In 1968, the Apollo 8 It took three men to turn around the Moon. For many people that was incredible, incomprehensible. And, therefore, directly deniable. I lived in the first person a case in which my interlocutor was admired that the astronauts had found "the door to leave" and above all, how they would do it to find it again when they had to return. I suppose, for her, leaving the Earth involved finding the right door. That's almost half a century ago now. But sometimes it seems that things have not changed much.
Surveys say that between 10% and 20% of the population (the figures vary by region and country) is convinced that flights to the Moon were a fantasy or – worse – a colossal deception. Internet is full of comments in that sense and interventions of "experts" who testify, using irrefutable evidence.
The first to commercially exploit the subject was a gentleman named William Kaysing. For seven years he had worked as editor and head of technical issues at Rocketdyne, the rocket engine manufacturer for the first missiles but left his job in 1963, five years before the first Apollo.
Kaysing himself stated that when he saw the takeoff of Apollo 11 Road to the Moon already had an illumination, an instinctive suspicion about the viability of the adventure. And trusting more and more in his intuition, in 1976 he published, paying for it from his own pocket, his most famous work: We never went to the Moon: the thirty billion scam.
In that classic almost all the arguments that would later make fortune to demonstrate the deception appeared: the flag waving in the void in the void, the absence of stars in the photographs, the divergent shadows that demonstrated the existence of several light bulbs in the study where the moon landing was filmed, the absence of a crater under the braking engine, the fantastic detail of the photographs even in the shade … And now, even a crime to ensure the silence of a witness.
Under the alibi "let it be the public who decides", the Fox documentary presented a series of biased, partial or simply false reasoning. And that included references to a dozen astronauts killed or missing in "mysterious circumstances"
Thomas Barron He was a former North American technician who was overly critical of some procedures for quality control and safety in the construction of the ship. At some points he was not lacking in reason, but so persistent and fussy was that on some occasion he even exhausted the forms to document failures, real or supposed.
In the end, his superiors decided to ignore most of his alarms. Annoyed by the little attention received, at the end of 1966 he decided to filter one of his reports to the press, which led to his immediate dismissal. Although, in a tragic coincidence, only a few weeks later their fears would be confirmed, at least in part, by the fatal fire of the Apollo 1 in which the three astronauts died.
Barron gave testimony in the accident investigation. He was not a decisive witness but a few months later, the car in which he was traveling with some relatives was rolled over at a level crossing. The police called it a mere accident: Barron had tried to overtake the train in a suicide race. But the disaster served Kaysing to point it out as another sign of the extent to which the occult forces were willing to arrive to preserve the incipient deception of the Apollo.
Over the years, Kaysing had dozens of imitators. Each one contributed more and more tests of the conspiracy. The scapegoat was NASA itself, whose incompetence would incapacitate it to meet the objective within the deadline set by Kennedy.
But when they first started flying Apollo Manned – especially, the 8, to the Moon – another argument extended: NASA could, yes, reach the Moon. But, since it was evident that he lacked the necessary means and knowledge, he must have obtained them from another source: They could only be extraterrestrials eager to help the American space program (but not the Russian one) or the analysis of Roswell's flying saucer, preserved in the supersecret facilities of Area 51, in Nevada. The more outlandish a hypothesis, the better.
Involuntarily, the cinema also contributed to perpetuate suspicions. In 1968, the 2001 Kubrick had presented an image of the moon very credible thanks to some excellent special effects. Ten years later it premiered Capricorn 1, It told the odyssey of three astronauts forced to simulate a landing on Mars, filmed on a secret set in the middle of the Nevada desert. Finally, for the deniers, everything fit: NASA had hired Kubrick himself to organize the pantomime of the moon landing. And then, forcing himself to keep his mouth shut for the rest of his life. The price -exorbitant- had included a payment in kind: a revolutionary lens that would allow him to film scenes from his next film, Barry Lyndon, only by candlelight.
In February 2001, the North American television network Fox broadcast a report titled Conspiracy theory Do we land on the moon? The cinema had helped to raise suspicions, but the truth is that it had reached a limited audience. Television, with greater penetration power and an aura of credibility ("television has said it") extended the conspiratorial syndrome as an oil stain.
The report by Fox was limited to repeating Kaysing's arguments, with the support of a series of "experts" whose ignorance about the lunar program was only comparable to their audacity. Under the alibi "Let the public decide", they presented a series of biased, partial or simply false reasoning. And that included references to a dozen astronauts killed or missing in "mysterious circumstances."
The list of deceased, presumably to ensure their silence, reached absurd levels: In addition to the three of the Apollo 1 It included victims of air or road accidents and later pilots assigned to other programs that had nothing to do with the lunar effort, such as the X-15 plane. And, of course, Thomas Barron himself whose case came as a glove.
Thirty years after the first moon landing. For many young people and adults who had not even lived the event, that brave report issued by a chain whose credibility no one doubted became a dogma of faith. Reinforced, in addition by other similar programs that came to use real images of characters like Kissinger, Haigh or Nixon himself with a dubbing that put in his mouth "confessions" of having perpetrated the deception. Everything was fantasy and that's what the producers said. But for most viewers it was much easier and more satisfying to believe it than to accept the much more prosaic reality.
And so we continue today. We all have an acquaintance who says he does not believe that man reached the moon. At the most, automatic probes yes; astronauts no. The Moon is very far away (a respondent claimed to have difficulty tuning national TV channels that broadcast from fifty kilometers away on his TV, so how could images be seen from the Moon, 300,000 kilometers away?); the radiation belts would instantly kill anyone who passed through them (the fact that the astronauts received a total dose similar to that of an X-ray was an irrelevant detail); a computer of the time had less power than a calculator (although no one ever bothered to take a look at its architecture or software) … All this, arguments caught on the fly, without the slightest critical process.
Despite all efforts, these prejudices will continue with us for a long time. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate them. When someone internalizes an idea without stopping to analyze it logically, any attempt to use logic to dissuade him is almost certainly doomed to failure.
The Spanish case
In Spain we also had our contribution to the conspiracy legend. In February of 1983, the popular Dr. Jiménez del Oso presented in his program The door of mystery, which was broadcast by the second channel of TVE, a British report that described as exceptional. And whose analysis, of course, left to the discretion of each viewer to extract its own conclusions.
The program –Alternative 3– spoke of a possible ecological catastrophe that would force humanity to migrate to the planet Martand. Not all, of course; only a select minority that had already been chosen and transported to a secret base on the hidden side of the Moon, waiting for the final trip. During one of the last flights ApolloA NASA astronaut had discovered the plot and – alcoholized and besieged by remorse – had revealed it to the reporters of the program. Not only that, but also a filming of the first landing on Mars (supposedly happened in 1962!), Which even appeared the groove of some bug away from the ship through the subsoil.
Of course, everything was fake. The filming, real images of NASA corresponding to previous flights; the astronauts, actors; the reporters, too, and the mysterious mole or earthworm discovered on Mars, a careful special effect. In the final credits appeared all the characters and those who had embodied them.
The report was an Anglia production to be broadcast on April 1, 1977, the date equivalent to our Holy Innocents in the Saxon world. This could be read in the titles of credit. Although programming problems were issued on a different date. The British newspapers had previously received a note warning of its fictional character. But Jimenez del Oso omitted that message and rather emphasized the fantasticness of the discovery. Many believed it to the letter ("the TV has said it"). The matter came to the Commission of Parliamentary Control of TVE, since, if it was false, it was estimated that it could violate its code of ethics. It took a week to find an expert to guarantee that it was a joke. And the matter was never discussed again.
Rafael Clemente is industrial engineer and was the founder and first director of the Museu de la Ciència de Barcelona (now CosmoCaixa). He is the author of A small step for [un] man (Dome Books).