The 5 Most Convincing Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories Examined

The five biggest theories discussed and debunked at last.

Image Nasa/Getty Images

NASA has been dogged by plenty in the way of conspiracy theories over the years, but few compare to the ones surrounding the moon landings.

Since the mid-1970s, individuals far and wide have question the validity of those moon landings and Neil Armstrong’s immortal words, with some claiming the entire thing was cooked up so the US could claim victory over Russia in the Space Race.

But do they have a point or is this more tosh to go alongside claims about the grassy knoll and the idea steel beams can’t melt? Ahead of the release of the Moon Landings-led thriller Operation Avalanche check out the five strongest arguments for such fakery, and the seemingly logical explanations behind each.

1

In the Crosshairs

The Theory: In some photos of the moon landings, the camera’s crosshairs appear behind objects. Cameras were fitted with a clear glass plate with the crosshairs etched on, making it impossible for any photographed object to appear in front of them. This has been suggested to mean objects have been ‘pasted’ on top.

Possible Explanation:The obscured camera crosshairs only appear in copied photos of the moon landings and not the originals. The effect is likely caused by overexposure.

2

Starry, Starry Night?

The Theory: There are no stars in any of the photos. The Apollo 11 astronauts also claimed in a post-mission press conference that they do not remember seeing any stars.

Possible Explanation: The astronauts were talking about the lack of star sightings during the lunar daytime. Astronauts regularly sighted stars through the spacecraft navigation optic but all manned landings happened when stars were likely to be out shone by the sun as they are on Earth in daytime.

The astronauts could only see stars with the naked eye when they were in the shadow of the Moon. Cameras were also set for daylight exposure and could not detect stars.

NASA outer space selfie
Out of this world NASA's outer space selfie. Image Picture NASA

3

The Fluttering Flag

The Theory: The flag placed on the surface by the astronauts fluttered despite there being no wind on the Moon. This suggests that it was filmed outside on Earth or a wind effect was used to cause the flag to flutter.

The Possible Explanation: The US flag was fastened to an R-shaped rod so that it didn’t hang down. The flag only seemed to flutter when the astronauts were moving it into position. 

The flag was rippled because it had been folded during storage and the ripples could be mistaken for representing ‘movement’ in a still photo. Videos show that when the astronauts let go of the flagpole it vibrates briefly but then remains still.

4

Light As a Feather

The Theory: The Lunar Modules weighed 17 tons and seem to make no mark on the moon surface dust, yet footprints can be seen beside them.

The Possible Explanation: The astronauts were much lighter than the lander, but their boots were much smaller than the lander’s footpads. Force per unit area rather than mass determines the amount a surface is compressed.

Also, it could be seen in some photos that the module footpads did press into the surface, especially when they moved sideways at touchdown.

Was everything a lie? Image Keystone/Getty Images

5

Shifting Shadows

The Theory: The angle and colour of shadows are inconsistent, the suggestion being that artificial lights and studios were used but not always carefully.

The Possible Explanation: Shadows on the Moon are complicated by reflected light, uneven ground, wide-angle lens distortion and lunar dust. There are several light sources including: the Sun; reflected light from Earth; the Moon’s surface; the astronauts; and the Lunar Module.

Light from these sources is scattered by lunar dust in many directions, including into shadows. Also, shadows falling into craters and hills may appear longer, shorter and distorted. All these variables help to explain why the shape and colour of the shadows might appear irregular.

Lionsgate UK presents Operation Avalanche on Digital Download 6th March and DVD from 20th March, 2017

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Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.