Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies For Dummies
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On July 20, 1969, the whole world stared into their television sets and watched blurry, flickering, black and white images as Apollo 11’s lunar excursion module, nicknamed “The Eagle,” descended from orbiting around the moon and touched down on the Sea of Tranquility. In 1960, deep in the heart of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, President John F. Kennedy upped the stakes in the “space race” between the two superpowers by proclaiming that the U.S. would land a man on the moon “before this decade is out.” Apollo 11 managed to pull it off with just four months to spare.

It was truly the technological achievement of the century, and perhaps the greatest milestone in the annals of mankind. And yet, the day after astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the first human footprints on another world, there were those who didn’t believe it was possible. One woman interviewed by Newsweek proclaimed that she didn’t believe it because she didn’t think her TV set could pick up a transmission from the moon. A rumor began to spread across the countryside: Maybe the moon landings had been staged.

Neil Armstrong with American flag on the moon © NASA /

Claims of phony moon landing

Various claims have been made over the last three decades about ways in which the moon landings may have been faked, and why. Some of the more common ones include:
  • NASA’s first manned test flight of the Apollo space capsule and Saturn-series rocket resulted in a tragic fire that killed astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. In a test on January 27, 1967, fire broke out in the oxygen-rich cockpit, and the three men died within 17 seconds. The claim goes that the fire set the program back so badly that the moon landings had to be completely or partially fabricated in order to make it look like the U.S. had achieved its goal on time.
  • Some have claimed that the Van Allen radiation belts that surround the earth were far too deadly to allow Apollo spacecraft to pass through without killing the astronauts inside. Most scientists (including their discoverer Dr. James Van Allen) reject this claim, because radiation poisoning is dependent upon the amount of time a person is exposed, and Apollo astronauts passed through too quickly to have received a dangerous dose.
  • Conspiracists claim that the astronauts were launched into low Earth orbit, and that the moon landing was videotaped in a studio. Then, after the appropriate amount of time, the orbiting Apollo spacecraft splashed down, all on international television.
  • According to conspiracists, Stanley Kubrick, hot on the heels of directing the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which contained the first realistic and convincing special effects depicting spaceflight ever put on film, was brought from England to direct the Apollo 11 telecast. Anyone who knows anything about the famously temperamental and perfectionist director knows how impractical this claim is. Some claim that special effects were created by 2001 effects artist Douglas Trumbull in a studio in Huntsville, Alabama, home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
  • A variation on the claim is that only some of the six successful moon landings were faked, while NASA had extra time to work on its faulty technology. Apollo 13’s almost fatal accident was staged in order to refocus a bored public on NASA’s need for greater funding. And Apollo 17, the final mission to the moon, was the only authentic trip, because it had a civilian crew member who couldn’t be threatened or bought off.
  • ​​The 1978 film Capricorn One added fuel to the hoax claims, by telling a fictional story of NASA faking a landing on Mars, while filming the events in a studio — using spacecraft virtually identical to the Apollo missions.
  • The International Flat Earth Society, as their name makes clear, believed (and still does) that Earth isn’t round, but flat as a pancake. That being the case, as far as they were concerned, the moon landings could be nothing but a hoax.

The evidence abounds

There’s too much evidence and far too many participants in NASA’s Apollo program to convince the overwhelming majority of people that the moon landings were anything but authentic. The Apollo missions involved $30 billion in federal dollars and 400,000 employees, with nary a squealer in the bunch. That hasn’t prevented a small cottage industry of authors from crying “hoax.” The 842 pounds of lunar rocks returned to Earth by Apollo astronauts over the course of six missions isn’t proof to them. Conspiracists claim unmanned NASA missions brought the rocks back to Earth before Apollo 11 ever launched, or they were simply cooked up artificially in a high-temperature kiln.

In spite of piles of photographic and physical evidence, this conspiracy theory hangs on, largely promoted by late author Bill Kaysing. He was a librarian at Rocketdyne, an early NASA supplier, and claimed (without proof) that the space agency never had the expertise needed to actually land men on the moon. He further alleged that the Apollo 1 astronauts (and later the Challenger Space Shuttle crew) were murdered because they were about to reveal the “truth” about NASA. Kaysing claimed that the astronauts were actually in the Nevada desert putting on the “moonwalk show” during the day, and hanging out with strippers and Las Vegas showgirls at night — requiring years of psychological therapy before they could get over the guilt of duping the public.

Amateur filmmaker Bart Sibrel has taken a more confrontational approach to the issue. In 2002, he accosted Buzz Aldrin in front of a Beverly Hills hotel, demanding answers to his questions about the so-called moon landing “hoax,” calling the astronaut a “coward, a liar, and a thief.” Aldrin reacted in a less than Socratic method over the controversy and punched Sibrel right in the kisser. Other Apollo astronauts have characterized Sibrel as a “stalker.”

Profound effects on moon walkers

The first time men from Earth stepped onto a new world had a profound effect on Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and both men grappled long and hard with their public and private reactions to an event that the whole world was watching. There are two little-known items about Aldrin, in particular. Professional atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair sued NASA for violating church/ state separation by allowing government-employed astronauts to read from the book of Genesis during Apollo 8’s moon-orbiting mission in 1968. So, on his own, Aldrin (a Presbyterian) privately gave himself Communion when Apollo 11’s Eagle landed. Aldrin is also a Freemason, and he carried a special document proclaiming the moon as being under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Texas of Free and Accepted Masons, which means the Masons control not just the world, but the moon!

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Christopher Hodapp is also the author of The Templar Code For Dummies and a Freemason who has traveled extensively reporting on global Masonic practices. Alice Von Kannon is an author and historian.

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