The first humans landed on the moon more than 50 years ago. Some still doubt it today. The origins of this conspiracy theory are almost as bizarre as its claims.
A big step for mankind: Most people see that when they look at the pictures of the moon landing. Conspiracy theorists, on the other hand, see a waving flag where there is no wind, shadows cast by artificial light, a black sky without stars. Half a century after landing on the moon, this story has its followers.
What is claimed?
The moon landing never happened – that is the core of all conspiracy theories surrounding the Apollo 11 mission. In 1969, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins did not fly to the moon at all. The Americans had so much success in the race to land on the moon that they would have preferred to stage it in a studio.
The Americans are said to have built elaborate backdrops for their video, made false moon rocks and cheated the whole world. Some excesses of the narrative would be very funny if they were not meant seriously – Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins are said to have spent the night of the moon landing in a striptease club in Nevada, of course at the expense of NASA.
Where does the humbug come from?
It can be traced back to a book from 1976. “We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Trillion Dollar Swindle” says “We never flew to the moon: America’s $ 30 billion fraud”. This book was written by the American Bill Kaysing, and he published it himself. At first glance, Kaysing’s background gives it a certain credibility. He worked for Rocketdyne, a company that manufactured engines for Nasa. However, the later author was not a scientist or engineer himself, he had a bachelor’s degree in English literature and headed the technical documentation at Rocketdyne.
Kaysing wrote a lot. Not only about the moon, he published numerous instructions: “How to eat well with less than a dollar a day”, “Fells Beginner’s Guide for Motorcyclists” or “The Survival Guide for Seniors”. His conspiracy theory about landing on the moon is without a doubt his greatest journalistic success. He became the founder of a movement that has been going on for almost half a century. In 2002, three years before his death, he republished the book – with a few changes. In the first version, Kaysing claimed that the Saturn V rocket, which was also used for Appollo 11, was not functional at all. This is different in the new edition. However, the “30 billion dollar fraud” took place.
How common is the humbug?
There are still people around the world who believe that the moon landing was faked. Surveys show this again and again. According to Yougov survey in Great Britain it is 16 percent of the population, in one italian study 20 percent thought the conspiracy theory was plausible. In Russia believed out loud a study even 57 percent of the participants that the moon landing is fake. In the United States, where the theory originated, the numbers are comparatively small. According to a study from 2013 Seven percent of voters think the moon landing was fake.
To date, the Apollo program is considered one of the greatest efforts of a state in peacetime. 400,000 people worked to make the first manned flight to the moon possible. The project devoured $ 23.9 billion, compared to today’s purchasing power, which would be $ 120 billion or € 107 billion. For comparison – NASA’s annual budget for 2020 is the equivalent of 20 billion euros. In addition, the USA’s monumental success was also made possible by its rivalry with the Soviet Union. One of the fronts of the Cold War was in space. A victory in the so-called Space Race would prove the technological and ideological superiority of the winner, at least as the hope of both sides at the time.
What do the experts say?
“You can pick apart all theories about landing on the moon and rationally refute them,” says Suzanna Randall. The doctor of astrophysicist could become the first German woman in space by 2021. She is one of two candidates for the initiative Die Astronautin – The funded project is training Randall and the meteorologist Insa Thiele-Eich for a flight to the International Space Station (ISS).
How often do you hear as an aspiring astronaut about the supposedly fake moon landing? “It’s something I keep encountering,” says Randall. “Some people don’t even believe that there are stars.” She knows the claims of the conspiracy theories – and also the scientific answers to them. “Of course there is no wind on the moon. The flag vibrates from being raised, ”she says, claiming that a waving flag is not possible on the moon. If you look at the recording, you can see clearly: “The flag moves a few seconds after being set up and then no longer.”
Another alleged proof of the conspiracy theory are the missing stars on the pictures. If you look at the photos or videos of the first people on the surface of the moon, the sky is always black. Astrophysicist Dirk Lorenz explains why this is the case with a vivid experiment in the WDR science program “Quarks”. Short answer: It’s because of the camera settings. The surface of the moon is very bright, it reflects sunlight. A picture on the moon showing the starry sky would be strongly overexposed – the astronauts and the surface of the moon would therefore be difficult to see. NASA had little interest in such recordings.
But what about the shadows? In some images of the moon landing, astronauts and objects cast shadows in different directions. For Kaysing, this is clear evidence that light projectors were used in a film studio – otherwise the shadows would be parallel, he writes. However, parallelism is a question of perspective, as author Thomas Eversberg explains in his book “Hollywood in Space”. In it, the space expert from the German Aerospace Center invalidates the arguments of the conspiracy theorists, including the one with the shadows. “Take a picture of the tiles in your bathroom”, Eversberg asks in the seventh chapter of his book (“A lamp – oblique shadows”). A simple experiment shows that the joints that actually run in parallel look different in the picture. They run “radially outwards in different directions, but never parallel,” writes Eversberg.
Suzanna Randall says there is strong evidence that the moon landing was not falsified, even without experiments. The best argument for non-scientists is the dimension of the Apollo program. “400,000 people were involved in the United States and abroad. It is absurd that they should all have kept silent. ”And soon, Randall is convinced, people will step on the surface of the moon again. Simply flying in is no longer enough today. A colony on the moon or a flight to Mars are more sensible targets, says Randall. But first you have to do research. “We will fly to the moon again in the next ten years. I am convinced of that.”
An unabridged three-hour version of the moon landing is on the Nasa Youtube channel to see.