An examination of the Moon landings conspiracy theory.

David Calvert

On Sunday evening of July 20, 1969, Neil Alden Armstrong ensured his place in the history books as the first man ever to set foot on the surface of the Moon. Almost from the outset this monumental achievement became dogged by rumours of a conspiratorial cover-up that persists up to the present day. But what evidence is there to support the conspiracy theorists’ arguments that man never went to the Moon, and that the entire scenario was carefully stage -managed by NASA? To reach any kind of conclusion as to whether there is any kind of validity to their arguments, we must first examine the evidence put forward in support of their long-held viewpoint – beginning with the Van Allen Radiation Belt.

The Van Allen Radiation Belt.

radiation Belts.jpg


The radiation belt comprises of an inner and outer belt of energetically charged particles trapped by the Earth’s magnetic field. The inner belt is concentrated mainly around the Earth’s equatorial plane and extends over altitudes of 650 – 6,000 km. Its radiation is strongest between 2,000 and 5,000 km, and fluctuates in intensity with the solar cycle. The outer belt has an altitude of approximately 10,000 – 65,000 km, and is strongest from 14,500 – 19,000 km. It is through these lethal radiation zones that the Apollo astronauts had to fly to reach the Moon, leading many sceptics to speculate that in order to do so their spacecraft would require so much shielding to protect them from the fatal radiation doses that they would barely manage lift-off velocities, let alone journey to the Moon. However, the time the astronauts spent in these regions of space was minimal, and they received only 1% of a fatal dose, showing that whilst the belt is an obstacle to space flight it is not an insurmountable one.

Photographic Anomalies

The bulk of the conspiracy theorists’ arguments come in the form of photographic evidence, such as the one above, taken during the Apollo 11 mission. Image analyst,shadow lengths and professional photographer, David Percy has noted that in this shot of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin the shadows appear to differ in length. Armstrong’s shadow is appreciably foreshortened. Since light travels in straight lines, and should not create unequal shadows, how can this be so? The answer to that question lies in a simple experiment.

Shadow Experiment.

Take a clean sheet of A4 paper. On it make two marks relative to the positions of the astronauts in the above image. Place two equally sized objects onto these marks. Position a static light source, such as a reading lamp, so that the objects create long shadows. Next, mark the point where these shadows end. Remove both objects and measure the distance between your position marks to the shadow end marks. They will be of equal length. Now reposition the objects onto their original marks and this time take hold of the sheet at the end furthest from the light source and carefully push it towards the light, making sure that the opposite end doesn’t move. This should create a hump in the sheet. You will note that as the hump draws close to the object furthest from the light its shadow foreshortens, whereas the shadow closest to the light does not, thereby demonstrating that the terrain over which it is cast creates shadow foreshortening.

It can be safely assumed from this simple experiment that the terrain behind Armstrong has a slightly raised elevation, and it is this that is causing the difference in shadow lengths. Note the appearance of the soil in the top left quadrant in the photograph. It appears lighter than the mid to foreground region, as one would expect of a raised mound being struck by sunlight at a less oblique angle. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the unequal shadows were created by two separate light sources, such as studio lights, as the conspiracy theorists would have us believe.

As a further example on the theme of light and shadow, take a look at the following image.

aldrin shadow

This image of Buzz Aldrin shows the sunlight streaming across his left shoulder. His right side should be in deep shadow because the contrast of light and dark is more pronounced on the Moon. NASA’s explanation for this is that the sunlight is being reflected off the surface onto the suit. Hoax theorists, however, claimed that Aldrin contradicted this explanation when he said there is no refracted light on the Moon, thereby supporting their contention that another source of light (i.e. studio lighting) was responsible. In fact, both statements are true and are not diametrically opposed.

How so? Though the words refraction and reflection sound similar, there meanings are entirely different. Refraction occurs when light passes through a transparent material. Whereas, reflection occurs when it bounces off an opaque material. For light to refract it must pass through a medium different from the one it was travelling through. In space light travels at 100% because there is nothing to impede its progress. Its speed is reduced to 99.7% when it travels through air, and is further reduces to 75% when it travels through water. Because light waves slow down when passing through a denser medium, they bunch up. That is why if you place a pencil in a glass of water it appears to bend. Therefore, as there is neither air nor water on the Moon, refraction cannot occur. It was this phenomenon of refraction to which Aldrin had alluded, and not reflection.

Note, too, the fall-off areas in the Aldrin photograph. Because the Moon has no atmosphere to pollute the light, hoax theorists claim these areas should be bright and crisp and not gradually fade into darkness. This so-called ‘anomaly’ is due to simple optic and lighting effects, however. The mid-to-foreground surface regions are being viewed from a different angle than that of the distant background surface. As Armstrong is focussing specifically on Aldrin in this shot the background naturally appears out of focus. The local terrain and light from the lunar module, which is situated to the left of Aldrin, also reflect significant amounts of light, as evidenced by the illuminated area directly behind him.

The Case for Shadow Divergence.


Sceptics claim that the divergence of the shadows in the above image is impossible if the sun is the only source of light on the Moon. ‘Surely’, they argue, ‘the shadows must fall in the same direction?’ This, they believe, is proof positive that another light source is being used. Not so! This is yet another terrain effect caused in this instance by ground slant, as the simple experiment below demonstrates.


Note the shadow effect evidenced in this experiment. Each of these shadows is cast by a single light source. The model LEM in the background, and the marker pen in the foreground, serve as shadow controls showing the directions shadows take on nonslanted ground terrain. The shadow cast by the model rock runs in a different direction due to the ground slant over which it is cast.

Helmet Reflection.

helmet reflection 2

The reflection circled in red on Aldrin’s helmet above is considered by many conspiracy theorists to be either a helicopter or a metres-tall glass structure of some kind. Even under greater magnification this object does not resolve itself into an identifiable body. How then have the hoax theorists managed to come to their conclusions? In actuality what is being reflected in the visor is nothing more than the American flag. To its left is the Solar Wind Collection experiment. This was determined by the positions of the two astronauts relative to the objects and the lunar module reflection on the right of the visor. The reason that the flag and the SWC seem so far away is due to the convex, spherical shaped visor that makes objects appear further away than they really are.

The Cross-Hair Anomalies.



The reflected light phenomenon is also responsible for the cross-hair anomalies as seen in the above image, taken during the Apollo XVI mission. The cross hairs appear on all lunar photographs and appear on the glass plate between the shutter and the film, making it impossible for them to appear behind the image being photographed. Empirical studies have shown that it is conceivable that the bright reflected light bouncing off the Lunar Rover Vehicle’s antennae has obliterated the fine line of the cross-hair in this image, making it look as if it is behind the antennae.

The ‘C’ Rock.

C rock anomaly

The above image is taken from the same photograph as the antennae image and shows what appears to be a rock  with the letter C imprinted on it. Is this, as conspiracy theorists have speculated, an identification letter left on a studio prop? It is worth noting at this juncture that the image is a 3rd or 4th generation copy of the original, in which the letter does not appear (see below), suggesting it is an artefact accidentally introduced during one of the many scans of this print. It could be something as innocuous as a piece of lint or hair.

C rock first generation print

 Radioactive Fingerprints.

The rocks brought back by the Apollo astronauts weigh in at 32 kg. When they were analysed by geologists they discovered several differences between them and Earth rocks. Some contained more iron, magnesium, and titanium, but less silica and aluminium. Some samples were found to contain higher levels of radioactivity than Earth rocks. Dr. David McKay, Chief Scientist for Planetary Science and Exploration at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre (JSC) is a member of the group that oversees the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility at JSC. Here is what he had to say on the Moon rock controversy: “They differ from Earth rocks in many respects. Just as meteoroids bombard the Moon so do cosmic rays, and they leave their fingerprints on Moon rocks, too. There are isotopes in Moon rocks, isotopes we don’t normally find on Earth that were created by nuclear reactions with the highest energy cosmic rays. Earth is spared from such radiation by our protective atmosphere and magnetosphere.” He adds, “Even if scientists wanted to make something like a Moon rock by, say, bombarding an Earth rock with high energy atomic nuclei they couldn’t. Earth’s most powerful particle accelerators can’t energise particles to match the most potent cosmic rays, which are themselves accelerated in supernova blast waves and in the cores of galaxies. Indeed, faking a Moon rock well enough to hoodwink an international army of scientists might be more difficult than the Manhattan Project. It would be easier going to the Moon to get one.”

He goes on to say, “Researchers in thousands of labs have examined Apollo Moon samples – not a single paper challenges their origin! And these aren’t all NASA employees either. We have loaned samples to scientists in dozens of countries, who have no reason to cooperate in the hoax.”

Footprint and Tyre Track Anomalies.

The lunar surface is covered in a fine dust that the astronauts likened to ‘talcum powder’. These easily compacted dust particles are actually micrometeorites, Laid down since the Moon’s formation 4.5 billion years ago. It has been argued that as the Moon has no moisture clearly defined tracks and footprints made by the astronauts should not exist. This argument is borne from a false premise, which the reader can easily dispel by spreading dry talc, or any other like medium, onto the surface. As you will see, any imprint you make will be clearly defined. Also, if the Moon landings were faked in a dry Earth desert terrain, as has been maintained, then any tracks laid down in the sand would lack the definition of the lunar tracks because dry sand, as well as being coarser, does not compact easily.

The Fluttering Flag Anomaly


Cited as indisputable evidence that the Moon landings were faked on Earth is the fluttering American flag planted by Aldrin and Armstrong. On a non-atmospheric world there can be no breeze to cause such a motion. How, then, is the flag seen to flutter?

On Earth a flag is designed to be blown into position by the wind. As there is no wind on the Moon the flag would simply hang limply down, and so an extendable rod was incorporated into its design to combat this problem. The unnatural rigidity along the top of the flag is evidence of this. The rod simulates a wind- blown, ripple effect because it is not fully extended. Surely, if an errant breeze was to blow through a film set, causing the flag to wave in what is supposed to be a vacuum, at least one of the film crew would have noticed such an obvious fact and they would simply have done another take! And wouldn’t experts have been employed to oversee such glaring inconsistencies in the first place?

Some video clips purportedly show the flag waving in the breeze after it was planted. Untrue! The only time the flag is seen to flutter is when the astronauts are planting it into the lunar surface. The movement of the flag was caused by the back and forth rotation of the pole in order to get better penetration into the lunar surface. As there is no atmospheric resistance the flags motion takes a while to dampen down. There is no evidence, whatsoever, showing the flag moving when the astronauts are not holding it. a fact that hoax theorists never mention.

The Hasselblad Space Camera.


 For the purposes of this article we will concentrate on the camera used on the Moon’s surface – the Hasselblad 500 EL Data Camera (HDC).

The midday sun on the Moon ranges from 260° – 280° F. At those temperatures, sceptics claim, film would crinkle up into a ball. However, to combat this problem the lunar landings and subsequent explorations were conducted when the sun was low, so that temperatures were actually quite moderate. The camera films were kept in magazines with a silver finish, thus providing protection from the temperature extremes. The camera, too, is silver coated to protect it from thermal variations, thereby maintaining an internal uniform temperature.

When camera film is wound on the resultant static electricity generated onto the surface of the film can cause unpleasant patterns to appear. This static build-up is normally dispersed by the metal rims and rollers that guide the film and, in an Earth environment, by the air humidity. How then, as the HDC was used in the vacuum of space that has no humidity and employs a glass reseau plate that is a non-conductor to move the film on, was the film not seriously damaged by the resultant build-up of static charge?

To overcome this problem the side of the reseau plate facing the film was coated with an exceptionally thin conductive layer that is led to the conductive parts of the camera body via two contact springs. Two projecting silver deposits on the conductive layer affect contact. Problem solved.

The Absence of Blast Craters.


To set down safely on the lunar surface the LEM had to give out 3,000 pounds of thrust to slow its descent that would have created a massive hole beneath it but according to sceptics, in pictures of the Lunar Excursion Module the ground appears untouched. Is this evidence of fakery? No. There are many photographs showing radial disturbance of lunar soil (regolith) given out by the engine blast. The image of the Antares module above, for example, shows a blast crater beneath the descent engine, as the image below clearly shows.

blast crater

You might think that 3000 lbs worth of thrust would leave a much bigger crater than that seen here. In an Earth environment that would be the case as the air in our atmosphere constrains the rocket thrust into a narrow column, thus creating a lot of pressure. In a vacuum, however, the exhaust is spread out considerably more, thereby lowering the pressure and making it much gentler. If we apply a little math you will see what I mean. The engine nozzle is approximately 54 inches across, which gives it an area of 2,300 square inches, which equates to only 1.5 lbs per square inch of pressure. Not excessive by any means.

Why Create a Hoax?

It has been speculated by many hoax theorists that one reason for NASA hoaxing the Moon landings was because people were unhappy about the horrors taking place during the Vietnam War. In order to take their minds of these atrocities, and deflect the public outrage toward the Government, NASA hoaxed the landings. We are further invited by the disbelievers to check certain dates. The US, they claim, abruptly stopped going to the Moon around the same time the Vietnam War ended, because the deception had fulfilled its purpose. They would have done well to have checked these dates a little more closely themselves. There was nothing abrupt about the discontinuation of the Apollo Moon landings whatsoever. As far back as the first Apollo landing in 1969 – when the Vietnam War was still years away from cessation – plans were already in the offing to end the programme. What is more, the Apollo mission was initiated more than four years before the conflict in Vietnam was even considered to be a war.

Another reason often touted for the faked landings is that Russia and the US were involved in a heated battle to see who was the better of the two superpowers. The US, fearing they might lose the space race and lose face, then set about their deception. Does it seem credible that the Russians would simply hold up their hands and say ‘Okay, we give up. You win.’, when it would have been far easier to discredit the Apollo missions if they were truly being faked? Hardly. Had they the slightest inkling that the Moon landings were faked the Soviets would have exposed it. Instead they tried to cover up their own failed attempts at putting a man on the Moon by claiming they were not even trying to do so – a fact that we now know to be untrue. They had a very aggressive manned lunar programme.


In 1994 an article was published in the Fortean Times that stated: ‘. . . mankind has no proof at all that we ever set foot on the Moon, other than the photographs that NASA elected to publish.’ A bold, but false statement. We have the testimonies of those who went there, of those thousands of individuals who played their part in getting them there, the photographic evidence, the rock samples, and the video and audio evidence are all overpowering proofs. None of the so-called ‘anomalies’ presented by the Apollo sceptics as clear evidence of a gigantic conspiracy stand up to scrutiny. On the contrary, they highlight an ignorance of scientific principles, a lack of critical thinking, sloppy research, and omission of facts that run contrary to their cherished beliefs. To date, the conspiracy community, regarding the Moon landings, has produced no irrefutable evidence.

Conversely, NASA have recently released new images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) that show quite clearly several of the Apollo landing sights from orbit that shows not only footprints and tyre tracks, but also the paraphenalia they left behind.

Apollo 11 Landing Site

orbital photo of Apollo 11 landing site


This image shows tracks left behind by the lunar roving vehicle (LRV), and foot tracks left by the astronauts.

It is true to say that this article is by no means a thorough and exhaustive examination of the conspiracy theory. To do it justice would have resulted in a tome of many thousands of words, which I leave to those more qualified to do. However, I trust it has brought to the readers’ attentions the cautionary note that it is wise to question what the experts tell us and not accept blindly what they say. But that it is equally as wise to question those who question the experts. If, however, you still maintain that man has never set foot on the Moon, then perhaps I could interest you in a bridge I have for sale.

Neil Alden Armstrong was the command pilot on Apollo XI and was the first man to step foot on the Moon on the Sunday evening of July 20, 1969. He famously said, ‘That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.’ In total he and Aldrin spent 22 hrs on the Moon.

neil rmstrong


When Buzz Aldrin was asked during an interview how he felt about claims that he and Armstrong never went to the Moon he replied, ‘Well it’s a waste of my time. Idon’t have much respect for the people who entertain that thinking and generally am not interested in engaging in any discourse with them. All that does is encourage them and it’s not going to change their thinking at all.’

buzz aldrin

© David Calvert 2011

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