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Film shown and discussion led by Richard Phillips on 6 September 2002
The film "Conspiracy Theory - Did we land on the Moon" was recorded from Channel 5 TV on 11 August 2002 and there follows a brief description of its argument:
Much of the criticism in the film came from Bill Kaysing, an engineer at Rocketdyne, which built the Apollo rockets. His first scepticism relied on the absence of stars in the photographs and films, the waving of the USA flag and the absence of a blast crater under the lunar lander. Later, he estimates that the chance of a successful landing is 0.0017% and the alarm at the progress that the Russians were making in space during the cold-war generated the attitude "If you can't make it, fake it." He believes that the Earth launch took place but that the craft orbited the Earth for 8 days without going to the Moon. The rest was filmed at a high security site called Area 51iin Nevada's High Desert and the film sets are still there. Russian spy satellites reveal craters, presumably artificial, at this site. The film "Capricorn 1", made in 1978 with a budget of $4 million showed that the fake was technically possible The NASA budget was ten times that.
A film of a test-bed for the lunar module going out of control from which Neil Armstrong ejected safely was made only 4 months before the launch and showed that there were serious stability problems that were unlikely to have been overcome in such a short time. The sound-track of the astronauts during `landing' had no background roar in spite of the engine producing 140dB of noise on the Earth's surface.
Brian Welch of NASA considered the criticisms specious and elaborate, showing lack of basic understanding of physics and said that the footprints on the lunar surface constituted irrefutable evidence. However, Kaysing, maintains that the engine should have blasted the dust away so that there should be no footprints there. Furthermore, there is no blast crater shown. Paul Field (NASA Lunar Exploration Module (LEM) specialist) explained that the thrust needed is only 1,500-2,000 pounds and all this would do is push some dust out of the way. Kaysing counters with the observation that the dust would have settled on the foot-pads which are shown in photographs to be pristine. He maintains that the LEM is a movie set which was raised by a cable to show the return launch (there is indeed a curious glitch in the velocity of the LEM just after launch - RHP).
Bart Sibel (investigative journalist) maintains that the technology of the time should have produced better TV images and that they were made intentionally poor. Having complete control over them, they could have cleaned the images up. Jan Lundberg of Hasselblad, who designed the chest-mounted cameras, wonders how the thousands of photographs were taken with such clarity and framing even though there were no view-finders (the astronauts could not have looked down at one). Sibel is very suspicious of the shadows - they are clearly not parallel, even allowing for perspective, and seem to radiate from points of artificial lighting. Furthermore, objects immersed in deep shadow are clearly seen - even the front of an astronaut with back-lighting who should be seen in silhouette. This suggests some lighting control. Cross-hairs etched into the camera for measurement purposes should always be seen on top of the image. There were many instances of parts of them being obscured by an object: this is evidence that the images have been doctored. There were also some very odd occurrences of identical backgrounds in still photographs and videos - hills with and without the LEM in the foreground and identical locations of astronauts one day apart when they were purported to be 4km away, but this could be explained by poor cataloguing.
Welch of NASA constantly dismissed these criticisms as futile but did not try to answer them (it is possible that any attempt to do so was omitted from the film).
There was much detail to explain how NASA could get away with such a hoax without a `whistle-blower', which involved sinister accusations of cover-ups involving deaths of astronauts and others with possibly damning evidence. Sibel maintains that very few of the thousands involved saw the whole picture and those that did conspired in the hoax, supported by their Official Secrets commitments.
Other questions remained unanswered:
How could the astronauts have survived passage through the Van Allen radiation belts 500 miles above the Earth's surface? Protection would have needed substantial lead shielding, not the thin aluminium casing of the command module. No other flight has taken Man above these belts. There is always a risk of solar radiation emanating from solar flares (one of the most severe solar storms was recorded and coincided with the Apollo 16 mission). The journey had not the slightest adverse effect on the health of any of the crew.
Why have the Russians never sent anyone to the Moon? Boris Valentinovitch Volinov, the Russian cosmonaut commented: "We were fearful - we had no idea of the effects of the radiation - possibly it would penetrate the craft itself."
Why are there no plans to return?
Was the $40 billion Apollo programme the most expensive movie ever made? The answer is a quarter of a million miles away - no telescope exists powerful enough to detect even a LEM base.
At the end there is a photograph from the top of the LEM in which the shadows of the flag and two astronauts are indeed parallel. Welch of NASA concluded with the remark:
"At the bottom line, the US went to the Moon in the 60s and 70s - end of story!"
The film was followed by a lively discussion examining much of the science behind the arguments. It was generally considered unbelievable that the missions could have been a hoax though some were convinced that it was. It was the still photography which seemed the most phoney and these could well have been produced on a film set, to supplement the poor results of the chest-mounted Hasselblads used without view-finders. Certainly, the absence of dust and a blast-crater in these shots in addition to the anomalous lighting effects and backdrops supports this.
One question remained unasked and unanswered: "Where did the Moon-rock samples come from?"
Richard H Phillips