One in six believe this was taken in a studio

Conspiracy: In 2001, Fox News broadcast a documentary called, “Did We Land on the Moon?”

Why are conspiracy theories so powerful? Despite all the proof that it happened, there are still thousands who are convinced that the Moon landing was a hoax set up by the US space agency.

Did humans really walk on the Moon? If so, why were there no stars in the pictures? How could the flag flutter in a vacuum? Whose hand held the video camera? Why does one of the Moon rocks look suspiciously like a prop?

Just a few of the leading questions at the heart of one of the most enduring conspiracy theories of all time — that the Moon landing was faked.

This Saturday, the world will celebrate exactly 50 years since Neil Armstrong took that giant step for mankind.

It was the climax of the space race — a technological war between the USA and the USSR. Over 600 million people held their breath as the huge US scientific project triumphed.

Yet a recent UK YouGov poll found that one in six people believe that the Moon landing was staged. Moon hoaxism was more prevalent among the young: 21% of 24 to 35-year-olds agreed that the landings were staged, compared with 13% of over-55s.

“Moon-landing truthers” believe the Apollo 11 expedition was staged in a studio, despite how difficult it would have been for the 400,000 scientists involved to keep the secret, and the fact that Apollo 11 brought 329 kilograms of lunar rock back to Earth.

And their key suspicious are easily countered.

No stars show in the photo because the Moon’s surface is so bright.

The flag is not fluttering but looks crumpled because there was no wind or gravity to smooth it out.

The video camera was an external device attached to the landing craft.

People think one of the rocks is a prop because it seems to have a mysterious letter C carved on it. In fact, that is a tiny hair that got in the way when the picture was developed.

In 2002, Moon conspiracist Bart Sibrel called Buzz Aldrin (one of the original astronauts) “a coward, and a liar, and a thief” for faking the landing. He got a punch in the face from an infuriated 72-year-old Buzz.

It is not just the Moon. Numerous recent studies have shown conspiracy theories on the rise about everything from the Holocaust to the 9/11 attacks on the USA. There are growing numbers who believe the Earth is flat.

Psychologists say this exposes the lack of trust in our society and our fear of censorship.

Psychology or paranoia?

Conspiracy theories are part of human nature, argue some. They are an evolutionary product of the way our minds work — we are programmed to find answers and connect the dots, and often this leads us down false paths. We just can’t help being fascinated.

Others claim it more about our innate desire for safety and certainty. The fear of the unknown causes us to question all that seems unfamiliar. By rejecting “official” versions of events and creating our own stories, we get ownership of the narrative. This allows us to feel in control.

You Decide

  1. Are conspiracy theories harmless?
  2. Is modern society too sceptical?

Activities

  1. Come up with your own conspiracy theory about an important historical event. Write a short description of your theory for a top secret government inquiry.
  2. Using the Expert Links, research the growth of the flat Earth theory. List three reasons why “flat-Earthism” has flourished recently.

Some People Say...

“People would rather live in a community with unreasonable claims, than face loneliness with their truth.”

Bangambiki Habyarimana, Rwandan writer and blogger

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The Moon landing did, in fact, happen. The Apollo programme cost NASA almost $25 billion and, by 1966, NASA was using a huge 4.4% of the US federal budget. The size and scale of the Apollo 11 launch was immense and revolutionised NASA’s scientific impact.
What do we not know?
How many other apparent conspiracy theories might be true. For example, in the 1960s, there were stories about Project MKUltra, also called the CIA “mind control” programme, which conducted illegal experiments on human subjects. This turned out to be true.

Word Watch

Neil Armstrong
An American astronaut and aeronautical engineer, who was the first person to walk on the Moon.
Bart Sibrel
A filmmaker and writer. He has produced four films about the Apollo 11 mission.
Buzz Aldrin
A pilot on the Apollo 11 mission and the second man to step on the Moon.

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