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About this book

This book is about the American moon-landings – and about the doubts expressed ever since concerning the reality of these landings. Were the images of men on the moon really just a huge and cleverly executed hoax? Eversberg explains the best-known claims and conspiracy theories, and analyses the evidence with the help of detailed full-colour images, as well as numerous film documents that can be accessed directly from the book. He addresses both the persistent older claims and more recently devised doubts. The book will inform and entertain a wide range of readers interested in space exploration and tells a gripping story covering physics, politics and history.

Table of Contents


1. Prologue: The Conspiracy of the Faked Moon Landings

A couple of years ago, many friends of mine asked whether I actually believed in the American Moon landings of the 60s and 70s. I was not the least bit surprised about this question. When I was a child, I unsurprisingly paid close attention to the Moon landings and earnestly painted rockets in school. We kids knew the names of our heroes by heart and fought over the question of who would be the best astronaut. For some reason I thought Jim Lovell from Apollo 8 was particularly good, but Frank Borman also wasn’t bad. My most envied possession was my Apollo-Quartet collectible card game, and to feed my enthusiasm, my grandmother sent me a picture book about the path to the Moon landings that I absolutely adored. The Moon landings are a part of my childhood and they were the grounds for my passion about space, as well as for my technical and scientific interests. Lastly, these missions were the foundations as to why I would become an astronomer and why I currently work in aerospace engineering management. And now here comes this question!
Thomas Eversberg

2. Russians, Rockets, and Election Campaigns

The first time I was allowed to watch TV in the middle of the night was in 1969, when I was an eight-year-old boy, to watch the very first Moon landing happen live. At the time, I was completely unaware of the significance of the special event that I was watching unfold. Today, you can hardly believe what was going on in the media back then. Reports of new rocket launches and space missions were still completely new phenomena and these events were followed closely by the general public. They were all broadcast on live TV and fascinated everyone else just as much as they did me. The “Conquest of Space” had already been going on for ten years, and everyone was fairly certain that the Olympics would be held on the Moon in the year 2000. We argued amongst ourselves about how new records would have to be evaluated in reduced gravity (imagine a 500-meter javelin toss), and becoming an astronaut was THE DREAM of all young boys. Anyway, it was absolutely clear that new worlds were opening up—the film “2001—A Space Odyssey,” reflects this attitude very well. For most of the adult population in Germany, not just in our city, the event was so momentous that they woke up at 3 o’clock on a Monday morning (!) to see what was happening on our Moon. Most of the windows in our neighborhood were lit up. This excitement enraptured a considerable number of people all over the world, but those in North America were particularly happy with NASA. They had planned the landing time so that it occurred between noon and late afternoon on the 20th of July, depending on where you lived in the United States. The first steps on the Moon occurred during prime-time TV (the best time for advertising: The Moon LandingBrought to you by Kellogg’s!) between 6:00 and 9:00 pm. For all the other inhabitants of the planet this meant a greater or lesser degree of inconvenience to your daily schedule depending on their longitude. The total viewership amounted to around 500 million people, at a time when there were far fewer TVs in the world than there are today. Sadly, most of the citizens of Earth were so poor that they didn’t have the time nor the luxury to pursue something that didn’t even improve their lives.
Thomas Eversberg

3. Proof I: The Dilemma

In short, those are just some of the details in the background of the Moon landings, a historical event that I have never questioned. I have been studying aerospace history for a while, following the lunar missions and subsequent projects (for example, Skylab, the Space Shuttle, Viking, Voyager) and after the end of the Cold War, I was happy to learn more about the Soviet program. But now people ask me whether any of it even happened! And if I say that it did, they ask me to prove it.
Thomas Eversberg

4. Stars are Missing in the Sky

Why is the sky blue? This seemingly simple question has become so common on physics tests that it doesn’t frighten students anymore. While it’s easy for a layman to understand, it is not easy to answer. In fact, a detailed answer is not simple, but requires knowledge of atomic and molecular physics. The blue color of the sky is caused by the scattering of light off air particles, or the splitting of a directed light beam in other directions. This fact has been known for a long time, but interestingly, the scattering depends on the color of the light. Blue light is more strongly scattered than green or red, and so blue light is distributed over the entire daytime sky, while all other colors are mostly allowed to transmit directly through the atmosphere. The scattering of the blue light is so strong that considerable amounts of intense sunlight are spread across the sky, rather than reaching the ground. The light of the stars is outshined by the scattered sunlight and the stars are therefore obscured during the day.
Thomas Eversberg

5. But Look! The Flag Flutters!

Without air there can’t be any wind. And without wind, a flag cannot flutter. Since there isn’t any atmosphere on the Moon, you would expect that a flag wouldn’t be moved by the wind. Planting a flag on the Moon was actually never thought about during mission planning. It was included so late in the program, that the procedure for planting the flag was the only activity for which the astronauts of Apollo 11 did not train. It turns out that Armstrong and Aldrin didn’t manage to plant the flag firmly enough into the ground, so during their launch off the Moon in the Lunar Module the flag fell down. But now critics point out that, in several NASA recordings, the American flag planted on the Moon flaps in the wind. Their argument is this: In several video sequences, the flag flutters in the wind and therefore, the respective scenes must have been shot on Earth.
Thomas Eversberg

6. A Lamp: Oblique Shadows

There is only one “lamp” on the Moon that can illuminate the landscape. This lamp also happens to be very far away—it is our Sun. It shines a light over the land on the Earth and the Moon, creating corresponding shadows. The Sun is so far away in relation to any setting on the Earth or Moon that we can actually treat it as if it were an infinite distance away. When we do this, we can assume that both the rays from the Sun and the shadows created by them run almost parallel to one another. Therefore, if you photograph the shadows, they should appear parallel in the picture.
Thomas Eversberg

7. Manipulation of the Pictures

One of the most popular means of discrediting the Moon landings is claiming that the pictures were photoshopped, i.e. the presented photographs were manipulated. Some of the more spectacular examples include the photo of three astronauts on the Moon (everyone knows that there were always only two on the Moon) or photos including items that were never actually taken (sales signs, camels, and even whole ships—a camel in the lander, marvelous!). I think that we can classify these manipulations as “jokes” and “advertising,” and as such, they do not require our consideration because they are so easy to catch and understand. Rather, I’ll focus on original photographs that may appear questionable to the viewer and that are used as “proof” of the Moon landing conspiracy.
Thomas Eversberg

8. Is Everything in Slow Motion?

The Moon is significantly smaller than the Earth and as such, the gravitational force is lower. Everything on the Moon weighs about six times less than it would on Earth. While the resulting slow-motion-like movements should be no surprise, they are immediately noticeable in film and television recordings. The physical fact of lower gravity is accepted by everyone, even by people who doubt the lunar landings. However, skeptics throw in this: All of the videos were recorded in studios on Earth and were shown to the public in slow motion to simulate a lower gravity.
Thomas Eversberg

9. Telescopes Can See Everything

Out of necessity, the lunar missions were carried out very efficiently. Any dead weight was quickly removed to keep the Moon rocket within the operational limits of its design; thus, defining the principle of rocket staging. Once a stage’s fuel tanks were emptied, they were dropped or left behind (rockets are really nothing more than huge fuel tanks with an engine connected at the bottom). This method is still used today by all space-faring nations and, for technical and financial reasons, there are no realistic alternatives to it. The situation is the exact same on the Moon: the descent stage of the Lunar Module, including its engine and tanks, was left behind as it was used as a launch pad for the rest of the vehicle’s return to Earth, and remains there today on the surface of the Moon. The descent stage with the four projecting spider legs has a diagonal diameter of 9 meters (29.5 feet). The argument is now this: Humankind has used their telescopes to observe galaxies millions of lightyears away; therefore, the lunar descent stage should be easily observable on the Moon with a telescope. However, not a single astronomer has been able to provide a picture of it so far. Consequently, the descent stage must not actually be on the Moon, and the whole story is a lie.
Thomas Eversberg

10. Warning! Hazardous Radiation!

The universe is not a friendly place. You must bring your own air to breathe and you should protect yourself from the high-speed micrometeorites flying around all the time with a robust shelter. Both problems can be solved to some extent with space capsules or stations, which nowadays offer pleasant, albeit expensive, accommodations (palatable food, bathing facilities, toilets, and private sleeping quarters). Although a hotel bar still needs to be sent up, these should make your stay bearable for a short duration.
Thomas Eversberg

11. Too Hot, Too Cold

The Moon does not have any atmosphere and the lunar day lasts two weeks in Earth days. Because of these two facts, solar radiation reaches the surface of the Moon unhindered, and during the two-week-long lunar day, the surface can heat up to well over 100 degrees Celsius. It is truly a desert under the most extreme conditions. In order to protect astronauts in such an environment, every space suit made is effectively an all-in-one, climate-controlled cabinet with a window to look through. It isn’t only the people who need the special protection of environmental control and life support systems, but also any objects brought to the Moon must be able to withstand the heat. Sensitive devices require extra care. This is especially true for the handheld cameras that are often the subject of skeptical questions, as they used to use very sensitive chemical films made of celluloid, which react poorly to high temperatures. The argument: The celluloid film used during the Moon landings would have melted at such high temperatures. Therefore, it would have been impossible to take pictures on the Moon.
Thomas Eversberg

12. The Lander’s Exhaust Plume and Its Crater

As the Lunar Module approached the Moon, it slowed down its descent by using a landing engine that generated a thrust of 45,000 Newtons. This amount of thrust corresponds to a weight of 27 tons on the Moon. After blasting the dusty surface of the Moon with so much force from landing the Lunar Module, surely you would expect there to be a crater created by the engine’s exhaust plume. However, such a crater is nowhere to be found. This is confirmed in pictures from different missions where the ground below the descent stage is shown, even though astronauts reported the surface material to be as fine as flour. This results in the corresponding argument: Obviously, they forgot to include an exhaust crater in the studio, even though a retrorocket engine firing hot gases into the landing area with several tons of force would have certainly made such a crater.
Thomas Eversberg

13. Anything Else?

Space is a vacuum. To survive there, humans need a pressurized vessel which maintains an Earth-like atmospheric pressure of 1 bar—a space capsule. And those who want to leave the capsule require a space suit equipped with a life support system and a pressurized atmosphere. At the same time, the space suit needs to be mobile and dexterous enough for an astronaut to be able to work while wearing it.
Thomas Eversberg

14. Proof II: Rocks, Photos, and Stars

Now that we have highlighted the main arguments, it should be clear that the evidence presented against the authenticity of the Moon landings can be countered by both our everyday experiences and scientific analysis. In some cases, the assumptions that form the basis of the argument are already wrong. One should never believe that providing direct evidence of an event from the past is entirely hopeless, even if it occurred many years ago and on another planetary body. Despite the issues with evidence that I discussed in Chapter 3, you can at least find clues and indications that can be used to support an inductive analysis.
Thomas Eversberg

15. What Can We Learn?

The Moon landing was certainly an extraordinary event that forever changed the way people saw humanity as a whole. Not only did all of the new technology surpass our wildest dreams, but we also gained a new awareness of our place on Earth in a global, shared community. One of the most profound experiences that the lunar astronauts reported did not come from viewing their destination, but rather taking a look back on the “fragile” Earth they had left behind. In hindsight, many astronauts say that on our way to explore the Moon, we discovered the Earth instead. The Moon landing was a giant leap forward for humanity, but it often goes unrecognized just how rapidly the world has been evolving since. Our lives became incredibly more complex and driven by technology. Overall, people are amazed by all of the advancements, and therefore it is natural that doubts and criticisms may arise. I consider skepticism to be a virtuous quality that helps you to sharpen and develop your mind, leading to a higher quality of life. However, skepticism requires an investment of time and effort to be useful. The sheer consumption of claims does not make someone any more knowledgeable and has a devastating effect in a confusing world. An attendee at one of my lectures on the subject of the Moon landings once asked me to speed up the presentation because he thought my explanations seemed to extensive. But to do so would have jeopardized my ability to calmly and thoroughly address the doubts of the Moon landing skeptics, including his own, in addition to presenting my analytical methods (Fig. 15.1).
Thomas Eversberg

16. Technology, Money, and the Return to the Moon

The Moon remains an object of great attraction to mankind. It has a noticeable effect on our lives (sleep, tides), and many people feel an emotional connection to it. Who doesn’t like to gaze up at the Moon at night? After all the discussion about the authenticity of the Moon landings, I am constantly asked whether or not I think humans will ever visit our satellite again. With the extraordinary success of the lunar missions, many people ask why the Americans stopped making trips to the Moon and why the Soviets gave up going there altogether. After all, it is the first stop on the way to the planets, the ever-present goals of all would-be space explorers. And since I myself am helping to shape the German space program, I get asked whether or not we will head back to the Moon in the foreseeable future. In light of the rapid pace of technology development, this question is not easy to answer. Who would have predicted the impact of the internet 30 years ago? Nevertheless, there are indications that allow us to speculate on the future of spaceflight. An unbiased evaluation of the necessary technologies, as well as realistic considerations of the expected efforts and costs, can be an effective way to inform this discussion.
Thomas Eversberg


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