronauts cavort in lunar buggies and goof around for the camera. The look and feel is just different. The directorial hand has changed.
10. More anomalies
So far I have focused my attention mostly on two main areas. Firstly, I have sought to compare the USA's known capabilities in space, from the beginning to the present day, with the technical obstacles that travelling to the Moon presented. In doing so I believe I have established that there are strong grounds for doubting whether NASA was capable of reaching the Moon in 1969 in the manner it claims. Secondly, I have looked again, with a critical eye, at the 'documentary' video footage NASA supplied as proof of those claims and believe to have found in it clear evidence of fakery. I have briefly looked too at a couple of very anomalous photographs. I would like now to look at a few more matters that may also cast doubt on whether a man has ever set foot on the Moon.
It is interesting for instance briefly to consider conditions on the Moon's surface, as we understand them to be. We know that the Moon has little or no atmosphere. It is exposed to the vacuum of empty space. We know that it is subject to high levels of solar radiation and that daytime temperatures reach around 117°C, falling to -163°C at night or in shadow.
These facts alone are enough to have given NASA's technicians a great deal to think about. How were men to be kept cool in the ferocious heat, and warm in the intense cold, both on the Moon's surface and inside the Lunar Module? According to NASA the astronauts were kept cool by a personal refrigeration system that pumped water round their space suits. I am very interested in this system. I wonder how water, whose boiling point is around 100°C on Earth, would really behave on the atmosphere-less Moon, in temperatures of 117°C. Its boiling point would already be very low, so in daytime would it not instantly turn to steam, with no heat-absorbing properties to speak of? I wonder too about that heating system the Lunar Module must have had, capable of combating temperatures of -163°C. It is a technological marvel NASA has boasted little about.
Men were not the only delicate things on the Moon that had to endure its savage climate. There was all that equipment too. The Lunar Module itself, the space suits, the communications equipment and so on. It seemed all to have functioned perfectly throughout the Moon landings, despite the extreme conditions it had to endure. Take the cameras and the film for instance. It is remarkable that NASA could find film that could survive temperatures above boiling point and still deliver pictures of such clarity, not to mention radio and TV equipment that could send signals with so little interference. It all seems a little too good to be true.
There's something else that really bugs me and that's the slow, bouncing motion the astronauts adopted when moving around the Moon's surface. It is claimed that this was a result of the Moon's gravity, which is only one-sixth that of the Earth. But it is also interesting to note that when these scenes are played at double speed something rather strange happens: it suddenly looks as though you're watching a couple of guys on Earth, suspended by concealed bungee ropes and jumping around.
It has been argued that 'half speed' motion in Earth terms is precisely what you'd expect when you take into account the different gravitational conditions of the Earth and the Moon. This argument is supported by applying a simple adaptation of Newton's formula for calculating the velocity of falling bodies. This formula enables us, among other things, to calculate the time an object will take to fall from a given height. It contains a constant representing the rate of acceleration, which on Earth, at 40° and at sea level, is approximately 9.81 metres per second per second.
It has been argued that, from a height of around 25 cm, near to an average footstep, an object would take around twice as long to fall to the Moon's surface as it would to the Earth's. This is calculated simply by dividing the acceleration rate for Earth (9.81 metres per second squared) by six and continuing as normal with the formula. Doing this does indeed produce the result quoted.
But is it quite as simple as that? Is everything being taken into account here? I think it is not. I think it's a bit more complicated than that. The textbooks always point out that Newton's formula applies only to conditions on Earth; the rate of acceleration allows for the Earth's atmosphere and its own rotation, in addition to its basic mass. I believe the Moon's conditions are so different from the Earth's that a crude application of Newton's formula like this simply will not do.
For a start, the Earth has a dense atmosphere and the Moon has none. Atmosphere has a great effect on falling bodies; it slows them down because it offers resistance. If the atmosphere is sufficiently dense it will even cause bodies not to fall at all but to float up to the surface, like the human body in water. Without an atmosphere there is nothing to resist a falling body; a feather in a vacuum-jar drops like a stone. Movement on the Moon should therefore be rather quick, bar the downward motion of falling. Those astronauts seemed to be slowed in all their movements; they could almost be underwater.
Apart from the matter of atmosphere, there are other things that also suggest the effective gravitational pull of the Moon is rather greater than we might first imagine. For instance, the Earth rotates once about its axis every twenty-four hours; the Moon takes over twenty-eight days to do the same thing. The centrifugal force this rotation creates offers a small but measurable counter to the force of gravity but on the Moon, unlike the Earth, it is virtually zero.
Then there's the small matter of mascons. You may not have heard of mascons, but they're very interesting. Astronomers have discovered that the mass of the Moon is not evenly distributed. It seems that much of the Moon's volume is taken up with light, porous material; the greater part of its mass is concentrated in small, dense areas. These mass concentrations (mascons) appear to be situated immediately beneath the areas on the near side we call the marias, the seas. Although the overall gravity of the Moon is one-sixth that of the Earth, this is only an average figure; on the Moon itself gravity varies depending on where you are. It is at its greatest on the near side, immediately above the marias. This is why this part of the Moon always faces towards the Earth and why the Moon only completes one rotation about its own axis as it orbits the Earth. Gravity is much stronger around the marias because the centre of gravity is so much closer. It was these precise areas that the Apollo missions are said to have visited.
I don't think NASA got it quite right. I think gravitational conditions on the Moon are really rather different from those suggested in the supplied footage. I think that the real behaviour of bodies in the Moon's gravity may have been a bit too difficult to emulate and that slow-motion camera-work was used to depict a crude simulation of true lunar conditions.
It is interesting to reflect on the nature of high-speed film stock, of the type used by Stanley Kubrick for the filming of "Barry Lyndon". It is certainly the case that film of this type gives very high definition pictures when played at half speed. Is it through this simple device that NASA gave us its approximation of lunar gravity?
There is one final anomaly I would like to draw to your attention and it concerns once again the Lunar Module, the two-staged craft that was able to land astronauts on the Moon then take off again and dock with the orbiting Command Module. It concerns in particular the rocket fuel used to power it. The Lunar Module had two separate engines, one for the descent and one for taking off. The fuel that powered these engines was neither the liquid oxygen and hydrogen mix used in the other Apollo craft nor the solid type used later on in the Shuttle. It used a special type of propellant comprising two separate substances: Aerozene 50 (the fuel) and nitrogen tetroxide (the oxidiser). These substances are known as hypergolic, which is to say they combust spontaneously when brought into contact with one another. An engine that can be fired this way does not need an external ignition device, which is why the system was deemed suitable for the Lunar Module.
A particular feature of this hypergolic fuel mixture is that when it combusts it gives off a very dense and opaque red exhaust plume which is so thick it is impossible to see through it. This fact alone raises at least two interesting questions in respect of the Moon landings as they have been presented. Firstly, how were Neil Armstrong and all the later Lunar Module pilots able safely to land on the Moon when their vision was so obscured by thick red smoke? The Lunar Module was a craft entirely in the control of its crew and relied on their visual reading of the lunar terrain in order to make a safe landing. The dense exhaust would have been at its most profuse at the most critical moment in the landing of the craft; when it was within a few metres of the Moon's surface and seeking a flat area to land upon. Yet remarkably the Lunar Module made six perfect landings on to six ideal landing sites, despite the fact that its pilots were virtually blind to the Moon's surface beneath them as they landed.
I would be happy to allow Armstrong et al. the benefit of the doubt and put this down to piloting excellence or luck, were it not for the second and perhaps most telling question raised by the Lunar Module's exotic, hypergolic fuel. Why is there no thick red exhaust visible in the TV pictures of the Lunar Module taking off from the Moon's surface? On the last three Apollo missions, from Apollo 15 onwards, the astronauts took with them the Lunar Rover, the four-wheeled buggy that gave greater mobility on the Moon's surface and also spiced up the TV transmissions no end. The Lunar Rover carried its own TV camera and, at the end of each of these three missions, the camera was pointed towards the Lunar Module so viewers could see its ascent section blast off from the Moon. In each case, the footage shows no sign of thick, red smoke coming from the ascent engine. Indeed, there is no smoke to be seen at all; the ascent section of the Lunar Module appears, inexplicably, to blast off from the Moon with no sign of any engine activity whatsoever. Small explosive charges separate the ascent section from the lower section, then the craft simply shoots rapidly and effortlessly up into the sky with no trace of smoke or any discharge from its engine. I believe it impossible that this footage represents a true depiction of the Lunar Module taking off from the Moon. I believe what we see is clearly a studio effect — and not a very good one at that. A Lunar Module is simply hoisted upwards from a gantry high above. For some reason, the film-makers forgot to give the ascent section any engine smoke as it took off. It is perhaps one of the most important and revealing oversights of the whole Apollo deception.
11. The final enigma: the strange tale of Apollo 13
Of all the Apollo missions, for me the most impenetrable and obscure is undoubtedly that of Apollo 13. It was the Moon landing that, even NASA concedes, never was. It is the mission my mind returns to most regularly, the mission I can't quite fathom or figure out. In light of my findings and conclusions about the Apollo Program, Apollo 13 is the one whose purpose is least easy to explain. Rather, there are a number of possible explanations, all of which seem reasonable, yet none of which may be true. It is just too complex and contains too many imponderables. According to NASA of course, the story of Apollo 13 is straightforward enough. It was the Moon mission that almost ended in tragedy.
As NASA tells it, what happened was this. On April 11 1970 Apollo 13 blasted off from Cape Kennedy. On board were Astronauts Lovell, Swigert and Haise and their mission was to become the third Apollo crew to land on the Moon. Before they could get there however, disaster struck. Almost 56 hours into the journey and over 200,000 miles from Earth, an electrical short-circuit started a small fire, which in turn caused an oxygen tank in the Service Module to explode. The explosion ripped away an outside panel of the Service Module and left Apollo 13 virtually crippled. It was plunging towards the Moon, its oxygen almost gone and its electrical power dying. The only option was for all three men to make their way into the Lunar Module and use its engines and life-support systems to try and get home. The stricken craft continued towards the Moon, which it then orbited once to get the 'sling shot' effect to send it back on a trajectory towards the Earth. For four days the world waited as the three astronauts, becoming increasingly cold and poisoned by carbon dioxide, hurtled back towards their uncertain rendezvous with the Earth. Through a combination of luck and ingenuity on the part of Mission Control, Apollo 13 survived the hazardous journey. The Lunar Module's descent engine was used to guide the returning craft back into safe Earth orbit. Items of the astronauts' kit were used to improvise an impromptu carbon dioxide extractor. Apollo 13 eventually splashed down to within three miles of its target in the Pacific Ocean, the most accurate splashdown of all the Apollo missions.
If my views are correct, this is not the true story of Apollo 13. If I am right, the crew of Apollo 13 never left Earth orbit so, if anything untoward happened at all, it happened there. The first question that needs to be answered however is this: were the dramatic events as they unfolded part of the plot, or did a genuine and unforeseen problem really occur?
I can find few clues in the known facts about the Apollo 13 mission that provide much in the way of guidance. It is certainly possible that NASA calculated that a failed mission might spice up the show and add a telling dramatic twist to the plot. Perhaps it felt that Apollos 11 and 12 had been a little too trouble-free and lacked a real sense of jeopardy to keep the tension up. By the time Apollo 13 left the launch-pad, viewers at home were already showing signs of boredom with the Apollo missions and fewer TV networks had taken up the option of live transmissions from the Command Module.
While that seems entirely possible, it may not be a correct reading of the events. Perhaps it was more than simply a moviemaker playing with the emotions of his audience. Perhaps there was a genuine accident or mishap that upset NASA's real intentions for Apollo 13. The problem may not of course have been a technical one, on board the Apollo craft, as NASA would make us believe; it may have been closer to home.
I mention in my earlier section on Stanley Kubrick that the film-maker's last involvement in the Apollo missions was almost certainly with the Apollo 12 mission. From Apollo 14 onwards a new eye is behind the lens. What is unclear is whether Kubrick was still around at the time of Apollo 13. We know that he was back in London by the summer of 1970, working on "A Clockwork Orange", but Apollo 13 was launched in April. He could still have been involved. Did Kubrick suddenly walk out on NASA? Did the unpredictable genius decide that enough was enough? Was it his unexpected departure that scotched Apollo 13 and necessitated a quick change of plan? It's an interesting scenario and not implausible, but I suspect it is not the true one. I believe that NASA, faced with a last minute flaring of artistic differences, would not have gone to such lengths to cancel the mission. A technical problem before take-off would have served just as well.
The crew of Apollo 13 may well then have encountered a genuine problem, perhaps not unlike the one generally described. It was the second time, after all, that NASA had admitted to electrical short-circuits causing fires on the Apollo missions (the first being aboard the aborted Apollo 1) and this may indicate a genuine and persistent problem. If an accident did really happen, it happened when Apollo 13 was in Earth's orbit, its crew whiling away the time until the allotted re-entry time. If this is the case, then perhaps the real difficulty NASA faced was not so much that the accident had happened, but its timing. The mission was 56 hours old and the Command Module was supposed to be over 200,000 miles from Earth. A live TV transmission had confirmed it less than an hour before. If the Apollo crew needed to abort the flight and return to Earth, it couldn't do so for quite a while yet; it would have to wait four days before it could do so without giving the game away. Perhaps this was the true drama of Apollo 13: three loyal astronauts forced to freeze and suffocate, almost to death, as they orbited the Earth — and all to protect a monstrous charade.
The truth is I simply don't know what happened to Apollo 13. There are too many ifs and buts and perhapses. I have mentioned a few possibilities but can find no compelling detail that sways the argument one way or another. I may have somewhere touched upon the truth, but then again I may not. That's why Apollo 13 remains, for me, the greatest enigma of the great Moon hoax.
If my reading of the facts is correct and my reasoning sound, the USA did not go to the Moon when it said it did between 1969 and 1972. If I am right, the USA ditched its attempt to go to the Moon some time in 1967, when it realized the task was too great. Going to the Moon presented technological obstacles that were simply too great to overcome, even for a superpower. I believe that instead of holding up its hands and publicly admitting defeat, the USA decided to pretend to its citizens — and the rest of the world — that it had been to the Moon and faked the evidence. It is a serious accusation I know. But I believe I am right and that the evidence is there for all to see. I have tried in this essay to cast some light on where that evidence is to be found.
If I am right, it is perhaps worth considering just why the USA decided to perpetrate such an outrageous fraud. What was the point? Why did it not do the obvious thing and simply concede defeat? It could have pointed out that Kennedy's bold promise was not inspired by scientific understanding but by idealism and national pride. It could have said that his pledge was mere political hyperbole and it was simply not possible to fulfil it literally in the time given. Within a few months the world would have forgotten about going to the Moon.
Clearly, the USA did not take such a relaxed view. To understand why not, I believe we must look, as ever, to the historical context. It is important to realize that, ever since the end of the Second World War, a third world war had been taking place. This was the Cold War and the chief adversaries were the USA and the Soviet Union. This war was cold because not much actual fighting took place, but it was a potentially deadly war nonetheless. The chief weapon of the Cold War was fear. The USA and the USSR battled to convince the other that it was the most powerful and had the biggest, deadliest nuclear weapons. The posturing nearly erupted into the real thing with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the USSR began shipping nuclear weapons to Cuba. Kennedy threatened nuclear war; the Soviets withdrew.
We must remember that the Space Race was a vital part of the Cold War. It not only contributed to weapons research, it was also of huge political significance. It had quickly become obvious that people the world over loved the idea of space travel; it caught their sense of wonder and awe and it inspired their dreams. Both superpowers soon realized that the best way to flaunt their might and fight symbolic battles in the Cold War was to blast men into space on top of powerful missiles. So it was that in the fifties and sixties the citizens of the USA and the USSR enthusiastically — and successfully — egged their governments on to outdo the other in the Space Race.
Unfortunately for the USA, the Soviet Union proved a formidable opponent when it came to blasting rockets into space. It was this that inspired Kennedy's bold and ill-considered undertaking to Congress and the world. It was a clear notice of intent that the USA was prepared to play second fiddle no longer.
Giving up its attempt to reach the Moon was much more than a sensible rethinking of the USA's scientific goals. It would be seen as a tacit capitulation of the Cold War, a devastating admittance of weakness. In a war predicated on fear this simply could not be done, publicly at any rate.
In 1967, the USA was in trouble. It was in the middle of fighting — and losing — a disastrous war against a third-world country on the other side of the globe, an exercise that was losing it a lot of friends at home and abroad. In the USA itself, civil unrest was growing, with the powerful anti-Vietnam War lobby and the Civil Rights Movement encouraging widespread protests throughout the country. It was not the time to be sending another sign of US vulnerability to the watching world. The Apollo missions simply had to be seen to succeed, whether they went to the Moon or not.
When you think about it, there were one or two things that made faking the Apollo missions rather easy; easier in fact than faking things on Earth. One great advantage of being in space is that there's no one else around to see exactly what you're up to. The rest of the world has no option but to take on trust the evidence you provide. This is something the USA and the Soviet Union must have learned pretty early on.
There was something else too. The USA may have been a second-rate nation at rocket science but in one field it was unquestionably second to none: making movies. It understood the magical power of the moving image to entertain, inspire, inform and suggest. It knew exactly how to tap the wonder and awe that had fuelled the public's enthusiasm for space travel. It knew how to put on a good show. It was this talent that the USA used to convince the world it had gone to the Moon and it did it superbly. Enraptured and spellbound by the mythical images shown on TV screens, no one thought to doubt that what they were seeing was anything but real.
I say no one, but that's probably not quite right. Some people must have had a pretty shrewd idea. The Soviet Union's rocket scientists, for instance, must have entertained very severe doubts. They knew better than any one the true nature of the task the USA had set itself. They knew that was practically impossible, in the time given. The Soviet Union made no counter-pledge in response to Kennedy's. It claimed now and again that it was developing a new super-rocket or testing a lunar-lander, but official Soviet policy was not to announce missions until their success was certain. If its scientists did voice their doubts on the authenticity of the Apollo missions (and it may not have been in their interests to do so), the Soviet Union nonetheless chose to remain silent. Perhaps it wasn't sure enough in its suspicions to risk the ridicule of being proved wrong. Or maybe the Soviet Union's own record of achievements in space had not always been quite as reported either and it was reluctant to rock the boat. (Its own atempt to develop a rocket powerful enough to take men to the Moon was begun in 1965 but was suspended in 1974 after several failed launch attempts.)
What are we to make then of the USA's great deception, forty years or so after the event? Should we be angry at being deceived and lied to, bitter about the monstrous cynicism and contempt that it reveals? Personally I do not feel angry. On reflection, I am rather grateful that the USA went to all the effort. As a small boy, my imagination was fired by the Apollo missions. They sparked an interest in space travel and astronomy that has remained with me to this day. Had the USA not pretended to go to the Moon, I feel my life would have been diminished as a result. It's odd, it's true, to think that it was all a big con, but that can't undo the pleasure it gave. It showed style, imagination and a healthy degree of chutzpah. It was good clean fun and no animals were harmed in its making.
Realising the deceit perhaps helps us see the USA's more human face. It reveals its true weaknesses and vulnerabilities. It brings the superpower very much down to earth. We small folk know all about deception and lies, about cheating and faking. These are earthly things, ordinary things, a part of everyday life. We understand them much better than we do space science. I believe that in 1967, very much the same could be said for NASA too.
It also teaches us a big secret about secrecy. Just as it is with individuals, so it is with nations too; our biggest secrets are not our strengths but our weaknesses. We flaunt and parade our strengths, but fight to the last to stop our shortcomings being exposed. To have power, we need only create the illusion of being strong; that power is lost if we allow the illusion to be broken. It was a point well made in perhaps Hollywood's most subversive film, "The Wizard of Oz" in 1939.
The true story of Apollo is certainly a secret one — and that's official. Although it is now over forty years since the last Apollo mission in December 1972, don't expect soon to be reading the official Apollo documents. The USA has kept its secret well and intends to do so for some time yet. President Lyndon Johnson decided, for some reason, that many of the Apollo papers should receive the highest possible classification. They will not be available for public scrutiny until 2026. And, as Reuters reported in 2006, all 700 boxes of transmissions from the Apollo lunar missions are "missing".
SourcesThough the conclusions I reach in this essay are entirely my own, the factual data on which they are based is readily available in an average public library. My sources were as follows:
Audouze, J and Israel, G (Eds), The Cambridge Atlas of Astronomy, CUP, 1985.
Bennett, M and Percy, D, Dark Moon — Apollo and the Whistleblowers, Aulis Publishers, 1999.
Cooper, G, Leap of Faith, Harper Collins, 2000.
Encyclopaedia Galactica, Discovery, Britannica Learning, 1993 [Video].
Furniss, T, One Small Step, Haynes, 1989.
Moore, P, The Guinness Book of Astronomy, Guinness Publishing, 1995.
NASA, The Eagle has Landed, NASA Film Library Video Collection, Vol. 9 [Video].
NASA, Space Shuttle, NASA Film Library Video Collection, Vol. 27 [Video].
National Geographic Magazine, Vol. 135, No. 5, May 1969.
National Geographic Magazine, Vol. 159, No. 3, March 1981.
Rose, S, Classic Film Guide, Harper Collins, 1995.
Ryan, P, The Invasion of the Moon 1969, Penguin Books, 1969.
Shepard, A and Slayton, D, Moonshot, Virgin Books, 1994.
Tribble, A, Guide to Space, Princeton University Press, 2000.
Walker, A, Stanley Kubrick Directs, Davis-Poynter, 1972.
World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia, IBM, 1997 [CD-ROM].
See also David McGowan's Wagging the Moondoggie, in 14 parts, written 2009-2011, beginning with
Wagging the Moondoggie, Part INote added March 2016: Dave McGowan died in November 2015. Most of his writings are now available here except for Wagging the Moondoggie. This article has also been excluded from the Wayback Machine.After you have read [or could have read, before Dave's article was suppressed] all 14 parts (or even just the first 3 parts) of David McGowan's debunking of the official NASA story of America's Greatest Space Exploit you may be tempted to say to yourself, "How could I have been such a fool as to have been taken in by this obvious hoax for so many years?" Don't feel bad — a couple of hundred million other people, some even more intelligent than you, also fell for it, probably because they wanted to believe it.
And if the U.S. government and its representatives would lie about sending men to the Moon, and vigorously maintain that lie for over 40 years, is there anything that it and its present representatives (and complicit news media) would not lie about? Have they all, indeed, become incapable of telling the truth about anything?
The author Jay Weidner is well informed about the moon landing hoax. See:
- Kubrick's Odyssey: Secrets Hidden in the Films (2011)
- Jay Weidner "Kubrick´s Odyssey How Stanley Faked the Moon Lan (Radio interview on YouTube)
- Secrets of The Shining — Or: How Faking the Moon Landings Nearly Cost Stanley Kubrick his Marriage and his Life
- How Stanley Kubrick Faked the Apollo Moon Landings — Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Lies
The following page raises doubts that the lunar lander could carry enough fuel "to decelerate the spacecraft from orbital speed, and then to land the spacecraft and its payload gently on the moon without injuring or killing the two government workers inside", and later to ascend to the rendezvous with the command module in lunar orbit: Was NASA really full of horseshit?
See also on YouTube: Apollo 11 Post Flight Press Conference
Do these men look like they have recently returned from what Neil Armstrong described as "a giant leap for mankind"? Or do they look like decent men ashamed of being forced to lie to the entire American public in order to conceal the greatest hoax of the 20th Century?
Eagle: Houston, we have a problem.
Houston: Go ahead, Eagle.
Eagle: The world is starting to wake up to the fact that we didn't go to the Moon.
Houston: No problem, Eagle. We'll just goad the Russkies into an overt military operation in the Ukraine, then we can attack them and everything else will be off the radar. Over.
Eagle: But Houston, the Russkies have nukes.
Houston: So do we, Eagle. And we don't need Europe anymore. It's fucked anyway.
Eagle: But what if they nuke us?
Houston: No problem, Eagle. Our deep-underground bunkers can accommodate up to 10,000 people for 50 years. Just make sure to get your ass over here in time for the first intake. Over.
Eagle: Roger, Houston. Out.
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