Did we walk on the Moon?

Whenever the Moon is full I make sure to look up so that I can appreciate its beauty and imagine what it must have been like for the men who once walked upon its surface. To date, the Apollo Moon missions are the greatest adventures in all of humankind’s brief existence. They may have been born out of nothing more than a propaganda battle between insecure superpowers but they transcended those humble beginnings to stand as arguably our most inspirational achievement ever. If we can do that, then what can’t we do?

Sadly, of course, not everyone shares my awe and admiration for the Moon landings. Some people think they never happened, that it was all a big fat hoax. I suppose I should be numb to the bizarre beliefs that people come up with by now, but I must admit that I find it difficult to accept that millions of people around the world,including more than a few in the Cayman Islands,do not believe that people have ever visited the Moon. It stuns me that the greatest technological achievement in history is not even real in the minds of some. How can this be? How is it possible that millions could believe such a thing?

Some people refuse to believe that humans walked on the Moon because they think it’s impossible. The Moon is too far away, space is too dangerous and we’re too dumb to have pulled it off. These are the same people who think extraterrestrials built the pyramids because we were too dumb to cut and stack heavy stones. Other people prefer to see the Moon landings as a government conspiracy. It was all just a colossal scam cooked up by the US to make the Soviet Union look bad during the Cold War.

Moon-hoax believers may seem silly for their denial of what may well be the most thoroughly documented event of all time, but ridiculing or dismissing them without ever addressing their points is not wise. They have their reasons for not believing and those reasons should be answered. Snickering and ignoring these people only guarantees that one more mendacious meme will infect our species well into the future. I believe NASA should take a deep breath, swallow its pride, and make more of an effort to trample this nonsense once and for all.

Admittedly the Moon hoax claim is absurd and difficult to dignify with a response. After all, you don’t see the Royal Geographic Society bothering to wage a full-time campaign against the world’s religious fundamentalist groups who still teach that the Earth is flat. There’s a strong case to be made for just giving up on some people. But I say fight on; don’t surrender and accept the madness. If nothing else, we should push back for the sake of innocent children who get hammered with nonsense before they have a fair chance of recognizing it for what it is. Many resources are available to counter all of the technical hoax claims. One of the best is Phil Plait’s excellent book, “Bad Astronomy”. But I will present a different kind of argument against the Moon hoax claim. I reject the conspiracy theory not only because it lacks evidence and convincing arguments but also because I am sold on the truth of the Apollo missions based on my personal experiences with the people who were there.

If the Apollo Moon landings were faked it would mean that I have conducted many lengthy interviews with some of history’s all-time greatest liars. I’ve been fortunate in my career as a writer to have met, interviewed, and written about many key figures in the Apollo Program that sent men to the Moon. Here’s is a partial list of my close encounters:

Scott Carpenter (Mercury Seven astronaut), Tom Stafford (Apollo 10), Frank Borman (Apollo 8), Rusty Sweickart (Apollo 9), Jim McDivitt (Apollo 9), Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11), Alan Bean (Apollo 12), Gene Cernan (Apollo 10, 17), Dave Scott (Apollo 9, 15), John Young (Apollo 10, 16, Charlie Duke (Apollo 16), Gene Kranz (Mission Control flight director), James O’Kane (Apollo spacesuit engineer), Jack Cherne (lunar module engineer), and Walter Jacobi (member of Wernher von Braun’s rocket team).

After many hours of interviews and casual conversations with these men, I never once felt the slightest suspicion that any of them were lying to me. Their detailed memories of the space program and, specifically, the recollections of the men who walked on the Moon were utterly convincing to me, their responses were every bit as credible as they were fascinating. Isn’t it unlikely that so many men could or would tell such a gigantic lie with great detail and passion after all these years? It’s possible, I suppose, but I think it would be easier for them to have gone to the Moon than to live like that.

Another question I have is why so many of them would add deeply personal layers to “the big lie”. Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke lived on the Moon for a few days in 1972. He told me how he left behind a photograph of his wife and children as a sort of eternal monument of his love for them. Apollo 12’s Alan Bean told me that his memories of walking on the Moon inspired him to become an artist in his “second life”. Today he is a dedicated painter of spectacular space and lunar scenes. Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan described for me how humbled and spiritual he felt as he stared up at the Earth, hanging all alone in the cold darkness of space. He also recounted for me how he wrote “T D C”, his daughter’s initials, into the lunar dust. If these guys are all in on a big hoax, they sure are laying it on thick.

In addition to their personal stories, I saw an obvious love for space exploration in all of these men. There was enthusiasm and pride in their words and expressions. Yes, they really did go to the Moon. It’s either that or NASA pulled together a team of actors far better at the craft than Hollywood’s best casting agents could ever have assembled.