SpaceFest 2007!

By Phil Plait | January 25, 2007 9:09 pm

A month ago my old friend Dan Durda sends me an email. He tells me Kim Poor, who runs the space art gallery NovaSpace, wants to send me something, so can I send along my snailmail address? Sure, I reply, and do so. Is he sending me art, I wonder? Nah, probably just a clipping or something from a paper. I forget about it.

Fast forward to the last day at work before TAM 5. The mail comes in, and it’s from Kim. Oh yeah, I think. Right. I open it up. Oh cool, it’s a flyer for SpaceFest 2007, a convention of sorts for space enthusiasts. Carolyn Porco will be there talking up Saturn, and a whole bunch of Apollo astronauts. Nifty. There’s a letter with the flyer, and I’m guessing Kim was asking if I’d blog about the meeting to promote it.

Bzzzt.

Kim was inviting me to speak at the meeting!

Oh, wow.

Moreover, he wants me to give my Moon Hoax talk, where I trash those twinkies who think the Apollo mission was faked.

Holy frakking golram! I’ve finally arrived!

I do a little dance in my office. Alan Bean will be there. Gene Cernan. Charlie Duke– Charlie Duke, who emailed me and congratulated me on my page debunking the Fox TV show!

Buzz Aldrin will be there. Yes, the second man on the Moon, the guy who punched Bart Sibrel right in the kisser. Oh man.

Then reality set in. I have to give my Moon Hoax talk to a bunch of astronauts! Yikes. I better make sure I know my stuff. Then reality really set in.

Houston, I have a problem.

You see, as you might expect, the astronauts are not big fans of the whole Moon Hoax thing. You might imagine why, since they walked on the Moon. More than a few of them don’t want to discuss it, and many think that no one should even talk about it. I’ve had a couple blow me off at meetings because I debunk it. They think it should be ignored.

I disagree. I think it’s OK for them to ignore it, but — and yes, this is distasteful to admit — it’s a part of Americana now, along with dumb 9/11 and JFK conspiracy theories. We’re stuck with it, and so someone has to deal with it. It’s beneath the astronauts’ dignity to address it, but luckily I have no dignity. I’m only happy to oblige.

Whether the Moon walkers like it or not, I have their backs. I can live with that.

Now I only have to figure out how to explain it to them. Cuz I’m going to SpaceFest in August! Woohoo!

Comments (47)

  1. Good points here, all of them. The biggest problem with some of these conspiracies is that if there is nobody around to debunk them, they grow, and people actually believe them. There are a lot of things that don’t dignify a response, but unfortunately require one — especially when the media isn’t necessarily the greatest at critically examining things themselves (FOX *cough*).

  2. RBH

    Yeow. Writing as one who worked on the design and evaluation of the Apollo Command Module control system back in the 1960s, many envies!

  3. Xander

    I was floored when my roommate told me that Loose Change was well thought out, I had to direct him to the Screw Loose Change guide, if we didn’t have people debunking and actually using the scientific process on bizarre conspiracies and rantings then they could become commonly accepted. We need people like you Phil to continue the fight for science or else our children might need to get their education from Bart Sibrel, Alex Jones, and Kirk Cameron. I would love to see a video of this speech you will be doing. Even though I’ve read through your pages and listened to you on C2C I can’t get enough of the way you bring the truth to light.

  4. skeptigirl

    Speaking of speaking, I just saw your bit on the MSNBC Doomsday show. Nice.

  5. skeptigirl

    Forgot to add, cool poster. I love their event ad.

  6. JustAl

    Congratulations! But Phoenix? Don’t you guys ever do anything on the East Coast?

    Ah, well, I guess I’ll have to see about travel. I understand there’s this ability to ride on flying machines now.

    Regarding the talk, since much of your audience will already be well-versed in the various details, this might be a good time to have a little more fun with it (though granted, I’ve never heard your oral approach) and hit it more from the humor side. Points like the “subject in front of the reticles” and the “coke bottle.” Having only seen the second half of the Fox special, I always wondered: Exactly how do you stage a train accident to kill off an employee about to spill the beans, anyway?

    No matter what, good luck with it! Maybe I’ll get the chance to see it in person.

    By the way, since you know the organizers, you might want to ask them to fix that “EXHBITS” header on the home page.

  7. Laguna2

    I hope as a speaker you don’t have to pay all those fees…

  8. mihoba

    By the way, nice earring Phil. hehehehehe

    (SF 2007 speakers link)

  9. Grand Lunar

    You meet the coolest people, Phil. I do hope you can converse with some of the Apollo guys.
    I agree that someone has to debunk the claims of HBers, and other CTers. Otherwise, if no one says anything, then no one will know the real deal, especially how wrong those theories are.
    I can see why the Apollo astronauts may not like to speak of it; they’re probably so frustrated by the mentality of the HBers that they can’t talk of it without getting angry at them.
    Good thing we have people like you that have the energy to fight the good fight. Of course, with Dr. Aldrin’s punch, he seems to have some fight in him as well!

  10. John Oliver

    To actually change minds is really tough. I was waiting in a long line here in Gainesville (Go Gators!) to pick up free Crepe Myrtles a few years ago when the woman behind me asked what I did. When told I was an astronomer, she asked whether I thought we had actually landed men on the moon. I turned out she was inclined to be an HB. For ten minutes I answered questions about waving flags, no stars in the sky, multiple shadows, Van Allen belt transit etc. At the end she said that all my explanations made sense but it could all still have been faked and she was still inclined to believe it was. That word “belive” is important in this context. See the current Physics Today for an article discussing the effect of language on our interaction with the public. When folks “belive” something that belief is generally not really very subject to change with logical argument.

  11. GUNNERCLAY

    Just registered. I might have chance to meet the great Dr. Plait.
    Go Suns!!

  12. Jamie

    That’s exciting, way to go! You’ll have at least one astronaut who won’t blow you off, since he took the time to e-mail you.

  13. Melusine

    I was surprised recently to see that a political blogger who I’ve talked to in the past recently link to a bunch of moon hoax sites. One link was to a a video in French, that Bill Kaysing is on. It’s all in French, but one can understand much of it. I hadn’t seen this particular show – there’s actually some good real footage.

    The other links were to typical moon hoax sites; he made a comment about the flag “waving,” etc. Geesh. When the government screws up (i.e., Iraq) people are even more prone to doubt everything all over again. This isn’t a dumb guy, but his lack of investigating counter-moon hoax sites (even when I mentioned it over a year ago) makes me think he’s gone off the rails into conspiracy-land. It’s painful to witness.

    This hurts the public’s perception of space exploration, perhaps. If people can’t feel sure that we landed on the moon then they’re missing a whole chunk of what is possible and what was accomplished. The astronauts may underestimate how many people out there are ambivalent. Thanks to the Internet these things spread like a virus. If people older than me are doubting…I really don’t think it is beneath their dignity to address it at this point – I think they should, in fact.

    A positive aspect of those who are willing to investigate the counter arguments to moon hoax believers is that you end up at sites like BA, Clavius.org, et al, and one learns a whole lot of useful things. I probably wouldn’t have known who Carolyn Porco is if I hadn’t come here over two years ago. You addressed the issue and hence I am a much bigger supporter of space exploration as a result.

    The moon hoax business is a good lesson in beliefs vs. evidence, as John Oliver touched upon above.

  14. Melusine

    Eww…choppy writing. Need more coffee. I wish these conventions were in Houston. I’d love to see Carolyn Porco speak, let alone meet some Apollo astronauts. And here I live near JSC… [jealous]

  15. You do a good job, Prof. BA, of putting yourself in your audience’s shoes (lunar boots?) and figuring out why they might be reluctant to hear you speak. That’s at least halfway to learning how you’ll get your message across.

    . . . which reminds me, in a roundabout way, of a story. . .

    Several years ago, I heard James Burke — yes, the guy who did Connections — present a talk at a conference. He had covered Project Apollo for the BBC, and a big part of his job was finding the “human interest” in scientific exploration, which was how the BBC retained viewer interest after the initial Apollo 11 fever ebbed away.

    At one point, he was reading through a technical manual for a piece of scientific equipment to be used on the lunar surface. This device was naturally a complicated machine with all kinds of possible failure modes, and the manual had to specify everything about all of them so that the astronauts could fix them without NASA having to ferry the original designer up to the Moon. Consequently, the instructions were quite, ahem, terse. Burke’s impression, he said, was of bullet points saying, “If XY, then gobbledygook. If XY-Zed, then gobbledygook squared.”

    Finally, at the bottom of the page, was a lone bullet point which read the following:

    “If all else fails, kick with lunar boot.”

    Be upfront with your problem, point out that you’ve had people tell you it should just be ignored, say that we didn’t go to the Moon to wallow in ignorance. . . and coast through on your natural wit and charm!

  16. I’ve just alerted the troops to the gathering to see if we can get a presence at the show or not. Regardless, you will be in our back yard and simply *must* find some time to come to our studio. I won’t take no for an answer and am willing to send a contingent of storm troopers to collect you by force if necessary.

    E.

  17. Have fun debunking. I wrote, produced and directed each of the Apollo lunar mission films at the good old Manned Spaceflight Center and occassionally get asked about it being a hoax. My first words are usually, “OK, you caught us.” Say “Hi” to Gene and Buzz for me. It’s amazing how old they’ve gotten.

  18. OMIGODOMIGODOMIGODOMIGODOMIGOD….

    This is fracking excellent. And the best part?

    THIS IS ONLY A MILE FROM MY HOUSE!!!!!

    SQUEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!

  19. ByTheWay

    You know, this isn’t just part of America’s culture, it’s becoming worldwide. Just a couple years ago I talked with an HB in Brazil (he went off on how China was about to go up there and visit a landing site, proving that there isn’t a flag in the dirt). With the current dislike of the USA, I wouldn’t be surprised if tons of people started turning into “believers.”

  20. ioresult

    Phil said: “Now I only have to figure out how to explain it to them”. I think if you repeat what you said in the post, it has a good chance of working.

  21. hale_bopp

    “(he went off on how China was about to go up there and visit a landing site, proving that there isn’t a flag in the dirt).”

    So he WILL believe the Chines didn’t just make a studio set without a flag and claim we never landed there?!?#?%?^?&?*?

    Signing up myself…a little more than a mile from my house, but an easy trip!

    Rob

  22. Jeebus

    The moon hoax theory can be debunked…

    9/11 and JFK theories? Not so much.

    :)

  23. Don Wiseman? Wow! I’ve seen those documentaries! It amazes me who reads this blog sometimes.

    Evo– email me. I’d love to stop by. I didn’t realize you guys were in Phoenix. Maybe we can talk Geogre Hrab into coming out… :-)

  24. DrFlimmer

    I wish you much fun! And good luck to explain the astronauts that they really walked on the moon! Let`s see if they believe you ;)

  25. Oh, sure. SpaceFest calls you up, and you’re all over it.

    KaylaFace gives you single billing and a banner, and you’re all “Whaa. It’s too small. I can’t fit in there.”

    I see how it is. You just don’t like 1″ tall people.

    :)

    Have fun, Dr. BA! (and when are you coming to the east coast?)

  26. Congrats, Phil! I’ll do my best to make it to the event, since I should be in southern Arizona at that time. I could even drag my girlfriend along! :P Ooh, and I could get my copy of your book signed! Whee!

  27. PaleoProf

    I agree with what someone above who said tell them what you said in the Blog that:
    1) it’s below their dignity to respond
    2) you’ve got their back
    When my students bring up the hoax BS I mention two things
    1) the Russians were perfectly capable of figuring out where a radio signal was coming from and it wasn’t coming from the moon they would certainly would have screamed foul and
    2) there is NO way to fake a moon rock. They formed in an environment unlike anything on earth. (no magnetic field, exposure to solar wind, WAY older than chemically similar rocks on earth)

    P
    (who is for some reason writing in outlines today)

  28. Quiet_Desperation

    If I may play devil’s advocate (it’s a hobby)…

    The country spent a lot of money giving astronauts an, as of today, extremely unique experience. Maybe they could give a tad back by helping debunk the moonbats?

    Just tossing that out there.

    As for overall debunking, I’m starting to lose hope. I fully expect critical thinkiing to be a dead trait in humans within a century, assuming this big holy war doesn’t turn us into cinders.

    Wish I could book passage on a Xeelee transport. :(

  29. Astrogirl

    That’s awesome! Debunking in front of the astronauts themselves. What an honor. I can understand why they are sick of answering the stupid hoax questions, but I would be happy to see someone taking care of the debunking if I was one of the ones who walked on the moon. And yes, I have met plenty of people who ask me “So, do you really think we went to the moon?” when they find out I work at an observatory. What a pain! Thanks Phil, for fighting the good fight.
    And I just have to say, I visited Novaspace many times and loved all of the space art. It reminds me of how much I miss Arizona and wish I was there to go to Space Fest 2007.

  30. YES!!! All of my idols and hero’s in one place, and in my own city! Best $124 I’ve ever spent.

    Now to find out how to get Phil onto my podcast as well…*evil plotting smirk*

  31. Kelfazin, some people just ask me.

  32. Kelfazin

    What’s the fun in that? When do we get to do evil plotting?

  33. I have run into a kind of skepticism that skeptics don’t talk about enough and that is SCIENTISTS SKEPTICAL THAT SO MANY PEOPLE REALLY BUY INTO THIS HOGWASH. They are absolutely clueless. Bad and a few other scientists are the exception to this.

    They’re so busy doing science (bless their hearts, really!) that they simply do not get how prevalent this abysmal lack of creative thinking really is. It is so obvious to them, they think it surely must be obvious to any thinking person. But they are wrong wrong wrong.

    Trust me, this is the area I work in (debunking the paranormal and pseudo-science) in my own way, and I run into more people who DON’T BELIEVE PEOPLE REALLY BELIEVE THIS HOKUM than most people, especially scientists, are willing to believe. If that makes sense.

  34. Nigel Depledge

    Good for you, Phil. Go for it, I say!

    And, if you’re feeling a bit nervous, just re-read Andrew Chaikin’s book as part of your prep. Five or six times…

    But, surely, you must have given this talk about a hundred times by now, is it?

  35. HawkeyeMD

    Awesome, of course, though we all told you that at TAM5 anyway. *g*

    “If all else fails, kick with lunar boot.” Love it. Geek humor is the best.

    Re East Coast visit: I have already pledged to harrass and hound Neil DeGrasse-Tyson mercilessly until he brings Dr. Plait back to the Rose Planetarium, but let this be a public announcement/invitation for others to do the same.

  36. Irishscribe

    Re: “It’s below their dignity to respond.” I agree, but believe it or not, I once heard Niel Armstrong himself respond to a Hoaxer. I attended an interview he did here in Dublin in 2003, and near the end of a Q&A session that followed, one of the “Enlightened Ones” (yeah riiight) tried to tackle him on the subject. He was very quickly silenced by the audience, but the great man himself just turned away and politely smiled. He then said that, in the early 1960s, NASA was given the job of landing a man on the Moon before the end of the decade, and at the time he couldn’t think of a harder thing to do. But now, he said, he can think of a harder thing to do. It would have been to fake Apollo and then keep it a secret.
    These men (the Apollo astronauts) dedicated the best years of their lives to the goal that their nation set for itself, and they suceeded against all the odds. Along the way they lost friends–Grissom, Chaffee, White, Bassett, See–and many of them paid a high personal price for their part in Apollo. They each and every one of them quite literally put their lives on the line, so I think it’s understandable that they don’t see why they should lower themselves to address the sad ramblings of a few misguided individuals, many of whom, let’s be honest, are only trying to make profit by selling books or pamphlets to people too lazy to think for themselves.

  37. MoMan

    I can’t believe that poor Phil, the great skeptic, has been had to this extent. He is actually excited about being invited to an event in Arizona in August, and it doesn’t dawn on him that he was asked because so many others said “No way, hot as hell, Jose.” Now, when he gets invited to speak in Washington, D.C. when the cherry trees are coming into bloom, we can say that he is indeed a sought- after speaker. Unless he has to bring his own sleeping bag. Poor old gullible Phil.

  38. Melusine

    Gene Cernan was on Glenn Beck a few months ago (no, I don’t watch the turd, I was channel surfing), and Beck was pressing him at the end about the moon hoax. Cernan just said, “I don’t know where they think we went…” but didn’t get into it beyond that.

    Again, I don’t think it’s beneath their dignity to respond in some way, but they’re certainly under no obligation, and I don’t blame them. Heck, if they want to sit at home and not talk to anybody, that is certainly their prerogative, too. They were trained and hired to do a job and they did it; as Irishscribe said, they sat atop Saturn V rockets, and as we are sadly aware, some people died doing that. Apollo 13 could have had a tragic outcome as well. If I had walked on the Moon, I’d find this cultural virus sad – I’d hate to do something like that and have people not believe me. If some kid’s first exposure to the Apollo program is seeing a show on NGC and not at Kennedy Space Center, a little bit of the marvel is taken away.

    Catching the end of the show that Jay Windley is on (which has been on NGC often for the last two years), I reiterate the phrase “cultural vandalism.” There have been govt conspiracies – we know because we found out about them! As Armstrong said, the Apollo missions would have had to be a secret of such a huge magnitude, let alone among many smart men and women, that it it’s easier to just do it.

    Phil, Jay, et al. are doing a very good thing by helping to combat these hoax believers; we already know how the simplest baloney spreads like wildfire by email. (Last year I found people still repeating the egg balancing bs)Snopes is a wonderful asset to the Internet, too. But the Apollo program is much more important than eggs and photoshopped pictures.

    Last time I was at Johnson Space Center, in the old mission control room during the Q&A session afterwards, a Japanese lady asked the tour guide if anyone from Japan had been to the moon. There were more questions like that. There’s a lot of room for education. Even the simple concept of why a flag seems to be “waving” in space is an educational opportunity.

  39. Charlie in Dayton

    August 17,18,19…oh NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…That’s a week AFTER I leave Phoenix!!!!!

    I wonder…can I get my little brother to back his 50th birthday party up two weeks?…naah…his wife’d kill me…

    …oh well……

  40. Buzz Parsec

    Sherry Austin – couldn’t read your post without picturing Alice Tinker saying “You know the stuff that’s like I Can’t Believe It’s not Butter, but isn’t I Can’t Believe its not Butter? I can’t believe it’s not I Can’t Believe It’s not Butter.”

  41. Dagnabbit! This, I find out about in advance, but not when you’re in my state? You’re no fun, Phil. Dang.

    Still, you have to be in Phoenix in August for it. Whereas I’ll be . . . er . . . camping in a field in Gig Harbor while wearing funny clothes. Yay?

  42. I stumbled across your blog today while reviewing our referral stats for http://www.spacefest.info. First off, I’m glad to see such a tremendous response to the event. For JustAl, I’ve finally fixed the mis-spelling of exhbits–oops there I go again.

    Phil, Kim’s a big fan of yours. He has written his own page on the Moon Hoax, but in the end directs folks to badastronomy for the rest of the story. “Phil Plait�s BAD ASTRONOMY website elegantly dismisses all the questions brought up by hoaxers.”

    I wanted to point out a few things while I’m here. Several astronauts will be at this show, but are likely to be signing autographs or doing other things while you give your talk, so I wouldn’t be too nervous about that. We are also encouraging Phoenix area science teachers to bring their classes or send their students to see your talk. Who knows, maybe an HBer will show up to heckle you. I’m sure you can handle that–and we could always go find Buzz if things get out of hand.

    Phoenix in August is hot and, from our perspective, humid, but the hotel is “connected to the Convention Center by a short, covered walkway”. You won’t need to be outside for very long. Air conditioning is a wonderful thing–even taxis and airport shuttles have it.

  43. Bdog77

    Ok,I believe that the moon landing wasn’t faked.Never thought it was.I mean pieces of moon rock are in a museum somewhere right?But who here actually believes in a magic bullet,and that a dialysis patient led 19 hijackers from a cave in Afghanistan to dupe the most heavil funded and advanced military and intelligence system on the planet with nothing but boxcutters?

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