dark green doc martens Elaborate ‘hoax’ a case of lunar lunacy Dr Karl’s Great Moments In Science ABC Science
Dr Karl Dr Karl’s Great Moments In Science
Elaborate ‘hoax’ a case of lunar lunacyImages of astronauts rehearsing for their escapades on the moon have many speculating the original moon tourists weren’t really there at all. Yet Dr Karl believes the truth is out there, somewhere.
Buzz Aldrin (left) and Neil Armstrong in a April 22, 1969 simulation of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, practising using lunar tools on the surface of the moon. Astronaut Aldrin uses a scoop and tongs to pick up a soil sample. Astronaut Armstrong holds a bag to receive the sample. In the background is a Lunar Module mockup. (Source: NASA)
On the 15th of February, 2001, the American Fox TV Network broadcast a program called Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the moon? Mitch Pileggi, the X Files actor, hosted this hour long show, which claimed that NASA had faked the entire Apollo moon project by filming it in a movie studio.
This myth has a small but dedicated following. According to both a 1995 Time poll and a 1999 Gallup poll, about six per cent of Americans do not believe that 12 astronauts walked on the moon.
The hoax believers, or conspiracy theorists, cite all kinds of evidence.
For example, they point out that in all the photographs that supposedly show the astronauts on the airless surface of the moon, you can’t see the stars in the black sky. The explanation is simple. Even today’s best film cannot simultaneously show both a very bright object (white spacesuit in sunlight) and a very faint object (star).
Story Musgrave, an astronaut who has flown in the space shuttle six times, said that whenever he was outside the Shuttle in the bright sunlight, he couldn’t see the stars either. But when the shuttle was in the shadow of the earth and his eyes had time to get adapted to the darker environment, he could then see the stars.
As for the astronauts on the moon, their short missions were all timed to land during the moon’s day (which lasts about 14 Earth days), so that they could see what they were doing.
The hoax believers also point out that in the photos, the shadows of the astronauts and their various pieces of scientific apparatus on the moon’s surface are not quite parallel. They should be parallel, these doubters claim, if lit only a single distant light source such as the sun.
This is true, but only if you have both a level surface and are operating in three dimensions. Once you have a rolling surface,
and try to show three dimensional reality in a flat, two dimensional photograph, the shadows will fall in different directions.
They conspiracy theorists also claim that the ripple seen in the still photos in the American flag on the moon is proof that the movie was faked in a movie studio, because only moving air can make a flag ripple. This is silly for a few reasons.
First, there is no wind in a movie studio, unless the wind machine is switched on. Second, if there was enough wind in a movie studio to ripple the flag, it would have also moved the dust at their feet. But most importantly and third, the ripple was an accident. The workshops at the Manned Spacecraft Center attached a nylon American flag to vertical and horizontal bars. These bars could telescope out, to save room when they were stored before they were used.
Armstrong and Aldrin had trouble extending the horizontal telescoping rod, and could not pull it all the way out. This gave the flag a ripple. It “looked” realistic, so later Apollo crews intentionally left the horizontal rod partially retracted.
In fact, the wobbling flag that you can see in the movie helps prove that they were on the moon. It wobbles because they have just set it up. And it continues to wobble for a little while in a very unusual fashion. This is because there is no air on the moon that would quickly damp down the movement of the flag, and because of the gravity is one sixth of our gravity on earth.
But the incontrovertible proof that we did go to the moon are the 382 kilograms of moon rocks that have been examined by thousands of independent geologists around the world.
These rocks have been compared to a few dozen moon rocks that were blasted by impacts off the moon and that have landed in Antarctica, and to some moon rocks that were recovered by robot Soviet explorers. These rocks all match.
They are very low in water, and riddled with strange tiny holes from millions of years of exposure to cosmic rays on the airless surface of the moon. The moon rocks are very different from earth rocks, and could not be faked by any current technology.
To make fake moon rocks, we could have to squash them at about a thousand atmospheres, keep them at about 1100 for a few years, and then cool them slowly for a few more years while keeping them under pressure all that time.
And then, the NASA scientists back in 1969 would have to have worked out what new dating methods would be invented over the next 30 years, and add those elements in the exact proportions needed.
After looking at all the evidence, I prefer to follow the words of the 1937 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, Albert Szent Gyorgyi: “The Apollo flights demand that the word ‘impossible’ be struck from the scientific dictionary. They are the greatest encouragement for the human spirit.”