The Wrong Stuff Did NASA Moon the Public?

Are you sure we went to the moon 25 years ago? Are you positive? Millions of Americans believe the moon landings may have been a US$25 billion swindle, perpetrated by NASA with the latest in communications technology and the best in special effects. Wired plunges into the combat zone between heated conspiracy believers and exasperated NASA officials.

"Columbia, he has landed Tranquility Base. Eagle is at Tranquility. I read you five by. Over." The voice from Houston betrayed no emotion, although this was anything but business as usual. A human being was about to set foot on the moon for the first time in history, armed only with the Stars and Stripes, some scientific instruments, and an almost reckless, can-do demeanor that had captivated the world.

The reply from Columbia, the command-and-service module that had released the lunar lander 2 hours and 33 minutes earlier, betrayed only equal professional cool. "Yes, I heard the whole thing," Michael Collins said matter-of-factly.

Houston: "Well, it’s a good show."

Columbia: "Fantastic."

That’s when Neil Armstrong chimed in. "Yeah, I’ll second that," said the 38-year-old astronaut, the moonwalker-to-be, America’s own Boy Scout, and the most famous man in the – well, in the universe. And even though the static ate away at the clarity of his consonants, Armstrong’s sneering tone came through loud and clear. The mission control man heard it too. And he knew what was coming. Sort of.

"A fantastic show," Armstrong said. "The greatest show on earth, huh, guys?"

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There was a moment’s silence. Then a cameraman sniggered. And the director sighed, and did what directors do when actors screw up their lines. "Cut," he groaned. He was a heavyset man in his 50s, and the combination of the long hours and the hot studio lights had started to get to him.

"S__t, Armstrong, if you’re gonna be a smart-ass, do it on your own time, all right? We got 25 tired people on this set. We got a billion people who are going to be watching your every move only a week from now. We’re on deadline here. Now, do you suppose you could just stick to the script and get it over with? Thank you."

His assistant stepped forward with the slate. "Apollo moon landing, scene 769/A22, take three," she announced.


"Columbia, he has landed Tranquility Base," the mission control man began again.

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The history books lie. So do the encyclopedias and the commemorative videos and the 25-year-old coffee mugs with the proudly smiling faces of Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins. When Armstrong got down from that ladder, proclaiming that it was only a small step for him but a giant leap for mankind, he was merely setting foot on a dust-covered sound stage in a top-secret TV studio in the Nevada desert. NASA’s cold warriors and spin doctors faked the whole moon landing. Come to think of it, they faked all six moon landings – spending around US$25 billion to prove to the world that not even the Soviets, especially not the Soviets, could hold a candle to the US when it came to space exploration.

Well, at least, that’s the view of writer Bill Kaysing. It’s also the conviction of millions of Americans who have learned to distrust their government with a passion. Most of these skeptics don’t even appear to be steamed about the alleged superfraud. They shrug and raise their palms and go about their business. Not Kaysing. He seems to have never heard a conspiracy theory he didn’t like, and this one tops ’em all. For almost 20 years now, he has been trying to get out "the most electrifying news story of the entire 20th century and possibly of all time." He has written a book aptly titled We Never Went to the Moon and won’t give up trying to uncover more evidence.

Kaysing, a white-haired, gentle Californian whose energy level seems mercifully untouched by his 72 years, worked as head of technical publications for the Rocketdyne Research Department at their Southern California facility from 1956 to 1963. Rocketdyne was the engine contractor for Apollo.

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"NASA couldn’t make it to the moon, and they knew it," asserts Kaysing, who, after begging out of the "corporate rat race," became a freelance author of books and newsletters. "In the late ’50s, when I was at Rocketdyne, they did a feasibility study on astronauts landing on the moon. They found that the chance of success was something like .0017 percent. In other words, it was hopeless." As late as 1967, Kaysing reminds me, three astronauts died in a horrendous fire on the launch pad. "It’s also well documented that NASA was often badly managed and had poor quality control. But as of ’69, we could suddenly perform manned flight upon manned flight? With complete success? It’s just against all statistical odds."

President John F. Kennedy wasn’t convinced at all that the endeavor was next to impossible. In fact, he had publicly announced in May 1961 that "landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth" would be a Number One priority for the US, an accomplishment that was to instill pride in Americans and awe in the rest of the world. And so, Kaysing believes, NASA faked it, acting in accordance with the old adage that in a war, the truth is often the first casualty. (Cold wars, he and his fellow conspiracy believers say, are no exception.)

To hear him tell it, NASA had good reason to stage moon landing after moon landing, instead of simply admitting that lunar strolls would have to remain the stuff of science fiction novels, at least for a while. "They – both NASA and Rocketdyne – wanted the money to keep pouring in. I’ve worked in aerospace long enough to know that’s their goal."

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Absent Stars

There is an almost instinctive rejoinder to all of this: but we saw it. If television ever had a killer app, the moon landing was it. We bought new sets in droves, flicked them on as zero hour approached, and, miraculously, felt ourselves being locked into an intangible but very real oneness with a billion other people. It was our first taste of a virtual community, of cultures docking. It felt good. And now there’s this guy telling us that it was all a lie? C’mon! His rockets are a little loose. What proof does he have anyway?

Kaysing points out numerous anomalies in NASA publications, as well as in the TV and still pictures that came from the moon. For example, there are no stars in many of the photographs taken on the lunar surface. With no atmosphere to diffuse their light, wouldn’t stars have to be clearly visible? And why is there no crater beneath the lunar lander, despite the jet of its 10,000-pound-thrust hypergolic engine? How do NASA’s experts explain pictures of astronauts on the moon in which the astronauts’ sides and backs are just as well lit as the fronts of their spacesuits – which is inconsistent with the deep, black shadows the harsh sunlight should be casting? And why is there a line between a sharp foreground and a blurry background in some of the pictures, almost as if special-effects makers had used a so-called "matte painting" to simulate the farther reaches of the moonscape? "It all points to an unprecedented swindle," Kaysing concludes confidently.

But just how could NASA possibly have pulled it off? How about the TV pictures that billions of people saw over the course of six successful missions: the rocket lifting off from the Cape Kennedy launch pad under the watchful eye of hundreds of thousands of spectators; the capsule with the crew returning to earth; the moon rocks; the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of space-program employees in the know who would have to be relied upon to take the incredible secret to their graves?

Easy, says Kaysing. The rockets took off all right, with the astronauts on board, but as soon as they were out of sight, the roaring spacecraft set course for the south polar sea, jettisoned its crew, and crashed. Later, the crew and the command module were put in a military plane and dropped in the Pacific for "recovery" by an aircraft carrier. (Kaysing claims that he talked with an airline pilot who, en route from San Francisco to Tokyo, saw the Apollo 15 command module sliding out of an unidentified cargo plane, but he can’t provide the captain’s name or the name of the airline.) The moon rocks were made in a NASA geology lab, right here on earth, he continues. Not very many people on the Apollo project knew about the hoax, as they were only informed on a need-to-know basis. Cash bonuses, promotions, or veiled threats could have ensured the silence of those who were in on the whole scheme.

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Zero Gravity

Kaysing is not alone in his assertion that NASA has been, um, mooning the public. Bill Brian, a 45-year-old Oregonian who authored the 1982 book Moongate, agrees that there is "some sort of cover-up." Although Brian thinks that his fellow investigator may very well be right in saying that we never went to the moon, he believes there is an entirely different reason for many of the inconsistencies the two have found. Maybe we did go, Brian says, but it’s possible we reached the moon with the aid of a secret zero gravity device that NASA probably reverse-engineered by copying parts of a captured extraterrestrial spaceship. Brian, who received BS and MS degrees in nuclear engineering at Oregon State University (although he now holds a job as a policy and procedures analyst at a utility company), uses his "mathematical and conceptual skills" to reason that the moon’s gravity is actually similar to Earth’s, and that most likely, the moon has an atmosphere after all. He has crammed the appendices of his book with complex calculations to prove these points, but he trusts his intuition, too: "The NASA transcripts of the communication between the astronauts and mission control read as if they’re carefully scripted. The accounts all have a very strange flavor to them, as if the astronauts weren’t really there."

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But why in the world would NASA feel compelled to cover up knowledge of a high-gravity moon? "It’s a cascading string of events," explains Brian. "You can’t let one bit of information out without blowing the whole thing. They’d have to explain the propulsion technique that got them there, so they’d have to divulge their UFO research. And if they could tap this energy, that would imply the oil cartels are at risk, and the very structure of our world economy could collapse. They didn’t want to run that risk."

As this issue of Wired goes to press, a new book is headed to the stores: Was It Only a Paper Moon, by Ralph Ren, “a scientist and patented inventor.” Published by tiny Victoria House Press in New York, in what it has announced will be a first run of “at least 100,000 copies,” Paper Moon supposedly presents the latest scientific findings regarding the moon landing. Ren offers data suggesting, among other things, that without an impractical shield about two meters thick, the spacemen “would have been cooked by radiation” during the journey. Ergo, the lunar endeavors were impossible, and were cynically faked at the expense of gullible people everywhere.

Other conspiracy buffs don’t doubt that men walked on the moon but call the fact irrelevant because extraterrestrials made it there ages ago – and NASA knows it and has preferred to keep it a secret. In his recent book, Extra-Terrestrial Archeology, David Childress points out various unexplained structures on the moon and argues that these might be archeological remnants of intelligent civilizations. Childress, an avid believer in UFOs, also doesn’t rule out the possibility that aliens still use the moon as a base and a convenient stepping stone for their trips to our planet. This might even mean, enthuses the author, that the moon is really “a spaceship with an inner metallic-rock shell beneath miles of dirt and dust and rock.”

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October 28, 2009