Washington, Nov. 6 (Reuters): Moon rocks weren’t enough. Neither was testimony from astronauts or even photographic evidence. So NASA has commissioned a mini-book to show that yes, indeed, Americans did land on the Moon aboard the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969.
“I’d been concerned for some time that there was this story about how we never landed on the Moon and we would get, periodically, calls from people about how to respond to that, especially from teachers,” said Roger Launius, NASA’s former chief historian.
Launius had long wanted to put together an educational aid for those who wanted to counter the doubters, and in September, NASA agreed to pay aeronautics engineer James Oberg $15,000 to write a monograph gathering up materials answering the sceptics.
Launius said the questioning intensified in 2001 after the Fox television network aired “Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon'” This programme gave another voice to the doubters, whose arguments are scattered broadly over the Internet.
They maintain the US lacked the technology to send humans to the Moon and was so desperate to appear to win the space race against the Soviet Union that it faked the mission on movie sets.
The doubters said the fake was done so poorly that there is ample evidence of fraud, including a picture of astronauts planting the American flag that allegedly shows the flag rippling in the wind. There can be no breeze on the Moon, so the picture must have been faked.
NASA agrees that there is no Earth-type breeze on the Moon. But when the astronauts struggled to plant the US flag, they twisted it around a bit before it stuck, and that naturally created ripples in the flag.
The ripples would have dissipated in seconds on Earth, where the atmosphere would have stopped them. But on the Moon, the rippling went unchecked, making it look as if it were being carried by the wind.
The controversy recently emerged from cyberspace in the person of Bart Sibrel, who has made a film questioning the Apollo Moon missions and who confronted astronaut Buzz Aldrin at a Beverly Hills hotel and demanded that Aldrin swear on a Bible that he had in fact walked on the Moon. The 72-year-old Aldrin, the second man ever to touch the lunar surface, punched the 37-year-old Sibrel in the face.