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I am becoming increasingly furious about the Fox channels' representation of science and their misrepresentation of truth. It was just stupid when they aired "Alien Autopsy" and it was only irritating when they showed "Lost Tombs". Last night they went over the edge and gave sustenance to every backwoods conspiracy theorist with a third grade education when they broadcast "CONSPIRACY THEORY: DID WE LAND ON THE MOON."

They interviewed several key "Authorities" and a few respected "Experts" to try and determine if a moon landing really occurred or whether it was some enormous cover-up by NASA. From the start the show was pure fantasy. I know that Fox airs these shows because they're entertaining, but people actually believe this, and this sort of misinformation not only makes America look ignorant among the international community but damages the potential of our children as they attempt to learn real science.

I didn't watch the whole show I only flipped to it during commercial breaks while I was watching CSI, but the few points I picked up on were ludicrous. Several of the "Experts" made assertions about why they thought the landing was staged and then a NASA spokesman was given about a quarter of the time the "Investigators" had to refute their claims and then the narrator vilified NASA for several minutes.

The following are the claims I heard:

  1. The movie Capricorn One has many scenes that are nearly identical to the moon landing. That this movie could be so realistic and its similarities to the alleged moon landing only cast doubt on the event.
  2. The flag planted by Apollo astronauts appears to wave in the wind, a wind that can not exist on the moon because it has no atmosphere.
  3. Many of the photographs taken by the astronauts clearly indicate multiple light sources. Since the astronauts took no flash equipment the only source of light is presumed to be the sun. The shadows cast by materials in the photos are not all parallel, additionally, several of the photographs display vivid details in shadow, which shouldn't be possible with only one light source.
  4. The photos taken of the LEM clearly indicate that there is no blast crater below the module where it landed. This should be impossible since it descended on active thrust.
  5. When the ascension module lifted away from the remains of the LEM there is one short burst and then we see no active thrust from the main nozzle. it almost appears as if it were jerked up by a crane.
  6. Several of the astronauts involved in the Apollo program died shortly after the programs' end. A startling %15 of the Apollo astronauts died, surely this must be an attempt to cover up the conspiracy, after all what better way to cover up the truth, than to kill those who know it.

Unfortunately there are some major flaws in these claims:

  1. Capricorn One was released in 1978, almost ten years after the first moon landing. It's a fictional film about a government conspiracy to cover up a Martian landing fiasco by staging the whole thing in the Arizona desert. The film tried as hard as possible to simulate the actual lunar landing, going so far as to repeat some of the same dialogue. But this is not proof of a conspiracy because the film was simulating the original. To suggest that the lunar landing was faked because Capricorn One is simulated is circular logic.
  2. The flag planted on the moon does indeed wave, but only when the astronaut is planting it. Even though there is no atmosphere and no wind on the moon, the laws of physics were not suspended on the lunar surface. The Flag has mass and therefore inertia, so it waves when the astronaut twists the pole into the soil.
  3. This multiple light source thing pissed me off the most. The narrator claimed that no flash equipment was taken to the moon and that the sun therefore was the only source of illumination. Apparently the narrator never stood in the light of a full moon. That's right folks, the Earth reflects light from the sun back onto the lunar surface. The only difference is that the Earth is quite a bit larger than the moon and casts more reflected light. Although the Earth does go through phases much like the moon (depending on the Earth, moon, sun angle) the folks at NASA are pretty smart and I bet they scheduled these landing to coincide with the periods of greatest illumination.
  4. There is no blast crater below the LEM, because the moon's gravitational pull is 1/6th that of the earth's. Unlike on the earth, the lander wouldn't have to descend on constant thrust, a few well placed and controlled thrusts would be all that was necessary to land softly. As an aside the thrust would also not be as incendiary as it would be in an atmosphere and would therefore not burn the surface.
  5. The module didn't ascend on a constant tongue thrust flame. Like I said, 1/6th the gravity. It applies here as well. The thrust used to launch the ascension module was applied in one burst, and the rest of the fuel was reserved in case they needed to make any corrections once they got into orbit.
  6. The narrator claimed that many of the astronauts expired unduly because of their knowledge of the conspiracy, he further claimed that an astonishing %15 of the Apollo astronauts died in the short years following the Apollo missions. Let me tell, %15 dead means %85 alive, that's a piss poor way to cover up a conspiracy. Furthermore, what of the thousands of support people and engineers that built maintained and designed the equipment and trained the personnel. The astronauts, for all of their training were really nothing more than very qualified pilots with a background in applied sciences. As an aside many of these astronauts were test pilots and thrill seekers. A %15 mortality rate among this type of person seems fairly reasonable.

In conclusion I'd like to say that the lunar landing was not faked and FOX caters to idiots. Thank you, and good night.

UPDATE: 11SEP02
On Monday, the 9th of September 2002, Bart Sibrel, the producer of this FOX show and the related and equally ignorant film, "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Moon," attempted an ambush interview of Buzz Aldrin outside of a Beverly Hills hotel. Sibrel claimed, "I approached him and asked him again to swear on a Bible that he went to the moon, and told him he was a thief for taking money to give an interview for something he didn't do." Sibrel had on two previous occasions accosted Aldrin in public with similar tactics. Aldrin responded by punching Sibrel in the face. Sibrel, 37, got his ass handed to him by the 72 year old Aldrin. Sibrel, who claims that Aldrin fled after striking him, is seeking an assault charge against the former astronaut. In contradiction to Sibrel's claim, I saw news footage of the event that showed Aldrin standing calmly in front of the entrance to the hotel as people fluttered around him after the event.

Thanks to ariels, cnn.com and generic-man as well as a few others, whose names I unfortunately have forgotten, for being kind enough to point out some of the minor and not so minor flaws in my rebuttal and providing important factual details.

Regarding the "vivid detail in shadows" and multiple light sources bit, there are reasonable photographic explanations.
First of all, there is all the light reflected off the white spacesuits: second, since the moon itself is not precisely matte black, there would be reflection off geographical features (boulders, hills).
Another interesting factor was that the LEM itself and other moon mission equipment had parts covered with very reflective foil, and was mostly of a clear color. That too would have produced reflections, some of them probably specular.
Thirdly, those people went on the moon with some very good Hasselblad cameras, excellent 70 mm black and white and color film, and you can bet that the pictures were printed with the utmost care. Negative film has a very wide exposure range (10 stops, typical) that a good printer will exploit fully.
And of course, as Roninspoon pointed out, there is that big blue planet in the sky.

As an aside, my main beef with this particular conspiracy theory is that the Russians would have known, and I can't see any reason for them to keep silent at the moment.

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