Posted by: Ed Darrell | May 17, 2012

How do we know they really went to the Moon?

Every year at this time . . .

In a discussion of the Cold War, the Space Race, and the Race to the Moon, we get to a photo about Apollo 11’s landing on the Moon.

Like clockwork, a hand goes up:  “Mr. Darrell, wasn’t that landing a hoax?  They didn’t really go to the Moon then, did they?”

There are a lot of ways to know that Apollo 11 landed on the Moon.  Among other things, students could talk to people alive at the time who have the slightest bit of technological savvy:  With lots of other people, I tracked part of the trip with my 6-inch reflecting telescope.  Ham radio operators listened in on the radio broadcasts.  And so on.

But I really like this chunk of evidence:  How about a photograph of the landing site?

Holy cow!  You can see the tracksof Neil Armstrong’s footprints to the lip of Little West crater (see arrow without label below).

Tranquility Base, from the LROC -- showing evidence of Apollo 11's  landing -
Tranquility Base, shot from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), showing the traces left by Apollo 11’s landing on the Moon. It really happened. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

According to the LROC website:

The astronaut path to the TV camera is visible, and you may even be able to see the camera stand (arrow). You can identify two parts of the Early Apollo Science Experiments Package (EASEP) – the Lunar Ranging Retro Reflector (LRRR) and the Passive Seismic Experiment (PSE). Neil Armstrong’s tracks to Little West crater (33 m diameter) are also discernable (unlabeled arrow). His quick jaunt provided scientists with their first view into a lunar crater.

Check out this video made from the photos, “High Noon at Tranquility Base”:

Fox News?  What’s your story now?

More:

Tip of Herodotus’s hat to Collect Space forum, and the Carnival of Space #147 at Weird Sciences.  Thanks to ScienceBlips for telling us about Carnival of Space.  Post borrowed completely, with permission, from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

The Passive Seismic Experiment Package on the ...

The Passive Seismic Experiment Package on the Moon. Buzz Aldrin is adjusting it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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Responses

  1. There is a controversy of any human has ever landed on the moon. I have my doubts because they haven’t landed on the moon anymore. I’d expect them to have already landed on the moon many times by now, especially because our technology is advanced.
    Jonathan Loza 5th period

    • U.S. astronauts landed on the Moon eight times. How many times do you think it takes?

      How do you dismiss the evidence of the mirrors on the Moon from which we bounce lasers to measure the distance? How do you dismiss the photographs of the landing sites, still showing footprints, wheel prints from the rovers, and the part of the lunar excursion modules (LEM) that were left behind?

      What would be the purpose of going to the Moon today? Then there was the Cold War, and we were in competition with the Soviet Union.

      Do you really think the Soviets would have let the U.S. make a hoax landing?

      Did you read this post and the links?

  2. The US government deemed it vital that it win the Space Race against the Soviet Union. Going to the Moon would be risky and expensive, as exemplified by John F. Kennedy famously stating that the United States chose to go because it was hard. A main reason for the race to the Moon was the Cold War. Philip Plait states in Bad Astronomy that the Soviets—with their own competing Moon program and a formidable scientific community able to analyze NASA data—would have cried foul if the United States tried to fake a Moon landing, especially since their own program had failed. Proving a hoax would have been a huge propaganda win for the Soviets. Bart Sibrel responded, “the Soviets did not have the capability to track deep spacecraft until late in 1972, immediately after which, the last three Apollo missions were suddenly canceled.”

    • Good thoughts, Debbie.

      The US government deemed it vital that it win the Space Race against the Soviet Union. Going to the Moon would be risky and expensive, as exemplified by John F. Kennedy famously stating that the United States chose to go because it was hard. A main reason for the race to the Moon was the Cold War. Philip Plait states in Bad Astronomy that the Soviets—with their own competing Moon program and a formidable scientific community able to analyze NASA data—would have cried foul if the United States tried to fake a Moon landing, especially since their own program had failed. Proving a hoax would have been a huge propaganda win for the Soviets. Bart Sibrel responded, “the Soviets did not have the capability to track deep spacecraft until late in 1972, immediately after which, the last three Apollo missions were suddenly canceled.”

      It was expensive, by 1960s standards — though it still consumed a tiny part of the national federal budget (now space exploration is less than 5% of the federal budget, if that much). But it was important for the Cold War, we thought, and therefore, expensive but worth the cost. If we didn’t get there first, the Russians might — and they might put weapons on the Moon that would make us essentially defenseless (the Russians may have feared the U.S. would do the same). The space race was very much an extension of the arms race.

      Soviets weren’t able to track deep spacecraft — but this was not deep space, really. They could easily track the Apollo craft in orbit before leaving for the Moon, and they could easily track Apollo on radar most of the way, and on telescopes the entire way — plus the radio broadcasts from the mission were wide open, so anyone could listen in — and many ham radio operators did. Surely the Soviets did, too.

      The last three Apollo launches were cancelled after the Soviets conceded they weren’t going, and after a budget review in the U.S. It was no longer necessary to go.

      Were we faking it, why fake it eight times? That makes no sense. I knew John Glenn and Harrison Schmitt — both great men. I do not believe they would have participated in such a hoax, nor do I believe such a deception could be kept up with so many people of virtue, honesty and bravery in the program.

  3. Why hasn’t anyone gone back to the moon since? I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with this whole man on the moon thing but anything can always be fake, like photoshopping the images and doing things to the videos. Like all the big screen movies that make everyone seem so realistic. Maybe the government is trying to make the world believe something for a greater cause. I think space travel is frightening, not knowing what really is out there and just not knowing how big the universe really is. What was the whole deal of the space race anyway? Pride? And the flag floating? There is no air in space, but then again, there MUST be air in space because the Sun needs oxygen in order to burn. Nothing can be really proven, unless we can go to the moon as a class field trip. ha

    • Lily, interesting questions.

      Why hasn’t anyone gone back to the moon since?

      China is working to put people on the Moon in the very near future, to prove their space program, and perhaps to mine minerals. The U.S. hasn’t gone back because of the cost — and we have no burning scientific need to do so right now that is worth the enormous expense, in the views of the stingy penny-pinchers who run Congress.

      I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with this whole man on the moon thing but anything can always be fake, like photoshopping the images and doing things to the videos. Like all the big screen movies that make everyone seem so realistic.

      PhotoShop didn’t exist in 1969, and not for this sort of stuff for another 30 years.

      Movie effects? 2001: A Space Odyssey was released in 1968 — best movie effects to that point. Rent the movie sometime, and compare it with the real pictures. Speed and motion of the space craft are good, for the time, but not realistic, now that we’ve been to the Moon and had 30 years of the Space Shuttle. Look at the visors the astronauts used, for example — no shades for use in the sunlight closer to Earth. Not realistic.

      Maybe the government is trying to make the world believe something for a greater cause. I think space travel is frightening, not knowing what really is out there and just not knowing how big the universe really is.

      It’s about 13.5 billion lightyears across. Bigger than we can experience, and bigger than we can imagine, for most of us.

      Such frontiers, fearful to most, are what look like great challenges to the great explorers through time.

      What was the whole deal of the space race anyway? Pride?

      Pride was a big part of it. But there were two practical concerns.

      One — the least practical — is the propaganda value of being first. Other nations line up with the Soviet Union or the U.S., sometimes based on which has the best technology to help out the other nation. The country that wins the space race could get huge propaganda value from it.

      The second is military. There is no known, and not much conceivable defense from a missile weapon launched from space towards an Earth target. The first one to the Moon could put weapons there . . .

      And the flag floating? There is no air in space, but then again, there MUST be air in space because the Sun needs oxygen in order to burn.

      The flag doesn’t float. It stands out from the flag pole because there is an aluminum rod holding it out. It ripples only when the astronauts shake it. There is no significant atmosphere on the Moon because the Moon has only 1/6 of Earth’s gravity — not enough to hold down an atmosphere.

      Air in space? A few stray molecules, but not “air” as we know it. The Sun doesn’t combust in a chemical fire that requires oxygen. In fact, the Sun and stars like it make oxygen in their last years. The Sun burns in a nuclear reaction that does not require oxygen, fusion. Hydrogen molecules are fused into helium, releasing powerful quantities of energy.

      Nothing can be really proven, unless we can go to the moon as a class field trip. ha

      Have you seen the pictures from the Lunar Orbiter?

      In 1969, I didn’t think I’d be teaching now. But I did think my kids would be able to take field trips to the Moon in college, and their kids would be able to do it in high school. It’s sad that we haven’t kept going to the Moon, I think.

  4. if they already proved that there is no life on the moon, then why do they keep going back?

    • Blanca, the trips to the Moon were not solely to search for life.

      There are a lot of questions about the Moon, which may be answered by understanding the geologic characteristics of the place (should that be “lunalogic?”): How old is the Moon? How was it formed? Did it once have a molten core (or does it still)? Are there minerals on the Moon that can be useful to us and worth the trip to get them?

      But you should also understand that it’s not exactly accurate to say life on the Moon is disproven. One Apollo mission DID find life on the Moon — but it was life accidentally introduced from Earth, years earlier. Apollo 12 recovered parts of Surveyor 3, a U.S. lunar exploring spacecraft that landed on the Moon on April 20, 1967. In some of the pieces, bacteria were found that had obviously contaminated the stuff before launch, but which also survived the trip and many months on the Moon.

      Explorations have been made to determine whether there is methane, which might be converted to fuel for exploration farther out, or water, which could also be used for fuel. More exploration is planned by other nations, to prove their machines and humans are capable of doing the exploration if nothing else.

      See also this National Geographic site on Moon exploration:

      After the dramatic successes of the 1960s and 1970s, the major space programs turned their attention elsewhere for a period of several decades.

      But in 1994, NASA again focused on the moon. The Clementine mission succeeded in mapping the moon’s surface in wavelengths other than visible light, from ultraviolet to infrared.

      Later, the Lunar Prospector (1999) orbited the moon in search of possible evidence of ice at the lunar poles. The prospector also explored the moon’s gravitational field and remapped its surface. The mission’s end was spectacular—The craft was intentionally crashed into the moon in the hopes of raising a plume that could yield evidence of water ice, but none was observed.

      Today India, China, and Japan all have lunar exploration projects in development. The United States’ own plan is perhaps the most ambitious—to return humans to the moon by 2020 and eventually use the moon as a staging point for human flight to Mars and beyond.

  5. Surveyor 3, photographed by Apollo astronaut Alan Bean about two years after Surveyor landed:

    Surveyor 3, on the Moon, two years after it landed -- photo by Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean

  6. Reblogged this on PORTAFOLIO. BITACORA DE UN TRANSFUGA. 2000.2010.

  7. Reblogged this on PORTAFOLIO. BITACORA DE UN TRANSFUGA. 2000.2010.

  8. The view of the earth from the moon looked really cool i would like to see that myself one day…
    how can it be a hoax?? there’s proof that they actually landed on the moon and there are some people that are still alive that went to the moon.

  9. I think its cool how they were the first ones in the moon, that must have felt cool. If I went I’d be excited; but then again I’d be scared because around you it’s all dark.

  10. I believe that we have landed on the moon because there is more proof saying that we did than we didn’t.

  11. I’ma check out the book and see if it can change my mind. I’ve talked to a couple of science teachers to see what they thought about it, and they completely agreed it was not a hoax. At first I thought it would be a hoax just for the fact that I somewhat believe in conspiracys, but my mind has been changed with some of the facts given to me. Anyways this was a good post something interesting but at the same time having to do with history. Maybe if you would post stuff like this in a way you’d get more people on your site.


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