'It took 400,000 Nasa employees and contractors to put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon in 1969 – but only one man to spread the idea that it was all a hoax. His name was Bill Kaysing.
It began as “a hunch, an intuition”, before turning into “a true conviction” – that the US lacked the technical prowess to make it to the moon (or, at least, to the moon and back). Kaysing had actually contributed to the US space programme, albeit tenuously: between 1956 and 1963, he was an employee of Rocketdyne, a company that helped to design the Saturn V rocket engines. In 1976, he self-published a pamphlet called We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle, which sought evidence for his conviction by means of grainy photocopies and ludicrous theories. Yet somehow he established a few perennials that are kept alive to this day in Hollywood movies and Fox News documentaries, Reddit forums and YouTube channels.
Despite the extraordinary volume of evidence (including 382kg of moon rock collected across six missions; corroboration from Russia, Japan and China; and images from the Nasa Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter showing the tracks made by the astronauts in the moondust), belief in the moon-hoax conspiracy has blossomed since 1969. Among 9/11 truthers, anti-vaxxers, chemtrailers, flat-Earthers, Holocaust deniers and Sandy Hook conspiracists, the idea that the moon landings were faked isn’t even a source of anger any more – it is just a given fact.
The podcast kingpin Joe Rogan is among the doubters. So too is the YouTuber Shane Dawson. A sociology professor in New Jersey was exposed last year for telling his students the landings were fake. While Kaysing relied on photocopied samizdat to alert the world, now conspiracists have the subreddit r/moonhoax to document how Nasa was “so lazy” it used the same moon rover for Apollo 15, 16 and 17; or how “they have been trolling us for years”; or to bring up the fact there is “one thing I can’t get my head around ...”
“The reality is, the internet has made it possible for people to say whatever the hell they like to a broader number of people than ever before,” sighs Roger Launius, a former chief historian of Nasa. “And the truth is, Americans love conspiracy theories. Every time something big happens, somebody has a counter-explanation.”'
Read more: One giant ... lie? Why so many people still think the moon landings were faked
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12 December 2018
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