It is the summer of 1969. The world’s attention is skyward: toward the moon, where Apollo 11 approaches its epoch-making destiny. But in a house on the beach off the coast of central California broods a man who knows better than to care. His name is Bill Kaysing. He is a former technical writer at Rocketdyne, the company that built the spacecraft’s main propulsion units.
Kaysing has a hunch. It will eventually manifest as a suspicion, and then mutate into one of the most pervasive and insidious conspiracy theories of all time. Kaysing will write a book on the subject. Rather he will write the book — the primary text, outlining his every intuition, misgiving and doubt about the moon landing.
Among common conspiracy theories, the moon landing is the most tenacious. It has a long and pervasive history: no matter the volume of proof, no matter the ease with which it can be further substantiated, otherwise reasonable men and women continue to affirm their incredulity. They insist that radiation from the Van Allen belt between earth and the moon would make a safe trip between the two physically impossible. They say solar flares and solar winds would have destroyed any spacecraft making an attempt. They claim surface temperatures on the lunar surface by day would have cooked the astronauts alive in their suits, or as least spoiled a camera film. They argue transmissions of sound or video from such an extraordinary distance could not have come through so quickly or so clearly. They contend the failed and thwarted efforts of the Gemini and early Apollo missions demonstrate a basic incompetence it would have been impossible for NASA in a matter of months to overcome.
And so on. None of these contentions has any basis in scientific fact. Indeed, it’s essential to such arguments that they run contrary to the scientific method at large. After all, what’s a fancy explanation from scientists really worth? Scientists: the very people who orchestrated this elaborate scheme.
Someone who truly believes the moon landing was a conspiracy and a hoax perpetrated by NASA and the United States government cannot be dissuaded from this belief reason alone. Try explaining to the conspiracy theorist that, for instance, the moon landing took place in the early hours of dawn when temperatures are much cooler, or that there were no solar flares during the times of the Apollo voyages, or that the aluminum hull of the Apollo spacecraft was designed to insulate the astronauts against radiation of the kind one might find in the Van Allen belt, and the facts will fall on deaf ears.
Part of the reason the moon landing has been a matter of such particular fascination (and fixation) for such men and women is the apparent truth it demonstrates about the government on a world-historical scale. To the ardent conspiracy theorist, the government is capable of anything — except, of course, sending men to the moon.
Kaysing’s opus, We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar …read more