A Conspiracy Involving 10,000 Scientists & Employees

My friend Kolja thinks that the moon landing is a hoax. A while back we were discussing it through email and he posed me a question. I sent that question to the folks at the Skepticality podcast and when they had Phil Plait from badastronomy.com they had him answer it. Here it is:

You can hear the entire episode (#83) [here].

Perfect timing since last night they had a special moon landing Mythbusters episode on Discovery Channel followed by the 2 hour special In the Shadow of the Moon “Historical details surrounding the nine Apollo flights.”

19 Replies to “A Conspiracy Involving 10,000 Scientists & Employees”

  1. Huzzah! I forgot all about our moon landing conversations! Yes, it’s very interesting how the facts historically changed…

    When the idea of photographing objects left behind by astronauts was first presented (to dispel hoax claims), Nasa said that the Hubble telescope could not take pictures of the moon because it was “too close” (as Hubble was designed to take pictures of far away galaxies). This was disproved. Then Nasa said that Hubble could not take pictures of the moon because it was “too bright”. This was also disproved. Hubble has since taken pictures of the moon in 1999 and 2005.

    Now Nasa says that Hubble has a maximum resolution of 0.014 arc seconds and can only resolve objects 88.5 feet or larger on the moon. The largest object reportedly left behind on the moon is the lunar module (16.5 feet). Nasa claims that there is no chance Hubble can see such a small object.

    I am no conspiracy theorist, but I would be remiss in my curiosity to overlook how many times Nasa changed their story, first claiming that something is “impossible” (in regards to Hubble observing the moon), having their official statements disproved, and then returning with “new facts” to trump their “old facts”.

    Now Brazilian astronomers have calculated that Hubble has a maximum resolution of 0.1 arc seconds and can actually resolve an object the size of a car. Not only could such a resolution observe the lunar module, but the smaller lunar rovers as well.

    Can’t see it; too close.
    Correction. Yes we can.

    Can’t see it; too bright.
    Oh wait. Yes we can.

    Can’t see it; too small.
    Are you sure about that?
    No rush, take your time.

    History is patient…

  2. Question for Mr Nutbar: what would convince you that the moon landings were not faked? Is the answer “nothing”? No rush, take your time.

  3. Your post is HIGHLY inaccurate. Firstly, Hubble would be able to distinguish objects that are at least 60 metres wide, and the largest object left on the moon is about 9 feet (3 metres) wide.

    Also, the “too bright” and “too close” arguments were in response to requests for the highly accurate long-term exposures that scientists use to view distant dim objects like other galaxies. Hubble doesn’t just snap a photo like your digital camer does. It points at a location in the sky and takes a long-term exposure to get as much light and information as possible on a dim object. This allows for much more detail in *dim* and *non-moving* objects.

    The moon is too bright to do that that because any kind of long-term exposure would simply oversaturate. It’s also too close because it’s moving so fast relative to Hubble itself. In the time Hubble would keep its iris open to capture a longer exposure, the moon would move and the photo would get motion blur, much like long-exposures of action photos.

    That’s why the photos we have now from Hubble of the Moon are a bit blurry, and not as detailed as you’d expect from something that has taken beautiful images of distant galaxies. They were simply “snapped”.

    Oh, and .1 arc-seconds is a much *worse* magnification than .014 arc -seconds and would see orders of magnitude less detail.

    Also: Brazilian scientists? They know more than the NASA ones who built Hubble? On what are they basing this claim? Why can’t they get the way arc-seconds work right?

    Are these the types of “arguments” (or rather “questions from ignorance”) we’re to expect now that most of the hoaxers’ main “points” were crushed utterly by the ?

    I wonder what hoaxers will claim after the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter takes half-meter accurate images of the entire moon that plainly display the moon missions’ leavings. Shouts of “Photoshopping!” and “They sent up robots to put them there!” no doubt.

    As cr0m rightly asks: What would convince you that the moon landings were not faked?

  4. I can’t speak for the “hoaxers”, but I for one am looking forward to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter taking pictures of the Apollo artifacts.

    As for one side crushing the arguments of the other side, I have yet to see a decisive victory either way. There are, however, a lot of people who like to claim premature victories. Both sides make compelling points, but rarely if ever cede those points to either camp. Heck, you say that the largest object left behind on the moon is 9 feet wide. I have heard other believers claim 16.5 feet for the lunar module. There is very little consensus in these internet debates and yet so much certainly! Even people who agree with each other can’t align their facts.

    If it was a hoax, I can see why it was fabricated. The United States felt they needed to win the space race (or at least appear to have won). If it was real, I’d like to know how live television signals were broadcast from the moon almost 40 years ago when we are still having difficulties with live broadcasts via satellite today. Earth is 6,300 kilometers wide. The moon is 384,000 kilometers away.

    Perhaps there is a straightforward explanation for that too. In fact, I’m sure you will link to one. Or maybe not. We shall see. Just don’t presume to know where I stand on the issue. I am skeptical, as Toren well knows, but also open-minded. There are a lot of crap arguments about this matter on both sides of the fence, but I sort through each one I come across because it’s a subject that interests me.

  5. There’s being open-minded and then there’s being so open-minded that your brain falls out.

    There is mountains of evidence that the USA landed on the moon, the questions the hoaxers put forth are answered logically, and if the hoaxers’ claims are true then scientists who grew up dreaming of space and going to the moon and who study the universe as it is have, by the HUNDREDS (at least) all taken part in a huge conspiracy of silence all for patriotism?

    When you aren’t completely convinced of something you have to determine which is more likely. This is the key to Occam’s Razor.

    On the one hand you have mountains of evidence (video, moon rock brought back just to name a few), thousands of scientists and engineers who say they really went, oh, and let’s not forget the reflector that they left up there! Scientists today — of all countries — can fire a laser at their coordinates on the moon and get a beam bounced back that helps determine the PRECISE distance the moon is from the Earth. Also, the Soviets monitored all NASA’s missions themselves, independently, and those that did never once claimed it was a lie.

    On the other hand you have crazy government conspiracy nuts, who, by the way, sell a lot of books to people who are government conspiracy nuts. They pose questions that seem to point out weaknesses, but those are easily answered (again, see the Mythbusters episode) and their claims are demonstrated to be false again and again.

    So the choice is:
    1) We went to the moon and there are overly-paranoid people in the world, or
    2) we didn’t and thousands of science-loving people AROUND THE WORLD (including Russia) are in on the conspiracy for the sake of American patriotism and the lunar retroreflector either isn’t there and scientists who have nothing to do with the conspiracy are being “bought” to say it’s there or it was “put there later by robots” (I have actually heard this claim made by a hoaxer before) and the 842lbs of moon rock brought back is fake despite being independently tested and found to be 700 million years older than the oldest Earth rocks.

    Can you see why it’s incredibly easy to laugh at hoaxers? Their claims are lunacy. (pun intended)

  6. No offense Puck, but it’s like you discovered how to cut and paste arguments off the internet. Yes there are a lot of nutty hoaxers out there, but there are also a lot of people who believe every snatch of pablum offered to them by a government.

    I (and this next part is very important) am neither.

    Moreover, we are talking about long range broadcast/monitoring technology that was developed 40 years ago. We only recently began developing reliable versions of that technology, but all of those advances were trumped by NASA four decades ago? No, my skepticism remains in place, but please, feel free to rail against those “reservations”. Just do so with something other than what anybody can Google on the internet. 🙂

  7. Even if your one tiny point was legitimate — it isn’t really as they did experience a lot of problems staying in touch with their moon missions, and the quality of the live broadcast from the surface of the moon was awful — it has to stand up against the previously mentioned heaps of evidence.

    I’m all for being skeptical. I am myself, but I’ll reiterate: There’s being open-minded and then there’s being so open-minded that your brains fall out.

    The initial questioning of “Hey, did we really go to the moon?” was a legitimate one, but after looking into it with a critical eye, the answer is quite obviously “yes, we did, let’s move on to more pressing matters”.

  8. Oh, and I’m not cutting and pasting arguments from the Internet, but I’m certainly double-checking my points.

    It’s annoying when people back up their arguments with facts and sources, isn’t it?

    It’s really too bad the hoaxers can’t do the same. They just ask leading questions which are then shot down and then bring up more leading questions which are also shot down.

    You haven’t answered our leading question though: What would it take to convince you that we landed on the moon?

  9. Wow. Your reiterated question really drives my point home.

    You either believe that we landed on the moon or you don’t.
    You are either on my side or on their side.
    You are either with me, or against me.

    Hmmm, let me think about that….

    No, I reject your extremes and choose the shades of grey in which most truths can be found. Especially when my options are “black” or “white”. Sorry Puck, I am nether a frothing conspiracy theorist nor a hardline moon patriot. You attempts to pigeon-hole me in either camp have failed. 🙂

    So let’s look at why I am merely a “skeptic” without (surprisingly!) being so open-minded that my brain falls out.

    Cutting and pasting aside, I think you watched MythBusters and took all the recreations they conducted to be more than they were, which is fine. Your curiosity is satisfied. Mine is not.

    Like you, MythBusters takes the approach of “they either landed on the moon or they didn’t” (as evidenced by their recreations). All they actually did, however, was recreate ways in which some of the (cherry-picked) hoax claims “could” have happened on the moon.

    That’s great, but it does not disprove the ways in which the moon landing could have also been replicated without going to the moon. Proving that something is possible “one way” does not disprove that the same thing is not also possible “another way”.

    If you can follow that, then we are off to a roaring start, because therein lies the shades of grey of which I am so enamored; enough to maintain my skepticism without buying into wholesale Entertainment Science/Special Effect television.

  10. It seems human nature is really at the root of any and all arguments about conspiracy theories ‘sonofapreacherman’.

    Ask yourself: Why do people accept conspiracy theories? What is the goal that you fight for so proudly?

    It boils down to human nature. Biology makes individuals the center of their own universes and therefore grants them the ‘gift’ of always being correct in their assumptions. It’s about being on top, not about seeking the truth. Arguments regarding the moon landings are essentially a MacGuffin. True believers don’t consider what they argue about, they simply want to argue and be acknowledged as the winner. A savior, if you will, who is smarter and better than everyone else. You argue only to confirm your own superiority.

    Those who deny obvious truths have the luxury of being able to move the goal posts whenever it suits them. That is why fallacious arguments are so satisfying. No matter how many logical refutations or displays of hard evidence you are confronted with you can never be beaten. ‘Default setting’ people ALWAYS get to win, facts-be-damned. It makes for a simple life. No thinking or establishment of new ideals needed.

    That attitude is a human constant and one of the things that helped us evolve and thrive. It is also shackle. It is a ball and chain that weighs us all down without our even knowing it. Human default settings can only be changed by the individual person. Our hammering away at your shell is futile, tiresome and without benefit. It is fools work in fact.

    The first step to a larger world is to admit that we all share this same ‘shell’. I have it and so does Puck. We’re working on it though. We don’t see ourselves as saviors or righteous warriors. No skeptic does. We know we are at the mercy of the many natural powers stronger than us. Climate, disease, our fellow man and ultimately oblivion. Knowledge of our limitations constitutes the first step to seeing through the cloudy veil of human nature.

    I am a biological being that evolved to fit a certain niche. One of the amazing things is that through the millennia we evolved the ability to transcend that niche with a little bit of self reflection. The explanation for your own tenacity is right there in your own DNA. A strong compliment sits nearby on the same strand. That compliment is the human ability to exercise true critical thinking.

    We may be wrong about the moon-landing or the Loch Ness Monster or JFK. But until compelling evidence is presented and examined one has to be cautious and refrain from making a decision of any kind black, white or grey. Your wishes cannot create or destroy facts. Facts have no regard for you or I. They are simply there. That awakening to the REAL and compelling mysteries of the universe transcends a million Sasquatches and crop circles.

    You could say that Columbus faked his discovery of the New World but look under your feet. Sort out your own mysteries before tackling the rest of the universe.

  11. Hello sidswoorch!

    I would say that you are full of cow-patties, but then you would only attribute that to my superiority “goal-post-moving” complex. No, no, your psychological metaphors are very enlightened. I probably just can’t see them because … well … goal post.

    I posted on this thread because Toren dangled the bait and I took it. I take full responsibility for that. Heck, I’d do it again. When you are ambushed by your friend on his blog (and completely taken by surprise I might add) one feels a need to reply … or at the very least clarify their opinion. I do. It seems to be one of the ways in which Toren and I electronically socialize. Personally, I think it’s his way of punishing me for calling his cell phone more than e-mailing him (as is his preference). What I can say with objective certainly is that I did not post here to assert my own superiority (that would be the “you are full of cow-patties” part.)

    😀 <– Look! Big smile! (Just in case the internet is notoriously bad at conveying lighthearted tone.)

    As for accepting conspiracy theories, I won’t speak for “people”. Speaking strictly for myself again, because apparently I cannot reiterate that enough, “I no more accept all conspiracy theories than I accept everything a person (or agency) claims after they repeatedly update their facts.” In point of fact, I have yet to assert that “I am right” and “somebody else is wrong”. My only assertion has been that I am skeptical. Puck takes great exception to my skepticism. Not even that I am “hoaxer”, but simply that “I doubt”. But hey, thanks for your 500 word attempt at profiling. Perhaps you should have written about “The Human Need to Claim Premature Victory” or better yet “The Perils of Deconstructing American Heroes.” That’ll get you published (or blacklisted) depending on the next administration.

    You clearly believe the facts as they have been presented to you regarding the moon landing. I reserve judgment. Some of what hoaxers claim would have been impossible on the moon can actually be reproduced (with “moon-like” special effects it seems). The part that gets overlooked a lot is that it can also be recreated here on Earth. In short, there is more than one way to skin a cat. (I don’t skin cats. I like cats. It just seem like colloquialisms are now required in this to convey my point). 🙂

    Why do I question the facts of the moon landing? It’s not a need to be superior. I’m intrigued by all the discussion going on. We all have a sliding scale of what we consider believable or not. In this case, my skepticism is not fueled by hoaxers, but rather the seamless — albeit blurry — broadcast quality of a live moon transmission (almost 40 years ago across 384,000 kilometers) when we have only recently started perfecting live satellite transmissions on the planet.

    I know, I know, you don’t want to get drawn in to the MacGuffin of this thread. That would involve getting your hands dirty. Derailing the MacGuffin with misplaced psychoanalysis seems to be more your speed. I won’t, however, take the bait. In fact, I’m starting to think that Toren wishes he hadn’t baited me in the first place. :p

    If you are interested in getting your hands dirty in this discussion, I’m all for it. Perhaps we can look at why only certain cherry-picked elements of what hoaxers squawk about (footprints, light sources, flags waving in the wind, slowed footage to replicate moon walking) are deconstructed with facts, rather than some of the smaller details (like different photographed horizons that overlap perfectly). The devil is in the details after all (look at me falling back on colloquialisms). Speaking in generalities now (and putting the purported moon hoax aside) if you are going to replicate something big, your mistakes probably won’t be with the obvious details.

    I suspect Puck will have something to say now. Puck? I’m listening if you’re linking…

  12. Well that’s sidswoorch for you. Give her/him a hand everybody! (But not a dirty one. He/she doesn’t do that.)

    Puck, ask me a different question. It doesn’t have to be this one, but try “So what are your theories about what happened on the moon?” You might find that none of them fall into either one of your black or white (ally or enemy) categories. But first a solemn promise! I guarantee that your potential open-mindedness won’t result in any premature cerebellum ejections. Hehe. It’s up to you. 😀

    And with that, I bid you both good day.

  13. As you’re now switching to personal attacks rather than discussing the matter at hand, I won’t bother asking you another question, thanks.

  14. Kolja, my regret is that perhaps you resent me pigeon-holing you on a public forum as a “moon hoax theorist.” That was my interpretation of your position from our talks.

    I refer your more technical moon hoax theory questions to experts because I cannot answer them. As much as I wish I were, I am not an astronomer or an engineer or a mathematician. As a skeptic myself I do not take all data in at face value, but I do accept that there are reliable experts out there, and as members of a community that thrives on peer-review, I trust their information (generally speaking, and up to a point). I do not have to be an engineer myself to accept that people build bridges.

    I, and I think we, understand that you do not reject every statement that the “pro-moon-landers” make. And if some of the information that you’ve found from pro-mooners has been contradictory, that’s also reasonable. I think what some of us are trying to do is address the topic of the post and provide facts that you may be missing. What disturbs me the most is that your replies have (it seems to me) been under the guise of good-natured reasoning but in fact they are coming across as passive-aggressive baitings. Remember that these are my friends. Call them on bullshit if you think they are handing it to you, but don’t insult them.

  15. Toren,

    It appears that good-humoured insults can only travel in one direction.

    I can be called a “Nutbar” by Chris with impunity, because, well, I know Chris. I practically talk to him every day and consider him a friend. Heck, we just had lunch at Deluxe Moderne Burger this afternoon and didn’t talk about this thread once.

    But then Puck (I have no idea who you are Puck) implies that I can be so open-minded my brain will fall out. No problem with that? Okay, moving on.

    Next sidswoorch (I have no idea who you are sidswoorch) launches into a psychological profile directed at my personality that has absolutely nothing to do with this thread, but what he thinks I am all about. Okay with that as well Toren? No problem.

    Well, I don’t complain about these comments, I don’t cry foul, and I sure as heck don’t whine about it. Instead, I reply with sarcasm and lighthearted quips (which is more than some of their comments deserved) “presuming” that these friends of your could take it. After all, they can certainly dish it out.

    And then it comes. I am the one who gets accused of making personal attacks.

    Well that’s just peachy isn’t it?

    Here’s my request — more of a favor that you can do for me — before you step in and play moderator in the future, stop and consider all the angles. Not just the squeaky wheels.

    And one more thing. Passive-aggressive baiting? There’s a metaphor that involves a black pot and a kettle. Now if that’s being passive-aggressive, perhaps there’s a conversion we can have over root-beer and a shawarma plate.

  16. Boy, I wish I’d known about this sooner, I could have added math to the conversation, which would have been more useful.


    Covers why Earth bound scopes and hubble can’t see the landers, in terms of math. It also has a nice list of the things that constitute evidence of landing on the moon (the mirrors they left so scientists could measure distance between Earth and Moon via laser is a big one.) Even suggests a possible experiment to try (highly hypothetical, but interesting.)

    All of that, plus the fact that we also have a LOT of information proving the orbiters made it to the moon (the biggest, hardest step in the endeavor), plus the TASS survey photo from 2001 (bottom most photo);


    is enough for me to accept we landed, at least until the Chinese and LRO can demonstrate otherwise.

    I should say, I’m not attempting, or all that interested, in restarting the argument, rather I’m just presenting the information I personally consider sufficient to confirm landing and hope it might prove interesting to others.

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