Some conspiracy theories really never die... But did Neil Armstrong land on the moon?
My dad always says that the very first international event he remembers was the televised images of the Neil Armstrong landing on the Moon, on July 20, 1969. He still recalls the excitement of seeing that we, as a species, were actually able to go that far. My sister and I were perplexed to see how emotional he got when narrating how these images had made such a huge impact on him as a child. Noticing our expressions, he told us that we wouldn’t understand how it felt because we had been born in a time where space voyages were more frequent and normal. I mention this because, most probably, the answer to our title question lies here. But first things first, let’s take a little journey to what has become one of the biggest conspiracy theories of all times.
On July 20th, 1969, a reported audience of half a billion people were glued to their TVs watching the historical moment when the first human being set foot on the Moon. It had been USA’s first victory in the so-called Space Race. Not so long before, the Russians had become the first ones to reach space with the famous Yuri Gagarin, but the US was determined to really win this race by being the first to actually land on the moon. However, that emotion would soon be ruined by the many claims that this was only the biggest hoax in history. The conspiracy theorists claimed that it was far easier and cheaper to orchestrate the con than to actually get to the Moon.
It all started during the early 1970s, when books and articles about the theory started emerging. As it happens with most conspiracy theories, it didn’t matter how far-fetched they sounded: if they had a clear motive, they were completely believable. So, many different theories started to appear with one central motive behind them. It was the fact that the USSR was way ahead in the Space Race, which was a crucial aspect of the Cold War.
Every good conspiracy theory needs to tackle every single detail to prove that the “official” story is fake. In the case of this theory, the most popular version emerged in the eighties and comes from the not-ridiculous-sounding-at-all Flat Earth Society. According to them, the whole event was staged by NASA and the US government with the help of Walt Disney. Allegedly, they produced the film, which was directed by Stanley Kubrick and written by Arthur C. Clarke. Very specific, isn’t it? Well, what gave this theory more recognition was the fact that, in the 1978 film Capricorn One, there’s scenes that look exactly like bits of the Apollo 11 transmission. Now, these are the eighties, we’re in the post-Vietnam and the post-Watergate era, and people had learned not to trust anything the government said. For that reason, all the different conspiracy stories regarding the Moon landing were incredibly popular.
Of all the evidence that has appeared over the years, there's the famous one of the US flag waving, when supposedly there’s no wind on the Moon; the strange lights and shadows people claim can only be the result of film production equipment; a woman who claimed she saw a can of soda rolling in one corner of the footage; and a man in 2016 who claimed it had all been filmed in North London, and that he had been the cameraman behind it. At the same time, for every one of these theories, scientists have come forward trying to debunk each claim. For instance, they claim that the lights seen in the photos are clearly the reflections of the equipment the astronauts brought with them; that the flag looks like it's moving because there was a pole holding it from above and also because of the inertia after placing it.
We could literally spend years pointing out each detail of the many conspiracy theories trying to debunk them, but I think it would be pointless. I mean, people have been to the Moon since then, and we have all the technology and scientific foundation out there to know that this is true. I think that the key thing to bear in mind in this particular discussion, as I said at the beginning, has to do with what my father told us. At that time, there wasn’t enough technology and information at people’s reach to confirm or deny the landing on the Moon. If you think about it, people really had to trust what they were being told, and looking at history and what was happening at the time, the government wasn’t really seen as a reliable source.
The less people trust their leaders, the more conspiracies are created. And I strongly believe that’s the reason why we’re still talking about this almost fifty years after the event. For younger generations, this doesn’t seem like a very hard question, at least, in my opinion. We know what technology can do, and there’s enough information about the Space Race to know that humanity actually made it to space. I think it would be really interesting to do a poll asking younger generations if they believe the landing on the moon was a hoax or real. If you google the question on this article's title, you’ll see tons of articles claiming that people still believe this was fake. But who are these people? That, for me, is the real question. What do you think?