vol 4 issue 12

It was a fake, right?

6 July 2009
By Piers Bizony
Share |

One in four of the British people don't believe in the Apollo 11 Moon landing, according to a new survey for E&T. Conspiracy theorists say the pictures were faked in a studio. Here's their 'evidence', and the rebuttals to them, provided by E&T.

Flagging it up

Myth: The US flag deployed by Aldrin and Armstrong is waving in a breeze, thus proving that the astronauts were in a studio on Earth, and not on the Moon.

Fact: The flag was a dreadful design. Its uppermost edge was held rigid by a horizontal pole, which swivelled too easily at the point where it met the vertical mast. When the astronauts deployed the flag, it did wave about for quite a while, but this was residual momentum from contact with the astronauts - not the product of windy weather. In fact, that lack of wind resistance is precisely why the flag continued to drift back and forth for so long.

Crate expectations

Myth: There should have been a freshly gouged crater where the Lunar Module's descent engine blasted into the lunar soil.

Fact: The fine, powdery soil was disturbed by the downward-pointing jet of the exhaust, but the thrust was not sufficiently concentrated to gouge a crater in the topsoil, let alone its hard rocky substrate. In the vacuum of space, the LM's rocket exhaust splayed out sideways almost as soon as it escaped the engine's bell-shaped nozzle. The plume's impact on the Moon's surface was broad rather than focused.

A soft landing

Myth: There should be lots of kicked-up dust on the footpads, and on the LM generally.

Fact: Armstrong made a gentle touchdown. There is little dust because any disturbed grains of soil would have travelled some distance sideways before settling on the ground. There is no air on the Moon to slow them down. Two years later, Apollo 15's LM Falcon had a much rougher ride. Laden with extra equipment, they came down with a bump that rattled everything inside. Falcon's footpads dug deeper into the soil than the Eagle's.

Just look at those stars!

Myth: Countless stars should be visible in the black and airless lunar sky, yet there's not so much as a single speck.

Fact: An astronaut in a white spacesuit in bright sunlight needs an exposure of only a few fractions of a second, but stars are too distant and dim to register on normal photographic film unless very long exposure times are used. That's also why shuttles and space stations photographed in orbit appear against the same pure black sky.

Time and again, space travellers tell of the vast swathes of stars they can see, yet those stars never appear on their photos. Instruments such as the Hubble Space Telescope, directed towards stars and galaxies, often work with exposures lasting for hours, or even days.

Light trickery?

Myth: There should only be one concentrated and highly directional source of light in the pictures - the Sun - but many of the shots look as if they were snapped using broader and softer illumination. The harsh sunlight should create dazzling highlights opposed by pure black shadows, with no subtle shading; yet in most of the shots the astronauts seem softly lit. The shadows look as if they have been filled in by lights.

Fact: The astronauts are standing on a gigantic, bright, grey-white photographic reflector. It bounces a great deal of sunlight back into space. Photographers often use big reflector panels to 'fill in' shadow areas, especially when the Sun is bright, and the contrast range of the natural lighting is too wide for cameras. On the Moon, the astronauts are lit similarly, but by natural surroundings, not studio technicians.

My moon shadow and me

Myth: The shadows in the photographs sprawl off in different directions, suggesting multiple light sources, as in a studio.

Fact: Most of the photos were taken with wide-angle Hasselblad cameras. Multiple 'vanishing points' are inevitable in such shots.

Last word

And if none of this settles your argument with the conspiracy theorist sitting next to you at your next dinner party, point out that... Radio observers on Earth routinely timed and triangulated the signals from the Moon. Russia would have alerted the world if the radio data had seemed odd. And why would they fake it nine times, anyway?

Share |
Related forum discussions
  Topic Replies  
forum comment One in four of the British people don't believe in the Apollo 11 2 Reply

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1605

"We visit Barcelona, one of the smartest cities in the world, to find out what makes it so special. What does it look like and what is the future?"

E&T jobs

  • Senior Development Engineer, Electronics

    Premium job

    Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation
    • Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
    • Competitive

    We are an innovative, robust and fast growing business, whose main focus is to deliver continues improvement to existing products and offer new sol..

    • Recruiter: Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation

    Apply for this job

  • Smart Grid Research Engineer

    Premium job

    University of Strathclyde
    • Cumbernauld, Glasgow
    • Grade: 6/7* £26,537 - £37,768*

    Work as part of a growing dynamic team on a wide range of technical projects with particular emphasis on experimental validation and testing

    • Recruiter: University of Strathclyde

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Asset Specialist

    Affinity Water
    • Hatfield, Hertfordshire

    Responsible for updating and writing electrical engineering standards, approved codes of practice and safe systems of work

    • Recruiter: Affinity Water

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Electronics Engineer

    York Instruments
    • York, North Yorkshire

    Senior electronics engineer to work as part of a team developing an MEG imaging system; working with the engineering team and external contractors.

    • Recruiter: York Instruments

    Apply for this job

  • Manufacturing Engineer - Circuit Card Assembly

    MBDA
    • Lostock Junction
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    What’s the opportunity?   Manufacturing UK is an integral part of the Operations Directorate whose principal mission is to ensure that MBDA’s deliverable commitments are met...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • High Voltage Engineer

    Premium job

    Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment
    • Great Dunmow, Essex

    This High Voltage Engineer will provide design leadership for high voltage cable assemblies up to one megavolt.

    • Recruiter: Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment

    Apply for this job

  • Team Leader - Flank Arrays

    BAE Systems
    • Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria, England
    • Negotiable

    Team Leader - Flank Arrays Would you like to work in a unique role within the construction of the Astute Class submarines? We currently have a vacancy for a Team Leader - Flank Arrays at our site in Barrow-in-Furness. As a Team Leader - Flank Arrays, you

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Electronics and Software Engineer

    Copley Scientific Ltd
    • Nottingham
    • circa £35,000 per annum + bonus

    Develop new test equipment for the pharmaceutical industry. Good opportunities to grow and develop. Successful family-owned and managed business.

    • Recruiter: Copley Scientific Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Intelligent Transport Systems Engineer - Highways Technology

    Premium job

    Mott MacDonald
    • Birmingham, West Midlands

    Our transport technology team in Birmingham is currently growing a highly skilled and customer-focused team to...

    • Recruiter: Mott MacDonald

    Apply for this job

  • Analogue Electronics Engineer

    Premium job

    Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF)
    • Uppsala (Stad) (SE)

    The Swedish Institute of Space Institute (IRF) in Uppsala search for an analogue electronics engineer.

    • Recruiter: Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF)

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T