Smithsonian Spotlight (2009–…): Season 1, Episode 5 - Denying the Moon Landings - full transcript

Why are there no stars in the photos? Why is the flag moving when there's no wind? Did we really land on the moon?

Ok, Neil, we can see you
coming down the ladder now.

July 20, 1969.

It was a breathtaking moment.

Neil Armstrong:
That's one small step for a man...

one giant leap for mankind.

Back on Earth, millions gazed

with wonder and astonishment,
even disbelief.

Beautiful, beautiful.

Isn't that something?

It seemed so impossible.

And some believe, to this day,
that it was impossible...

that it never happened...

That the landing was
a gigantic hoax.

And he basically said,
"I don't believe these guys did this."

He says, "you know, them guys
in Hollywood,

they can fake anything."

Despite an avalanche of evidence
that the moon landings were real,

conspiracy theories abound,

and those who believe them
are very persistent.

Just ask Buzz Aldrin.

The best thing to do,
don't pay any attention to them.

You're the one who said
you walked on the Moon

when you didn't.

Now, if they really irritate you,
you might hit them.

You're a coward,
and a liar, and a...

Evidence will not sway them.

Fact will not convince them.

And now their private opinions
are public rants on the Internet.

Anyone can do it,
and they can say anything they want.

But why does the myth persist?

The thrill of spaceflight
doesn't hold a candle

to the thrill of conspiracy theories.

Join us
as we relive Apollo

with the heroes
who made it happen,

and the deniers
who claim it didn't.

I'm Susan Spencer
for Smithsonian Spotlight.

Few endeavors are as inspirational to us
as human spaceflight.

More than 40 years
after we landed on the Moon,

people still line up inside
the National Air and Space Museum

just to touch a Moon rock.

I don't even know
how they got up there,

I mean, it's pretty amazing.

But there are
a stubborn few out there

who insist that we never
made it to the Moon

and we've all been duped.

They think the landing was faked--
staged as an elaborate hoax.

So we sat down with some
Apollo astronauts, among others,

to wonder why, in the face
of overwhelming evidence,

some people still refuse
to believe it.

After all, it's one of human
history's greatest stories.

You can't make this stuff up!

Can you?

By any definition, the '60s were
a turbulent decade in America.

There was international upheaval.

The Vietnam War
was just beginning

to start to escalate
in the mid '60s.

And it was beginning
to polarize our country.

There was
domestic turmoil.

There had been a variety
of civil rights activities,

especially after the assassination
of Martin Luther King in 1968--

a series of riots
had ensued after that.

And there was a struggle
for superpower supremacy.

We were in the middle of a Cold War
with the Soviet Union.

It was very desperate.

The U.S. and the Soviets
were locked in a Cold War...

and the symbol of the Cold War
was the nuclear missile.

Each country had a huge arsenal
pointed at the other.

It was called nuclear deterrence.

No country had a clear advantage
over the other,

which kept everything
at a tense stalemate.

But in 1957,
all that changed.

Sputnik went up. And, of course,
it caused a little bit of a chill.

If the Soviets can do that,

they can also target
one of their warheads

to reach the United States.

Two months later,

America's first attempt
to launch its own satellite

was a spectacular failure.

Back then, I recall it was
5, 4, 3, 2, 1, blow up,

rather than "liftoff."

It wasn't very successful.

Then, in April 1961,

the Soviets put the first man
into space, Yuri Gagarin.

The Space Race was on,
and the Soviets were winning.

If the spectacular accomplishment
is all that is claimed,

Russia has moved
ahead of the U.S. once more

in the race for the Moon.

Then, just a few months
after Gagarin went into space

and returned a hero,

President Kennedy
threw down the gauntlet.

I believe that
this nation should commit itself

to achieving the goal,
before this decade is out,

of landing a man on the Moon

and returning him safely
to the Earth.

But when President Kennedy
made this pledge,

"We will go to the Moon
by the end of the decade,"

that didn't give NASA
very much time.

How old was NASA
when all that happened?

In 1961, NASA had been
in existence for only three years.

It was a pretty remarkable

And they were thrilled
with the prospect.

Had a little swagger there.

I mean, would have had
to have been.

A little swagger,

but also a sense from those
who were in charge at the agency

that, "Oh, my gosh, we've gotten
our dream come true.

The president has told us to do something
we've always wanted to do.

But now we have to actually do it.

And that may be
the hardest thing of all."

To some Americans,
Kennedy's goal may have seemed

out of reach from the start.

After all, there still
were people alive in 1961

who remembered the Wright brothers'
first flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903.

To go from just getting off the
ground to getting to the Moon--

within a single lifetime?

You might be forgiven for thinking
that that was a bit farfetched.

Do you think there was any doubt
in the collective minds at NASA

that this was possible?

There was lots of doubts,

especially early on.

They would sit down at a table with
some of the senior officials at NASA
and ask the question, "can we do this?"

And they said, "well, you know,
we've got these issues
and those issues.

And if everything goes well,
we can accomplish this.
But it's gonna be a tough road."

Godspeed, John Glenn...

In 1962, Project Mercury succeeded
in putting John Glenn into orbit,

circling the Earth three times.

Oh, that view is tremendous...

In the mid '60s,
Project Gemini tested techniques

such as orbital maneuvers,
docking with another craft,

and spacewalking.

Hey, Gus, I don't know if you read,
but we're right over Houston.

The flight director says,
"Get back in!"

NASA was developing innovations
at an astonishing pace,

as it strove to meet
Kennedy's challenge.

The Apollo missions were next.

There was a real sense
of mission.


And by this time,
so much had been invested,

so much prestige for the United States
was riding on this.

Apollo had challenging goals
and an audacious schedule.

It was designed to leapfrog
past the Soviets

and get to the Moon first.

But the momentum came
to a disastrous halt

on January 27, 1967.

The 3-man crew of Apollo 1
perished in a fire

during a test on the launch pad.

That sent everybody
back to the drawing board

in terms of, "can we actually do this?"

There had to be a retrenchment

and a redesign and rededication
of effort to recover from that.

And as a matter of fact,
there were some considerations

as to whether we really should
go ahead with this program.

But Apollo did go ahead.

Almost two years
after the disaster,

Apollo 7 launched a 3-man crew
into orbit for the first time.

They spent 11 days in orbit,
testing the command module.

Actually I'm amazed,
it looks real good.

Then only ten weeks later,
in a tremendously risky step,

America aimed its astronauts
at the Moon.

Apollo 8 was, to me,
the biggest risk

we ever took in Apollo.

Because we launched that
spacecraft to the Moon,

and with no backup engines
once they left Earth orbit.

The engine had to work.

They were the first
humans to leave Earth orbit

and see the planet from afar...

And the first to orbit the Moon.

The vast loneliness
up here on the Moon

is awe-inspiring,

and it makes you realize
just what you have

back there on Earth.

The world was in awe,
and on Christmas Eve 1968,

their words were broadcast
live around the globe.

And God bless all of you,

all of you on the good Earth.

Suddenly, landing
on the Moon seemed within reach.

But it would not be easy.

Did you at any point doubt
you were going to land successfully?

To land another
spacecraft on another object

meant slowing down from orbit
at a high speed around an object,

and then slowly bringing it to a point
where you could touch it down.

If you could land once,
you could land ten times.

With millions watching
around the world,

Apollo 11 command module pilot
Mike Collins

sent Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong off
in the lunar module,

nicknamed Eagle.

Roger, Eagle's undocked.

Roger, how does it look?

The Eagle has wings!


It's looking good.

In Houston, overseeing a tense
but confident mission control

was flight director Gene Kranz.

I remember very vividly
coming in that day.

And there was a security guard
out there, Moody.

We were very close
to the security people

because they were
the last people

that we would see before
we would enter this room.

We knew
each one of them personally.

And Moody came up and said,
"Are we gonna land today?"

All of the sudden
that sunk in.

Landing day.

Astronaut Charlie Duke
was the cap. comm.--

the person designated to be
the sole voice of communication

between mission control
and the astronauts.

Eagle, Houston, we read you now.
You're go for PDI. Over.

Roger, understand.

And everything was going
along pretty well.

And then we started our descent.

And we gave 'em a go
for power descent.

So they ignited the engine.

And it seemed like the wheels
started comin' off.

Suddenly there were
overload alarms

on the Eagle's
guidance computer.

Same alarm,
and it appears to come up

when we have a 16 68 up.

Roger, copy.

Communication problems.

But Armstrong and Aldrin
continued searching

for a place to set down the Eagle.

2,000 feet, 2,000 feet.
Into the AGS, 47 degrees.


Well, there was
a crater in front of us that--

that Neil didn't think
was a good place to land.

So the prudent thing to do

instead of pulling up
to land short left or right

was to fly over
on the other side of that.

That takes more time
and takes more fuel.

And fuel for their
descent was getting low.

If they couldn't land in time,

they would have to abort the landing,
switch to the fuel reserved for ascent,

and return to the command module

The clock was ticking.

Well, when we hit low level,

we knew we had about 120 seconds
of fuel remaining.

100 feet, 3.5 down,
9 forward. 5 percent.

The next to the last
call I gave him as cap. comm.

was 60 seconds.

And that meant they had
60 seconds to land.

60 seconds.

They're still not as close to the surface
as we'd like to see 'em.

Then we hear, "45 seconds."
And then, "30 seconds."

And then about the time
that my controller said--

was about to say 15,
there's a pause.

Normally, mission control
is not quiet.

But in this instant,
it was dead silence.

Then when he got the call,
"contact, engine stop."

Contact light.

Ok, engine stop.

ACA out of detent.

And then we recognize
the crew is going through

the engine shutdown sequence.
We've landed the Moon.

Tranquility Base here.

The Eagle has landed.

And I respond--
I was so excited,

I couldn't even pronounce "tranquility."
It came out like "twanquility" at first.

And I--then I corrected myself.

Roger, twank--Tranquility,
we copy you on the ground.

You got a bunch of guys
about to turn blue.

We're breathing again.
Thanks a lot!

Thank you.

Now, what happened
after landing

was so much gravy,
frosting on the cake.

And if you remember
that President Kennedy said--

"send a man to the Moon",

one man,

"and bring him back safely."

He didn't say anything about
walking around on the surface.

Ok, Neil, we can see you
coming down the ladder now.

Over 600 million people
watched the live broadcast.

I'm at the foot of the ladder...

Well, it was an
enormously significant event.

And that's the way
it was intended

because this is about
demonstrating American prowess

from a scientific
and technical perspective.

And the whole world watched.

That's one small step for a man,

one giant leap for mankind.

Everything paused on Times Square,
as it being broadcast there.

Around the world the same sorts
of things were happening.

And it really was,
for just a very few minutes,

people kind of pausing and saying,
"I'm part of this much bigger thing

where humanity has now set foot
on another body in the Solar System."

And they were very excited about it.

Beautiful, beautiful.

Isn't that something?

Magnificent sight out here.

Magnificent desolation.

What did it look like?

Well, it looked like black sky.

The horizon with no air
was so defined.

You could-- you could see a rock--
a boulder-- on the horizon--

a mile and a half away.

With no atmosphere and
no impediments to the vision

and the sun behind us,
we could just see so clearly.

And we're
getting a picture on the TV.

But it was not so clear
to people back on Earth.

As ghostly and grainy images
were broadcast live on TV,

skeptics already may have been
thinking that something was up.

But it's all grainy
and it's black and white,

and today it looks
very out of date.

It does.

Do you remember
at any point

looking at that TV image and
saying, "hmm, I don't know"?

No, I never did.

I had followed the program
well enough to know

how they were taking
those pictures

and how they were coming
back to Earth.

There were no detailed
conspiracy theories...Yet.

But there were people,
often older,

who scarcely could believe
we had made it.

My daddy was born in 1907.

He was 65 when I went
to the Moon.

He could hardly believe
that his son did it.

My youngest son was five
when I went to the Moon.

He doesn't think
it's any big deal.

Your own grandfather
had doubts, right?

Well, my own grandfather,
till the day he died in 1984, said,

"I don't believe those guys
ever landed on the Moon.

That was shot in Hollywood

Despite a handful of skeptics,

the vast majority of Americans
was enthralled with the achievement.

So, there was a program

that was bringing
the country together.

We were all proud
of the space program.

But there was a program

that was splitting the country
apart in parallel,

and that was the Vietnam War.

We seek only to bring
to a halt communist aggression

against the people of
the Republic of South Vietnam.

As the Vietnam War dragged on,

America began
secretly bombing Cambodia--

at the same time
as the Moon landings.

When the secret bombings became
public in the early '70s,

people were outraged
that the government would lie

to its own citizens.

There's protests.
There's questioning of authority.

But how did that figure into this
whole movement of people

who just don't believe
it ever happened?

Yeah, I think one of the things
that is a persistent issue that

emerged from the Vietnam Era

was a questioning by the public
of what the government does.

When they experienced Vietnam

and some blatant lies
that were told about it,

that sends trust
of government down.

Then the very man who
helped Apollo achieve its goals

was caught in his own little
government conspiracy--


I shall resign the presidency
effective at noon tomorrow.

The erosion of public trust
in government was staggering.

Government officials,
even the president, had lied.

And for Bill Kaysing,

the government's capacity
for deception

stretched all the way
to the Moon.

A guy named Bill Kaysing
wrote something, I gather,

we never went to the Moon.

Who is he, and what is
his view on this?

Well, Bill Kaysing
was an interesting individual

who had some
tangential knowledge

about aerospace activities

and in the 1970s published
this little pamphlet--

at that time, it was
nothing more than a pamphlet--

in which he laid out his reasons

for disbelieving
a landing on the Moon.

And he made--
at least in the nascent form--

the basic arguments that people
have taken since that time.

Kaysing was a technical writer
in the aerospace industry,

with no formal engineering training.

But what he lacked
in engineering skills,

he made up for
in persuasive writing skills.

Amid the rambling text
of his pamphlet

was a claim that NASA's
own photographs from the Moon

prove they weren't taken
on the Moon.

Where are the stars?

That's the other question
that is always asked, you know?

Everybody asks about that.

When you see the astronauts
on the Moon, you see, obviously,

them standing there in this
perfectly black background.

Well, how come you can't
see the stars?

"Look at those pictures
they've taken on the Moon,

there's no stars in the sky.

It's a black sky,
but there are no stars."

Well, duh, the sun's shining,
you know?

And if the sun's shining,
just like on Earth,

there's no stars in the sky.

Kaysing brought up other questions
to back up his claims of a hoax.

He questioned issues
about radiation

and how much radiation
the astronauts would receive

in a trip to the Moon.

He questioned the technology

and whether or not technological
capabilities existed

to be able to do this.

All of those were pieces
of what he argued about.

And all of those have continued
down to the present.

As these questions
occupied a few skeptics,

most of America enjoyed
the continued success of Apollo.

Five more landers touched down.

Ten more astronauts walked
and drove around the surface.

Woo hoo!

Johnny, this is so great,
you can't believe it.

I believe it, charlie.

Oh, this is gonna be
some kind of different ride.

But none of this
impressed the doubters.

At the time, NASA didn't bother
to debunk the conspiracy theories.

It was considered a bad idea
to give them any more publicity.

But the silence only created
a vacuum for more questions.

And what was playing at the
local movie theater back then

didn't help either.

2001: A Space Odyssey

used what was present at the time
in terms of special effects

to demonstrate spaceflight
in a fairly realistic manner.

And so some people have pointed
at that to say,

"Obviously the ability to fake
this existed in Hollywood."

Then in 1977 there's
a movie called Capricorn One.

Yeah, Capricorn One was not
a very good science fiction movie

that was about the faking
of a Mars landing--

had nothing to do with the Moon.

But it was viewed by some
of the conspiracy advocates

as kind of an evidence
that they could use.

And it sort of followed
the same narrative

in terms of the government
faking this? -Right.

In fact, NASA did build
pretty elaborate Moon sets

right here on Earth.

But they were not
for filming hoax footage.

They were for Apollo astronaut

To suggest a Moon landing hoax

is to suggest a conspiracy
unimaginably large.

Remember, the government
couldn't even cover up

a routine burglary
at the Watergate.

And this would have had to
have involved thousands--

Hundreds of thousands of people,
if not millions of people,

to pull something like that off.

I mean, in the mid 1960s,
NASA had employed directly

about 400,000 people
working on Apollo.

If you contend that this program
was lasting over about a ten-year period,

we're talking millions of people
that were involved in this

at some level in terms
of perpetrating a hoax.

How can that possibly
be the case?

10, 9, 8...

But for conspiracy theorists,

it's easier to point out
anomalies and possibilities

than it is to offer explanations.


Launch commence.

Liftoff, we have liftoff
of Apollo 14...

Three minutes past the hour...

For example,
hoaxers like Bill Kaysing

couldn't deny what everyone
could plainly see--

a giant rocket lifting off
with people in it...

and 8 days later,
a capsule splashing down,

with the same people emerging.

When asked where he thought
the astronauts actually had been

if not on the Moon,

he suggested they were just
biding their time

going around the Earth,
again and again, for over a week.

Such notions remained
on the fringes,

getting less and less attention

as Americans docked with the Soviets
and ended the Space Race...

Launched astronauts
on a reusable shuttle...

Built a space station...

And otherwise made spaceflight
rather routine.

So one might have thought
the whole so-called controversy

would simply die of
natural causes by century's end,

laid to rest by reasoning
and overwhelming evidence.

But as Mark Twain once said,

"A lie can travel
halfway around the world

while the truth is still
putting on its shoes."

And he said that long before
there was anything called the Internet.

What impact has the Internet had
on this whole movement?

Well, it's just made it much more easy
to communicate, literally, worldwide

with anybody who has
a like-minded interest.

And the entry level is so low

in terms of being able to put up your
own web page that anyone can do it.

And they can say anything they want.

And they do.

With no filters, the Internet
is a bazaar for conspiracy theories.

Just pick a topic.

The assassination of JFK.


Area 51.

What do you think is in Area 51?

Well, of course we put
our secret programs there.

But that doesn't mean we have

decaying alien bodies
from Roswell, New Mexico,

in the hangar.

On the Internet,
the line between true and false

is yours to draw.

So you run a Google search
on Apollo moon landings.

And you're gonna get the NASA site
and scientific sites,

and then you're gonna get tons
of moon hoax stuff as well.

The Internet gave deniers a platform

to reinforce one another's views...

And of course sell
books and videos.

But the movement stayed
relatively stagnant...

Until a nationally broadcast TV show

injected new life into the old claims.

The Eagle has landed.

But did it?

Did they really land on the Moon?

Was this a fairly--in
any way objective documentary?

The documentary itself
was not objective in the slightest.

And it was very much geared

toward espousing
the conspiracy theory

and left one with the impression
that we had faked the moon landings.

There are those who claim that
believing in man's one small step...

Requires one giant leap
of faith.

The program was slick,

but it only brought up
the same questions

that date back to Bill Kaysing's
pamphlet in 1974.

Kaysing observed that despite
the clarity of deep space,

the stars were missing
from the black lunar sky.

Why are there
no stars in the pictures?

Why does the flag flutter when
there's no wind on the Moon?

There are clear scientific
answers to these questions.

But the program
wasn't about science.

It was about raising questions

and making them sound ominous
and mysterious.

The Fox special in 2001
really did kind of change the dynamic

because it raised to a new level

the number of people
exposed to these ideas.

And suddenly there was an explosion
of interest in the great moon hoax

and NASA, which for 30 years

had refused to dignify
the deniers with a response,

felt compelled to speak out.


It was basically a one-sentence
release that said,

"Yes, we did land on the Moon.
End of discussion."

- That was it, huh?
- Initially.

But very quickly they realized

that they had to make a serious effort
to respond to the question.

I got emails from
high school science teachers

that says, "astronauts were my
kids' heroes, students' heroes,

but now they all think
you're a bunch of liars."

NASA reluctantly began
to debunk the theories,

but it never could move as fast
as the hoaxers on the net

And is this the reason,
in your mind,

that we still have
this 5 or 6% of Americans

who really believe,

they don't just doubt,
they believe it did not happen?

I have a friend
who's a pollster who says,

"I can get 5 or 6% of the public
to agree to anything."

But when you start breaking it down,
it gets to be a little scary. -It does.

And the area
that it gets scary in

is among youngsters.

There was a poll that was done
a few years ago in which

they broke it down by age.

And 18- to 24-year-olds,

there was a much larger
percentage, in the 20s,

who questioned whether or not
we landed on the moon.

Now, it's not that they said,
"we don't believe it."

They question it.

For the most part,
the deniers are all talk,

often expressing their views
with anger,

but at least they're not
bothering anybody.

And then there's Bart Sibrel.

Well, if you really orbited the Moon,

why won't you swear
on the Bible that you did so?

Well, he is a filmmaker,

and his particular approach
is to make a variety of films

about this particular subject

saying that we never landed
on the Moon,

that it was all
a big government hoax.

Put your left hand on the Bible.

Left hand.

- Raise your right hand.
- Ok.

One of his specialties

is to accost an astronaut
who walked on the Moon

and get them to swear
on the Bible that they did so.

And some have actually
done that.

We're giving you
the opportunity to swear to God

that you walked on the Moon.

Sibrel either gets
an interview with an astronaut

or just ambushes him.

I'm Bart with ABC Digital.

Then he shows the astronaut
his quote, unquote "proof,"

and turns the interview
into a series of accusations.

They're clearly pretending
to be halfway to the moon

when they're not
halfway to the moon.

That is bull[Beep].

Buzz Aldrin has been
one of his favorite targets.

It was not the first time
that this person had

sort of troubled me in public
with a TV camera.

- I know for a fact that you didn't.
- Huh?

I know for a fact that you did not.

You know for a fact
that we did not?

That's correct.
As you'll see in this tape...

Ok, well, I'm not interested
in satisfying your suppositions

when there's all this evidence
that we did.

Turn the camera off, please.

I know for a fact
you didn't walk on the Moon.

That's fine.

It's Ok if you know it.
Do you understand?

You can have
any opinion you want,

that's what's wonderful
about this country.

Sibrel is the poster boy
of the modern hoaxer movement,

and he's made a cottage industry
of denying the moon landings.

We have the opportunity
to set the record straight,

we're asking you to...

His videos are filled
with unsubstantiated claims,

but they sell.

Then there's the flag...
blowing in the wind.

At least twice.

On the atmosphereless Moon.

We can only guess that most of
the missions were staged inside...

The increasing traction
of these ideas

has led to other media moments
to remember.

The Onion, 2009.

The satirical newspaper
posted a very funny story

that after watching
YouTube videos,

Neil Armstrong himself
had been convinced

that the moon landings were a hoax.

The headline is,

"Conspiracy Theorist Convinces Neil
Armstrong Moon Landing Was Faked."

- Right.
- But this actually got picked up.

It got picked up.
And it's amazing that that's the case.

It got picked up in real newspapers

in various parts of the world--

not realizing that this
is a satirical piece,

and gets reported as real news.

In 2009, NASA celebrated
the 40th anniversary

of the first Moon landing.

There was a splash
of celebrations

and stories in the press.

An awful lot of the stories
that are written

make a reference
to the denier theory.

They do.

Why do you think that is?

Well, I actually
asked journalists that question

when the anniversary took place.

They would almost always ask me
about this moon hoax.

And my standard response is,

"why are you asking me
about this nonsense?"

And as often as not,
their response was,

"well, I'm looking for a new angle."

And this is a new angle.

But these new angles are just
old theories that refuse to die.

Like the one about the hatch
on the landing module.

So they land, what happened?

Well, they land, and then of course
the astronauts will suit up.

They will then open a big door

that you can see where that plex
is located up top there.

And from there they will then
go through that particular door,

crawl out onto what
they call the porch,

and then down the ladder
onto the lunar surface.

Now, that particular door
played a role

in an attempt to prove, I guess,

that in fact none of this
really happened, right?

Well, that's correct.

We had a moon hoax denier
who came in

and insisted that he be allowed
to measure that door.


His believe was that an astronaut
in the spacesuit, with the backpack on,

would be unable
to get through that door,

that it was too small
for that person to get through.

So he insisted that
he be allowed to do so,

there were some negotiations
back and forth.

Finally we allow him to do it,
he came up,

and on the day
he was going to do it,

he pulled, literally
while he was up there,

he pulls a ruler
out of his back pocket.

- What do you mean, a ruler?
- A ruler, a 12-inch ruler.

- Like you have in school?
- Exactly.

- This is his scientific measurement?
- This is his measurement approach.

Didn't even bother
to bring a tape measure.

Now, what are you
thinking when you watch this?

I'm thinking,
can he be serious?

- But he was!
- But he was.

And so,
once he did all this,

what did he determine?

Well, of course they
can get through this thing.

The size of the door,
and the size of the astronauts

with the backpack
and the spacesuit.

There is no problem,
they can do it.

Yes, it's tight,
but, yes, they can make it.

We poked around
a little bit ourselves

to debunk some of
the more persistent myths,

like the claim that rocks
brought back from the Moon

are really from Antarctica.

Gary Lofgren
will tell you otherwise.

Ok, so, first of all, why in the
world am I dressed like this?

Well, we got to protect the samples.

That's our primary purpose here,
is to preserve the samples,

and we're protecting them from you.

Lofgren is a geologist
and planetary scientist

at Johnson Space Center
in Houston.

He helped train the Apollo astronauts
on how to collect rock samples.

Now he oversees the collection
as its head curator.

Inside the cabinet
is a very, very pure form of nitrogen.

Why do you need to do that?

Well, when the rocks
were on the Moon,

they were not in contact
with oxygen,

there's no atmosphere
on the Moon,

there's no water vapor
on the Moon.

On the Earth,
those kinds of substances

would alter these rocks.

- So it would oxidize.
- It would oxidize.

And we can't allow that to happen,

otherwise we'd be studying
what the Earth does to the rocks

and not the Moon rocks.

What about
the composition itself?

Is there anything about a Moon rock
that is completely different?

Oh, yeah,
the trace element chemistry

is where the differences lie.

And there are some
very unique patterns

that go back to how
the Moon was formed.

So they're really very old.

There are no rocks
on Earth that old.

And you can't simulate
radioactive age dating.

But you know
there's a whole group of people

who thinks that the whole
Moon landing was simulated.

The rocks
are the best evidence.

You talk to any of the hundreds
of scientists in the world

who have studied these rocks,

you won't get a single person
who's actually studied the rocks

and understands them

who says that they're not
from the Moon.

We also got to the bottom

of some of the other
hoax theories.

First, why does the flag flutter
on the Moon?

"Oh, wait a minute,
I've looked at the photographs,

and the flag looks like it was
blowing in the breeze of...

of Nevada desert
or Arizona desert.

Or maybe there was a fan
in the studio

that was blowing the flag like that."

First of all,
it was on a special pole,

hanging from a horizontal rod
like a curtain,

so the stars and stripes
always would be visible.

And the surface of the Moon is,
well, hard as a rock.

The thing you have to
remember about the lunar surface

is that it's essentially rock

with a little bit of dust
on the top of it.

So how do you get
this thing to stand up?

And so the astronauts
in their bulky suits

are twisting it back and forth
trying to get it to go into the ground.

It was moving back and forth
after they had been twisting the staff.

It's a pretty simple explanation.

Another common question,

how could we have made it
to the Moon

on existing computer power?

I bought a little
digital camera the other day

with a 8-gigabyte memory card.

And that little memory card,

which fits basically
on the end of my finger

has 100,000 times the memory
of our Apollo computer.

We see a real display now...

But, indeed, it was a miniscule fraction
of what we have available today.

That's Ok.

I mean, they used it for the things
that they could use it for.

And then they had
hundreds of people

with slide rules and calculators

who were checking
various other things by hand

to make this happen as well.

So to suggest
that computing power

was the reason we could not
reach the Moon is absurd.

Another claim,

astronauts couldn't have survived
the Van Allen radiation belts.

These belts protect
the Earth from radiation,

but are actually
a dangerous source of radiation

if you pass through them.

The Van Allen radiation belts

don't go out as far as the Moon.

And clearly when the astronauts
pass through those,

they are exposed to radiation

at levels greater than
we ever see here on the Earth,

at least in a natural way.

So this is an issue.

It's an issue,
there's no question about that.

And the way in which
the astronauts dealt with that

was basically to accept that risk.

There was a little bit of
modest shielding, not very much.

And they did take some radiation,
there's no question.

But they didn't take enough
over a long enough period of time

to be injured in any serious way.

Another classic hoax theory,

NASA filmed all of the Moon footage
on a soundstage on Earth.

Then to make it look like space,

they simply replayed it
in slow motion.

Actually, it looks
in slow motion

because the Moon's gravity is
only one sixth of that on Earth.

And when we would, say,
maybe spring up a little bit,

we didn't come down right away
the way we get here on Earth.

Make sure that you've got
your feet underneath you.

So it was like slow motion.

Moving around on the Moon
was just like slow motion.

As hoax theories go,

from here on things get
a bit more absurd.

A rock, very likely
a papier-mache prop

because of the crease here,

is categorized with the letter "C".

What about the assertion
that if you look really closely,

you can see some sort of little logo

or some kind of insignia

or some prop master's mark
on a rock.

Yeah, there's a single image
that has what looks like the letter "C"

on one of the rocks in the lower
left-hand part of the photograph.

And that is simply a result
of the reproduction of that.

After it got back to Earth,

there was a hair or something
that got onto that,

and when they
reproduced the image

and handed it out to the media
and anybody else who wanted it,

it had that thing on it.

The original negative
and the original photograph

does not have that.

So this is not from
Warner Brothres Property Department.

- Right.
- Number 33, or whatever.

While the original
Moon photographs

were subject to the various
hazards of using real film,

modern photography
is all digital,

including recent photographs
of the Moon

taken by the
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter,

a modern-day Moon map maker.

The orbiter has
a very good camera.

And they've taken pictures
of every Apollo landing site.

And you can see the footprints
and the flags

and the experiments packages
and the lunar modules.

So, I mean, I don't see
how you refute that.

Aside from the scientific evidence,
there's the political evidence--

the Soviets never questioned
our success.

They knew the landing was real.

The U.S. won
the Race to the Moon.

Although some of its own
citizens never will believe it.

If we faked it,
why did we fake it nine times?

I mean, we said we went
to the Moon nine times.

If you're gonna fake something,
just do it once and stop.

And the reality is
if they're true die-hard believers,

they're not gonna be persuaded
by anything.

And there's no satisfying
the conspiracy theorists.

If nothing else, they are persistent.

Howdy, Buzz.
Remember me?

- What's your name?
- Bart. Bart Sibrel.

Remember Bart Sibrel,

the guy who surprises astronauts
with a camera?

He ambushed Buzz Aldrin
one too many times.

Do you think you can get
to heaven without repenting?

This is how one of
mankind's greatest achievement

veers into the theater
of the absurd.

You're the one who said you walked
on the Moon when you didn't.

You're a coward
and a liar and a--

It was a pretty good hit.

It was a split-second decision

that turned out to be relatively
good publicity on my behalf,

and my contemporaries thought
I was their momentary hero.

Sibrel tried to use
the videotape

to convince police
to press charges.

They refused.

Remember the Wright brothers'
first flight in 1903?

The New York Times
initially refused to report it

because they thought
it had been a hoax.

Been to Yellowstone?

The first pictures of the geysers
were dismissed as fakes...

until more and more people
saw them firsthand.

Seen the Pyramids?

Some still think the Egyptians

got construction help
from extraterrestrials.

If some are still debating

how the Pyramids were built
over 4,000 years ago,

how long will people be debating
the Moon landings?

Will these conspiracy theories
ever disappear?

The longer we stay away,

the easier it will be
for people to say,

"oh, that's just a story
that people tell."

The eyewitnesses will be gone.

The original astronauts will be gone.

And it'll become
more mythical with time.

The thrill of spaceflight
doesn't hold a candle

to the thrill of conspiracy theories.

But those who lived Apollo

are too proud of what they
and America did together

to let a few naysayers
spoil the moment.

What a testimonial,
what a tribute,

what an example of advancement
of a species.

What a magnificent achievement.

We were watched by
the media throughout the world.

The Soviet Union
was tracking us,

looking at everything
that we were doing.

We brought materials back
and sliced them up

and gave them to the nations
of the world.

And I would say
what more do you need?

I think any thinking person
will recognize

that we went to the Moon
and landed there July 20, 1969.

And I believe that's where
the argument should end.

In the end,
perhaps this story

actually has a little symmetry.

Americans are creative
and innovative enough

to land astronauts
on the Moon.

But we're also creative
and innovative enough

to make up fantastic stories

about how we didn't
land on the Moon.

Now, that takes creativity.

Thanks for joining us.

I'm Susan Spencer
for Smithsonian Spotlight.

Subs resynced completely & edited
by JohnCoffey_09