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Buzz Aldrin saluting the US flag on the surface of The Moon

Debunking the biggest Moon Landing hoax conspiracy theories

Image: Buzz Aldrin salutes the specially designed U.S. flag | Public Domain

The Moon Landing has been heralded as the greatest single achievement in the history of mankind. However, not everybody believes that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon on 20th July 1969. They believe that NASA, with the full support of the U.S. government, hoaxed the entire thing to win the Space Race against the Soviets.

This conspiracy theory has gained so much traction that a 2019 YouGov poll showed that one in six Brits believe it's true. In a world full of 'fake news' and misinformation, it's easy to see how such a belief could spread. However, in this case, the facts speak for themselves and none of the claims of forgery hold up under the microscope.

Let’s take a look at the main arguments presented by conspiracy theorists.

Conspiracy Theory #1: The American flag is waving in the wind

After Aldrin and Armstrong planted the U.S. flag on the Moon, they took pictures of it. However, some viewers have pointed out that the flag in those images is flapping in the wind. There’s no air in space, so therefore, how can there be wind? Surely this is proof the whole thing was faked on Earth.

Explanation: It was a specially designed flag

The laws of physics still apply on the Moon, and so if the astronauts had planted a regular flag, it would have flopped down like on Earth without any wind. The reason it’s fully extended, looking like it’s blowing in the breeze, is because of a special horizontal rod that NASA placed inside the flag to make it stick out from the flagpole. If you look closely at the images, the rod is clear to see.

The wrinkled look of the flag is due to the fact it was screwed up for four days whilst being carried to the Moon. Finally, the reason it moves in film footage is due to the fact it's being stuck into the ground, causing the flag to ripple slightly.

Conspiracy Theory #2: No stars appear in pictures taken by the astronauts

Why do the images taken by Aldrin and Armstrong show no stars in the lunar sky? Was this just too hard for NASA to fake, so they just excluded them from the pictures?

Explanation: The camera’s exposure settings didn’t pick them up

The stars are there; you just can't see them due to the exposure settings on the camera they used. When the astronauts took the images, it was daytime on the Moon, meaning the Sun was brightly illuminating its surface. When taking pictures of objects in bright light, cameras require a high shutter speed and a small aperture; otherwise, the images will be overexposed. It's impossible (as it is on Earth) to capture bright foreground objects as well as dim background ones with quick-exposure settings.

Conspiracy Theory #3: There’s a rock with the letter ‘C’ on it

In one of the lunar images, it’s clear to see the letter ‘C’ marked on a rock. This is surely evidence of a studio prop.

Explanation: The ‘C’ is an imperfection on a later reprint

The letter in question does not appear on the original NASA negatives, implying it’s a contamination in a later print, most likely caused by a coiled hair or fibre.

Conspiracy Theory #4: The camera crosshairs appear behind objects

The cameras used for the Moon Landing had been fitted with a clear glass plate engraved with a grid of crosshairs, known as a Réseau plate. It was impossible for any object to appear behind them, yet in some Moon Landing images, that's exactly what happens.

Explanation: Overexposure on later prints has caused the visual discrepancies

Like the rock with the ‘C’ on it, the camera crosshair issue doesn’t appear on any of the NASA originals. Again, this issue has been brought in by later copies and scanned photos, most likely due to overexposure causing the crosshair to wash out when placed over white or bright areas on the image.

Conspiracy Theory #5: Radiation would have killed the astronauts

The Van Allen Radiation Belts are huge swaths of magnetically trapped and highly charged particles that surround our planet. How could the astronauts have survived passing through such a dangerous environment?

Explanation: They passed through too quickly to feel the effects

Whilst the Van Allen Belts do indeed pose a significant health hazard to any astronaut, the key to passing through them is the speed at which it is done. If you linger for too long, then you will be exposed to lethal levels of radiation. The astronauts in 1969, however, whizzed through them, meaning they were only exposed to radiation levels equivalent to an X-ray.

Conspiracy Theory #6: Stanley Kubrick was asked to film a fake moon landing

Stanley Kubrick was one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century. His visionary 1968 Sci-Fi 2001: A Space Odyssey was so realistic in its depiction of space flight that its pioneering special effects have led some to believe the great director was behind the actual Moon Landing.

Explanation: Film technology to fake the landing just didn’t exist back then

As revolutionary as those special effects were in 2001: A Space Odyssey, they were hardly advanced enough to fake the entire Moon Landing. In our world of advanced CGI and special effects, it’s all too easy for us to imagine that Hollywood could have helped NASA concoct a credible moon landing. The truth is the technology to do that just didn’t exist back then, a fact that has been confirmed by several film experts.

Plus, NASA went to the Moon a further five times after 1969 and filmed every visit. Each of these would have needed to have been faked in a studio without error.