6. "And Finally..."
In this final section, I’ll present a couple of “pro-Apollo” arguments, which should hammer the final nail into the coffin of this ludicrous “conspiracy” business – at least as far as anyone capable of rational thought is concerned!
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6.1. The Hammer and Feather
In the 17th Century, decades before Newton’s Law of Gravity was formulated, Galileo Galilei realised that all falling objects accelerate at the same rate, regardless of their mass; previously, it had been thought that heavier objects fell faster. Legend has it that he tested his theory by dropping objects from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, though no-one is sure whether he actually did this, or just visualised it as a thought experiment.
On Earth, of course, this often doesn’t appear to be the case. In our everyday experience, very lightweight objects, such as a feather, fall much more slowly than heavier ones, such as a hammer – because they float on currents of air. This was what had confused the ancients. In a vacuum, we would expect a hammer and a feather to fall at the same rate.
Dave Scott, the Commander of Apollo 15, performed a simple demonstration on the lunar surface to illustrate this principle. He simultaneously dropped a rock hammer and a feather – having carried the latter to the Moon for the purpose – from an equal height. Sure enough, they hit the ground simultaneously, exactly as per Galileo and Newton. The feather, incidentally, came from a falcon, as Scott’s LM was named Falcon .
Jim McDade once appeared on an American TV chat show, together with prominent CT Bart Sibrel. He showed the video of Scott’s experiment, and challenged Sibrel to explain how it could have been done, if the mission had been faked in a studio on Earth. Obviously, it couldn’t – unless, of course, the studio had also been an enormous vacuum chamber! Oh, but that couldn’t have been the case, could it? – because Sibrel insists that the flag “waved in the breeze of the air conditioning”!
Sibrel responded by claiming that the feather had been a fake one, made of metal – which he believed would fall at the same rate as the hammer, even in air.
But wait a minute – how exactly would that have worked? How could anyone possibly make a fake feather out of metal, and make it look anything like the real thing? ( Remember that Apollo 15 returned good-quality colour TV pictures, not the fuzzy black and white of Apollo 11. ) To make it look realistic, the metal would surely have had to be extremely thin, like a sheet of aluminium foil – and if such an object had been dropped in air, it would have floated on air currents in pretty much the same way as a real feather! D’ohhh!
And how would you explain the slow rate of falling, if the experiment had actually been done under Earth gravity? The film was slowed down, said Sibrel.
Oh, really? So in the film – which was broadcast live to the world, remember! – the motion of the hammer and feather was slowed down to mimic falling under lunar gravity, while Scott’s body movements, and his verbal commentary, continued to run at normal speed!
I don’t doubt that such an effect could be faked in a film now – but not in 1971! When CTs make claims about such and such a visual effect being faked, they often seem to make the mistake of thinking that film makers had the same technology available to them 30 years ago as they do today. Of course, they didn’t; the kind of computer graphics which are used today to create cinematic special effects still lay many years in the future at the time of Apollo.
As an example of the way film making has progressed, let’s consider the science fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey . This was produced at the same time as the Apollo missions were being planned; it was released in cinemas in 1968. Some years ago, a TV documentary was made about the making of 2001 , which revealed how some of the special effects were achieved.
One “zero-gravity” scene is set aboard a spacecraft en route to the space station. A passenger has fallen asleep, and has let go of his pen, which is floating in mid-air a few inches from his hand, slowly turning end over end. As a stewardess comes along the aisle – walking with Velcro shoes gripping the carpet – she plucks the pen out of the air, and puts it in the man’s pocket.
So how did they make the pen float in mid-air? Today, producing such an effect would be child’s play; anyone with a good knowledge of computer graphics could probably do it on his home PC! But in the 1960s, this simple effect represented quite a challenge for the special effects people; without graphics software to enable them to artificially superimpose pictures, they could only film what was actually there , in the scene. The effect was achieved by sticking the pen onto a Perspex disc, which was slowly rotated in the plane of the picture. This was state of the art film making in the Apollo era!
I’ll mention something else about 2001. In the novel, the spacecraft Discovery goes to Saturn; the author, Arthur C. Clarke, had a good reason for making that the destination. But in the film version, the mission only goes to Jupiter. Why? Because even for the best special effects experts of the era, producing realistic backdrops for Saturn proved an impossible task.
Some CTs even claim that Stanley Kubrick, the producer of 2001, was hired by NASA to film the faked Moon landings – presumably because he created scenes in the film which were set on the Moon. But for all Kubrick’s brilliance, and that of his special effects artists, there was one thing which couldn’t be done – a realistic portrayal of people walking on the Moon! At that time, no-one knew exactly how astronauts would move around in lunar gravity; the Apollo crews had to work it out as they went along, and found the characteristic “bunny hop” gait to be the most efficient method. But in the lunar scenes of 2001, the actors walk exactly as if they are walking on Earth – because they were!
So if you still think that such effects as the hammer and feather experiment could have been faked, as Sibrel and Co. casually suggest – re-read the above, and think again.
[ Update, May 2014: I have just discovered an excellent online video, in which Jesus Diaz, a veteran film maker, proves definitively why it would have been utterly impossible, in 1969, to fake the film of the Apollo EVAs, which was broadcast to the world – because the necessary film technology simply didn’t exist. This can be found at
My thanks to Peter Rea, for bringing this to my attention. ]
6.2. Why would they fake things going wrong?
In Section 3.16, I mentioned the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, and asked this question: 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? Surely, if that was the case, they would have claimed that everything was going faultlessly! There is certainly no imaginable reason why they would pretend that a faked mission had failed to achieve its objective of landing on the Moon.
Apollo 13 has been rightly described as NASA’s Finest Hour. I won’t tell the story in detail here, as it has been told in numerous books, TV documentaries, and of course the excellent film Apollo 13. But briefly; the spacecraft was crippled by an explosion in the SM during the outward flight, leaving the CM without power, water or oxygen supply. 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. Their lives were saved by an intense coordinated effort of hundreds of people on the ground, who worked out such things as how to make the LM’s meagre power reserves last long enough to get them home, and how to make a makeshift air conditioner from items carried aboard the spacecraft, to prevent a potentially fatal buildup of carbon dioxide.
There were also a number of other, far less serious mishaps which occurred during other Apollo missions; some of these were merely embarrassing, while others threatened to jeopardise the missions. Some of them were seen or heard live by TV audiences; all of them have been extensively documented in books and other sources.
On Apollo 7, the first manned test flight of the CSM, NASA suffered something of a public relations nightmare, with the case of the “Grumpy Commander”. The mission’s Commander, Wally Schirra, complained about the workload which his crew was given, and took it upon himself to override some of their schedules. ( He was hampered by a heavy cold which he developed during the flight, which probably contributed to his bad temper. ) At one point, he refused to perform a requested TV transmission, with a terse “No further discussion”, prompting newspaper headlines such as “Captain awakes grumpy”.
On Apollo 9, a scheduled EVA by “rookie” astronaut Russell Schweickart had to be postponed, because Schweickart was suffering from space sickness. Had he not recovered, the EVA would have had to be cancelled – which would have prevented the mission achieving its vital objectives – as vomiting in a spacesuit could have been fatal.
Apollo 10, the “dress rehearsal” mission, had to contend with a rather more serious problem. Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan flew their LM down to within a few miles of the lunar surface. When they separated the stages, and fired the ascent stage engine to return to orbit, a malfunction in the manoeuvring thrusters sent the craft into a dangerous spin for several seconds, before Stafford managed to regain control.
This led to another PR problem; during the scare, Cernan, live on air, let out a brief burst of “inappropriate” language. Unbelievably, some people actually wrote letters of complaint to NASA about this – despite the fact that Cernan had been involved in a life-threatening crisis at the time!
Apollo 12 almost didn’t even make it into orbit! It was launched during a thunderstorm, and 36 seconds after liftoff, the spacecraft was struck by lightning, causing a number of circuit breakers to trip and shut down vital systems. The power was restored, due to the quick thinking of one flight controller – but for a few moments, the mission came close to being aborted.
Later in the mission, Pete Conrad and Alan Bean were scheduled to transmit colour TV pictures from the Moon, using a tripod-mounted camera. But as Bean panned the camera around before mounting it on the tripod, he accidentally aimed it too close to the Sun, and it stopped working. The TV pictures didn’t happen – though Bean tried to fix the camera in the finest DIY tradition, by hitting it with his geology hammer!
The Apollo 14 crew had difficulty extracting their LM from its storage position on the top of the Saturn V third stage; it took them six attempts to dock with it. For a time, it appeared that the docking mechanism was faulty, and that their Moon landing would have to be abandoned.
Apollo 15 went without a hitch, until the very last minutes of the flight. On landing, one of the CM’s three parachutes failed to deploy, with the result that the capsule hit the water somewhat faster than intended. Luckily, the crew were unhurt.
Finally, during Apollo 16, came yet another PR embarrassment, with John Young’s unintentional transmission of naughty words from the Moon, when he accidentally left his microphone switched on ( see Section 5.4 ).
So I’ll ask once again; how do you explain all these mishaps and embarrassments, if everything was being staged in a studio?
6.3. The Final Word: How could it have been faked?
The very simplest way to “prove” that the Apollo programme was not faked – not in an entirely scientific manner this time, but still in a thoroughly logical manner – is to consider the gigantic scale of the conspiracy which would have been required, and the sheer impossibility of pulling it off! We’re talking about a scam involving hundreds of thousands of people and billions of dollars of public money, carried out in such a foolproof way that the truth is kept hidden from the world indefinitely. Indeed, it would have been an operation almost as complex and expensive as achieving the landings for real. To coordinate such an operation, and get away with it, would have required the kind of criminal genius who has never existed, except in the fantasy world of James Bond films!
Let’s think about what would actually have been involved in such a massive scam. Though much of what follows is obvious with a little rational thought, I must give credit to Jay Windley, who has pulled it all together in a coherent manner on www.clavius.org .
At its height, some 400000 people were involved in the Apollo project – the vast majority of whom were not employed by either NASA or the United States government, but by private companies. NASA does not build spacecraft, nor has it ever done; it contracts various companies – most of which are primarily aircraft manufacturers – to design and build the hardware. Due to the huge scale of Apollo, the work was divided between several prime contractors; North American Rockwell built the CSM, Grumman Aerospace the LM and Boeing the Lunar Rover. The Saturn V rocket was itself split between three contractors; the first, second and third stages were built by Boeing, North American Rockwell and McDonnell Douglas respectively. That’s four very big companies, each of which would have had to be “in on it”, had the project been faked. And each of those in turn would have subcontracted parts of the work to other companies.
First of all, why would NASA have wanted to fake the Apollo landings? To quote Windley: “The most foolproof way of convincing somebody that you did something is to actually do it. Nothing is more convincing than the truth.” So if it was deemed necessary to fake the landings, then that presumably means that it had proved impossible to actually do it – or at least, impossible to do it within the required timescale. So any conspiracy theory, which claims that the landings were faked, depends on the premise that faking the whole project was easier to accomplish than doing the real thing.
But the sheer scale of the operation, and the division of work between so many contractors, presents serious problems for any such theory. CTs will argue that there are two possible scenarios; either
a. The entire 400000-strong workforce was “in on it”, and every one of them has kept his or her mouth shut for 40 years, or
b. Only a small number of people at senior levels were in on the secret, while the rank and file workers were fooled along with everyone else.
Let’s consider the first scenario. This assumes that the entire project, at every stage, was a pretence; apart from a rocket which was launched into orbit, and a command module which returned to Earth, the hardware didn’t actually need to work. So NASA paid each contractor handsomely, to simply pretend that it was building a working spacecraft. Grumman, for example, merely needed to pretend to be building a Lunar Module; it didn’t need to work. The company’s management, having been given a huge amount of bribe money by the Government, then gave every one of its workers a hefty “bonus”, to go through the motions and keep quiet about what was really going on.
OK, so how would this actually work? The bribe given to each worker would have to be enough to ensure that he would keep his mouth shut, not only for the duration of the project, but for the rest of his life. It would have to be big enough to overcome even the strongest conscience, and to ensure that no-one would ever spill the beans to the press, in return for an even bigger bribe. To achieve such an aim, the money given to each person would have to be substantially more than he could ever hope to earn by doing his job normally; as a reasonable assumption, each person would have to be “bought” with a lump sum equal to several years’ salary.
If such a thing had actually happened, then there would surely be masses of evidence! After all, there is no point in having lots of money, if you are not able to spend it, is there? No-one would have been able to give up their job and retire on their lump sum, because to the outside world, they would all have had to be seen to be doing their jobs. So surely people would have spent their new-found wealth on luxuries, and improvements to their families’ lifestyle. Certain American cities, where the contractors’ sites were located, would have seen the strange phenomenon of thousands of lowly production line workers suddenly buying big houses and driving Ferraris; this could hardly have gone unnoticed!
Now consider the amount of money which would be involved here. Suppose that the average bribe paid per person was $20000 – which in the 1960s, was the equivalent of several years’ salary for a production line worker. Multiplying this by 400000 people means that the government would have had to spend $8 billion – a third of the entire cost of Apollo - in bribe money alone! And that’s $8 billion in 1960s money – the equivalent of well over $100 billion in today’s terms. Even the richest nation on Earth couldn’t possibly hope to “hide” several billion dollars of taxpayers’ money.
Furthermore, this scenario assumes that everyone can be bought. Are we supposed to believe that, among those 400000 people, there wasn’t a single one, with enough of a conscience to refuse to go along with the scam, no matter how much money they were offered? And what about workers who were later sacked or made redundant? Wouldn’t some of them have jumped at the chance to get their own back on their former employers, by spilling the beans to the press?
There is yet another problem. In this scenario, each paid-off person would surely have had to let his immediate family in on the secret, in order to explain where his sudden “windfall” had come from. This means that instead of 400000 people in on it, there would have been around two million – or about one percent of the United States’ population.
It’s obvious that as the number of people entrusted with a secret increases, the probability of it remaining secret decreases. In fact, it decreases exponentially. If the number of people entrusted is doubled, then the probability of keeping the secret is not merely halved, but quartered.
Suppose that for any given individual, the average probability of him keeping the secret is p - which is a fraction less than one, as there will always be some chance, however small, of him inadvertently letting something slip to someone. Then if n people are entrusted with the secret, the overall probability of it remaining a secret becomes equal to pn; as p is less than one, this means the probability decreases as n increases. If n is doubled, the probability becomes p2n, and so on. Even if the probability of each individual giving the game away is only one in 1000 - which makes p equal to 0.999 - raising p to the power of 400000 leaves us with an infinitesimally small number!
So we can see that the idea of entrusting such a huge number of people with a secret, and expecting it to stay that way, is completely absurd.
OK, so bribery doesn’t work. Some CTs claim that the workers were silenced not by cash, but by death threats. Suppose every one of those 400000 people was visited by sinister government agents, who made it clear what would happen to him if he ever talked. That might have worked in the short term – but nearly four decades have now passed. Death threats only work for as long as the “victims” are still alive!
A substantial proportion of those people – quite possibly as many of half of them - must have died of natural causes by now. Many of them will have suffered slow and lingering deaths from such causes as cancer, and therefore would have known that their time was almost up for months in advance. Yet not a single person – in a country in which 40% of the population profess to be practicing Christians and churchgoers – has ever made a deathbed confession, or given an interview to the media, at a time when he no longer feared the consequences. Nor has anyone ever “blown the whistle” posthumously, by such means as filing a letter with his lawyer, to be opened after his death, or giving his next of kin the key to a safe deposit box in which he has left some incriminating document.
Finally, whether we assume that people were silenced by money, by threats or both, we still have the problem of the person who can’t be silenced. Surely there would have been at least one person, somewhere, whose conscience drove him to refuse to be a part of it, no matter what.
Around the same era, a New York detective named Frank Serpico was determined to expose large-scale corruption within the New York Police Department. His adversaries first tried to buy him off; after he refused their bribes, they resorted to threats. Even a failed attempt on his life – he was shot and critically wounded - didn’t dissuade him from doing what he believed he had to do. So as Windley asks, “Where is NASA’s Serpico?”
Now let’s consider the opposite scenario – the one in which only a bare minimum number of top-level NASA officials knew the truth, while most of their employees, and those of all the contractors, were duped along with the rest of the world. If this was the case, then nearly all of those thousands of people will go to their graves, truly believing that the Moon landings happened.
But again, what about the contractors? For this scenario to work, each contractor would have had to believe that it was really building a spacecraft capable of going to the Moon. Grumman would have to believe that it was really building a Lunar Module, North American would have to believe that it was really building a CSM, etc. And integration teams from each company would have to work with their counterparts from the other companies, all of them believing that they were assembling a working spacecraft.
NASA chose these companies to do the work, because they had the expertise to do it; if Grumman was asked to design and build the LM, then the company’s engineers would investigate all the problems involved in landing on the Moon, and set out to solve them. The inevitable result is that between them, the contractors would end up actually producing a spacecraft which worked! And if they managed to do that , then there was no reason why NASA couldn’t carry out the Apollo missions for real, and hence no need for any conspiracy at all!
So far, we have considered the two extremes. The CTs will doubtless claim that what really happened was something in between, in which the senior management of Grumman, North American, etc. knew the secret, and various other people, such as the most senior engineers, within each company were let in on it on a “need to know” basis. Once again, most of the rank and file workers were duped along with everyone else.
We have already established that leaving the contractors out of the conspiracy results in working hardware being produced, and therefore no need for a conspiracy. So what would happen, if the contractors were part of the conspiracy? Each company had its own hierarchy of managers and engineers who would have to be told, in order for the scam to work – say a couple of hundred people within each company. But how would the rest of the workforce have been fooled?
It’s quite feasible to suppose that the average production line worker, whose job was simply to make some small component, would have no idea whether or not he was genuinely helping to build a working spacecraft. Perhaps all of those people could have been fooled. But what about the engineers who did the design work, those who tested the hardware, and the integration specialists who mated all the components together? It would have been impossible to fool any of them for long; after all, they were all being employed for their technical expertise! The only way that those people could have been convinced that they were building a working spacecraft is if they actually were! So once again, we finish up with a spacecraft genuinely being built, which removes the need for a conspiracy.
The alternative would be to gradually reveal the secret to more and more people as the project progressed. Whenever a test engineer discovered that such and such a subsystem wasn’t going to work, he would be taken aside and told, “Don’t worry; it doesn’t have to work!”, and then his silence ensured by either bribery or threat. This way, it would be impossible to limit the “need to know” to a mere few hundred people, or even a few thousand; it would rapidly multiply to tens of thousands, and to a substantial proportion of the 400000 people. Once again, we have the problem of ensuring the silence of a huge number of people.
We can see, therefore, that there can be no “middle of the road” here! Any conceivable “need to know” scenario would inevitably evolve towards one or other of the extremes; it would either result in an impossibly vast conspiracy, or it would result in the production of viable hardware, and hence no conspiracy at all.
I therefore conclude that the entire concept of faking the Apollo missions – and getting away with it - was itself an impossibility – or at least, considerably more difficult than actually accomplishing the missions. Combine this logic with all the more technical evidence presented elsewhere in this essay, and we can confidently say:
The Apollo Moon landings were real. QED.
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