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Debunking the conspiracy theories an unfortunate part of that historical time

If you are over 55 or so, you likely remember the most awesome scientific achievement of mankind to date — the moon landing in July 1969.

I'm 56, and frankly I don't recall watching the moon landing on our grainy black and white television, but I do clearly recall Tang, "I Dream of Jeannie," the Russian astronauts on "Gilligan's Island," the picture of Earth from the moon poster in my brother's room ... and how nearly everything in the early 1970s connected itself to space, the moon, rockets and astronauts.

But I was an adult, a survivor of disco, a rat-tail haircut and hyper color T-shirts before I'd hear about moon landing conspiracies, how some people — a good many people, actually — think the moon landing never happened, that it was created and filmed in, probably, Hollywood, all as a piece of American propaganda.

What in the name of Major Roger Healey? (An "I Dream of Jeannie" reference, for those not familiar with actual classic American production.)

This past weekend, I was at a dance recital. Before a space-themed performance, a picture of an astronaut on the moon with one of those American flags came across the screen. The guy next to me (I won't incriminate him) commented that "there's no wind on the moon. The flag wouldn't have been waving."

Oh no. A moon landing conspiracist.

But then I thought, he's right. It wouldn't be moving, and I didn't know why it would look as if it was. But I also figured there was a good explanation, I just didn't know it. I told him I'd find out, being at one point an ace (OK, a six of clubs) reporter.

So I did what every lazy reporter does. I went to the internet and Googled moon landing conspiracies debunked. The first on the list: the blowing flag. NASA scientists are pretty smart. They knew the flags would lie limp on the moon, as they do on a windless day on earth. So they designed a flag with a metal rod inside. The flag "moved" only when the astronauts grinded it into the moon's surface, then stayed in a bent shape dictated by the partially extended rod.

All six NASA moon landings planted such flags, and they all look similar. Were all six landings conspiracies?

Conspiracy point No. 2: There are no stars in the pictures.

Answer: The photos were taken during "daylight" on the moon, when the sun was blasting. The exposures on the astronauts' cameras were too short to capture the images of the astronauts, the moon surface AND stars. If you go outside at night onto a porch, turn a light on, then take a photo of the stars; they won't show because a quick-exposure camera won't capture them.

Conspiracy point No. 3: The shadows are not correct. Some objects are visible in photos even though in shadows. If the sun were the only source of light, this shouldn't be the case, it was put forth. "Hollywood lighting" must be in play.

No, other sources of illumination were in play. The lunar ground, for instance, reflects light, just enough to illuminate objects that would have otherwise been shadowed.

Conspiracy point No. 4: The famous photo of Buzz Aldrin taken (as the Americans would have you believe) by Neil Armstrong. Armstrong is reflected in Aldrin's face visor. The problem: Armstrong is not holding a camera in the reflection, so therefore it has to be fake.

Except that Armstrong's camera was mounted to his suit on his chest, and in the reflection his hand is near where the camera was.

Conspiracy point No. 5: Famed "2001: A Space Odyssey" director Stanley Kubrick filmed the "moon landing." His movie was so realistic that the government simply paid him a ransom to stage a moon landing. But Kubrick's movie was realistic not because he filmed it, but because he enlisted help from aerospace engineers to make it look real. So, he used NASA instead of the other way around.

So in July, when the world, especially we Americans, reflect on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing by watching a flood of great historical programs, enjoy them and celebrate the amazing, wonderful achievement of our species and nation. If someone mentions the "C" word, as in conspiracy, throw a pillow at them.

Or you could do like the second man on the moon, Mr. Aldrin, did. When walking with his wife in Los Angeles in 2002 and confronted by a conspiracist who called him a "coward," Aldrin, then 72, punched the guy in the face. The district attorney did not file charges.

I hope afterward Mr. Aldrin enjoyed himself a tall glass of Tang.

Tony Ahern is the publisher of the Madras Pioneer and the Central Oregonian newspapers


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