Nov 20 2017

The Moon Landing Hoax – Again

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Apollo-17-visorJames Randi has often observed that paranormal beliefs are like “unsinkable rubber duckies.” No matter how many times they are knocked down, they just keep popping back up. That’s because they are not based on facts or logic, but motivated reasoning serving some deeper cultural or emotional need. You can counter them with facts, but that is not addressing the real reason for their existence.

Conspiracy theories are the same. There is a variety of motivations behind them, having nothing to do with the truth. They result partly from hyperactive pattern recognition and agency detection, serving a need for certainty, feeling special, and defending existing narratives from refutation. A well-tended conspiracy theory is like impenetrable armor that can turn away any fact.

The notion that the US never really went to the moon, and that the entire Apollo program was staged for some reason is one such conspiracy theory. Those who promote the moon landing hoax conspiracy theory depend largely on anomaly hunting – looking for anything that they cannot immediately explain, or that looks odd, and then proclaiming that it is evidence for a hoax. So far every one of their alleged anomalies has been shot down.

They claim, for example, that the lighting in photographs from the moon’s surface is uneven, proving stage lighting. Actually, the opposite is true. The unevenness of the shadows is from the unevenness of the surface of the moon itself. But properly analyzed, the photos show that the lighting is, in fact, parallel. This indicates a distant light source, like the sun. To duplicate this effect on earth, while simultaneously duplicating the lack of diffusion (no atmosphere) would have required many bright white lasers, technology that simply did not exist back then. (Lasers were expensive and only available in red.)

So ironically, what the moon hoax conspiracy theorists end up proving is that the moon landing could not possibly have been faked and was therefore real.

All other objections have similarly been dealt with. The movement of the flag was not due to wind, but just inertia (again, no atmosphere to dampen the oscillations). The movement of the astronauts and objects could not be duplicated by simply slowing down the film. Further, you can examine the dust thrown up by the moon rover and show that the thousands of dust particles are moving in moon gravity without an atmosphere.

As many people have pointed out, duplicating all this on Earth would have been more difficult and more expensive than simply going to the moon.

Conspiracy theorists are also good at “just asking questions.” Why can’t we see the moon landing sights with our orbiters? Well, we can. The  Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has captured stunning pictures of the Apollo landing sites, even showing the footprints of the astronauts and matching records of their missions. Of course this, like all evidence, is easily dismissed by conspiracy theorists as fake and part of the conspiracy (impenetrable armor).

Now we have another claim of evidence of a moon landing hoax, of similar quality to all previous claims. Youtuber, Streetcap1, claims to see a stage hand in the reflection in a visor taken during the Apollo 17 mission. This is another great example of anomaly hunting, looking for anything superficially unusual rather than putting evidence into an appropriate context. You can see the picture above, and go to the link for the video which zooms in further.

With regard to the image of the figure in the visor, it is, essentially, blobsquatch. In other words, it is a blurry image at the limit of identifiable detail. It is enough to be suggestive but not definitive – like most photos of alleged ghosts, bigfoots, and Loch Ness monsters. Some photos are identifiable as fakes, and so might be clear, but mostly they are blobs that a motivated imagination can turn into the cryptozoological creature of choice.

In this case the figure is completely compatible with simply being another astronaut in a space suit. That is, by far, the simplest explanation. But it is blurry and distorted enough that you can imagine, if you are so disposed, a stage hand with long hair and a vest, and not wearing a space suit.

Ironically, as with the other alleged lines of evidence presented by the conspiracy theorists, if anything this is just more evidence against a hoax. Look at the entire reflection in the visor, which is essentially presenting the reverse view of the scene. You will notice the absence of any lighting, cameras, or any of the people necessary to pull of staging that photo on Earth. What would that one lonely “stage hand” be doing just standing there in the middle of the set, anyway?

This is often when many conspiracy claims fall apart, because they require simultaneously that the people pulling off the hoax are brilliant, powerful, and have impeccable attention to detail and yet also are incredibly stupid and careless. So, you would need to believe that they constructed a set of the moon’s surface, impeccably lighted, with simulated regolith, and constructed in such a way that a reflection in the visor does not reveal any cameras or equipment. Meanwhile, one stage hand stands right in the middle of the set while the photo is being taken, and the photo is released without anyone noticing.

It also reveals what often happens when you engage in enthusiastic anomaly hunting – the conspiracy explanation actually causes more and larger anomalies than the one it apparently explains. If you hypothesize that the photo is staged in order to explain the figure in the reflection, that hypothesis causes the bigger problem of why there isn’t cameras and other equipment in the reflection.

When trying to figure out the best explanation it is necessary to consider all evidence and all competing hypotheses to determine which one is most compatible with that evidence. All conspiracy theorists have to do, however, is cast doubt and ask questions. They are not really trying to put forward a coherent theory that stands up to scrutiny. They are just trying to cast doubt on the official explanation, and then declare that there must be a conspiracy. This is similar to science denial, like various forms of creationism. They don’t have to prove a coherent theory of creation, just cast doubt on evolutionary theory and then declare victory.

This latest bit of “evidence” is no different than all the other bits put forward to support a moon hoax theory. It is worthless, and if anything is just more evidence that the moon landing was genuine. That will not stop it from being added to the canon of moon hoax lore.

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