Don't Believe The First Moon Landing? Buzz off
The crazy number of people it would take to keep a secret as huge as a 'fake step for mankind' is enough to take the wind out of this lunar - and loony - conspiracy theory
I was recently invited to the Maldives for the 20th anniversary of Soneva Fushi, the first luxury resort in the islands and one of the world's most iconic properties. Our host, Sonu Shivdasani, who founded the hotel along with his Swedish wife Eva (hence the name: Soneva) had planned a whole series of events to entertain his guests during the celebrations.
One of the most interesting activities was the chance to see the moon through the telescope at the resort's observatory. The Earth and the moon were much nearer to each other than was usual on the night of our viewing. And, as a special treat, Sonu had arranged for Buzz Aldrin to be on hand to explain to us what we were seeing.
You know Buzz, of course. He was part of the Apollo II crew and stepped out of the lunar module right after Neil Armstrong, making him the second man to walk on the moon. While Armstrong (who is now dead) was a quiet, taciturn sort of fellow, Buzz was more outgoing and has gone on to become the public face of the first moon landing.
It was very special listening to Buzz as he explained what we were seeing through the telescope and I was completely blown away by the experience.
But, later that night, at dinner, I heard one or two discordant voices muse out loud. "It was all faked, of course", somebody said. "They shot the moon landing in a studio."
I laughed at what I thought was a joke. But, no, this person was serious. Then, to my horror, others joined in. "Yeah, it was a hoax." Or, "Hollywood at its finest." And, "Only the Americans could have pulled it off."
By the end of the evening, I was genuinely appalled. About a quarter of the guests I spoke to were not willing to dismiss the possibility that the moon landing was faked.
But why would they think that? I still remember staying up all night, as a small boy in 1969 to watch the moon landing on TV - a genuinely thrilling moment - and only idiots or jokers dared suggest then that there was anything fake about this historic event.
But now, nearly half a century later, so many people were willing to entertain doubts about the landing. Bizarre!
I asked people why they thought the landing had been faked. I was shocked by the answer. "Oh come on! Didn't you see the footage? The US flag was fluttering. There is no wind on the moon. How could it have fluttered if they had actually been on the moon?" That was one objection.
"Tell me," said somebody else. "If it was so easy to get to the moon, then why didn't they ever go back? How come there was just one TV extravaganza of a moon mission and then, nothing more?" And on it went.
Nearly all of the objections emerged out of ignorance. Apollo II was not a one-off. It was not as though the Americans launched one moon mission and then forgot about it. Between Apollo II in July 1969 to the last mission in December 1972, the US launched several other moon-bound craft. Altogether, the US landed spacecraft on the moon six times in three-and-a-half years. Twelve men walked on the moon.
As for that nonsense about the flag fluttering even though there is no wind on the Moon, that is easily disproved. Look at the footage. The flag does not flutter.
The only time you could argue that the flag gave the impression of fluttering was when the astronauts were moving it into position and you could see the flag shaking but that was because it was being shifted from one place to another, not because of any breeze.
So why do people continue to believe this nonsense? The magicians Penn and Teller have calculated that if all the landings were faked, then the number of people who needed to be involved in the conspiracy exceeded 4,000. Would all 4,000 have kept quiet for decades?
And yet, the scepticism continues. Fortunately, nobody dared mention it to Buzz's face that night. In September 2002, after one sceptic confronted the astronaut with the claim that the whole thing was a hoax, Buzz punched him in the face. So I was glad we kept our voices down.
My feeling is that the sceptics tend to be young people who have no recollection of the landings and do not know that a dozen men actually walked the moon.
And in our cynical, short attention span-era, we believe that if we did not see something happening, then it probably never happened.
Which is a shame, really. The moon landings were one of mankind's greatest scientific achievements. It is sad that so many members of a new, ill-informed generation should treat them as just another scam.