Conspiracy Theory: The Moon Landings Were Faked

The astronauts from the NASA faked Mars landing movie, Capricorn One. From left to right: Sam Waterston, James Brolin, and O.J. Simpson.

The astronauts from the NASA faked Mars landing movie, Capricorn One, 1978. From left to right: Sam Waterston, James Brolin, and O.J. Simpson.

Some people believe the Apollo moon landings were faked. In fact, polls taken indicate as many as 6% of Americans believe this conspiracy. That’s hard to believe especially since humankind has landed on the moon six (6) times and a total of twelve (12) astronauts did actual moonwalks. Even when presented with overwhelming evidence there are those that perpetuate the myth.

Is a faked moon landing even plausible given the U.S. Government’s inability to keep secrets?

For the faked moon landing conspiracy theory to be true, it would mean that all the Apollo astronauts, along with thousands of other NASA personnel, including scientists, technicians, various support personnel, and private contractors have kept quiet for decades. Such an elaborate hoax would actually be harder to accomplish than just going to the moon legitimately–maybe even going to the moon 20 times legitimately. To systematically orchestrate something so elaborate starting with Apollo 11 and then to repeat the process five more times in complete secrecy gives the U.S. Government way too much credence. It’s even a stretch of the imagination in popular fiction. A faked landing was depicted in the 1978 science fiction thriller Capricorn One, but the planet Mars was the subject for this NASA faked landing conspiracy. Even in that story, a single faked landing was unsuccessful because people talked.

What would be the U.S. Government’s motive for faking the moon landings?

Conspiracy theorists claim to have legitimate arguments and unanswered questions that support claims that the moon landings were faked. The most commonly referenced motive for faking the moon landings all centers around the Cold War and the race to be the first to the moon. In the Space Race, the Soviets beat us to the first spacewalk with cosmonaut Alexey Leonov in 1965. In fact, the Soviets were clearly winning the race even before this time with Sputnik in 1957, and Soviet Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space in 1961. Also, milestones were achieved with a series unmanned Soviet rockets that began probing the moon starting in 1958. The Soviets later achieved the first soft landing of an unmanned spacecraft on the moon with the Luna 9 in 1966, before the Americans. The United States appeared to be falling behind, and a motive for some grand conspiracy would seem to fit had we needed one, but we didn’t. NASA had developed the technology to make a manned moon landing possible ahead of the Soviets. At the time, Russia still struggled with serious safety issues discovered within its Zond program.

But if the U.S. clearly had the capability of conducting manned moon missions ahead of the Soviets then why do some conspiracy theorists perpetuate the myth? Some perpetuate the false notion that humans cannot survive traveling through the Van Allen radiation belt. The Van Allen radiation belt is a collection of high-energy particle clouds (harmful radiation) astronauts would have to pass through on their way to the moon. What conspiracy theorists do not account for is that the travel time inside the radiation belt is rather short with a spacecraft traveling at approximately 25,000 km/hour. According to NASA, the total dosage for the trip is only 11.4 Rads in 52.8 minutes (the time it takes to pass through the Van Allen radiation belt)300 Rads in one hour is considered to be lethal. According to radiation dosimeters carried by Apollo astronauts, their total dosage for the entire trip to the moon and return was not more than 2 Rads over 6 days.

So if we can discount the Space Race motive and we know the Van Allen radiation belt would not prevent astronauts from reaching the moon, then what’s left to consider? Most of what conspiracy theorists base their evidence on are inconsistencies within the Apollo mission photographs taken on the moon. There are instances where shadows may look incorrect in relation to the position of the sun, reflections in the visors of astronauts’ helmets showing indiscernible objects, stars not appearing above the horizon, the flag appearing to wave in a windless environment or questions concerning the Lunar Rover’s tire tracks. To them, all of this points to a studio-filmed mock-up, possibly in a U.S. Air Force warehouse somewhere, and not a real moon landing. It turns out most of these claims revolving around the photographs are easily explained. Below I give a few examples.

Debunking the fake moon landing conspiracy photographs

Photographs from the moon do not show any stars in the sky - showing a contrast in film exposure

Apollo mission photographs were not adjusted to show the stars in the background. Like the second image here simulates, an adjustment to contrast could make the stars visible but would sacrifice the clarity of foreground objects like the astronauts.

Why photographs from the moon do not show any stars in the sky

It’s difficult at certain camera exposures to pick up faint light sources, such as stars, especially when photographing bright subjects that are close by. The camera probably could have been adjusted to register the stars in the background but you would lose detail of anything close by like the astronauts. If this were staged in a secret studio it would be relatively easy to show stars in a fake backdrop by simply making the stars brighter to compensate for the exposure. Do conspiracy theorists want us to believe that the conspirators forgot to put stars in the sky?

Astronaut helmet visors reflect suspicious objects that are part of a secret U.S. Air Force studio and not from the moon

The visors the astronauts wore on their helmets were dome-shaped and reflective. So various reflections in their visors as seen in photos are distortions of the normal equipment the astronauts used. Because of this natural distortion, nothing can be reasonably determined to be suspicious.

Photo taken of the moon's surface shows astronaut footpaths and Apollo Mission debris

1. Conspiracy theorists believe the absence of stars is evidence the moon landings were filmed in a studio and do not consider photographic exposure or contrast. 2. Conspiracy theorists believe the Lunar Rover’s tire tracks could only have been made on muddy ground to give the appearance of deep impressions on the moon’s surface.

dis·tort (dì-stôrt’)
tr.v. dis·tort·ed, dis·tort·ing, dis·torts
1. To twist out of a proper or natural relation of parts; misshape.
2. To give a false or misleading account of; misrepresent.
3. To cause to work in a twisted or disorderly manner; pervert.

The Lunar Rover’s tire tracks are faked and astronaut’s footprints are faked — they must have been made in a muddy surface to give that appearance

Portions of the moon’s surface are made up of a fine dirt almost like a dust or powder. It is called regolith. So it’s impossible not to make tracks on the surface of the moon because of its powdery makeup. Mud would not be necessary to make the tracks that exist on the moon.

In 2009 the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) showed man-made debris present on the moon (verified Apollo mission space debris) and the actual footpaths from the astronauts of the Apollo missions. I suppose that this space junk and the long paths of footprints were planted there? Was there a machine designed specifically to make footprints? Or are we to believe that the orbiter’s photos are fakes too? That’s what conspiracy theorists would probably tell us.

Flag on the moon appears to be rippling in a windless environment

Yes, the flag does appear to be rippled or waving. The picture was taken as the flag was being set up so the waving effect is from inertia, not wind. The inertia is from the two astronauts having to manually set up the flag. Wind can make something move. Moving something with your hand will make something move as well. The top of the flag contained an additional horizontal rod or wire for reinforcement so that the flag would appear as if it was waving or fully revealed. That’s the effect NASA wanted.


What’s the total number of astronauts that walked on the moon?

Is falling space debris dangerous?


Luna 9 (

Luna 9 (NASA)

Soviet manned flight modules were unreliable (Wiki)

Van Allen radiation (NASA)

Poll – Moon Landings Faked (CNN)