Thursday, August 30, 2012

Waving Apollo's Flags

On August 25, Neil Armstrong died. Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon, on July 21, 1969, making that incredible statement about a small step for man, but a giant leap for Mankind. He is thus the prime of twelve people who have walked off-Earth.
Or did he? For several years, there is a strong contingent of Moon Skeptics, who argue that we did not go to the moon. Some years ago, the Australian magazine New Dawn even asked me to write an article on the subject, to map the debate. The conclusion of that article – which can be read here – was that some aspects of the space exploration were nebulous, some of them hoaxed, some likely fake. But that there was also a body of evidence that we went.
Specifically, the hoaxing came in the form of photographs. When one realizes the cumbersomeness of the cameras that were being used and the type of gloves the astronauts were wearing, it is indeed no surprise to see that few would have been able to make good photographs. But the world wanted images – it speaks a thousand words – and so it seems that NASA resorted to image manipulation – which many decades later was exposed as such.
There are other instances of how images were hoaxed, for example how Apollo 11 astronauts were shown playing with a screen in the window, to make it appear that they were further from the earth than they truly were. Whenever someone posts this clip on YouTube, it soon gets deleted, with a message from YouTube that it has been removed “as a violation of YouTube’s policy against spam, scams, and commercially deceptive content.” Oh irony! The footage is absolutely genuine and to find that Apollo 11 astronauts were engaged in such deception does indeed cast doubt on the veracity of their endeavors. What they were caught doing, was pretending they were deeper in space, taking video of a distant earth, whereas in reality they were in a near-earth orbit. The question asked by skeptics is: did they ever leave it? They don’t believe so.
But images can work both ways. A few weeks before Armstrong’s death, NASA reported that the shadows that were cast on the lunar surface by the US flags were still visible. Five of the six flags were still standing; ironically, the first flag, that of the Apollo 11 mission, was knocked over as the craft ascended from the lunar surface, which therefore means that there is evidence that we went to the moon, but that there appears to be no evidence yet that Apollo 11 went to the moon! The five flags were captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC). Mark Robinson, an investigator connected with the program, added: "Personally I was a bit surprised that the flags survived the harsh ultraviolet light and temperatures of the lunar surface, but they did."
The skeptics, of course, are debating the veracity of this claim, arguing that you cannot see the flags themselves, but merely the shadows. But the truth of the matter is that the shadows are in the locations where the flags were, suggesting they are the shadows of the flags. The body of evidence suggests we went to the moon… the question which might need to be posed, is… but did Apollo 11? Though the evidence suggests they did, it is far from definitive.

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