The Moon landings were faked. Apollo 11 didn’t happen. Humans never set foot on the Moon. Heard all this before?
Conspiracy theories surrounding the Moon landings have proved worryingly persistent in the 50 years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took their first small steps on the lunar surface.
NASA’s landmark achievement is still being challenged.
“We find ourselves awash in an ocean of information online,” National Space Centre Discovery Director Profesor Anu Ojha said during a 2019 lecture at Royal Museums Greenwich.
Conspiracy theory 1: shadows in the Moon landing photos prove the images were faked
Take a look at the image below, and at the full panorama on the NASA website. Look closely at the shadows cast by astronaut Neil Armstrong and another object just out of shot. What’s wrong with them?
Apollo 11 Moon landing shadows
Photograph taken by Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 Moon landing (NASA)
They’re not parallel.
This image has been taken as proof by conspiracy theorists that the Moon landings were faked. Surely if the Sun were the only light source, then the shadows should be parallel? Doesn’t this prove that the whole scene was mocked up in a studio, with multiple light sources creating different shadow patterns?
Conspiracy theory 2: Apollo astronauts could not have survived Earth’s radiation field
Earth is surrounded by a zone of charged particles known as the ‘Van Allen’ radiation belt.
“These are regions surrounding the Earth in our magnetic field where high energy trapped particles from the Sun tend to get confined,” Prof Ojha says. “What that means is if you are going into these regions, there are extremely high radiation concerns.”
If that is the case, how did the Apollo astronauts travel through the Van Allen radiation belt and out of Earth’s orbit unharmed? Surely the amount of radiation would have killed them? Doesn’t this prove that the Moon landings were a hoax?
Conspiracy theory 3: why are there no stars in pictures of the NASA Moon landings?
Here is another Moon landing photograph which has caught conspiracy theorists’ eye.
If the image really was taken on the Moon, shouldn’t the sky be filled with stars? After all, there is no atmosphere to distort the image, no clouds to interrupt that glorious view.
Conspiracy theorists argue that the lack of stars in the Apollo 11 mission photographs prove that the event was staged. NASA could not have faked the full wonder of the lunar sky, and so they simply chose not to include any stars at all.
Conspiracy theory 4: the Apollo 11 US flag is waving in the wind… but there’s no wind on the Moon
“One of the crowning moments in terms of US national pride was seeing the Stars and Stripes on the surface of the Moon,” Prof Ojha says.
Buzz Aldrin saluting the proudly waving American flag on the Moon remains one of the iconic images of the Apollo 11 mission, a declaration of US supremancy over space race rivals the Soviet Union.
But if there is no atmosphere on the Moon, there is no wind – so why is the flag waving? Is this the proof that conspiracy theorists have been seeking?
Conspiracy theory 5: if we really went to the Moon in 1969, why have we never been back?
Apollo 17, the last Apollo mission to land astronauts on the Moon, took place in 1972. Since then, humans have never returned.
Maybe that’s because we never went to the Moon in the first place?
We have less faith in ourselves these days. Most moon conspiracists treat the whole thing as a joke, a rabbit hole to go down from time to time. Perhaps if Nasa returns to the moon – possibly as early as 2024 – it will be replaced in time by Mars conspiracies.
Still, you could see the persistence of the moon conspiracy as a compliment to the Apollo scientists. “In a way, the moon hoaxers are taking the Apollo missions far more seriously than most people do,” says Morton. “It’s a sign that they really care. They think that Apollo really mattered.” The truth is that the moon landings didn’t really change life on Earth. Not yet anyway.