Moon hoax comic

By Phil Plait | July 22, 2010 11:30 am

Darryl Cunningham, who took down homeopathy and Andrew Wakefield in comic form, has turned his attention to the Moon Hoax. His cartoon about it is very well done and worth checking out.

tallguy_moonhoax

At TAM8 I was accosted by an honest-to-Armstrong Moon Hoax believer. I was surprised, as this particular species is very close to extinction, even in the wilds of places like YouTube. Perhaps I’ll tell that tale in detail sometime, as it was interesting, but suffice to say that while I was happy to be interviewed by him at first, his persistent and accusatory sideswipes at me (and My Close Personal Friend Adam Savage™) at the meeting quickly grew tiresome, and I told him to go away. I would’ve talked to him, but it was obvious that he couldn’t take "no" for an answer — he clearly had an arsenal of things he wanted to confront me with, and I knew if I engaged him I’d never get away from him. It was a matter of return on investment; spend an hour or more debunking his claims, or go have skeptical fun with friends I only get to see once per year during the short time we’re together at TAM. Hmmmm… but too bad. It would’ve been interesting to talk to him about all this, but he made it impossible.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Debunking, NASA, Skepticism

Comments (95)

  1. Did you at least give him the web address of you take down of the hoax claims? Oh, and his name didn’t happen to be Joe R., did it? :)

  2. Peptron

    It’s just more proof that Big Pharma faked the autism-vaccine link during the faked Moon landings done in a studio on Mars. So wake up people! The autism-vaccine link was faked in a studio on Mars! Wait… am I getting my conspiracies mixed-up?

  3. Carolyn

    More moon hoax comics…

    That Mitchell and Webb Look – Moon Landing Sketch

    Broadcast in the UK on 20 July. I may not be the only person posting this…

  4. Jason

    @peptron

    Yes you are getting them confused. George Bush faked the moon landings to distract us from the mind control chem-trails that would convince us to go to war for the oil companies, which then add flouride to municipal water supplies and keep us addicted to Oil. The money from this pays for the cybernetics to keep Cheney alive so he can head the Illuminati and rule the world by getting the democrats to pass legislation weakening the USA so the UN can take over which is of course under Illuminati control.

  5. Bryan Feir

    I like the way he ended it; that’s been my comment whenever something like this came up. Fundamentally, it would have been easier to actually go to the moon than to maintain the sort of conspiracy the hoax believers require.

  6. JohnK

    I thought we went to the moon 40 years ago not 30. Geologists have been examining the rocks since Apollo 11 brought them to Earth.

  7. Mike

    Well, I don’t want to give any credit to the hoax-heads, but actually the rocks brought back are no indication that Man went to the moon. Samples could easily be collected by an unmanned lander, which could also plant the laser mirror and other equipment on the surface as well as send the radio signals that were observed during the flight. Simply stating that because we have rocks from Moon, a mirror on the Moon surface or that radio signals were detected coming from a craft flying to the Moon means that there were astronauts aboard it … well, inconclusive evicende.

    For the record, I believe Juri was the first man in space and Neil the first man on moon, but it always pains my sceptic’s heart to see “debunking” done with faulty reasoning. :-)

    Personally I think the best “evidence” there is against any X-Files scale conspiracy is that it has remained a secret (I’m not counting the crazies who spew this nonsense); like it’s stated at the end of that comic too.

  8. Sili

    So you’re saying you were a dick to him?
    ;)

  9. MattF

    Mike: Samples could easily be collected by an unmanned lander, which could also plant the laser mirror and other equipment on the surface as well as send the radio signals that were observed during the flight. Simply stating that because we have rocks from Moon, a mirror on the Moon surface or that radio signals were detected coming from a craft flying to the Moon means that there were astronauts aboard it … well, inconclusive evicende.

    Except that if that’s your angle, you’d have to demonstrate evidence specifically consistent with the development and deployment of such a lander. There is none. We know to some extent what such an effort would entail and what kinds of things would have to be manufactured; the Soviets returned samples via unmanned lander (though they were much smaller than Apollo’s take). A claim that a lander was made to return lots of samples and plant reflectors is a positive claim that can be tested by the forensic evidence left behind, since it would have had to be developed here on Earth. If this is what NASA did, where’s the evidence?

    If your requirement for rejecting a bit of debunking is that it’s possible to come up with a “yeah, but” that seems to nullify it, then no bit of debunking is going to show that there was no hoax, simply because it’s impossible to conclusively prove a negative.

    That said, though, I do find the lack of secret-breaking after forty-one years to be rather convincing evidence. (I accept that the Moon landings were real. I’m just trying to adjust your logic.)

  10. David P

    Do you think we could ever convince someone like that by regular evidence? or do you think it might be possible by not only using regular evidence but maybe by trying to bring him into something else like “The moon landing did happen but what they don’t want you to know is that nasa only gave the astronauts a 30% chance of survival” ….. That is a made up fact on my part. But if you see what im driving at. these people seem to want to know something others don’t, something possibly secret. I don’t meen to misinform them but there must be at least some stuff that isnt well know, that may satisfy their need.

  11. Number 6

    Reminds me of the time (10 years ago) that my older daughter came home from 8th grade. She told me that one of her teachers was talking to the class about the moon landings. The teacher said the landings were hoaxes. My daughter thoroughly believed her teacher.

    In response, I was shocked, and, at that age, my just saying that the landings were factual events did not sway her.

    I then directed my daughter to the information on the “Bad Astronomy” site. That turned her around. Phil’s site pulled her back from the “dark side” — a major, false belief.

  12. Zucchi

    I can understand Darryl Cunningham inadvertently misplacing a decade (saying “thirty years” instead of “forty years”). As I get older, this seems to be happening to me more and more.

  13. Donnie B.

    To expand a bit on Matt’s answer to Mike:

    Merely to say that we have 800-odd pounds of lunar samples is a vast oversimplification. Among those samples are regolith cores up to two meters long. What’s more, there are many examples of individual rocks that were described live on TV during the missions, shown on TV and photographed in situ, then collected. These very rocks are now on Earth and available for study and verification of their extraterrestrial origin.

    It would take a lot of rationalization to explain that using a combination of robotic landers and studio work. The samples would have to be collected first, then returned to Earth, set up on the fake Moon terrain, then the actornauts would have to describe and “collect” them for the cameras. All that without a single glitch that would give the game away.

    As for the core samples, no spacecraft yet built has had the capability even to drill such cores, let alone return them intact. Even now, only human beings have that ability.

    Given this extra level of detail (and more if you care to look even closer), the lunar surface samples do provide strong evidence of Apollo’s reality. As Matt F pointed out, if you’re willing to wave away all those problems and insist on a hoax, nothing’s going to be good enough evidence for you.

  14. @ #11:
    Whoa, whoa… a TEACHER disseminated such lies? Please tell me they were removed from the classroom.

  15. XPT

    I wonder if it’s also a generational thing: in my lifetime no man walked on the moon :(

    Let’s go again I say! But then, a conspiracy theorist won’t trust the most compelling evidence.

  16. RobT

    @ Mike – If the rocks were returned by unmanned probes please provide evidence to that effect. You also show faulty reasoning in your explanation of the faulty reasoning used to debunk the moon hoax. What evidence exists that robots of that era would be able to return all those rocks to the Earth? The Soviets sent unmanned probes to return lunar samples yet the 2 that were successful at that sent back a whopping total of just under a pound. Even if more advanced unmanned probes were capable of returning an order of magnitude more lunar material it would still take almost 100 such probes to accumulate the rocks the Apollo missions gathered. That’s a lot of rockets, probes and production to keep a secret. :-)

    And you are, probably subconsciously, using today’s technology as part of your reasoning. The technology just didn’t exist back then to produce unmanned vehicles with the capabilities to accomplish this. We have enough problems with the unmanned and autonomous probes of today, let alone 40 years ago.

    And in my opinion the best anecdotal evidence that the moon landings were not hoaxed is that the Soviets never challenged it. Therefore, NASA was able to fool all the best minds on the planet, including those of their arch-nemesis, with the exception of the moon hoax crazies. Right.

  17. stompsfrogs

    all this tl;dr bickering is distracting from the fact that NUMBER 6′S DAUGHTER WAS TOLD BY HER TEACHER THAT THE MOON LANDINGS WERE A HOAX.

    w
    t
    f

    you called someone to complain, right????

  18. Grizzly

    But, but, but, you are such close personal buddies with Bart Sibrel. Well, not close, but his Phil Plait number (derived from the Baconizer) is 3!

    I have an aunt who believes that climate change is happening because NASA has poked holes in the atmosphere and the air is leaking out. Luckily for my genetic makeup she married into the family. Not so lucky – someone who shares some of my genetic material found her attractive.

    There are times when one has to throw one’s hands in the air and walk away. You can’t argue with stupid.

  19. Calli Arcale

    Unmanned sample return is a HELL of a lot harder than it might seem. Turns out, the hardest part of all (besides the return vehicle, which will need to be implemented whether you send people or ‘bots) is the “picking stuff up” part. This is even challenging on Earth, in laboratory conditions. We might see a Martian rover doing it in 2015 (budget permitting), but that’s it. To date, all samples returned by robots have been dust, soil, or other particles that can be blindly scooped, smashed, drilled, or, in a couple of cases, flown through. There’s been no finesse to it.

  20. Jason

    I think I would have to have a talk with any teacher that spouted that nonsense, fortunately we have been lucky to have Good teachers so far with my kids.

  21. John Ellis

    FYI Mitchell and Webb just did a fake moon landing sketch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6MOnehCOUw

  22. Fake! No stars in that comic strip! Oh wait…

    Great job, once again. :)

  23. John Paradox

    On my RSS feed, I have Internet Archive/videos. I have collected 82 (!) Moon Hoax Videos, from Apollo 8 thru 17. There are also ‘undated’ videos that don’t have the mission number in the title.
    I plan to put them together in a comedy DVD… maybe tag the Mythbusters onto it.

    J/P=?

  24. pheldespat

    There was a time when I was dubious of the Moon landings. Then, the more I read conspiranoic bullcrap, the more convinced I became of the landings’ certainty. Reading debunking literature helped some, too, but the conspiranoics’ outlandish ideas were paramount. What I mean is that many of those topics are contradictory with each other or contrary to common sense.

    Finally, I’d like to add a “collateral” argument pro Moon landings: The Soviets’ silence. The Soviets had the means to know better than any other nation if the Moon landing was real or fake. If it was fake, it’s very strange that they didn’t cry foul. It was a space race, an off-orbit continuation of the Cold War and they accepted their defeat in being the first on the Moon.

  25. Jason

    @pheldespat
    There is an answer to that as well. We bought soviet silence with Tons of grain as “Humanitarian aid”

  26. ND

    pheldespat,

    the more you think about their line of thinking and funky logic more irrational they become and harder to take seriously.

    As for robotic return of moon rocks and reflectors from another post, I think the reflectors are the weakest thing. Dropping a reflector where NASA publicly said it landed people is easy to do. Apollo 12 landed within walking distance of Surveyor III (and that’s one of my favorite moments of Apollo) . So I’ve never been comfortable to using the reflectors as a debunking point. The Lunokhod rovers had reflectors and recently they used that to find its resting spot.

    As for the robotic return of rocks, yeah, you’ll have to show how they could have done that I think the outlined points against such a conspiracy are good ones.

  27. #11 Number 6:
    Please tell us that that teacher was sacked!!!!! A teacher has the right to believe, in private, whatever drivel she chooses, but she does not have the right to poison the minds of her pupils with it!

    #7 Mike:
    Firstly, as has already been stated, returning samples from the Moon by means of robots was far more difficult than sending astronauts! The USSR tried it six times, between 1969 and 1974, with only three successes. ( Their first failed attempt was just days before Apollo 11, in an attempt to steal some of NASA’s glory. ) And the biggest amount of samples returned by one of these probes was a paltry 170 grammes – whereas the last three Apollo missions each returned around 100 kilos.
    Today, we are accustomed to seeing robots achieve great things – witness Spirit and Opportunity – but we simply didn’t have the same technology in the 1960′s! As well as the sample returns, the USSR landed two robot rovers on the Moon – Lunokhod 1 and 2, in 1970 and 1973. These achieved limited success; “driving” them remotely took a team of five operators per shift, and proved so difficult that at least a couple of those operators suffered nervous breakdowns.
    Secondly, if, as some conspiracy loonies believe, NASA did indeed sent robot probes to return the samples, then this would have to have been done secretly – and done six times, as samples were returned from six different landing sites. Yeah, right!
    Now let’s see… Each of those Soviet Luna probes, which returned 100 or so grammes of samples, weighed five tons at launch, and had to be launched by the Proton rocket, the USSR’s most powerful launcher. ( The US Surveyor probes, which landed ahead of Apollo, weighed about one ton, and were launched by the Atlas-Centaur, which was itself not exactly puny. ) So how big would a robot probe have had to be, which was capable of returning 100 kilos of samples? Let’s say ten tons as a rough guess. While launching it wouldn’t have required a Saturn V, it would have required a pretty hefty rocket – say a Titan 3C, like those which launched the Viking and Voyager probes.
    So do you think it would have been possible to launch six Titan 3Cs in secret, without everyone within 50 miles of the launch site knowing about it????? If you think the answer is yes, then I suggest you seek professional help. ( Mike, this is directed at the hoax believers, not you personally! )
    And if anyone believes that NASA had a “secret” launch site somewhere in the desert, which no-one knew about, then they have clearly never heard of Geoffrey Perry! For those who don’t know, Perry was a British physics teacher, who monitored Soviet satellite launches, using nothing more than amateur radio equipment; among other things, he discovered, independenty of the US government, the existence of the USSR’s “secret” military launch site.
    Thirdly, some of said loonies also claim that the samples were “faked” on Earth, by artificially adding isotopes which are not found on Earth, etc. Really? Now let’s see…
    The currently favoured theory of the Moon’s formation was not formulated until 1984. It was formulated from other astronomical evidence, and not from studies of the Apollo samples – but the composition of the samples was later found to be thoroughly consistent with that predicted by the theory.
    So the “fakers” would have had to be truly ingenious, to fake samples which were consistent with a theory which wasn’t thought up until 15 years in the future!!!!!

    See my web site ( click on my name ) for my take on all the rest of the conspiracy theorists’ garbage.

  28. Number 6

    As to whether I reported the teacher…..if I remember correctly, I wanted to, but my daughter was frightened of retribution from the teacher, so I let it go.

  29. Here’s an amusing story, about my own encounter with a real live conspiracy loony.
    Last year, I gave a “Celebration of Apollo” talk to a number of UK astronomical societies. At one of these, it turned out that one of the members was a fully fledged hoax believer. ( Yes, you did read that correctly – a hoax believer who was a member of an astronomical society! )
    This guy didn’t raise the subject during the question session, but accosted me privately afterwards. The society’s secretary then apologised to me; it turned out that the guy was well known within the society for having barmy beliefs.
    A couple of months later, I met that society’s secretary again elsewhere, and she told me that the guy in question had since resigned from the society in a huff. Why? Well, it turned out that he had tried to ask questions at the end of my talk, but I had apparently ignored him. This was because he was sitting at the back, and had raised his hand in such a wimpy manner than I didn’t even notice it – but he accused the secretary and/or chairman of having briefed me not to take questions from him! ( They had done no such thing. )
    So this guy was a typical paranoid conspiracy theorist; he had actually convinced himself that he had his own personal conspiracy, to shut him up!

  30. DLC

    oh come now. Everbody knows that NASA never went to the moon — if they had, they would have discovered the Secret Nazi Base ! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KEueJnsu80

  31. Nemesis
  32. Jumblepudding

    Say what you will, when Donald Rumsfeld knocks on your door with a bucket of thermite paint and takes you a FEMA death camp to meet our Annunaki reptile alien overlords, you’ll change your tune.

  33. XtoG

    I’d like to make a tangential point here about the term “Skeptic.”

    In my opinion much of the frustration that modern science communicators experience is a result of extreme skepticism.

    Since many in the science community consider themselves skeptics, I would challenge them to explain the difference between healthy skepticism and extreme skepticism.

    I always cringe when I hear someone who thinks scientifically, describe themselves as a skeptic, because as David Hume pointed out, in order to do any science what-so-ever one must start with the assumption of induction, therefore scientific thinkers calling themselves skeptics is simply hyperbole, and the process of skepticism is what young earth creationists, anti-evolutioners, anti-vaxers, and moon landing hoax people are using to frustrate science educators like myself. Extreme skepticism cannot be fought with facts, in fact it cannot be fought effectively at all (the philosopher Derida showed this clearly)

    Quite frankly it’s time to retire the idea that scientific thinkers are skeptics in any real way. In fact extreme skepticism is one of science’s greatest enemies.

    I post this with nothing but respect for this site and its brethren sites, and simply wish to challenge in a polite but strident way those who call themselves skeptics as opposed to “realists” which is what I believe science-thinking people should call themselves.

  34. LightPhoenix

    I just got a job in the biotech field; the last year or so I had been working in retail while looking for work. So of course I put in my two weeks notice, and word has spread about my biotech job. As I was leaving today I got ambushed by two homeopathy believers, wanting to debate. I brushed them off somewhat rudely. I didn’t want to waste my time debunking their uninformed crap. I completely feel where you’re coming from.

  35. Surely one of the biggest pieces of evidence that the USA landed men on the moon is that the Soviet Union accepted it. They had all kinds of reasons to deny that it happened & the scientific bodies to show it wouldn’t work if it was unfeasable.

  36. Cairnos

    I cracked up at “Look at this bright surface” :-)

    As for the teacher incident, it seems that every school is issued with a quota of one (1) certified loony. Ours, among other things, took the libraries copy of Origin of the Species and underlined in red every place it contradicted a literal reading of the Bible (and yes that’s a lot of red ink). To truly understand the lunacy here you have to know that it was a Catholic school, and the catholic church accepts evolution.

    And yes, the librarian went apesh*t. We liked our librarian.

  37. NASA got help from the grey aliens from Nibiru. The aliens main motivation for helping was to pay off an old debt to Mr. Gorsky.

  38. Grand Lunar

    I’ve read once that the goal of hoax believers isn’t to show NASA couldn’t get to the moon, but rather their goal is to show NASA is evil.

    With such a mentality, there is no swaying the hard core believers, no matter what amount of science is shown to them. They just don’t want to listen to the facts.

    The YouTuber community, as far as I’ve seen, seems to be one of the hoaxer’s last refuges. That, and certain internet forums.
    They convince themselves that their belief is increasing in size. They go as far as to put false data on a wiki-like website of their own making.

    That person Phil, he didn’t happen to have an Australian accent, did he?
    There’s an infamous YouTube hoaxer like that. Be funny if it was him.

  39. Phil -

    As I’ve said here many times whenever you post on the subject, when accosted by an MHB, don’t let them put you on the defensive by simply debunking all of their claims. All they do is move on to the next claim as if your debunking never happened.

    Instead, put THEM on the defensive with some pointed questions like:

    1) Are the Space Shuttle & ISS real? (the answer is invariably “yes”).
    2) How do you know? Have you ever seen a launch?

    These two questions lead to the verisimilitude of living with a project in the news continuously for years. If they were going to fake it, the hoax couldn’t be perpetuated for that long. For those of us who lived through the Apollo era, the program was as real as the Shuttle, and more so because it was in the news more.

    3) Have them name names. Who was in on the conspiracy? Obviously the head of NASA (which was who, BTW?), but how far down the chain? Division managers? Project managers? Section leaders? Engineering staff? Contractors? Sub contractors?

    At some point you hit a divide between the “in on it” and “not in on it” personnel. What happens when one of the engineers runs into a show-stopping problem? The problem will be passed up the chain until it reaches one of the “in” people whose response will be “don’t worry about it.” Excuse me? These are the brightest and most creative technical people on the planet and you’ve tasked them with sending crews to the moon. The “don’t worry about it” response will be an instant red flag to everyone below the “in” level.

    3a) How far up the chain did it go? Obviously the congressional appropriations committee, but how about the rest of the House and Senate? The president?

    Finally, you can throw in some actual technical questions:

    4) What is the actual scientific reason that we can’t go to the moon but unmanned craft can?

    This usually results in some hand waiving about the Van Allen belts and radiation. Follow this up with “Do you know what an engineered solution is?” Fixing the radiation exposure problem is a piece of cake compared to many of the others solved during Apollo.

    I’ve got pages more of these, but I’ve spent too much time on this one already.

    - Jack

  40. JohnT

    I bought a 17′ color TV to take to work on the night shift so I could Armstrong step on the moon. I beleive. Also lived in Seabrook TX and knew him

  41. PJE

    @38 JohnT

    That is actually one of the coolest things I’ve read in a while (about *buying* a TV so you can watch it!) Fantastic!!

    I was born in ’71 so I was a tad late :)

    Pete

  42. Cindy

    My dad worked on the Apollo project and still has the proposal from RCA & Grunman for the LEM. I sometimes get the “Oh, your dad is in on it.” Yeah, right.

  43. Titan

    Phil,

    This is a hilarious H-R diagram of astronomers….you are featured!

    http://www.scienceblogs.de/astrodicticum-simplex/2010/07/21/20100719_astronomer_HR_diagram.php

    I don’t know how to contact you otherwise so I put this in the comments.

  44. Tim G

    B.U. seems watchable!

  45. Zucchi

    One aspect of the Apollo missions that’s sometimes overlooked is communications. How would you fake the two-way communications with astronauts a quarter-million miles away? Even if you relayed the responses of the “astronauts” from the ground to an unmanned device in Lunar orbit, there’d be an additional delay. No government conspiracy can get around the speed of light.

    Of course, all the tracking stations could have been In On It. (How about Walter Cronkite? In On It?)

    I think for the hoax-theorists, it’s become their religion. A lot of them can’t be reached by reason and facts; they’re emotionally and psychologically invested in their view of the world.

  46. In 1969the Cold War was raging. Certainy the Soviets and the West trackede every piece of hardware that flew anywhere. My reply to hoaxers is to ask them if they think the USSR would not have exposed the “hoax” at once and made a big propaganda deal of it.
    This has actually oonvinced a few people. As a space science I have seen solar wind data gathered on the Moon. The rocks and dust of course show the results of exposure to the solar wind.
    Of course, there are some people who can never give up their conspiracy theories. Phil thank you for your blog, I often quote it on mine.

  47. Messier Tidy Upper

    Nice comic & well done to Darryl Cunningham – thanks – & to the BA for bringing this to our attention. :-)

    I’ve posted this to my facebook page and that of a local astronomy group.

    Frankly, the Moon Hoax Conspiracy theory is so dumb and just so easy to refute that I’m astounded it is still going and think it must, surely, be on its last legs.

    @ 42 Zucchi :

    I think for the hoax-theorists, it’s become their religion. A lot of them can’t be reached by reason and facts; they’re emotionally and psychologically invested in their view of the world.

    Agreed. I get the feeling that a Moon Hoax Conspiracy Theory Believer is so impervious to logic and evidence he wouldn’t believe we’d landed on the Moon even if he was standing on the lunar regolith looking at Tranquillity Base* himself :

    MHCTBer : “No way man, you just faked the gravity & all!”

    Me: :roll:
    “Okay, does this prove it then?”

    [Takes off MHCTBer’s helmet]

    [Messy explosive decompression, blood freezing / boiling ensues!]

    [Low gravity, slow fall of MTCBer’s corpse. Thump!]

    Me : “Enough proof for ya at last!”

    [Walks back to Armstrong Base.] ;-)

    @ 37. Jack Hagerty : Great comment & some excellent points there! :-)
    ——————————–

    * Tranquillity Base = the lower descent stage of the Apollo 11 Lunar module and the surrounding area incl. the experiments and United States flag. Founded & occupied briefly forty one years and two days ago today.

    PS. As for “Armstrong base” well that one’s hypothetical but I sure hope to see it built and permanently occupied one day.

  48. TheBlackCat

    In 1969the Cold War was raging. Certainy the Soviets and the West trackede every piece of hardware that flew anywhere. My reply to hoaxers is to ask them if they think the USSR would not have exposed the “hoax” at once and made a big propaganda deal of it.

    The two replies I have heard to that is that the U.S. bribed them with food, or that they agreed to cover it up in return for the U.S. covering up something for the Russians.

    No, I’m not kidding. Those are real excuses people have used.

  49. 44. Messier Tidy Upper Says: “@ 37. Jack Hagerty : Great comment & some excellent points there!”

    Thanks. I really should save that somewhere so that I don’t have to type it in each time. This is a really abbreviated version of what I did a year ago when the LRO started returning the first images of the Apollo landing sites.

    I think I was the only one here that predicted that the number of MHB comments would drop off once the landing site images were released. This is due to what I said above, the sense of reality (verisimilitude) that “live” programs have. We’ve been seeing images coming back from Mars and the moon in this super high rez for nearly a decade now, and when the same spacecraft sends back of the Apollo landing sites (and other unmanned lunar missions), they’re convinced, or at least question their previous convictions.

    Rather than the knee-jerk “NASA will just fake these, too” the less neurotic MHB’s (usually fence sitters who still retain the ability for rational thought) will say, ‘gee, I guess we really did go to the moon!”

    - Jack

  50. Waydude

    Did Penn and Teller just blow the lid off Phil’s Sooper Sekrit project? cuz on my fb….

  51. Dr Cy Coe
  52. Tadas

    I can’t see how these species are becoming extinct. As I do night time excursions at telescope for people I get a lot of questions about the Moon Hoax. I try to debunk it as I much as I can for people, but sometimes they just won’t believe me :D

    And, I’m not from America :)

  53. Nigel Depledge

    Mike (7) said:

    Well, I don’t want to give any credit to the hoax-heads, but actually the rocks brought back are no indication that Man went to the moon. Samples could easily be collected by an unmanned lander, which could also plant the laser mirror and other equipment on the surface as well as send the radio signals that were observed during the flight. Simply stating that because we have rocks from Moon, a mirror on the Moon surface or that radio signals were detected coming from a craft flying to the Moon means that there were astronauts aboard it … well, inconclusive evicende.

    I can see your point here, I think, but I disagree.

    The Soviet Lunokhod landers included some sample-return missions, and they got a mere few grams of regolith.

    Subsequent unmanned sample-return missions to asteroids have all returned, at best, no more than a few grams of dust.

    I don’t think anyone has yet developed a robot that’s capable of picking up a large collection of rocks from the moon and bringing them back to Earth. That would actually have been harder than sending men, despite the life-support requirements, with mid-’60s tech.

    So, the existence of the moon rock samples on Earth is not evidence that we sent men and not robots, but the quantity of moon rock that Apollo brought back is.

    Also, we have photographs of astronauts collecting some of those samples, in the same way that we have photographs of astronauts setting up the ALSEP packs and laser reflectors. So, when set in the context of the other evidence, the existence of the moon rock samples on Earth and the experiments on the moon are supporting evidence that Apollo was a success.

  54. blueshifter

    @37

    “have them name names”. I tried that with a 9/11 truther. It wen something like this:

    him: “I don’t know, it’s just the pieces don’t fit. The govt had to be involved.”
    me: “ok, so who in the govt. Was it George W.? did he order that 3 thousand Americans be executed so he could launch his Iraq war?”
    him: “no, no… i don’t think he would do that.”
    me: “Cheney? Rumsfeld? Rice? did one of them sign the order? ”
    him: “no, no… I don’t think so, that doesn’t sound right.”
    me: “Tennet? Joint chiefs of staff? Head of NSA? which non-Al Qaeda American ordered this. give me a name.”
    him: [pause] “I don’t know, it’s just the pieces don’t fit. The govt had to be involved.”

    [repeat]

  55. UmTutSut

    Of COURSE we went to the Moon! That’s how we found out about the secret extraterrestrial bases on the farside. ;-P

  56. MattF

    David P: these people seem to want to know something others don’t, something possibly secret.

    That’s part of the problem, isn’t it?

    The fact of the matter is that getting at real knowledge takes hard work, not watching a DVD or believing something on the basis of rumor. You’re only feeding the pathology that doesn’t recognize that truth is something we struggle for and fight over, not something that’s slipped to “special” people through back alleys.

    UmTutSut: Of COURSE we went to the Moon! That’s how we found out about the secret extraterrestrial bases on the farside.

    Oh, I know. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we could take a Moon Hoaxer and someone who believes we found Seekrit Alien Bases when we went to the Moon and lock them in a room together.

    Of course, we already know that Bart Sibrel has a glass jaw… :D

  57. John F

    “My reply to hoaxers is to ask them if they think the USSR would not have exposed the “hoax” at once and made a big propaganda deal of it.
    This has actually oonvinced a few people. ”

    Yes, that’s the ONLY argument I’ve seen “work” on these people, and it doesn’t work on all of them (only a small minority).

    I think most of these people are so invested in their worldview that if you could actually somehow crack their shells enough so that they could see that Apollo might possibly have happened- the wave of cognitive dissonance washing through their brains would send them into catatonia.
    They would shutdown, reboot, and say, no didn’t happen it was a hoax”- like when Calvin (Calvin & Hobbes) saw things from someone else’s POV for the first time in his life- he was thrust into an abstract cubist world where all linear persepctive was lost- he could only function once again when he shut his mind to the possibility that someone’s else’s POV could be valid- and he ran into the next room to yell at his dad: “You’re still wrong!!!”

  58. Robert Hale

    Messier Tidy Upper @ 44:
    “thump”? :-)

  59. Sledge

    I like to think of the Moon hoax like this. If you have the capability to build something on the scale of a Saturn V rocket, you’re about 90% of the way there. Might as well light the candle and go to the moon.

  60. Tribeca Mike

    Well done, Mr. Cunningham, but no mention of the Stanley Kubrick angle? A very suspicious omission. Especially liked the ending wrap up, which could be applied to pretty much any conspiracy theory.

    Seeing those photos again reminds me of something that always amazed me when looking at them in Life and Look magazines as a kid — their incredibly sharp focus. In this digital age, super-sharp focus photography is common, but back then it was very unusual. Bravo NASA technicians and photography equipment contractors!

  61. ND

    There is also “Why doesn’t Russia come out now, today, and claim the moon landing was a hoax ?” Russia could always blow the lid off the “conspiracy” today just to rub it on the US’ face. Of course the conspiratorial counter argument could be “They’re blackmailing the US by threatening to expose the hoax”. There’s always something one can come up with to counter anything you can throw at these people.

  62. Tribeca Mike

    Carolyn — that moon landing sketch is high-larious. Thanks!

  63. olderwithmoreinsurance

    @Xtog Well said sir! My thoughts exactly; so called “skeptics” often just make the lives of real scientists and educators even harder (yes, I understand there’s some overlap but much less than many who comment here would likely believe, as many skeptics don’t have a formal science education, but they’ve scored well on an internet IQ test so they MUST be smart enough to comment on anything.)

  64. Brian Too

    Isn’t this the fundamental problem with ignorance? Once they gain some knowledge (or at least a somewhat consistent worldview, work with me!) it’s all they know.

    Personally I can’t avoid the temptation to incredulity, sarcasm and/or dismissal. It’s an appropriate reaction to the hardliners but it drives away the fence sitters and weakly committed.

    As stated many times previously, maintaining a hoax like that is far more work than simply going to the Moon. And going to the Moon was hardly simple! The Moon Hoaxers have no sense of the relative importance of things.

    There’s a well-known dictum that the more people who need to be organized into a conspiracy, the more likely the conspiracy is to fail. For the lunar landings to have been successfully hoaxed, well, wow.

    It would be the biggest and most successful hoax of all time! Bigger than the Bourbon royal family being direct descendants of Jesus! Even bigger than the AGW hoax (kidding! I’m kidding! Don’t call, don’t write, what, can’t you people take a joke?!).

  65. Bob_In_Wales

    I’ve been having fun spreading the rumour that the Moon Hoax Conspiracy is run by NASA as a way of covering up the fact that they went to the moon, met the aliens, are still in contact and are getting alien technology! How do you think computers got so good so fast! Its alien tech.

  66. Maggie

    When the guy blind-sided Adam with aggressive accusatory statements (his ‘questions’ were of the ‘how can you defend your flawed findings’ sort – very much the ‘why do you hate america’ attack), I was almost starting to think it was a put on from The Chaser’s War as two of their producers were at the conference (and the guy, Jarrah White, was also obviously Australian).

    Later, and after it became clear to me that he was for real, I saw him in the hallway talking to a reporter. The reporter spent a lot of time with him and I’d love to hear what came of that. As I was hovering around I heard him answer yes to the reporter’s questions of whether he was satisfied with the answer he received from Adam.

  67. Chris Winter

    Titan (#43) wrote: “This is a hilarious H-R diagram of astronomers…”

    I hope this is a work in progress. Many names are missing: James van Allen, Sir Bernard Lovell, Gerard Kuiper, Edwin Hubble, Fred Hoyle, Fred Whipple, Harlow Shapley, Allan Sandage, Lyman Spitzer, to name a few — and of course Ejnar Hertzprung and Henry Norris Russell.

  68. Chris Winter

    Dr. Cy Coe (#51): You probably know this, but it’s worth mentioning that the Web site mentioned in that great Onion spoof, omissioncontrol-dot-org, exists and debunks moon-landing hoaxes.

  69. Chris Winter

    Nigel Depledge (#53) wrote: “So, the existence of the moon rock samples on Earth is not evidence that we sent men and not robots, but the quantity of moon rock that Apollo brought back is.”

    Right. There’s one other point worth noting about lunar sample collection. I believe it was on Apollo 15, but I may be wrong, that one of the astronauts noticed an orange-colored rock and collected it. That turned out to have a unique composition. At that time, I don’t think a robot would have been capable of identifying the unusual color of that rock, or of retrieving it.

  70. doofus

    I always ask, “is there not a single key-grip, gaffer, or stage-hand somewhere, that didn’t take a polaroid of the set for momento’s sake?”

  71. Messier Tidy Upper

    @58. Robert Hale Says:

    Messier Tidy Upper @ 44 [now 47 - ed.]: “thump”?

    Good point. Would you believe you could feel the vibrations? ;-)

  72. Messier Tidy Upper

    @43. Titan Says:

    Phil, This is a hilarious H-R diagram of astronomers….you are featured!

    Nice – very apt. Good work. :-)

    I see the BA’s a white giant A-class astronomer then! Close to Brian Cox and brighter and hotter than Neil DeGrasse Tyson too. Although I’d have put him in the “New Media” branch myself! ;-)

  73. Thanks for all the kind words about the strip. Not one Moon Hoax believer has emailed or left a note. I suspect that the Moon Hoax theory is gradually fading down to just a few hardcore believers, and is now on the wane. The homeopathy strip I wrote, by comparison, generated bucket-loads of indignant hate mail. So that particualr idiocy needs more work. As for the mistakes readers spotted, I shall be making the required chages over the next week.

  74. Phil

    Jarrah White’s video ambush of Adam Savage at TAM is up on his Youtube page.

    What burning question brought him halfway around the planet? Whether Adam knew of two experiments (one at MIT, one in Crimea) that bounced lasers off the bare lunar surface prior to the Apollo program.

    No, Adam didn’t know. But what Jarrah does not know, or pretends not to know, is far more important: those prior experiments are completely irrelevant to the laser reflection demonstration conducted at the Apache Point Observatory for the Mythbusters’ excellent “Apollo hoax myth” episode.

    What matters is that Apache Point — not MIT, not Crimea, but Apache Point — can’t get a return from the moon without a reflector. This was shown by pointing the laser at the lunar highlands, away from all reflectors.

    Further, the return pulse from the Apollo 15 site was on the order of a nanosecond wide. The laser spot is several km wide when it reaches the moon, so such a narrow return can only be from a highly reflective and physically small (~1m) artificial object.

    This incident clearly demonstrates several things:

    Controls are indispensable in scientific experiments;

    Celebrities can’t be expected to carry the world’s knowledge around in their heads;

    Some Apollo hoax believers will go to great lengths to “pwn” people they consider their opponent, yet make no effort to understand the evidence and arrive at the truth.

  75. Phil

    #69, that was Apollo 17 that discovered the orange soil. That was also the only Apollo mission to carry a professional geologist to the moon.

    It turned out to be of volcanic origin, and extremely ancient since volcanic activity on the moon ceased early in its history.

  76. Nigel Depledge

    ND (26) said:

    Dropping a reflector where NASA publicly said it landed people is easy to do. Apollo 12 landed within walking distance of Surveyor III (and that’s one of my favorite moments of Apollo) . So I’ve never been comfortable to using the reflectors as a debunking point. The Lunokhod rovers had reflectors and recently they used that to find its resting spot.

    I disagree.

    Landing an unmanned probe precisely (i.e. to within, say, 100 metres of your target) is difficult.

    Falcon (the Apollo 12 LEM) was not an unmanned lander, but a piloted lander, so it’s landing precision does not constitute evidence that NASA could easily have landed an unmanned probe in the same spot, so close to Surveyor 3.

  77. #76 Nigel:
    Apollo 12′s LM was called Intrepid; Falcon was Apollo 15.

    #26 ND:
    I’ve seen a pathetic HB argument, where someone actually tried to use Apollo 12′s precision landing as “proof” that it was faked. Their “logic” goes as follows: “Apollo 11 landed embarrassingly off target, yet the very next mission was able to land within 200 metres of Surveyor 3. How could they achieve such a sudden dramatic improvement?”
    The answer, of course, is that they didn’t – nor did they need to. As is well known to anyone with the slightest knowledge of Apollo ( and the story is told in every book ever written about it – proof that these idiots don’t bother to do even the most fundamental research ), there was nothing at all “embarrassing” or accidental about Apollo 11′s off-target landing. Eagle‘s approach was equally as accurate as that of Intrepid, but at the last minute, they saw that the intended landing site was strewn with boulders, and would have been dangerous. So Armstrong took over manual control, overrode the automated sequence, and deliberately steered four miles downrange to find a safe landing spot. Which, of course, a robot lander of that era couldn’t possibly have done!

  78. ND

    Nigel Depledge,

    Intersesting. I think you’re right. Projected landing areas for unmanned probes is drawn as a wide area. Usually an ellipse since it’s coming in at an angle.

  79. Phil

    #77, I don’t think that’s right. An accumulation of errors early in the Apollo 11 descent shifted the entire descent downrange of nominal. Early in the descent the crew sighted a series of landmarks precisely to determine their navigation accuracy, and Armstrong can be heard saying “we’re long”. It was because of that long approach that they would have landed on West Crater, requiring Armstrong to fly ever farther downrange to avoid it.

    The Apollo 12 landing site was chosen specifically to demonstrate a precision landing of the type that would be needed later on the more science-oriented missions.

    As for the HBs, evidently they don’t give the engineers much credit for being able to learn from experience and correct their mistakes. And why should they? The HBs certainly don’t exhibit much of that particular talent.

  80. Nigel Depledge

    Neil Haggath (77) said:

    Apollo 12’s LM was called Intrepid; Falcon was Apollo 15.

    D’oh! You are quite correct, and I realised my mistake only after the 15-minute edit period had expired.

  81. Nigel Depledge

    Phil (79) said:

    #77, I don’t think that’s right. An accumulation of errors early in the Apollo 11 descent shifted the entire descent downrange of nominal. Early in the descent the crew sighted a series of landmarks precisely to determine their navigation accuracy, and Armstrong can be heard saying “we’re long”. It was because of that long approach that they would have landed on West Crater, requiring Armstrong to fly ever farther downrange to avoid it.

    The Apollo 12 landing site was chosen specifically to demonstrate a precision landing of the type that would be needed later on the more science-oriented missions.

    As for the HBs, evidently they don’t give the engineers much credit for being able to learn from experience and correct their mistakes. And why should they? The HBs certainly don’t exhibit much of that particular talent.

    Yeah, I think this is right.

    IIUC, Apollo 11 gave the best data for improving landing accuracy, far better than was obtained from unmanned landers and orbiters (whether manned or unmanned).

  82. Nigel Depledge

    Neil Haggath (27) said:

    Now let’s see… Each of those Soviet Luna probes, which returned 100 or so grammes of samples, weighed five tons at launch, and had to be launched by the Proton rocket, the USSR’s most powerful launcher. ( The US Surveyor probes, which landed ahead of Apollo, weighed about one ton, and were launched by the Atlas-Centaur, which was itself not exactly puny. ) So how big would a robot probe have had to be, which was capable of returning 100 kilos of samples? Let’s say ten tons as a rough guess. While launching it wouldn’t have required a Saturn V, it would have required a pretty hefty rocket – say a Titan 3C, like those which launched the Viking and Voyager probes.
    So do you think it would have been possible to launch six Titan 3Cs in secret, without everyone within 50 miles of the launch site knowing about it????? If you think the answer is yes, then I suggest you seek professional help. ( Mike, this is directed at the hoax believers, not you personally! )

    Now, let’s see . . . the claimed launch weight of a LEM was about 9 tons, so:

    If the Apollo crew remained in Earth orbit, but the unmanned lander was boosted to the moon, the crew’s radio chatter could be directed via a microwave link to the unmanned probe, which would then transmit it mack to Earth on VHF, to be received the world over as if it were coming from the actual moon! Then, they could rendezvous with the unmanned sample-return probe in low-Earth orbit before re-entry and spalshdown, complete with a sackful of moon rocks!
    ;-)

    Sorry, I’m spoofing the hoaxers, but I just realised this is exactly the kind of garbage that they will swallow.

    Of course, despite solving the problem of the “secret” launches, this is full of holes (it’d still be too hard to get an unmanned probe to pick up and return that quantity of rock six times out of seven; there’s the little matter of the CM’s re-entry velocity [about twice the re-entry velocity from low-Earth orbit, give or take]; there’d be an additional 2.4-second delay in all communication, as everything would have to travel to the moon and back twice; the difficulty of maintaining an accurate microwave comms link over 240,000 miles; and so on).

  83. Nigel Depledge

    Jumblepudding (32) said:

    . . . a FEMA death camp . . .

    In the north-east of England, “fema” means weak and inadequate.

    Read into that what you will . . .

  84. Nigel Depledge

    XtoG (33) said:

    I always cringe when I hear someone who thinks scientifically, describe themselves as a skeptic, because as David Hume pointed out, in order to do any science what-so-ever one must start with the assumption of induction, therefore scientific thinkers calling themselves skeptics is simply hyperbole, and the process of skepticism is what young earth creationists, anti-evolutioners, anti-vaxers, and moon landing hoax people are using to frustrate science educators like myself. Extreme skepticism cannot be fought with facts, in fact it cannot be fought effectively at all (the philosopher Derida showed this clearly)

    I daresay others have addressed this already, but I should like to also.

    Science operates within a framework, in which one has to accept a basic assumption about the way we interact with reality.

    At the extreme of scepticism (which I believe is referred to as logical positivism) you do not accept anything at all without proof, but obtaining proof that there is a reality external to the self is intrinsically impossible, because our perception of that reality is (in principle) indistinguishable from an internally-generated hallucination.

    However, having accepted the basic assumption as a perfectly reasonable one, science then goes on to accept the validity of evidence within that framework. However, the more extreme “sceptics” do not accept the validity of evidence, except where it supports their worldview (in fact, most people do this and one has to work hard to not do it). Science, in general (there have been exceptions), accepts the validity of evidence and of reasoned conclusions drawn from that evidence, within the context of what already appears to be firmly established. Where there is a dissonance between conclusions, further investigation (or new observations) are required to resolve the difference. Typically, there is also detailed scrutiny of the way in which observations have been acquired.

    However, what distinguishes a critical thinker from a denier is not so much scepticism (accepting, for the moment, your point that this is technically not a part of the scientific thought process) but acceptance of context. A critical thinker will try to draw a conclusion from all relevant evidence, whereas a denier or hoax-believer may draw a conclusion from a single piece of evidence and then cherry-pick “supporting” evidence while dismissing other evidence (despite its relevance). A critical thinker will also try to understand why certain pieces of evidence seem to contradict one another.

    In some cases, the context may not be a huge wealth of evidence, but may instead be a sound theoretical basis.

  85. Nigel Depledge

    John T (40) said:

    I bought a 17′ color TV to take to work on the night shift so I could Armstrong step on the moon.

    Wow!

    I thought only football stadia had TV screens that big. How did you get it home…?

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist the Spinal Tap moment… ;-)

  86. Nigel Depledge

    @ Jack Hagerty (39) – Nice idea, I’ll try to remember that.

  87. A closeup view of a block (about one-half meter long) found by Apollo 16 crewmen during second Apollo 16 extravehicular activity (EVA-2) near South Ray crater.
    http://www.penpal.ru/astro/10075844.jpg

    http://www.penpal.ru/astro/Apollo16.shtml

  88. Messier Tidy Upper

    @77. Neil Haggath Says:

    there was nothing at all “embarrassing” or accidental about Apollo 11’s off-target landing. Eagle’s approach was equally as accurate as that of Intrepid, but at the last minute, they saw that the intended landing site was strewn with boulders, and would have been dangerous. So Armstrong took over manual control, overrode the automated sequence, and deliberately steered four miles downrange to find a safe landing spot. Which, of course, a robot lander of that era couldn’t possibly have done!

    Even a modern robotic spacecraft would be very hard pressed to take over “manual control” and override the computer! ;-)

    BTW. This is one good reason why I think humans beat robots when it comes to space exploration – at least in that flexibility and ability to change course and thinking and acting quickly respect.

  89. Nigel Depledge

    Messier Tidy Upper (47) said:

    . . . [Messy explosive decompression, blood freezing / boiling ensues!] . . .

    Erm … not really. The fluids in your mouth and your lungs would boil, gradually, and you may bleed inside your lungs a little bit, but mostly you’d simply suffocate.

    After all, your arteries maintain pressures of up to about 150 psi* your whole life long when the external pressure is 14.5 psi. What’s a few minutes with a slightly larger pressure difference?

    * A guesstimate. I don’t know what the highest recorded systolic blood pressure is.

  90. Nigel Depledge

    Bob_in_Wales (65) said:

    How do you think computers got so good so fast! Its alien tech.

    Wait, what?

    When did computers get good?

  91. Buzz Parsec

    #42, Zucchi, You nailed it!

    I was thinking about the same issue while reading the previous comments. There’s a 1.5 second speed-of-light delay between Earth and Moon. Round trip is 3 secs. So when Houston said something to the astronauts, there was a 3-second minimum delay between when they asked and when you could hear the answer back on Earth. When watching the original live broadcasts, you could hear a faint echo of the CapCom’s voice 3 seconds after the question, immediately before the response. You could hear them say things like:

    Houston: “What about that brownish rock with the pointy end?”
    [3 second pause]
    (faint echo of Houston’s words, followed immediately by)
    Moon: “You mean this one with the flat side?” (while pointing with the rock-grabber.)
    [immediately]
    Houston: “Yes, that’s the one”

    Since we *KNOW* this was being broadcast from the Moon (because it was received by the Russians, Parkes in Australia, probably Jodrell Bank (Univ of Manchester, England), and probably by the Chinese and other countries), the only way it worked would have been if the whole thing was pre-recorded on Earth (with appropriate delays) and broadcast to a relay either on the Moon or in Lunar orbit.) But then real-time conversation would have been impossible and there were many witnesses to the Earth end of the conversation (reports in mission control, etc.) All the mission control people would have had to lip-sync the dialog, and syncing the video would have been incredibly hard.

    It would *NOT* have worked to have the mission control people talking to astronauts on Earth (secretly broadcasting their responses to the Moon so they could be recorded coming back), because then there would have been TWO 3-second delays, or 6 seconds, which would have been instantly noticeable.

    You might have been able to fool people for a few minutes with canned dialog and pre-shot video footage, but never for the 10 hours some of the EVAs took.

    Look at what they had to do to fake Apollo 13 for the movie. Hundreds of hours of filming in 20-30 second snippets on the Vomit Comet to get a few minutes of footage. They could *never* have done this in real time with 1969 technology. Look at 2001, brilliant (and extremely expensive) special effects for that time, but it looks (and looked at the time) like models and drawings, not like reality.

  92. Phil K
  93. Phil K

    #81, an additional point: every Apollo Mission Report includes a section titled “anomalies” that lists every failure, mistake, glitch or other problem that happened during a mission, why it happened, and what is being done to correct it for future flights.

    No, the list doesn’t include “no stars in the photographs”. But they do investigate real anomalies ranging from the computer alarms during the Apollo 11 landing to the potable water dispenser in the CM that kept producing water with lots of dissolved gas.

    The amount of methodical effort they invested in even the simplest-seeming problem is quite impressive. As an engineer, I know very well that you usually learn much more from your mistakes than your successes so I find these reports to be both interesting and highly educational.

    It’s too bad the hoaxers never read this stuff. If they did, they might actually come away with some well-deserved respect for the people who built Apollo and made it work. And it would certainly explain how and why Apollo’s targeting skills got so much better between Apollo 11 and 12.

  94. Phil K

    #89, blood pressures are traditionally measured in mmHg, “millimeters of mercury”, dating from when mercury manometers were used. My doctor’s office still has one, but they’re being phased out because of the hazards of mercury spills.

    1 mmHg is also 1 “torr”, a non-SI unit. Normal atmospheric pressure is 760 mmHg or 760 torr. The threshold for high blood pressure is typically 140 systolic over 90 diastolic though many doctors like to see lower numbers.

    If your blood was pressurized to 150 psi, well, I wouldn’t want to clean up the mess.

  95. Phil K

    #88, Armstrong didn’t really take over “manual” control during the Apollo 11 landing. He put the guidance computer into P66 (Program #66), “attitude hold”. In this mode, the computer continued to control the throttle to maintain a fixed rate of descent that Armstrong could increase or decrease by flipping a switch.

    He had control over the LM attitude with his stick, but the computer was still very much in the path, deciding which thrusters to fire and when to change the attitude to whatever Armstrong wanted. That’s how he flew quickly over the boulder field to the actual landing site.

    Both Apollo spacecraft were almost certainly the first “fly by wire” vehicles ever built, meaning that there was no direct mechanical connection from the control stick to the control “surfaces” (in this case, rocket thrusters). The thrusters were controlled solely by electrical signals, and those signals were nearly always generated by the computer.

    There was a “direct” mode in which pushing the stick all the way to the stop would bypass the computer and manually fire (electrically, by a wire) a particular thruster but I don’t think it was ever used.

    During P66, the commanders flew the LM more or less like a helicopter, and the computer figured out how to make it behave like a helicopter, which it most assuredly was not.

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