Forty-five years after the Apollo 11 moon landing, the infamous 'Moon Landing Hoax' is still trying to catch on
Forty-five years ago in the early morning hours of July 21, 1969 (UTC), Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon. This was an incredible accomplishment that required the collective efforts of hundreds of thousands of people, billions of dollars in development funds and nearly a decade of successes and failures to achieve. The event was watched, live on television, by an estimated 600 million people around the world, is still hailed as one of the crowning achievements of the space race and is still revered as one of the best examples of what we can accomplish by working together. Yet, with all of that, there is still a small, but vocal part of the population that challenges the idea that people have ever set foot on the moon.
There is abundant evidence available to prove, conclusively, that the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission and the five missions after that all successfully landed on the Moon and then returned safely - photographs, videos, expert testimony and the testimony of the men who made the journeys, and the rocks and dust brought back from the missions. However, it is this very evidence that this vocal minority have used in their attempt to prove that it was all part of an elaborate hoax perpetrated by NASA to make us think that the missions were successful.
The astronauts on these missions took numerous pictures, documenting every aspect of their time on the lunar surface. While these efforts produced some truly iconic images for us to marvel over, certain details of the images have made some people suspicious. Two of the most common 'anomalies' they present are the crosshairs present in every lunar photo, which appear to be 'behind' certain objects in some photos, and the fact that there aren't any stars visible in the sky beyond the lunar horizon.
The crosshairs (or fiducials) in the images are there due to a glass plate (called a Reseau plate) that was installed just in front of the film of their cameras. The way these fiducials show up on the film is by deflecting the light passing through them by a very small amount, so that they do not focus on the surface of the film. This makes the part of the photograph covered by the fiducial show up as darker than the surrounding areas on the film, no matter how bright the light shining through them is. However, exposing the film is only one part of the process of creating a photograph. When the film was processed back on Earth, the photographic emulsions of the time weren't sensitive enough to pick up the difference between very bright areas on the film and the ever-so-slightly less bright region the fiducial produced on the film. This is seen over and over again, how the fiducials or portions of them go missing when the light from a bright object intersects with them, but are clearly visible otherwise. Updated scans of the original photographic negatives are able to pick up the fiducials much easier, though.
The issue with the 'missing' stars is simply a matter of the sensitivity of the film. With the bright lunar landscape, the astronauts in their bright white spacesuits, with their (mostly) bright white equipment, there was no way to take pictures of all of that and still pick up the faint stars beyond the horizon. Even if they set the camera for a longer exposure time to pick up the stars, the the light from everything on the surface would have completely washed out the image.
Another aspect of the images has to do with the shadows, especially how the astronauts were able to remain visible while in the shadow of the lander and while being backlit by the Sun (in the case of Buzz Aldrin's famous photograph). The argument is that there must have been more than one light source, which is true, but it wasn't due to spotlights on a movie set. The lunar surface itself was the second light source, due to the fact that the rough, angular particles of dust on the moon's surface tend to reflect light back in the direction from where the light came. So, with the sun behind Buzz Aldrin as Neil Armstrong snapped the picture, the lunar surface between the two astronauts was reflecting the sunlight back towards the sun. This lit up the front of Aldrin's suit even while he was casting a long shadow in front of him. For shots of the astronauts in the shadow of the lander, it was the same situation. Even though the direct line to the sun was blocked by the lander, the lunar surface all around was reflecting enough light back to light them up.
There are other issues that have been brought up as well, all with reasonable explanations, but it would take considerable time to go over them all here. However, the website Moon Base Clavius goes through an exhaustive list (click here).
The Space Environment
Scientists are quite familiar with the space environment, and while we certainly have more information about it these days, they were still very knowledgeable about what dangers the astronauts would have faced back then. Of specific concern was the exposure to radiation, both as the spacecraft passed through the Van Allen belts (the doughnut-shaped regions of charged particles from the sun that are trapped in place by Earth's magnetic field) and from cosmic radiation from space and the sun. Although spending time in the Van Allen Belts is not advisable, as you would accumulate a lethal dose of radiation over time, it would take months for that to happen. For the Apollo missions, the command module was specifically built to protect against the majority of this radiation, but their flight path was specifically chosen to fly them through the less intense regions of the edges of the belts. Even if they flew through the core of the belts, where the strongest radiation is, they only spent about an hour flying through. This was far too short a time to accumulate a harmful dose.
For cosmic radiation, this was a concern then, and it still is now. The astronauts weren't in any danger from it, though. Data gathered by the Curiosity rover, while it was still tucked away in its spaceship on the trip to Mars, showed that space travellers would be able to spend an entire year beyond Earth's protective magnetic field before they would need to worry about the radiation dose they were accumulating. At that point, the dose would exceed the life-time limit that NASA set down for women and it would be approaching the limit for men, but it would still be well below what's considered a lethal or dangerous level of exposure. The two weeks that the astronauts spent on their journey to the moon and back wouldn't have come close.
NEXT PAGE: The Moon Itself, the Grand Conspiracy, and Why Haven't We Gone Back?