Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Did man really walk on the moon?

In my opinion, the Discovery Channel’s show Mythbusters is one of the best shows on television. An episode I recently watched sought to “bust the myth” that so many people and groups have been skeptical and critical about since it occurred in 1969. The myth that this show focused on was “Man did not really walk on the moon, it was simply a show put on by NASA.” At the end of the show, they proved that man did in fact walk on the moon through four points of dissention among conspiracy theorists. These points were: 1) The tape that shows Neil Armstrong running was filmed in a studio and slowed down to get the “zero-gravity” effect. 2) The photo taken of Buzz Aldrin stepping off the lunar module shows him stepping into a shadow, yet he is perfectly lit. This effect could only be achieved in a studio. 3) The video taken of the US Flag being placed in the ground on the moon shows it waving. This is impossible as there is no wind or atmosphere on the moon. 4) The photo of the footprint on the moon has too much ridge detail. In order for that kind of ridge detail to be achieved there would need to be moisture in the air and in the soil, something which is lacking on the moon.

One main point of contention among conspiracy theorists states that the clip of the astronaut running could simply have been achieved by having him run across a studio and slowed the tape down. In order to analyze this, the Mythbusters put on full astronaut gear and filmed them running across the studio and slowed the tape down. A certain sense of weightlessness was indeed achieved. To further investigate, they took a trip in the Zero Gravity plan in Florida. The plane achieves periods of weightlessness by flying in a parabolic arch pattern. At the top of each peak, the inside of the plane experiences zero gravity. At the bottom of each trough, however, the inside of the plane experiences double the earth’s gravity. To achieve 1/6 gravity, as on the moon, the Mythbusters had the pilot amend the amplitude of the parabolic flying pattern. When the team experienced 1/6 gravity, they had a member fully dressed in astronaut gear run from one end of the plane to the other while being filmed and the two tapes were compared. From this comparison, it was obvious that while the effects were similar, it was obvious that the tapes from the moon were in fact filmed in 1/6 gravity and not simply slow-motion film.

Another point of contention is that the photo taken of the astronaut descending the ladder out of the lunar module shows him stepping into the shadow of the spacecraft. The critics theorize that he should be in the shadow as well, as opposed to illuminated as he appears to be in the photo, as there is no second source of light on the moon, just the sun. To assess this theory, the Mythbusters set up a miniature model of the astronaut and the spacecraft with only the one light source. To get the effect exactly right, they obtained artificial lunar dust from NASA and added that to their model. When they snapped a photo, the light from the “sun” was reflected off the lunar dust and illuminated the astronaut even though he was in the shadow of the lunar module, confirming that this was possible on the moon.

The third point of contention is that the flag seems to wave, something that is impossible on the moon as there is no wind or atmosphere. To assess this, they set up a vacuum, which is the environment on the moon. They placed a flag in the vacuum and designed a robotic arm to twist it as if it was being planted in the ground, being careful to repeat the motions of the astronaut as accurately as possible. They found that in the vacuum, the after-effects of the twisting motion did indeed cause a “waving” of the flag, which is seen on the film from the moon. This also supports the theory that man did actually land on the moon.

The last, and sometimes overlooked, point of contention among conspiracy theorists is that the boot imprint in the lunar dust is too clean-cut with too much ridge detail for an environment without moisture. To assess this, first the Mythbusters compared a boot imprint in wet and dry sand. After this first experiment, it seemed that the conspiracy theorists may be correct, as the dry sand held little to no shape of the imprint. To investigate further, they obtained the artificial lunar dust from NASA and repeated the boot stomping in a vacuum with a robotic leg. This time, the boot imprint held in the lunar dust and did not fall apart.

In conclusion, all four experiments separately proved that yes, man did land on the moon. Conspiracy theorists will continue to contest this, despite the growing pile of evidence supporting NASA. The simple fact is that the environments are not the same on the moon as they are on Earth, and the physics of the way things happen (flag waving, boot impressions, light reflections, etc) will not act the same in a vacuum as they will on a non-windy day on Earth. So to all those conspiracy theorists in Bio 312 who don’t believe that man landed on the moon…that myth has been busted!

Posted by Amanda Hostetter (10)


  1. This is a very detailed article and I find it amusing to read how it seems to be a conspiracy behind the moon landing. I guess that is part of being a scientist; questioning as much as possible to find a true answer. I always found the waving flag a bit skeptical, but since they have evidence that it could occur through a twisting motion I guess my skepticism has been resolved.

  2. It is true that there are always people who will try to refute major advances in science. For the most part, arguments are made by those that are under-informed and lack the proof to back up their arguments.

    The case of the moon landing has received much media attention, including the television show you mentioned, as well as others. For me, the justification for the arguments are unbelievable. The cover-up that would have ha to take place would have been immense.

    Posted by Andrew King

  3. It's good to hear skeptics proved wrong on such an issue as large as man landing on the moon. We now have space stations and a large number of satellites and telescopes orbiting in space, we've landed rovers on mars and invested billions developing technology to go farther. To believe that we never landed on the moon seems sort of foolish. Being skeptic of this would tell me that they believe the billions we spend on space exploration and spacecraft development is all just insane amounts of money being thrown into some governmental hoax...I don't think so. Interesting topic, thanks for the article.

    -Tom Roper

  4. I must first agree that Mythbusters is of the greatest shows, and if they were to prove that man did not walk on the moon, it would be devastating to many. To think that man did not walk on the moon is ridiculous considering the things we have also done thus far. There will always be skeptics in every situation, however at least this argument was justified through the four points of dissention among conspiracy theorists.

    Posted by Amanda Makowski

  5. I agree with everyone in the sense that refuting the man on the moon theory is ridiculous, but like Andrew said there is always someone that does not believe something. Myself in particular, never doubted this, but giving that some people have it is nice to see the mythbusters bust ideas. They are very creative and provide some incentive to learn. Most of all, however, they are fun. And of course they go to eery length to prove myths true or false, so proving all four points of dissention only sets out to convince their audience.

    Posted by Amanda Hostetter