Man on Moon or Pie in Sky?
Was it really "One giant step for mankind," or just a case of "There's a sucker born every minute"?
As NASA celebrates the 30th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's landing on the moon Tuesday, a handful of researchers and authors stubbornly maintain that the whole thing was a hoax.
Ralph Rene, the New Jersey author of NASA Mooned America, claims to have researched the Apollo missions since 1992 and concludes that the flights were impossible since radiation from the sun is so high that the astronauts would have burned up in space.
"Anybody that claims that they went out through the Van Allen shield is a liar, which is why I call them Astro-Nots," said Rene.
Astronauts must pass through the Van Allen belts, a field of radioactive, high-energy protons, on their way to the moon.
"Those ships were composed of two pieces of aluminum foil with foam in between, and that would not stop the radiation," said Rene. "Before they’d got halfway there they’d all [have] been dying from radiation poisoning."
"[Their] suits can’t stop the radiation [either]," he added.
Needless to say, Rene's is a minority view.
"It's absolutely preposterous to say that there's been a subterfuge that has been going on for 30-plus years," said Douglas Osheroff, a professor of physics at Stanford University. "The guy's obviously a crackpot or a charlatan."
David Speich, a space scientist and weather forecaster at the Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colorado, which advises NASA on solar activity and radiation events, also says Rene's assertions are unfounded.
"It [radiation] is a concern," he said. "But when you go through the Van Allen belts in 10 minutes your total dose is pretty low. It’s not a big deal."
Besides the short time factor, Speich said that the astronauts are sufficiently protected by the spacecraft and their spacesuits.
David S. Percy, co-author of Dark Moon: Apollo and the Whistle-Blowers, has another theory. He believes that a manned mission to the moon occurred, but "the Apollo record is not a true and accurate visual account of what may have happened."
Percy believes that photographs documenting the Apollo moon landings between 1969 and 1972 are all fakes, and that whistle-blowers working for NASA deliberately encoded the mistakes so they would be revealed in the years to come.
According to Percy, the photographs and television coverage were created in some type of fake lunar setting before the mission took place.
Percy maintains that the "classic" photo of Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon was taken from eye-level or above, yet the gold visor shield reflects a camera shot from chest level. The reflection is therefore a fake, he says.
Percy also asserted that lighting was used in the still photographs, but that no lighting equipment was brought to the moon. And when the lunar module took off from the moon (as shown in television coverage), there would have been thick smoke from the hypergolic engines, he says, which does not appear on camera.
So why would NASA try and fool the public?
Percy maintains that NASA and the government masterminded the coverup because the voyage to the moon was so fraught with danger. The astronauts had to come home safely or the results would have been "totally unacceptable."
"The named Apollo astronauts probably remained in low Earth orbit whilst surrogate astronauts went to the moon," Percy said. He admitted that he hasn't tried to confirm his theory with any astronauts because "all of us have already heard their stories. They are part of the scenario."
Of the existence of a recently discovered Nixon speech prepared in case the mission failed and the astronauts died, Percy said: "That just helps with credibility [of the Apollo record] later."
For his part, Rene believes that the main motivation was money. The money for the Apollo missions was diverted for other purposes, he said, such as to fund the wars in Cambodia and Laos.
NASA dismissed the allegations.
"People are free to believe what they like," said NASA spokesman Brian Dunbar. "The public record is there. The lunar samples are at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. The astronauts have told their stories. To believe that it never happened is to believe that there was a global conspiracy that has lasted for 30 years."
"[It’s] contrary to human nature to believe that that many people can keep a secret for that long," Dunbar added.
But nonbelievers are serious about their claims.
Bill Kaysing, another theorist and author of We Never Went to the Moon, brought a libel lawsuit against astronaut James Lovell when Lovell referred to him as "wacky" in an article in Silicon Valley's MetroActive online newspaper.
Attempts to reach Kaysing by email and phone were unsuccessful. According to Rene, Kaysing has gone into hiding, though Rene did not know why.
The Kaysing-Lovell case was thrown out of court in 1997.