3. My Response to Nathan Jones' Arguments

In 2003, a lengthy article relating to the “Apollo Hoax” conspiracy theory was serialised in the newsletter of Cleveland and Darlington Astronomical Society, of which I am Secretary. At the time, I objected to the fact that this stuff was being given space in a respectable newsletter for astronomers! But reading it made me realise just how ridiculous some of the conspiracy arguments are, and inspired me to begin writing my own refutations.
The article, written by one Nathan Jones ( who, not surprisingly, doesn’t tell us what credentials he has, if any ), consists of a number of questions and common conspiracy arguments, with his own comments on them. He clearly obtained his material from other sources, since he actually disagrees with some of the statements. At some points, Mr. Jones appears to be making a pretence of being objective, and talks about a “scientific analysis” of the evidence – indeed , he refutes some of the more feeble conspiracy arguments – but at others, he reveals himself to be clearly on the side of the CTs, by using such phrases as “NASA and its believers claim that…”, “those who swallow the NASA story hook, line and sinker”, and “the so-called proof of the Apollo space missions, which allegedly landed astronauts on the Moon”. Really objective, huh? Actually, since the arguments which he refutes are those which are most obviously ridiculous, perhaps he “sacrifices” them as a deliberate ploy, to fool his readers into thinking that he is being objective!
At several points in his discussion, Jones refers to the Bad Astronomy web site, and infers that its author doesn’t know what he is talking about. I’ll therefore tell you, at this point, that the author in question, Phil Plait, has a Ph.D. in astronomy, and his site has become so well respected that he has received personal correspondence from NASA officials and even astronauts. Jones has also engaged in a lengthy argument with Jay Windley – who is a professional aerospace engineer, but independent of NASA – and has accused him of talking rubbish.
I’ll respond to each of Jones' points in turn. In each of the following sections, the heading is as it appears in his article ( so the lousy grammar is his, not mine! ). For those who haven’t read it, his arguments can be found at http://www.usenet.com/newsgroups/sci.astro/msg06022.html . It appears that Jones has repeatedly posted his material, in several versions, in a number of forums and user groups – or “spammed it indiscriminately”, according to one critic. He continues to churn out the same old arguments, long after they have been thoroughly discredited by experts such as Windley. At a number of other sites, including http://www.mailarchive.ca/lists/alt.astronomy/2004-02/0277.html and http://www.groupsrv.com/science/viewtopic.php?t=27897 , you can find numerous criticisms of his arguments.

3.1. “What does it take to prove that we went to the Moon?”

Jones states as follows: “I would remind the reader that it’s up to scientists and claimants of this or that fact to provide proof of their claims. That’s how it works in science. It’s called the scientific method. If we find flaws in their method or in the results of their scientific work, then we may call into question the validity of their claims. NASA and many scientists provide what they claim is proof that man walked on the Moon, and we are allowed to examine that proof.”
Quite right! Of course it’s up to scientists to provide proof of their claims! But to suggest that they haven’t done so, in the case of Apollo, is ludicrous! The Apollo Moon landing missions were a series of extensively documented historical events; there are massive amounts of “proof”, in the form of:

The CTs are, in effect, trying to rewrite history. I’m baffled as to why so many people should single out this particular episode of history to attack, rather than any other; if the paranoid, for reasons of anti-American propaganda, choose to question whether the Moon landings really happened, then why not question the reality of other historical events of the era? ( Of course, there are people who deny other episodes of history, for sinister political reasons – such as the neo-Nazis who claim that the Holocaust never happened. But I fail to see what political advantage could be gained by trying to discredit the US space programme. )
Of course, the requirement to provide proof applies both ways! We can equally say that it’s up to the CTs to provide proof of their bizarre claims. By anyone’s standards, the claim that one of the greatest achievements in human history was all faked is a pretty extraordinary one – and in the words of the late Carl Sagan, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” But none of the CTs’ so-called evidence stands up to critical examination.
I should say, at this point, that the very phrase “conspiracy theory” is a misnomer. In fact, I very much doubt that the average CT even understands the true meaning of the word “theory”. In accordance with the scientific method, a theory – as opposed to a mere speculation – has to be testable – or as scientists say, falsifiable. This means that, if a theory happens to be wrong, it can be disproved by means of experiments and observations; if a test yields results which differ from those predicted by the theory, then the theory is faulty and must be modified.
Conspiracy theories, by definition, don’t satisfy this criterion. The average conspiracy theorist - whether his beliefs are born out of anti-Establishment paranoia, misguided zeal or just the desire to make a fast buck – will hold onto them, no matter what. No amount of evidence which the rational among us present to him will persuade him that he is wrong; he will simply claim that our evidence has somehow been faked as another part of the conspiracy. For example, we could show him the results of numerous examinations of the lunar rock samples, which show that they contain the rare isotope beryllium-10, which is almost non-existent on Earth. But he would simply argue that NASA scientists artificially added the beryllium-10 to the rocks, to fool everyone else into thinking that they came from the Moon. While Jones and his ilk challenge NASA and the rest of us to stick to the scientific method, they themselves blatantly ignore it!
In fact, they frequently ignore even the most fundamental principle of scientific reasoning – Occam’s Razor. This can be stated as “the simplest explanation is most likely to be the correct one”. But this line of reasoning seems to escape the CTs. For example, some of their favourite “evidence” is based on so-called “photographic anomalies” – alleged discrepancies in some Apollo photographs, which they claim prove that the whole thing was faked in a studio ( see Section 3.19 ). They use arguments such as, “These two photos were supposedly taken on two different moonwalks, in different places and in different directions from the Lunar Module, yet they show the astronauts against the same backdrop.”
Now let’s see; in a case like this, we have two possible explanations for the observed anomaly. Either
a. The entire Apollo programme was a fake, the greatest con trick in history – an incredibly complex scam costing billions of dollars to stage, and involving some 400000 people – and every single one of those people has kept their mouth shut for 35 years, or until the day they died.
b. Somewhere in the NASA archives, someone made a mistake when cataloguing the photos!
Finally, the CTs frequently refer to such things as “rare uncirculated photographs”, “never before seen footage” and “rediscovered lost footage”. There is no such thing! Every photograph ever taken during the missions, and every second of video footage, is catalogued in the NASA archives, and accessible to anyone who requests to see it.
[ Update, March 2014: A common trait of all conspiracy theorists – together with other proponents of “anti-reality”, such as astrologers, creationists and global warming deniers – is that they insist on repeating the same old arguments, over and over again, long after they have been thoroughly debunked and ridiculed, over and over again. Some internet wit has coined an excellent term to describe such arguments – Points Refuted A Thousand Times, or PRATTs! ]

Footnote: In the above section, I have stated that all photographs, video footage, telemetry tapes, etc. ever recorded during the missions are stored in the NASA archives. I have also repeated this point at several other places on this site.
However, I stand corrected. A recent US news item reveals that NASA officials have admitted to an embarrassing fact - that some of the original material has somehow been mislaid or lost. This includes telemetry tapes and some of the video tapes - including, would you believe, the original tape of Neil Armstrong's historic first step onto the Moon! Note that I say the originals have been lost; there were, of course, multiple copies made, and all of the data in question still exists, in one form or another.
In fact, it's believed that, even if they are found, some of the original tapes may be unplayable by now, due to the deterioration which inevitably occurs in old magnetic media.
No doubt some CTs will jump on this, and claim that the tapes have been deliberately "lost" to prevent them being examined - rather than simply acknowledging that accidents happen.
My thanks to Lisa Pease, for bringing this matter to my attention.

3.2. “The public are dumb; they’ll buy into any idea.”

Jones claims that “most of the NASA believers… usually end up making remarks of that kind, or worse”. In other words, we try to dismiss the “hoax” claim, by simply claiming that anyone who believes it must be an idiot. Of course, not all of them are idiots; many are undoubtedly clever and talented confidence tricksters, who manage to plant enough doubt in the minds of others to induce them to buy their books or videos, and then laugh all the way to the bank. They, of course, rely on exactly the above assertion to make their living!
As much as you or I might agree with that sentiment, there’s no place for it here, in a rational scientific analysis. Most of the people who fall for the CTs’ claims are not necessarily “dumb” – but they are undoubtedly uninformed. The science and engineering of spaceflight is a complex subject, which doesn’t feature in the education or the experience of the vast majority of the population. Apart from those actually involved in the space programme, the only people who possess any extensive knowledge of the subject are those of us who have an interest in it and have researched it off our own bat; most people neither understand it, nor even have any particular desire to do so. Therefore, it’s easy to see why, when a CT merely manages to give the impression of being knowledgeable, or having researched his subject, some people are likely to accept what he says as fact, simply because they don’t know any better.

3.3. “No stars are visible in the images; where are they?”

It amazes me that some of the CTs’ most popular and most enduring arguments are those which are the easiest to debunk! This argument and the one described in Section 3.4 are among the best known conspiracy arguments – indeed, some of the “sincere but misguided” breed of CTs actually say that they were the ones which first got them thinking that Apollo was faked – yet their explanations are piddlingly simple! Even Jones dismisses them out of hand.
Anyone with any slightest knowledge of photography could easily explain this one. No stars are visible in the lunar surface photos, because they were taken in daylight! Some people seem to make the mistake of thinking that because the sky was black, it must have been night. It was not; all the landings took place during the lunar daytime. ( Remember that the Moon rotates on its axis only once in 27 days, so its “day” and “night” are each two weeks long. In fact, all the landings took place during lunar “morning”. ) The daytime sky on Earth is blue, due to the scattering of light in the atmosphere; in fact, the night sky is also blue, but much too faint for our eyes to see it. On the Moon, which has no atmosphere, the sky is always black; in daytime, you see the Sun shining in a black sky.
In theory, of course, the stars are also visible, even in daytime. But would you expect them to be captured in the photos? Of course not; as the scene was sunlit ( and with an intensity of sunlight far greater than on Earth, due to the lack of atmospheric scattering ), the astronauts used appropriate daylight shutter speeds for their photos – typically 1/250 second. Take a camera outdoors on a clear and dark night, point it at the sky, and take a photo with an exposure of 1/250 second – and then see how many stars are visible in your picture! None, more than likely. Also remember that the films in use 35 years ago were much slower than those which we take for granted today.
While Jones correctly dismisses this argument, he then says that “it is strange that none of the astronauts remarked on the stars in the sky. The stars really will have been a magnificent sight at all times from the Moon.”
Rubbish! There is nothing “strange” at all about the fact that the astronauts said nothing about seeing the stars. Firstly, they were not there to admire the stars; they were there to do a job. Secondly, it’s a complete fallacy to say that the stars would have been “a magnificent sight”. When facing the Sun, they wouldn’t have seen any stars at all, as their eyes would have been adjusted to the harsh glare of the Sun. Imagine that you are at an evening football match in winter, after dark, with the powerful floodlights at the other side of the stadium shining almost into your face. If you look up to the sky, would you expect to see any stars? I don’t think so.
Even when their backs were to the Sun, it’s doubtful that the astronauts would have seen many stars, for a simple reason. Their helmet visors were highly reflective, to protect their eyes from the Sun’s glare. That’s why, in all the photos of astronauts on the lunar surface, you can never see their faces; you always see the foreground scene reflected in their visors. So when looking away from the Sun, even with their pupils dilated, the amount of starlight reaching their eyes would have been greatly reduced.

3.4. “The flag waves.”

This is another of the CTs’ most popular arguments – yet its explanation is so simple that I’d be surprised if my ten-year-old nephew couldn’t work it out! Once again, Jones correctly dismisses it.
The argument goes like this: “In some of the video footage, the flag supposedly planted on the Moon waves or flutters, as if in a breeze. This couldn’t happen in a vacuum; therefore, it proves that the landings were faked in a studio. The flag was fluttering in the breeze of the air-conditioning.”
Absolute drivel! Those who support this claim have obviously not thought to ask themselves the obvious question: How exactly could a flag “fly” at all, in a vacuum? Answer: it couldn’t, could it? An ordinary flag would simply hang limply down the pole! So to make the Apollo flags look good in the photos, they were suspended from a horizontal rod – a fact which was frequently stated in the media at the time, for the benefit of those who couldn’t work it out for themselves. Look at any picture which shows the flag close up, such as Fig. 6; the horizontal rod is clearly visible.

Fig. 6

If the CTs bothered to watch a little more of the footage, instead of just the selected few seconds that they want to see, they would see that in every case, the flag only waves or flutters while the astronaut is holding it, and sticking the pole into the ground. Obviously, this would cause the pole, and in turn the rod, to vibrate. After he has let go of it, and the vibration has damped out, the flag hangs absolutely motionless.
The idea of stiffening flags wasn’t even unique to Apollo; it’s a common practice on Earth. In the United States, where they are especially proud of their national flag, the large flags flown from public buildings are frequently stiffened with wires, so that they will fly impressively, even when there is no wind.
One further point here: Some CTs have pointed out that, even in still photos where no-one is touching the flag, it still has “ripples” in it, as if it’s waving in the breeze. Explaining this is equally simple. The Apollo 11 astronauts found that they couldn’t quite extend the horizontal rod to its full length; therefore, the flag wasn’t quite fully stretched out – hence the appearance of ripples. Some of the later crews created the same effect deliberately – just because they thought it looked better that way!
Incidentally, Bart Sibrel – one of the self-proclaimed “Messiahs” of the CTs – makes the strange claim that “rediscovered lost footage” shows the flag waving. Quite what he means by “lost footage”, I have no idea; footage showing the flags waving as they were planted has always been there for all to see, in TV programmes and videos produced for public viewing. It’s clearly shown in the video For All Mankind, which was on sale at W. H. Smith in 1992!

3.5. “There’s no dust on the lander footpads.”

I don’t profess to be able to answer this one with any expertise, but here’s my attempt – with much of the material here taken from Jim McDade’s web site.
The lunar surface is covered with a deep layer of fine dust, known as the regolith -the result of billions of years’ worth of micrometeorite bombardment pulverising the surface rocks. However, the CTs apparently make the mistake of assuming that this dust behaves the same way as dust does on Earth. It doesn’t! Firstly, the softest surface layer of dust would have been blown outwards away from the area directly below the Lunar Module as it landed, by the force of its exhaust gases. It would not, however, have been so violently blown away as to produce a “blast crater”, as some CTs contend should have happened ( see Section 3.10 ). During its final approach and hovering, the LM’s engine thrust was gradually reduced, and shut down completely when the LM was still about two metres above the surface. So the surface dust would have been gently blown away – and would then have immediately settled back down, since there is no atmosphere to make it swirl around as on Earth.
Secondly, the properties of the dust itself are significantly different from those of dust on Earth. On Earth, dust or dry sand takes the form of a fine, loose powder, because it has air between its particles. On the Moon, with no air, the dust behaves very differently. Experiments performed by the unmanned Surveyor probes, prior to Apollo, showed that it has a cohesiveness like that of wet sand, since electrostatic forces cause the particles to cling tightly. Furthermore, the regolith particles are angular – whereas those on Earth become rounded by wind and water erosion – and so tend to interlock mechanically, as well as clinging electrostatically. ( My thanks to Nigel Depledge, for bringing the latter point to my attention. )
In addition, billions of years of settling under gravity has caused the regolith, apart from the very uppermost layer, to become pretty hard-packed. ( When the astronauts planted their flags, they were only able to push the pole into the ground to a depth of a few centimetres; they had to use a hammer to force it in to a sufficient depth to make it stand up. ) Similarly, the LM’s footpads sank into the dust only to a depth of a few centimetres. Whether you would expect to see any dust on top of the footpads, I can’t say for certain – but you certainly wouldn’t expect them to be covered with it.
For more on this topic, and the related one discussed in Section 3.10, see McDade’s web site.

3.6. “Why is no engine noise audible in the LM radio broadcasts?”

Jones claims that during the descent to the Moon and the ascent from it, the Lunar Module’s pressurised cabin would have been filled with noise from its rocket engine. ( Though it was vacuum outside the cabin, the vibration would have been transmitted through the hull structure. ) But none of this noise is heard in the astronauts’ radio transmissions from the LM.
Yes – while the engine was firing, the LM cabin was a noisy place! But the reason that the engine noise wasn’t heard in the transmissions is quite simple. The engines were only fired for two periods of a few minutes each – the descent stage engine during the landing, and the less powerful ascent stage engine during the ascent back to lunar orbit. And during these two critical phases, the astronauts wore full spacesuits, including “goldfish bowl” helmets. They wore headsets, with microphones held close to their mouths, inside their helmets – which effectively shut out virtually all external sound, and picked up only their voices.
Courtesy of Peter Rea.

3.7. “Where are the flames from the landers’ engines?”

As I said in Section 3.6, the LM’s engines were only fired for two brief periods. On some of the missions, the lift-off of the ascent stage was filmed by a remote camera which was left in position on the lunar surface; the video footage doesn’t show any visible flame from the engine.
But then, why should it? There are plenty of combustible gases which produce flames which are barely visible; just think of a Bunsen burner! The mixture used by the LM engines – hydrazine as fuel and nitrogen tetroxide as oxidant – burns with no visible flame.
Jones points out that the space shuttle’s orbital manoeuvring system ( OMS ) engines use the same fuel mixture, and that in pictures, they do emit visible flames. The first part of that claim is correct, but the second isn’t. The shuttle’s OMS firings do not emit visible flames! Sometimes, when they are fired, a momentary flash of light is seen, but this is not a flame. Unlike the LM engines, the OMS engines are fired multiple times during a mission. The flash is caused by unburned fuel from the previous firing, which has frozen inside the “throat” or combustion chamber; when the ice crystals are ejected into space by the force of the exhaust gases, they reflect sunlight quite brilliantly – just like “Glenn fireflies”, for those who know their spaceflight history.
Jones also points out that the Titan 2 rocket, which was used to launch the Gemini spacecraft, also used the same fuel mixture ( and so did the early versions of the European Ariane launcher, for that matter ), and that the flames are visible in footage of Titan launches. Yes, they are – but only due to light being scattered by dust and other particles suspended in the atmosphere. The flames are not visible in a vacuum.
Courtesy of Peter Rea.

3.8. “What about the shape of the exhaust and its effects?”

This question is closely related to the one covered by Section 3.10, so I won’t bother trying to answer it separately.

3.9. “Was the Lunar Module tested on Earth?”

No, of course it wasn’t – because it wasn’t designed to operate on Earth, was it? Its purpose was to descend from lunar orbit to the lunar surface, then ascend back to orbit and manoeuvre to rendezvous with the CSM. It operated under lunar gravity – only 1/6 of that of Earth – and in the near-vacuum of space. Because it operated only in vacuum, it wasn’t at all streamlined or aerodynamic; you only have to look at it, to see that it couldn’t possibly have flown in Earth’s atmosphere! Nor could its engines, designed to lift it against lunar gravity, have lifted it against Earth gravity.
But then, no spacecraft has ever been “tested on Earth” – how could they be? The space-worthiness of the Apollo CSM was tested by a series of unmanned launches, before the first manned flight, and the astronauts learned to fly it in simulators – accurate mock-ups of the CM cabin, interfaced with complex computer software which mimicked the behaviour of the real thing in response to the controls. They also used simulators to learn to fly the LM.
The LM was, of course, tested in space, before it was actually used to land on the Moon. The unmanned Apollo 5 carried the first LM into orbit, and conducted systems tests on it, which qualified it for manned flight. In fact, this test flight showed up a few problems, which delayed the first manned test of the LM.
Apollo 9 was the first manned mission to carry a LM, which was put through its paces in Earth orbit. The crew practiced the technique of extracting the LM from its housing on top of the Saturn V third stage, then separated it from the CSM and fired its engines to simulate a lunar descent and ascent. Apollo 10, the full “dress rehearsal”, carried a LM to lunar orbit; Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan flew it to within nine miles of the lunar surface, and did everything except actually land.
Training for the final approach and landing was done on Earth, using the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle, or LLTV. This was designed to simulate, as closely as possible, the behaviour of the LM. To do this, it had two propulsion systems; a jet engine with a steady thrust equal to five sixths of the vehicle’s weight, and a variable-thrust rocket engine similar to that of the LM. The effect of the former was to make the vehicle, with its pilot controlling the latter engine, behave as the LM would under lunar gravity.
It’s true that, as Jones says, NASA had a lot of problems with the LLTVs, and some of them crashed. It has been described as “one of the most unforgiving flying machines ever built”; even Neil Armstrong himself had to eject from one when things went wrong.
But the important point here is the phrase “as closely as possible”. It wasn’t possible, on Earth, to simulate the LM’s behaviour exactly; the LLTV was simply the closest thing to it that could be done. It wasn’t intended to “test the LM”, but to train the pilots. The fact that the LLTV wasn’t entirely reliable didn’t mean that the LM wouldn’t be.

3.10. “Where’s the blast crater?”

What blast crater? The CTs claim that as the LM touched down, the exhaust gases from its descent engine should have blasted a crater in the soft surface material, and that the absence of such craters in the photos “proves” that the LMs were simply set up in position somewhere on Earth.
Complete rubbish! Firstly, I’ll repeat what I said in Section 3.5. Though the Moon’s regolith – the layer of pulverised rock, or dust, which covers its surface – is 10-15 metres deep, it has been steadily settling under its own weight for billions of years, and is therefore hard-packed. Only the upper few centimetres of it has “a consistency like corn flour”, as Jones claims; the astronauts’ boots never sank into it to a depth of more than a couple of centimetres.
Secondly, the CTs are fond of telling us that the LM’s descent engine had a thrust of 10000 pounds. Yes, this was its maximum thrust – but it also had a throttle! It was used at full power to reduce the vehicle’s speed from orbital velocity of 3700 mph to close to zero; as it approached the surface, the thrust was reduced to the level – only about 3000 pounds – necessary to keep it hovering at a steady height, while the Commander chose his spot to bring it down. It was then gradually throttled down as the LM fell the last few feet, and in some cases, was shut down completely while still about six feet above the ground.
The engine nozzle was about 54 inches in diameter. A little simple maths shows that a thrust of 3000 pounds, spread over its surface area ( p r2, where the radius r is 27 inches ), equates to a pressure of 1.3 pounds per square inch – less than a tenth of an atmosphere. That would hardly produce a “blast crater”, would it? It would simply blow the dust gently away from beneath the LM – which of course is exactly what did happen.
The CTs’ claims that the photos show the ground below the LM “completely undisturbed” are again rubbish. Close-up photos clearly show that the area below the LM is smoother than its surroundings, and that the dust has been gently blown outwards, exactly as expected.
Furthermore, a Harrier jump jet, when taking off or landing vertically, has more than twice the 10000 pounds thrust of the LM descent engine. Many helicopters also use considerably more thrust – and it isn’t unknown for them to land on soft surfaces, such as sand in deserts. Have you ever heard of a Harrier or a helicopter making a “blast crater” in the ground?
It’s obvious that the LM ascent stage, when lifting off from the Moon, would have no significant effect on the surface material; most of its exhaust gas was directed onto the top of the descent stage, and not onto the surrounding ground.

3.11. “Dust kicked up by the Rover wheels acts strange.”

Yes, it does – compared to what we are used to on Earth. But the Moon is not the Earth, and we can’t always make direct comparisons. On Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait, referring to video footage of the astronauts driving the Lunar Rover, says: “…you will see dust thrown up by the wheels of the rover. The dust goes up in a perfect parabolic arc and falls back down to the surface. Again, the Moon isn't the Earth! If this were filmed on the Earth, which has air, the dust would have billowed up around the wheel and floated over the surface. This clearly does not happen in the video clips; the dust goes up and right back down. It's actually a beautiful demonstration of ballistic flight in a vacuum.”
Jones actually quotes this explanation, and then tries to ridicule it. He says that, in some pictures and video footage, the dust doesn’t behave as described above; instead, “vertical walls” or “curtain” formations form in the wake of the dust thrown up by the rear wheels.
This supposed discrepancy can quite easily be explained by electrostatic interaction between the dust particles. This doesn’t happen on Earth, because electrostatic charge is conducted away by dew on the ground or moisture in the air – water is an electrical conductor, after all! ( Actually, pure water is a very poor conductor, but the addition of just a little salt turns it into a very good one. ) The electrostatic attraction between particles is also stronger on the Moon, as the particles are packed closer together, due to the absence of air.

3.12. “Radio telemetry proves man went to the Moon, right?”

Jones says: “Jodrell Bank and sundry government scientists might have pointed their antennae at the Moon, but none of that will prove man set foot on the Moon. Sending unmanned packages to the Moon is child’s play in comparison to safely landing and returning astronauts from the Moon.”
This argument is not only pointless, but meaningless; he apparently doesn’t even know the meaning of the word “telemetry”. Telemetry – the word literally means “distant measuring” is the process by which data from the spacecraft is transmitted to Earth, to enable Mission Control to monitor whether all is well with the spacecraft and its crew. What Jones thinks Jodrell Bank has to do with this, I can’t imagine! I think he is trying to say that anyone with a radio telescope could have eavesdropped on the telemetry data, but that there would have been no way of knowing whether the transmissions were coming from a manned spacecraft or an unmanned one.
As for his inference that unmanned spacecraft were sent to the Moon, to fool the world into thinking they were manned; I’ll deal with that in Section 3.13.

3.13. “Laser ranging reflectors on the Moon are proof, right?”

Among the many experiments left behind on the lunar surface by the Apollo missions are laser ranging reflectors. Earth-based astronomers fire lasers at these reflectors, detect the reflected light on its return, and precise timings enable them to measure the Moon’s distance at a given time, to an accuracy of a few centimetres, in order to determine its orbit with great accuracy. McDonald Observatory in Texas is one which has been involved in this work.
Jones doesn’t dispute the existence of these reflectors, but argues that their presence on the Moon doesn’t prove that astronauts put them there. He says – correctly – that they could have been placed there by unmanned probes – though his claim that landing unmanned probes on the Moon is “child’s play” is ridiculous. It is, in fact, just as complex and difficult an operation as landing a manned spacecraft, and was first achieved only three years before Apollo 11.
That aside, he does have a point, in the sense that the reflectors could have been placed by unmanned probes. Prior to the Apollo landings, both the Russians and Americans had successfully soft-landed unmanned probes – the Lunas and Surveyors, respectively – and the Russians did indeed deploy a laser reflector aboard their second robot rover, Lunokhod 2, in 1973. ( The two Lunokhods provide a further refutation of Jones’ “child’s play” argument. Operating these robots remotely proved to be anything but easy; “driving” each one required a team of five operators working together, and proved so difficult that some of the operators were driven to the verge of nervous breakdowns! )
However, all the Luna and Surveyor missions were extensively documented, and we know where on the Moon each one landed. The laser reflectors used for the ranging measurements are not located at these landing sites, but at the Apollo landing sites. Presumably, Jones would have us believe that, while each Apollo mission was being faked on Earth, a separate unmanned probe was simultaneously sent to the Moon, to place the reflectors and other hardware, to fool the world into thinking that astronauts had been there. Of course, he might argue that the Apollo spacecraft themselves, which the whole world watched being launched by the mighty Saturn V rockets, really did go to the Moon, but without humans aboard. But does he not think that to do that would be almost as complex and expensive an operation as the real thing? This would also contradict another of his fellow CTs’ favourite claims – that the Apollo spacecraft did carry astronauts, but only into Earth orbit, while other people back on the ground “enacted” the lunar surface scenes. ( I’ll deal with this idiotic argument in detail in Section 4.10. ) Reconciling his claim with this one would require another launch in each case.
So when were these “extra” spacecraft launched – and why did no-one see them being launched? Even to send an unmanned probe, such as Surveyor, to the Moon requires a pretty powerful launch vehicle – though nowhere near as big as a Saturn V; its launch would be a spectacular event, and could hardly go unnoticed. As every launch ever carried out from Cape Canaveral has been documented, any strange unannounced one would surely have aroused some suspicion.
We know, of course, that the United States has frequently launched “secret” spacecraft – military spy satellites – from another launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. But these were only secret in the sense that nothing was announced about the satellites’ purpose; anyone within many miles’ radius of the base could have seen that a launch was taking place.
And please don’t try to tell me that NASA had some other “secret” launch site, which no-one knew about. The existence of Russia’s “secret” military launch site was discovered by a group of British schoolboys, using nothing more sophisticated than amateur radio sets! ( See Section 4.10. )

3.14. “Why don’t they point the HST at the landing sites?”

I can just picture some particularly ignorant CT answering this question with, “Because if they did, it would prove that there’s nothing there!”
Jones rightly says that the Hubble Space Telescope, and even the biggest telescopes on Earth, don’t have sufficient resolving power to be able to identify the LM descent stages, which still stand on the Moon at the landing sites. He says, “The smallest object they can discern is something about the size of a football pitch at the distance of the Moon, and even then it would be hard to tell what they were looking at.”
This statement is on the right lines; allow me to clarify it. He is actually referring to the angular resolution of a telescope, i.e. the smallest angular separation, at which two points can be distinguished. For any given telescope, the minimum angular resolution – what astronomers call the Dawes limit – in radians, is equal to

1.22 l / D,

where D is the telescope’s aperture, and l the wavelength of light. The aperture of the HST is 2.39 metres, and the wavelength of visible light is approximately 5 x 10-7 m; this gives a Dawes limit of
( 1.22 x 5 x 10-7 / 2.39 ) = 2.6 x 10-7 radians.
Multiplying this by the Moon’s mean distance of 382000 km gives the linear size of an object on the Moon which would subtend this angle as seen from Earth; this works out as 0.097 km or 97 m – indeed, about the size of a football pitch.
For the world’s biggest optical telescopes - the twin Keck reflectors in Hawaii, each with an aperture of 10 metres – that limiting size works out as 23 m, which of course is still much bigger than a LM.
Actually, the Dawes limit applies to distinguishing two distinct point sources, such as the components of a binary star. When we’re talking about discerning detail in an extended object, we can’t quite apply the same formula with certainty – but it’s close enough. Note, however, that we are talking here about discerning detail – which isn’t the same thing as being able to see an object at all. It’s quite possible that, under certain lighting conditions, the HST might be able to detect the glint of sunlight reflected from the LM’s highly reflective sides, such that it might be possible to tell in an image that there was something there – but it would be seen merely as a point of light, with no way of discerning what the object was.

3.15. “The Russians had to be in on it, right?”

This has to be the most idiotic statement I have ever read! Whoever thought of it clearly knows absolutely nothing about history! Even Jones dismisses it.
Anyone who knows the slightest thing about the history of spaceflight knows that the Apollo programme was born out of the politics of the Cold War. The early “Space Race” was exactly that – a political competition between the United States and the Soviet Union, as it then was, to achieve superiority in space, and therefore, by inference, military superiority. After all, if either side was capable of launching satellites into orbit, then it was capable of firing missiles on its enemies.
It has even been seriously suggested that the Space Race took the place of a war – that the immense effort on both sides to prove their superiority in this manner was all that prevented the state of political tension known as the Cold War escalating into an actual war. That may well be right.
It was in this spirit of competition that President Kennedy, in 1961, issued his famous challenge to the nation, to land men on the Moon before the end of the decade.
It’s therefore blindingly obvious that, if Apollo had been faked, and the Russians had picked up any slightest hint of it, they would not have wasted a moment in denouncing it to the world! In any case, if they “had to be in on it”, then so did the entire world – because if the Russians could have discovered the scam, then so could anyone else!
The Soviet Union was also developing its own Moon landing programme, in direct competition with Apollo - but after Apollo 11, they immediately cancelled it, and denied that it had ever existed. To put it another way, as soon as they had lost the race, they tried to save political face by denying that they had ever been in it! Not until 1985, with the new “openness” policy of the Gorbachev government, did they finally come clean.
But the Americans were well aware of what was going on all along. The era was also the height of the espionage war between the two powers, with no end of spying scandals on both sides. American intelligence had gathered masses of detail about the Soviet space programme, that they had tried to keep secret – including the existence of their equivalent of the Saturn V, and the fact that one had exploded on the launchpad. Does anyone seriously believe that, if NASA had been up to anything at all “dodgy” – let alone a full scale “Apollo Hoax” – the Russians would not have found out about it?
Having acknowledged this, Jones then claims that the Russians would have had no way of exposing the scam, as they couldn’t possibly have been able to tell whether or not a spacecraft had humans aboard, unless they could have intercepted its radio transmissions. He says that this would not have been possible, “as microwave links are highly directional and thus inherently very ‘leak-proof’, and when that is coupled with secure communications methods such as frequency hopping, spread spectrum techniques, encryption techniques and any other unusual modulation methods, it’s virtually certain that an outsider would not have detected it.”
Once again, utter drivel! The “directionality” of a radio signal is directly related to the size of the antenna; the bigger the antenna, the narrower the beam. With the size of the antenna used on Apollo, and the radio frequency used, it can be easily calculated that when the spacecraft was orbiting the Moon, the radio beam at the distance of Earth would have spread out to a diameter several times that of the Earth itself! So there is absolutely no way that the Russians could have been prevented from eavesdropping on the signals.
So what about the CTs’ claim that the spacecraft were manned, but only went as far as Earth orbit? Had that been the case, then the diameter of the radio beam would have been only a few tens of kilometres, so the Russians would not have been able to intercept it. But then, any Russian who knew his physics could have come to the same conclusion as I did in the last paragraph – so the lack of any intercepted signal would have been a dead giveaway!
All this is discussed in detail, including the calculation of the beam diameters, in Section 4.10.
As for “secure communication methods”; I say again, this was the height of the espionage war! Whatever secure communication methods each side developed, such as frequency hopping, the other side was never far behind in developing methods of beating them. As for encryption; if the Russians had found that NASA was encrypting its signals, would that not have made them pretty suspicious? “What do you make of this, comrade? If this is all being done in the open and broadcast to the entire world, then why do they need to encrypt the signals? It doesn’t make sense!”
Many of the astronauts’ voice transmissions were broadcast live to the entire world! Of course, they could have gone through an encryption and decryption process, before being relayed to worldwide television – but anyone with equipment capable of receiving the frequencies could have detected the encrypted transmissions directly, and asked the same question as above.
Finally, a friend of mine recently met a former Soviet cosmonaut, Alexander Alexandrov, and spacecraft engineer, Alexander Martynov, during their UK lecture tour. He spoke to them about the conspiracy theory; they confirmed that no-one involved in the Soviet space programme had ever doubted the reality of the Apollo missions.

3.16. “What about Apollo 8, 9 and 10?”

Er – what about them? Jones claims that we “NASA believers” will point to these missions – those which tested aspects of the system, prior to attempting the first landing - as proof that the Moon landings really happened, and then argues that they prove nothing of the sort, as we can’t prove that those missions were any more “real” than the landings.
This “argument” is totally pointless, since it’s inevitable that anyone who believes that the landings were faked will claim that the “practice” missions were also faked!
Just for the record, I’ll briefly describe, for those who are less familiar with the history, what was done on these missions ( and also Apollo 7, which Jones neglects to mention ).
Apollo 7 was simply the first manned test flight of the CSM, in Earth orbit.
Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to be launched by a Saturn V, and the first manned flight to the Moon. It didn’t carry a LM; the CSM spent 20 hours in lunar orbit, then returned to Earth.
Apollo 9 only flew in Earth orbit, but carried the LM for the first time. The crew separated the LM from the CSM, and flew it to simulate the descent to and ascent from the Moon, testing the manoeuvrability of both stages.
Apollo 10 was a full “dress rehearsal”. The complete spacecraft flew to the Moon, and the LM descended to within a few miles of the lunar surface, then returned to orbit. The mission did everything except actually land on the Moon.
Surely it’s obvious that a mission as complex and difficult as a Moon landing could not have been attempted “in one go”, without building up to it in logical stages. Apart from Apollos 7-10, the main purpose of the Gemini programme – a series of ten manned missions in 1965 and 1966 – was to develop and practice the techniques which would be needed to go to the Moon, especially rendezvous and docking.
I’ll now ask another question: What about Apollo 13? As we all know, this mission failed to land on the Moon; the spacecraft was crippled by an explosion in the SM during the outward flight. Helped by the ingenuity of their colleagues on the ground, the astronauts used their LM as a “lifeboat” to keep themselves alive, while the spacecraft swung around the Moon and headed back to Earth. It was a very close-run thing, and the crew were very lucky to survive.
So please tell me, Mr. Jones and Co… If NASA was faking the whole programme, in order to “beat the damn Russkies” and falsely prove America’s superiority – then for what conceivable bizarre reason would they fake a failure and near-disaster? Maybe they did all that, just so that there would be a nice dramatic story for Hollywood to make a film about 25 years later…
There were also several other, much less serious mishaps during missions – some of them seen or heard live by TV viewers ( see Section 6.2 ). Again, why would they fake things going wrong?
If anyone still has any doubts about whether Apollo really flew, then consider this. After the Moon landings ended, four more Apollo CSM spacecraft, launched by Saturn 1B rockets, were used for Earth orbit missions. Three of these carried crews to and from the Skylab space station in 1973-74; the last was used in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.
The latter was the first political exercise in cooperation, with the first experimental docking of a US spacecraft with a Soviet one. So I challenge anyone to tell me that that mission didn’t really happen! And no-one can possibly deny that Skylab was real; there was plenty of physical evidence, in the form of the large chunks of it which fell onto Australia, when its orbit decayed and it broke up in the atmosphere.

3.17. “The radiation hazards facing the missions.”

Jones quotes some unnamed “expert” as saying, “Radiation is the biggest show stopper affecting mankind’s exploration of the Universe. As far as the probability of encountering solar flares went, the thin-walled Apollo craft ( from 8 through 12 ) travelled through a solar maximum period, a time when there was a likelihood of three or four severe flares per mission. The ability to predict solar flare activity was, and still is, very poor indeed. The CSM did not have any shielding against such an event. Neither did the LM, nor did the spacesuits.”
All of this is true – except for the first sentence! Radiation will not be a “show stopper” for future spaceflight, as spacecraft will be built with shielding to protect against it, as is already being done with the International Space Station.
Prior to Apollo, there was indeed a lot of concern about humans travelling beyond the van Allen belts. These are two regions of the Earth’s magnetosphere, one at a height of about 1000-5000 km, and another at about 15000-25000 km, which trap most of the charged particles which reach the Earth’s vicinity in the Solar Wind and from solar flares. Therefore, they protect the Earth from the effects of these particles; any astronaut travelling beyond the belts will lose this protection, and be exposed to a higher level of hazardous radiation. Incidentally, the existence of the belts was discovered in 1958, as a result of measurements taken by America’s first satellite, Explorer 1.
The biggest hazard was indeed that from solar flares – and it’s true that Apollos 8-12 flew around the time of solar maximum, when they were most likely. However, Jones is very much overrating the hazard. Whatever the probability of flares occurring, they are highly directional; each flare erupts from a relatively small area of the Sun’s “surface”, and the particles travel outwards in a fairly narrow “beam”. Even when a flare did occur, the probability of it actually showering near-Earth space with deadly radiation would have been quite small.
NASA had a programme of continuous solar monitoring – the Solar Particle Alert Network, or SPAN – which would have very quickly alerted them to any flare occurring during a mission. Since the harmful particles travel much more slowly than light, this would have given the astronauts a number of hours’ warning of the impending danger. It was known that astronauts on the Moon, including inside the thin-hulled LM, would be in significant danger from a flare; in the event, they would have been ordered to leave the Moon immediately, return to orbit and dock with the CM.
Jones acknowledges all of this – but then says, “But the command module didn’t have the shielding to protect against a severe flare. Oops! Another NASA clanger.”
Actually, it’s nothing of the sort. The CM did have some shielding – though admittedly it would not have been effective against the most severe flares. Nevertheless, its hull was considerably thicker than that of the LM ( after all, it had to survive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere ) – and some protection is better than none! The hull would have blocked the majority of the particles – and by orienting the spacecraft so that the CM faced away from the Sun, it would also have been shielded by the considerable mass of the SM.
Jones quotes from another source: “As to the issue of solar flares and the danger they presented, there simply weren’t any major ones during any of the Apollo missions. So the biggest reason that none of the astronauts died from their radiation exposure was that they simply did not get a bad dose to speak of.”
He then comments: “That’s right; they gambled with the astronauts’ lives. When the chance of encountering severe solar flares was 3 or 4 per mission, any one of which could have proven fatal, they just went ahead anyway.”
Well, what can I say? Yes, to a certain extent, they did gamble with the astronauts’ lives! To understand why, refer back to Section 3.15, and the political and military background to the space programme. In view of the political pressures to succeed, NASA was prepared to accept a certain degree of risk, which probably wouldn’t be considered acceptable today.
But then, spaceflight is a risky business, isn’t it? Frankly, the astronauts had plenty more to worry about than solar flares. The probability of a crew being killed due to a failure of their spacecraft - as almost happened on Apollo 13, and did happen on two Russian Soyuz missions – was a hell of a lot higher than that of being killed by a solar flare!
The astronauts, of course, accepted that a degree of danger went with the job. Most of them were military pilots; some had flown in combat during the Korean or Vietnam Wars, while others had been test pilots – surely one of the most dangerous peacetime jobs imaginable. Even Neil Armstrong, who joined the Astronaut Corps as a civilian, had previously served in the US Navy, and had flown in combat in Korea. So it’s fair to say that they were used to taking risks!
Some CTs also claim that the passage through the van Allen belts themselves would have killed the astronauts, since the belts contain a high concentration of charged particles. But even Jones correctly dismisses this one. Certainly, during the passage through the belts, the astronauts were subjected to a far higher level of radiation than during the rest of their journey to the Moon. And certainly, the radiation dosage would have been lethal – had they stayed there long enough. The damaging effects of radiation are cumulative; the damage depends on the time of exposure, as well as the intensity of radiation. An astronaut would have to spend about two days in the belts, to acquire a lethal dose; in fact, the time taken by Apollo to pass through the belts, in each direction, was a little over one hour.
An analogy familiar to us all is going to the dentist and having your teeth X-rayed. The X-ray camera is placed close up against your face, then the dentist and nurse retreat out of the room before triggering it. Why is that? The radiation dose from a couple of X-rays, or from a few dozen of them during your lifetime, doesn’t do you any harm at all. But the dentist carries out thousands of them during his career, so he has to operate the camera from a safe distance, to minimise the dose to which he is exposed each time. ( Ernest Wilson, who pioneered the use of X-rays at a London hospital at the turn of the Twentieth Century, before the harmful effects of radiation were understood, died prematurely from the cumulative effects of radiation poisoning, while none of his patients ever suffered any ill effects. )
Another CT claim is that the Russians didn’t go to the Moon, because they knew that travelling beyond the van Allen belts would be fatal. This is absolute rubbish! As I explained in Section 3.15, the Russians most certainly were developing their own Moon landing programme, but abandoned it after they had lost the race.
In September and November 1968, shortly before Apollo 8’s flight, the Soviet Union flew two unmanned spacecraft, Zond 5 and 6, around the Moon and returned them to Earth. It was believed that a manned flight would soon follow – though it didn’t – and this was the reason that the first Apollo circumlunar flight was brought forward. ( The original plan was that Apollo 8 would be the first Earth-orbit test of the LM, and Apollo 9 the first circumlunar flight. These were swapped after the Zond flights. )
The Zonds carried a number of living plants and animals – including tortoises – which were returned completely unharmed. So the Russians were, in fact, the first to prove that travelling beyond the van Allen belts would not be fatal.
Furthermore, the CTs’ popular notion that the Apollo astronauts are the only humans to have travelled through the van Allen belts is itself false. It’s true that most spacecraft in low Earth orbit stay below the level of the belts – for most of the time. However, there is one region, above the South Atlantic, where the inner belt “dips” to a significantly lower height above the Earth; it’s known as the South Atlantic Anomaly. The lowest point of the Anomaly is in fact below the height at which the International Space Station orbits; once in every half dozen or so orbits, the ISS actually passes through it for a period of a few minutes. As the ISS crews spend several months at a time aboard the station, they consequently receive many times the radiation dosage that the Apollo crews did during their brief passage through the belts. Of course, the ISS is equipped with appropriate shielding to protect the crews.
We also have to consider the Gemini missions, which preceded Apollo in 1965-66, and developed the technology and techniques which would be used on the lunar missions. It’s a little known fact that a couple of the later missions went into substantially higher orbits then their predecessors. Gemini 11, in September 1966, went to a maximum distance of 1360 km, which is well within the inner van Allen belt. This was done only once, then the orbit was lowered again – so the crew didn’t receive any dangerous radiation dose.
Incidentally, Gemini 11 was manned by Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon, who both later flew through the belts again on Apollo 12. Three astronauts – Jim Lovell, John Young and Gene Cernan – each flew on two lunar missions, and therefore each made the journey through the van Allen belts and back twice.
If anyone is interested, you can read a NASA biomedical report on the dangers of radiation, and the doses actually received by the astronauts, at http://lsda.jsc.nasa.gov/books/apollo/S2ch3.htm .

3.18. “The lunar surface brightness misconception.”

CTs claim that there are “anomalies” in the lighting in some of the lunar surface photographs; they claim that objects which should be in shadow are illuminated, and that “fill-in lighting” was used in the studio where the pictures were faked. The rational among us respond by saying that these lighting effects can be explained by sunlight being reflected from the ground.
Jones disputes this, and claims that this reflected light would not be enough to explain the illumination. He quotes some unknown source ( again! ) as saying: “One celebrated picture shows an astronaut with the Sun behind him, and the lunar lander and American flag reflected in his visor. According to critics, the astronaut should have been merely a silhouette. And so he should, if he weren’t surrounded by brightly lit ground. If the full Moon can brightly illuminate the Earth from 250000 miles away, just imagine what it can do to an astronaut standing on it.”
He then says, “That argument is about as wrong as it can get.” Correct; that statement is a load of rubbish – but then I’ve never actually heard of any “NASA believer”, as he calls us, making such a statement! It’s funny how these people come up with quotes which suit their purpose, but fail to identify their origin, isn’t it? I suspect that it’s a “hypothetical” statement, which he made up to try to ridicule his opponents.
Obviously, the full Moon appears as a brilliant beacon of light in our sky, because we are seeing all of the sunlight reflected from one half of its surface – an area of over 7 million square miles – concentrated into a small patch of sky. If we were standing on the Moon in daylight, the reflection from the ground around us would be only a minute fraction of that amount of light.
The Moon’s surface is a dull brown in colour, with an average albedo, or reflectivity, of 0.07; that is, it reflects only 7% of the light falling on it. Jones correctly points this out, then says that, “…close up on the Moon, things are going to look pretty gloomy all over, because the ground is brown and the sky is black.”
While he is thinking along the right lines, he is still way off track. What he calls the “lunar surface brightness misconception” is actually nowhere near as much of a “misconception” as he makes it out to be; it’s easy to show that, even with an albedo of 0.07, reflected light can easily account for the so-called “fill-in lighting”.
Firstly, the fact that the sky is black is irrelevant. What matters is the intensity of sunlight – which is significantly greater than on Earth, as it isn’t being attenuated and scattered by an atmosphere. Secondly, there are plenty of surfaces on Earth with similarly low albedos, which we can use for comparison. If you were standing in the middle of a large quarry on a sunny day, surrounded on all sides by dull brown or grey rock, would the scene appear dark and “gloomy”? I don’t think so. Roads and pavements are also dull grey, yet at night, the reflection of the light from streetlamps – which has a tiny fraction of the intensity of sunlight – is sufficient to enable us to see the pavement on which we are walking.
I shall now back up my logic with some figures – courtesy of John McCue. At the Earth’s distance from the Sun, the Solar Constant – the power of solar radiation falling on a unit area of any surface – is 1.374 kilowatts per square metre. This is the total across the entire electromagnetic spectrum – but the vast majority of the Sun’s energy is emitted in the visible light part of the spectrum, so if we simply assume that all of that figure represents light, we are not far off.
Using the Moon’s albedo of 0.07, the power of the light reflected from the ground is 0.07 x 1.374 = 0.096 kW m-2. A typical lunar surface photo – say, a close-up of an astronaut, with the LM in the background – includes in its field a few hundred square metres of ground. Each 100 m2 is reflecting light with a power of 100 x 0.096 = 9.6 kW – the equivalent of 96 100-watt bulbs! I think that’s more than enough to account for the observed illumination, don’t you?
For a dramatic illustration of just what the Solar Constant really means, I refer the reader to Sir Arthur C. Clarke's humorous short story, A Slight Case of Sunstroke, written in 1958 and published in his collection Tales of Ten Worlds. Look for it in your local library, as sadly, it's long out of print.

3.19. “Photographic anomalies, heiligenschein and perspective.”

So-called “photographic anomalies” make up much of the CTs’ favourite “evidence”. There are a number of Apollo photos, which, they claim, “prove” that the missions were faked in a studio. In most cases, all that these arguments prove is the CTs’ ignorance!
Before I go onto any specifics, I’ll deal with a general point. Some CTs have hired expert photographers to examine the photos, and whenever one of these experts is unable to explain a particular feature, they claim it as “proof” that the photo was faked. Of course, this proves nothing of the sort. The people concerned are experts in photography on Earth, but they don’t possess any expert knowledge of the lunar surface or its peculiar lighting characteristics. It’s unlike any place they have ever worked, or any lighting conditions they have ever encountered; therefore, with due respect to them, they are not qualified to pass judgments. ( And in fairness, some of them don’t try to do so. They simply state that they are not able to explain this or that, or that such and such looks a bit strange – and then the CTs somehow interpret that as meaning that the photo must have been faked! )
Jones mentions a number of specific examples; the photos can be viewed on NASA’s archive web site, http://lunar.arc.nasa.gov/archives/images/USA . Frankly, I can’t be bothered to look them up and deal with them individually, as each is simply an example of a class of “anomaly” which has been widely discussed on numerous web sites. He then says, “There are many more examples of images that are not right, and which may be described as fakes” – but declines to list any of them.
I’ll look here at a few of the general types of “anomaly” which the CTs keep bringing up.
Shadows, hot spots and heiligenschein: They claim that many photos contain apparent “hot spots”, which indicate that the subject was lit by spotlights. Most of these can be explained by a well-known phenomenon known as heiligenschein ( from the German for “holy light” or halo ). This can often be observed – and photographed - on Earth; stand on wet grass early in the morning, when the Sun is low in the sky, and with your back to the Sun. You’ll see an apparent halo around the head of your shadow on the ground – though another person standing a little to your side won’t see it. There have even been stories of people who interpreted this effect as actually being a “halo”, in the religious meaning of the word, and believed themselves to have been given some special blessing by God, or something of the sort!
This is because the water droplets strongly reflect light back in the direction from which it came. The effect can also be observed on certain other surfaces; Phil Plait says, “The effect is also very strong in fine, disturbed dust like that in a baseball diamond infield”. Knowing nothing about baseball, I’ll take his word for that one! Not surprisingly, then, the same applies to the fine surface dust on the Moon.
CTs also make a big deal about various photos in which objects which should be in shadow, judging by the direction of the Sun, are in fact brightly illuminated. Many of these effects can also be explained by heiligenschein. Even if the photographer isn’t facing directly away from the Sun, the back-scattered light can effectively illuminate other objects – especially objects which are highly reflective, such as a white spacesuit or the LM descent stage ( which was covered with gold mylar ).
To quote Phil Plait: “Let's say the sun is off to the right in a picture. It is illuminating the right side of the lander, and the left is in shadow. However, the sunlight falling beyond the lander on the left is being reflected back toward the Sun. That light hits the surface and reflects to the right and up, directly onto the shadowed part of the lander. In other words, the lunar surface is so bright that it easily lights up the shadows of vertical surfaces.”
Another common CT argument also involves shadows. They point out that in many photos, different objects cast shadows which are not parallel, and claim that this “proves” that there were multiple light sources, i.e. spotlights in the faking studio.
D’ohhhh! Anyone who believes that is severely lacking not only in scientific knowledge, but in common sense! If there were multiple light sources, then wouldn’t there also be multiple shadows? Think of a floodlit football match at night; each player has four shadows pointing in four directions, cast by the four light sources!
As for the shadows not being parallel; haven’t these people heard of perspective? The shadows don’t appear to be parallel, simply because a photograph is a projection of a three-dimensional scene onto a two-dimensional surface. If the Sun is behind the photographer, then the shadows of objects on each side of the picture will appear to converge, just as the rails of a railway track appear to converge in the distance. If the Sun is to the side, then perspective causes other distortions, with the shadows of close and more distant objects apparently non-parallel. Other distortions of shadows are simply due to the fact that the ground isn’t flat.
These effects can easily be reproduced on Earth, simply by going outdoors on any sunny day – showing that the CTs aren’t very observant, along with their other deficiencies. For a nice example, see this site: http://www.apollo-hoax.me.uk/strangeshadows.html . This shows an Apollo photo with a rock in the foreground and the LM in the background, apparently casting non-parallel shadows. This is followed by a common or garden Earth photo taken by the author, showing exactly the same effect. Any one of us could probably find pictures in our holiday albums, which show similar effects.
Another “hoax” debunker, Ian Goddard, has produced some neat demonstrations of various lighting effects, using a toy LM and astronaut, illuminated by a single lamp to simulate the Sun, to reproduce exactly the “anomalies” which the CTs hold up as proof of faking. You can see these at http://www.iangoddard.net/moon01.htm .
“Identical backgrounds”: Another common CT claim is that “photos supposedly taken from different places have identical backgrounds, proving that the same artificial backdrop was used when faking them.” For example, a so-called “documentary”, broadcast by an American TV company in 2001, makes a big deal of two particular pictures. One shows the LM in the foreground, and a mountain scene in the background; the other shows what is clearly the same mountain in the background, but no LM. This, they claim, is proof that both were faked using the same backdrop.
( N.B. I haven’t seen this TV programme. I’ve obtained this description of its content, and the following explanation, from Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy site; the “hoax debunking” section of this site was written in direct response to the programme, and debunks each of the specific claims made in it. )
These pictures prove no such thing. The difficulty here is that of gauging distances on the Moon, or in the photos. On Earth, we have two ways of estimating the distances of background objects. Firstly, we know the true sizes of familiar objects, such as houses or trees, so their apparent sizes indicate their distances. Secondly, distant objects tend to appear hazy or fuzzy, due to atmospheric haze.
On the Moon, of course, there’s no atmospheric haze, so objects as far away as the horizon still appear sharp and distinct. The lack of any familiar objects by which to gauge sizes also makes it very difficult to judge distances; some of the astronauts remarked on this difficulty. If you see a rock in the background of a photo, it’s very hard to tell whether it’s one metre across and 100 metres away, or ten metres across and a kilometre away!
In the two photos in question, the background mountains may appear to be close, because they are nice and sharp – but they are in fact several kilometres in the distance. The LM in the first picture is only a few tens of metres from the photographer. Between taking the two, the astronaut simply moved a couple of hundred metres to the side – hence no LM in the second picture, but the mountains still appear almost the same.
Almost – but not quite. There would, of course, be an apparent, but slight, sideways shift of the mountains due to parallax. This is barely noticeable when you simply look at the pictures side by side. But take a look at this site: http://www.hypnoide.com/moon/ . The author has created an animation which superimposes the two photos on top of each other, and alternates between them – rather like a blink comparator, for the astronomers among us. Here, the parallax shift of the mountains is immediately obvious, proving conclusively that we are looking at a distant background, photographed from two viewpoints a short distance apart.
The beauty of this is that the author of this site is himself a CT! ( For those who can’t read French, the caption below the animation translates as “The same backdrop was used for both photos…” ) He is apparently trying to prove that the photos were faked, but ends up doing the exact opposite! A lovely example of a naive CT demolishing his own argument!
I’ll mention one other specific photo, which the CTs triumphantly brandish as “proof”.
The “C Rock”: This is a photo taken during Apollo 16. When a foreground rock is enlarged, it appears to have a letter C on it. The CTs claim that this is a prop marking, used on the film set to indicate where the rock was to be placed, and someone was so careless as to place it the wrong way round, so that the marking was visible!
As a certain famous American would say – “You cannot be serious!” If the “letter” on the rock was, say, a perfectly formed A or E, then they would have a point – but explaining an apparent C is simplicity itself. How about a tiny hair or fibre, which fell onto the paper when the picture was being printed?
For the sake of thoroughness, hoax debunker Steve Troy has investigated this in great detail. He found that the C does not appear on the original print of the picture in the NASA archives, or on copies held in several other archives. Yet it does appear in an image on a NASA website – which must have been made by scanning one of the prints. It turned out that the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston has two prints of this picture, one of which shows the C. This print is, in fact, a copy of a copy of the original. Looking at it under a magnifying glass clearly shows that the so-called letter is indeed nothing more than a hair or fibre; it even casts a shadow! The “C Rock” picture, and an account of Troy’s detective work, can be found at http://www.lunaranomalies.com/c-rock.htm .
Finally, there are a handful of “photographic anomalies”, which at first sight, don’t appear to have a rational explanation. For example, the aforementioned TV programme included two video segments from Apollo 16, which showed the astronauts on what was clearly the same hill – yet NASA claimed that they had been taken during two different EVAs, on different days, at locations two miles apart. Jones also comments on this one.
Wow – so someone made a mistake! There are tens of thousands of images in the NASA archives, and all of them had to be catalogued and indexed. Surely it’s inevitable that a few mistakes were made! In this case, says Phil Plait, an investigation soon revealed that it was just a simple mistake; in reality, the two pictures were taken three minutes apart. Remember what I said in Section 3.1 about Occam’s Razor?
Incidentally, Jones’ narrative on “photographic anomalies” reveals that he hasn’t even bothered to check the most basic of facts. When commenting on the above, he says, “On another EVA to and from a site near Hadley, Young makes a similar remark…” John Young was indeed the Commander of Apollo 16, but it was Apollo 15 which landed at Hadley Rille. Apollo 16 landed in the Descartes region, some 1600 miles away.

3.20. “What still film was used?”

NASA says that it was “ordinary Ektachrome 160 ASA film emulsion”; this was stated in 1969, and confirmed on a web site in 1997. Yet other sources, says Jones, say that a special transparency film was created for the missions under a NASA contract, and that “ordinary Ektachrome slide film will shatter at 4°F.”
This is yet another “discrepancy” that isn’t – and shows that Jones is ignorant of photography, on top of everything else. Read that first statement again; it was “ordinary Ektachrome 160 ASA film emulsion” – the emulsion being the chemical mixture which forms the image. The part about the film shattering at a low temperature is referring to the base – the celluloid material which forms a solid base to carry the emulsion!
So the simple explanation is – the film consisted of ordinary Ektachrome emulsion, on a base which was specially made to withstand extreme temperatures. This was made from polyester material, rather than celluloid, and was similar to the film which had already been used for years aboard high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. And if anyone doubts that some types of film base can withstand very low temperatures – think again. Astrophotographers – at least, those who were around before the CCD era, and actually use old-fashioned film – are familiar with the concept of a “cold camera”, which uses dry ice ( frozen carbon dioxide, at -80°C ) to cool the film to increase its sensitivity.

3.21. “In a vacuum there is no heat?”

Frankly, I’m baffled as to exactly what point Jones is trying to make here! He presents another unattributed statement ( probably another which he has made up ): “So it may be +200°F in the lunar sunlight and -200°F in the shade, but in a vacuum there is no heat.” He then declares this wrong, and there follows a lot of waffle about energy flux and the solar irradiance, designed to convince his reader that he knows his physics. But he doesn’t produce any conclusion which has anything to do with Apollo!
I think what he is getting at is as follows; he believes that the astronauts and the LM would be subjected to intolerable heating on the lunar surface, and then claims that “NASA believers” try to get around this “problem” by saying that there is no heat in a vacuum.
Of course, that statement is misleading – and no-one who knows their physics would ever have said it! In a thermodynamic sense, there is no heat in a vacuum – but obviously, heat is transmitted through a vacuum by radiative transfer. How else does it reach the Earth from the Sun? So it’s equally obvious that the astronauts and LM were subjected to heating by the Sun’s infrared radiation; it just wasn’t an insurmountable problem, as he appears to think.
Surely it’s reasonable to think that the people who designed the LM and the astronauts’ spacesuits understood the thermal properties of space, and took account of them! The LM’s hull was covered with highly reflective gold mylar to reduce its heat absorption – and in any case, much of the heat absorbed by the side facing the Sun would have been radiated back into space at its other side, which faced into the colder shadow. The spacesuits had a built-in cooling system, whereby excess heat was dissipated by a “radiator” in the backpack.
This is a pointless argument anyway, since any heating problems experienced by spacecraft and astronauts on the lunar surface apply equally to those in Earth orbit, such as the shuttle, the International Space Station and astronauts making EVAs from them. And no-one is claiming that they are not real!

3.22. “The noon day temperature misconception.”

Once again, the misconception is on Jones’ part. He points out that the temperature on the lunar surface varies between about -200°F at night and +200°F at midday. Remember that the Moon’s “day” and “night” each last 14 Earth days; all the landings took place during the lunar “morning”.
Jones says: “Claims that astronauts landed on the Moon during the ‘lunar morning’ in order to ‘avoid noon day heat’ are ridiculous… Heating to +200°F or more can happen in less than 24 hours of exposure to sunlight on the Moon’s surface. Here’s how; surface temperatures ( not the regular air temperature measurements ) may reach 200°F on Earth in places like deserts. If we consider that during the night, the temperature may have dropped to near freezing, then we may note that the Sun’s energy, in a matter of only a few hours, will have brought about a temperature rise of 200°F…”
What he says about Earth’s deserts is true – but it is not a valid comparison with the Moon. The reason that the temperature rises so quickly on Earth is because the Sun climbs high into the sky within those few hours.
The amount of radiation falling on a square metre of surface depends strongly upon the angle of incidence. It’s a maximum when the Sun is directly overhead ( which can only happen in the tropics ), and falls to zero when the Sun is on the horizon. ( The reason that nighttime temperatures on Earth don’t plummet to -200°F or so is because heat is also carried by convection in the atmosphere, so a certain amount of energy from the sunlit side of the planet reaches the dark side. )
Suppose that when the Sun is directly overhead ( e.g. at noon on the Equator at an equinox, or on the Tropic of Cancer at the Summer Solstice ), the power per unit area of its infrared radiation reaching the ground is P – measured in watts per square metre. At another time, when the radiation strikes the ground at an angle q to the vertical, that power is reduced to P cos q ( Fig. 7 ). Early in the morning, when the Sun is only a few degrees above the horizon, this is only a small fraction of P.

Fig. 7

This is why, on summer mornings, it can be quite chilly when we first get up, but the temperature increases dramatically by midday. It has little to do with the length of time the Sun has been up, but is mostly to do with its height in the sky. It’s also why we have such a difference in temperature between summer and winter at temperate latitudes – because the Sun doesn’t rise as high in the sky in winter. It also explains why the equator is hot and the polar regions cold, and why the poles remain cold during their respective summers, despite receiving six months of constant sunlight. None of those things can be explained by using Jones’ “logic”!
Applying the same logic to the Moon, we see that the temperature does not rise from minimum to maximum within a matter of hours, but does so very gradually over a period of about seven days. So the logic behind landing in the lunar morning is perfectly sound.

3.23. “How much insulation does it take to keep an astronaut warm?”

As Jones correctly says, the problem was not that of keeping the astronauts warm, but of keeping them cool. Once again, it’s obvious that their spacesuits were designed with this in mind; they were cooled by circulating water, with excess heat dissipated by a “radiator” in the backpack.
In one version of his article which he posted on the web, Jones talks about how much heat the human body would have to radiate to space to maintain its normal temperature, and concludes that this would be sustainable on the Moon. He appears to be dismissing this subject as not supporting the “hoax” claim. However, in another version, he claims that the Apollo astronauts’ cooling system would not have worked.
Once again, the necessity to keep astronauts cool applies equally to shuttle and ISS crews when they make EVAs – and no-one is disputing that their cooling systems work. A remarkable piece of selective thinking.

3.24. “Can the Moon rocks be faked?”

No-one who actually knows the slightest thing about physics, geology or astronomy would waste a minute of their time thinking about this one!
Firstly, pieces of the Apollo rock samples have been examined by thousands of scientists around the world – the vast majority of whom had no connection with NASA or the United States government. So if the samples had somehow been faked, it would have to have been done in such an ingenious manner as to fool all those experts.
Secondly, the chemical and isotopic composition of the lunar rocks is unlike that of any rocks found on Earth – the result of billions of years of bombardment by cosmic ray particles and charged particles from the Solar Wind. This bombardment doesn’t happen on Earth, as most of the particles are stopped either by the van Allen belts or by our atmosphere. The samples contain some isotopes, such as beryllium-10, which are almost non-existent on Earth – so how were those isotopes put there, if the rocks were faked?
I don’t doubt that it would have been possible to manufacture some of these isotopes in nuclear reactors or particle accelerators – but only in minute quantities, and at a cost of perhaps several million dollars per gram. Yet the total amount of rock samples returned by the six landing missions was about 300 kg!
Thirdly, between 1970 and 1976, three Soviet Luna probes returned a small amount of lunar rock samples robotically. The composition of those samples, naturally, proved to be consistent with that of the Apollo samples. So the CTs would have us believe that the Apollo rocks were faked, in such an ingenious manner as to make their composition consistent with that of the Luna samples, before the latter had been returned. Ahem.
Finally, in 1969, no-one knew how the Moon was formed, or how long ago. There was no way of knowing whether it was as old as the Earth or significantly younger, or whether it had formed together with the Earth, or been captured at a later time, or been ejected from the Earth by a collision with another smaller body. We still don’t know for sure, but the majority of astronomers now favour the latter hypothesis.
But the currently favoured theory of the Moon’s origin was not proposed until 1984! It was proposed as a result of astronomical theories of the formation of the Solar System, and had nothing to do with the Apollo samples. But it would not have been plausible, unless the age of the samples had proved to be consistent with it.
So again, if the rocks were faked, then their creators must have been endowed with remarkable psychic powers! They inserted radioisotopes into the rocks in exactly the right proportions as to indicate an age consistent with a theory of lunar evolution, which wouldn’t even be thought of until 15 years in the future! Remarkable indeed.

3.25. “Is unmanned retrieval of Moon rocks possible? Definitely.”

The inference here is that the existence of genuine lunar rock samples doesn’t prove that astronauts brought them back; they could have been secretly returned by an unmanned robotic probe. Or rather, by six of them, since the samples were returned from six different regions on the Moon, with different geological properties.
Of course the retrieval of samples by unmanned probes is possible – because it has been done, by three Soviet Luna probes. The Soviet Union first attempted this with Luna 15, launched three days before Apollo 11, in an audacious attempt to steal some of NASA’s glory. Unfortunately for them, the probe failed and crashed. The first successful automatic retrieval was achieved by Luna 16 in September 1970; after a further failure, the feat was repeated by Luna 20 in February 1972. Then followed a third failure, and a final success with Luna 24 in 1976.
But each of these probes returned a mere 100 grams of samples ( 170 grams for Luna 24 ) – a tiny fraction of the quantities returned by the Apollo missions. Apollo 11 returned 21 kg of rocks; by the last two landings, this had increased to around 100 kg per mission.
Of course, given that the Russians could do it on a small scale, perhaps NASA could have done it on a bigger scale. But we need to ask two questions:
a. Would this have been easier to achieve than the manned landings?
b. Could they have done it in secret?
The answer to both is a resounding “no”!
Robotic landings are definitely not easier to achieve than manned ones. While several small probes – both American and Russian - were successfully soft-landed on the Moon before Apollo, there were also a number of failures along the way. As for automatic sample returns, the Russians didn’t achieve one until more than a year after Apollo 11, and had only three successes out of six attempts. The reason that it’s more difficult is pretty obvious; it’s much easier for a human pilot to react to unexpected circumstances, than for an automated system being controlled from 400000 km away! Suppose, for example, that during the final approach, the intended landing site is seen to be strewn with dangerous boulders which could damage the spacecraft. A human pilot can make a split second decision, take over manual control and steer his spacecraft to land in a safer spot – which is exactly what Neil Armstrong did. Programming an automated lander to do that is much more difficult; I’m sure it can be done quite reliably now – but it couldn’t in the 1960s.
Even today, with vastly more sophisticated computer technology, landing robotic probes on planetary surfaces is far from easy; even within the last few years, several Mars probes have failed.
We can therefore conclude that, if NASA had the capability to return samples robotically in 1969, then achieving the manned landings was actually easy in comparison!
Now for the second question; could it have been done in secret? Consider the size of spacecraft which would have been required to do the job. Luna 16, which returned all of 100 grams of samples, weighed over five tons at launch, and required the Soviet Union’s biggest launch vehicle to launch it. ( Remember that kinetic energy is proportional to the square of velocity; accelerating a given mass to escape velocity takes twice as much energy as simply lifting the same mass into orbit. )
So how big would a robot probe need to be, which was capable of returning rock samples by the 100 kg? Nowhere near the size of an Apollo spacecraft, but at least as big as Luna 16, and probably a fair bit bigger – I would guess somewhere between five and ten tons in mass. To send such a thing to the Moon would require a pretty powerful rocket – nothing like the Saturn V, but something at least the size of the Titan 3C, which was used to launch the Voyager spacecraft and the Viking Mars probes. ( The Surveyor lunar landers weighed a mere one ton, and were launched by the Atlas-Centaur, which itself was not exactly puny. )
So would it have been possible to launch half a dozen rockets of Titan 3C size in secret, without it quickly becoming common knowledge, and the media speculating about what exactly was being launched? Anyone who thinks so is definitely a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic.

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