Exposing PseudoAstronomy

February 17, 2014

Interview for a Japanese Program on the Apollo Moon Hoax


Two weeks ago, I was contacted by a Japanese production company, asking me if I’d be willing to do a short interview for a program that they are producing – and probably broadcasting – around March or April. In Japan.

I agreed, and I was sent a few different questions to get an idea of what I should prepare. I had only heard of some of them, so I did some research and, as a way to prep, I wrote up “brief” responses. Obviously I wasn’t reading while being recorded, but it was a way to organize my thoughts.

And get a free blog post. So, here are ten interview questions and my responses, as prepared. On the show, they weren’t all asked, and a few additional ones were, so I don’t think I’m pre-empting anything by putting these online. Please note that the questions were originally in Japanese, translated into English, and I have edited them a bit for grammar.

Interview Questions and Answers

1. Why did the moon landing conspiracy surface? Did it start with the 1976 book written by Kaysing Conspiracy?

For anything before the internet era, it’s really hard to pin down the start of anything — all you can do is find the earliest example, but there could always be something before that that you simply could not find.

Bill Kaysing’s book in 1976 was the first book to claim that it was a conspiracy, yes, and the very fringe Flat Earth Society was one of the first organizations to do so in 1980.

However, there are various people who were NASA watchers back during the Apollo era who have variously claimed that even in the late 1960s, there were some people who were claiming that it was all a hoax. But, in terms of contemporary, printed material with a definite copyright date, Kaysing’s book was the first.

2. Do you know what the initial reaction to Kaysing’s book when it was just released was?

[No …]

3. Following the book’s publish, the movie, Capricorn One, was released. Do you think the movie was released because of the public’s initial reaction to the Kaysing’s book?

It’s likely it was written due to general hoax sentiment, not due to Kaysing’s book in particular, but it would be interesting to have gotten a contemporary interview with writer-director Peter Hyams to learn his motivation. He said, “There was one event of really enormous importance that had almost no witnesses. And the only verification we have . . . came from a TV camera.”

It’s important to mention that NASA actually helped with the production of the movie, loaning them equipment as props, including a prototype lunar module. If NASA were trying to cover up an Apollo conspiracy, one might think they would not have helped make a movie about them covering up a Mars landing conspiracy.

Do you know how much attention the book and movie received at that time? Was there any media coverage about it?

I don’t know about the book, but the movie became one of the most successful independent films of 1978.

4. The conspiracy theory surfaced in the 70s, and media brought it back again in the late 1990s and early 2000s, such as FOX’s TV special program, “Conspiracy Theory” and the book, “Dark Moon,” which are about the moon landing conspiracy. Why do you think the media covered this topic again after decades?

I’m not sure, but the 1990s saw a resurgence of missions of the Moon and Mars by the United States. People who believed in the hoax could then use that to gain traction. And, if you find a sympathetic producer, or even one who thinks that they can get ratings by making something so sensational like the FOX docudrama, then you can get your show made.

5. The points that conspiracy theorists bring up: Despite the fact that there was a large amount of thrust, there was no blast crater left on the moon.

There’s no real reason to have expected a “blast crater” in the sense of an explosion. There was some disturbance of the ground under the nozzle, but it was a blast as in a blast of air.

You can also use very basic math to show why you wouldn’t expect one: If you use the specifications, you can show that the pressure under the engine was only about half a pound per square inch. The average adult when walking exerts about three times that pressure. When you clap your hands together, you exert more pressure than the lunar module’s engines did on the surface of the Moon.

If astronauts did land, there should have been a large amount of dust floating around, yet we can see no sign of dust on the space suits or their surroundings.

There actually shouldn’t have been. This is a case where your every-day experience on Earth does not prepare you for what to expect on the Moon. If I take dust and blow on it in this room, it billows out and slowly falls down after swirling around for a long time.

But, there’s no air on the Moon. Any particle that’s kicked up will go up and then drop right back down. There’s no air to suspend the dust. In fact, you can go to movies of the lunar rover and see it kick up dust and fall right back down to the surface which requires the vacuum of the Moon rather than an air-filled sound stage on Earth.

6. About the “identical background” claims on Apollo 16 mission footage, how do you dispel this claim? Some people (such as Phil Plait) have said that it’s just a simple error with the video. They say that Erick Jones, who is the editor of the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal, says that those two clips were taken about only a few mins apart. According to our research, the “identical background” video clips were taken from the NASA-sponsored documentary video, “Nothing so Hidden.” And the documentary is produced by other production company outside of NASA. Therefore, our understanding is that it’s an error on editing stage of production: the production company took wrong clips and audio and used in the documentary. What do you think of our theory?

Makes sense. This is an innate problem with conspiracies: You have to suppose this vast maniacal group of people trying to hide the truth, so you can’t trust them on anything. And yet, this claim requires you to trust an original claim that was shown to be in err and not trust the correction.

There was a lot of footage taken on the Moon, a lot of audio and video. Stuff gets mislabeled, put in the wrong box, or edited wrong in production of documentaries afterward. Despite all attempts, the people involved were only human, and mistakes are bound to happen. You shouldn’t contribute to a conspiracy what simple human error can very easily explain.

-How did NASA usually archive footage back then during the Apollo project

[Explanation courtesy of “Expat” of the Dork Mission blog, who worked with the BBC during the Apollo era on the Apollo missions.]

Everything was transferred to 16mm film, by the kinescope process. A contractor, The AV Corporation of Seabrook (just a few miles from JSC, or MSFC as it was then known) handled all media requests. They had a pretty good catalog. No doubt there were also copies for internal use. By the time I made a documentary about Skylab, AVCorp was out of the picture and NASA’s own film editors worked with me to search the archive.

If mastering on film seems illogical by today’s standards, it wasn’t back then. The point is that film is independent of TV line standards. In those days transcoding between the US and European standards was a highly imperfect process. All our documentaries were produced on film anyway, so a video release would just have been a nuisance for us and the end result would have been degraded.

As late as 1981, when I was location producer for the BBC coverage of STS-1, I had BBC engineers getting on my case and refusing to transmit images shot by a US-based ENG (video) crew. We had to go through a ridiculous pantomime pretending that it was a film crew instead. By the time we sent the material back to London via satellite, how could they tell?

-For what purpose did NASA produce these documentary videos of the Apollo project?

A better question would be, why wouldn’t they? Practically every government agency has a public relations department, tasked with disseminating their work to the public and gathering support and more funding. In addition, Apollo returned a lot of useful science that we’re still using today – including myself in my own research – but it was also a world-wide public relations endeavor to prove that the United States was better than the Soviets. Of course you’re going to make documentaries and put out material to make people aware of it and such a triumph of human engineering.

7. Why do these theories continue to surface even until today? Do you think it’s because we now have easier access to footage from space? Is it a sense of distrust of NASA?

I think there are a lot of reasons. One is of course a distrust of government. Another reason is that people like to think they know secrets, and a conspiracy is a big secret.

Another reason is that a lot of the lines of evidence that people point to for the hoax are not easily explained because they are contrary to our experience on Earth. For example, one claim is that there should have been stars in the sky because the sky is black, so it must have been night like on Earth and at night you can see stars. But, the sky is black because there’s no atmosphere, it was actually daytime, and the cameras were set to properly expose the lunar surface and astronauts for day. You can’t capture photos of stars with those settings. But, the time I just took to explain that was much, much longer than just throwing out the, “there should be stars!” claim and it’s much easier given our every-day experience to think that there should be stars, rather than take the time to understand why there aren’t.

8. Why hasn’t NASA given their opinion on the Apollo moon-landing hoax ever since 2001? (What is the reason NASA doesn’t answer the conspiracy theorists?)

I would guess because they don’t want to give it any more publicity. It’s a lose-lose-lose situation for NASA:

a. If there is no official statement, conspiracy people will point to that and say that NASA won’t even defend themselves.

b. But if there is an official statement, then conspiracy theorists will say that NASA took the time to respond to them so there must be a controversy and they must be hiding something and you can’t trust anything the government says anyway.

c. In addition to that, Congress will wonder why they should be paying NASA to respond to ridiculous claims, and so NASA risks having their budget cut.

This happened maybe a decade ago when NASA was going to pay James Oberg, an American space journalist and historian, to write a book dispelling the hoax claims. And NASA lost-lost-lost: First, conspiracy people said it was a disinformation campaign; second, Congress wondered why NASA was spending money to do this; and third, when NASA cancelled it because of the outcry on all fronts, the conspiracists claimed NASA cancelled it because it really was a hoax.

Not Related to the Moon Hoax

9. There are still images taken by the Voyager of Saturn that Dr. Norman Bergrun, as author of “Ringmakers of Saturn”, claimed to show a UFO. What do you he possibly mistook it for? This is an example article about Dr. Burgrun’s claim.

Bergrun’s process was to take photos that were published in things like newspapers and magazines, put them under a microscope, and take a photo of them through the microscope’s eyepiece, and then look for weird tings. When going through that process, you are going to find weird things. Every example of a spaceship or alien or whatever that he has can be VERY easily explained by dust or gunk getting in the photo, or uneven illumination, or film grain, and the anomalies he found do not appear in ANY other version of the images.

In fact, one such example that Bergrun points to as a UFO is a bright speck in the bottom of an image, except the bottom part of that image is clearly NOT part of the image that Voyager took because the rings cut-off about 20% of the way from the bottom. This shows that the photo he’s using is a reproduction, including blank area, and he’s pointing to image anomalies caught in that duplication.

– And there are the 1996 infrared photos by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1996 [SJR– actually, 1995], and some people insist that that is a UFO. What do you think of it? What do you think it possibly is? The refereed photos are shown here.

They look like moons to me. Each exposure was 5 minutes long, and stuff moves in 5 minutes. In fact, one of the outer-most moons that’s within the rings, Atlas, goes around Saturn every 14 hours. In the time that photo with Hubble was taken, it went about 0.6% of its orbit, which would mean it should be a bit elongated. Every moon interior to it would be even longer because they would have moved farther in its orbit in the same amount of time.

10. In addition, there is now footage that NASA releases to the public on their homepage, and this footage or stills sometime show space debris or mini-jets that NASA has captured. Then, some people look at those debris or mini-jets, and introduce them as UFOs on the Internet. Why do you think people often do that?

I think people “want to believe.” They are going to look for any sort of anomaly or object they can’t explain and then say that, because they don’t know what it is, it is aliens. In skepticism, we call this an “Argument from Ignorance” – they are ignorant of what it really is, so they make up what it is in a way that fits their preconceived ideas.

Final Thoughts

The interview was more focused on the origin of the conspiracy and a bit more on general conspiracies than on debunking particular claims made by hoax proponents. I have no idea how I came off on camera – this was my first “real” moving-picture-type interview other than for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science that I did at TAM last year that has yet to be put online (but apparently they ARE working on it!). We’ll see.

They might send me a DVD copy when it comes out. I know my mom wants a copy.



  1. I don’t know if you care, but the sentence fragment “It’s really hard to pin down the start to things before the internet era because you can only find the earliest example of something,” doesn’t quite scan.

    Comment by Johan™ Strandberg — February 17, 2014 @ 3:40 pm | Reply

    • Re-wrote that sentence. Still awkward, but hopefully less-so.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — February 17, 2014 @ 3:48 pm | Reply

  2. Capricorn One came out in December 1977, and it has a fully developed conspiracy scenario. Given a couple of years to make a movie, the origins could be 1975 or earlier.

    Comment by Johan™ Strandberg — February 17, 2014 @ 3:44 pm | Reply

    • Peter Hyams (writer, director) claims to have had the idea while working for CBS on the Apollo 11 mission, so that would put his origin of the idea back to 1969. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capricorn_One#Production

      Comment by Johan™ Strandberg — February 17, 2014 @ 3:57 pm | Reply

      • You might be right about the 1969 start date, remember 2001: A Space Odyssey came out the year before. Also, there are these quotes from the editorial (John W Campbell Jr, writing about Apollo 11.) of the November 1969 issue of Analog Magazine:

        ” have just finished watching the greatest show ever staged; if absolutely nothing ever came of it, that magnificent science-fiction movie… ” (Page 4)

        “…Sol isn’t a binary, so filming on location we were stuck with one-source lighting.” (Page 5)

        “It added to my feeling that this whole thing was a rather primitive science-fiction movie-poorly photographed on old-fashioned black-and-white film and with too much unexplained and seemingly pointless action. We’re used to such slick lighting, and efficient choreography and editing in our movies, that the real thing seemed pretty artificial! ” (Page 6)

        My own copy of the magazine was donated to an SF history group, so I don’t have it to hand for further quotes, but I’d say the last one says it all.

        Comment by Graham — February 18, 2014 @ 7:48 pm

    • The discrepancy in release date between 2 June 1978 (IMDB) and December 1977 I mentioned above, is because it was shown in a limited release in late 1977, probably to qualify for the 1978 Oscars, a quite common gambit. At that point the film would have been essentially completed, but there might have been some minor edits and all the marketing left to do.

      Comment by Johan™ Strandberg — February 17, 2014 @ 4:29 pm | Reply

  3. I wonder why they asked question 2? The information you could dig up about initial reactions to Kaysing’s book would probably be no better than what they’d find. Maybe they just wanted your take on it?

    I presume in question 3, they meant to ask, “Following the book’s publishing,” or maybe “publication”. Publish is a verb, not a noun or adjective. Again, they could look up information on the book’s popularity and media coverage as easily as you could. So why ask this?

    In question 6, you mention, “a vast maniacle group”, which sounds like they all wore these weird monocles or something that made them become maniacs. I presume you meant, “maniacal”. I’m amazed Ex-pat had to jump through such hoops to get BBC engineers to accept the footage sent to them. Oh, and the wording in the last part of the question: “…put out material to make people aware of it and showcase it as a triumph of human engineering” sounds a bit better.

    I found a James E Oberg in Amazon dot com. He’s written a few books about the US-Soviet space race, and a couple more related ones. Is that who you meant was going to write for NASA to deal with the hoax claims?

    I hope the program becomes available somewhere on the Internet, after it’s been broadcast. I’d like to see what they did with your interview. I hope it doesn’t end up like that one video you linked a few days ago in FB. That was horrible!

    Thanks again for keeping us informed.

    Comment by Rick K. — February 17, 2014 @ 5:28 pm | Reply

  4. It seems to me that there’s a generation gap component to this. Those of us who were adult during the Moon landings — and of course, even more people like me who had the privilege of being peripherally involved — have no doubt at all that they happened exactly as depicted in the NASA history archives. To people who weren’t yet born, or even people who were too young to comprehend, I’m sure it looks rather different. Since manned missions to the Moon seem out of reach right now, the idea that it already happened before they could really witness it must seem amazing, improbable and possibly suspicious.

    That would jive well with Bart Sibrel, a prominent Apollo denier. Bart would have been 5 when Armstrong set foot on the Sea of Tranquility.

    Rick: Yes, you found the right James Oberg. He’s a well respected space historian and prominent expert on the Russian space programs. He was co-founder of my blog, “The Emoluments of Mars” but he doesn’t contribute very often. He does, however, comment on Above Top Secret and drives some of them crazy with his expert analysis.

    Comment by expat — February 17, 2014 @ 6:16 pm | Reply

  5. Hm. According to the sources in Internet a colegue of Alex Mr. Rupert Sheldrake is a Manager of Yahoo Group Telepathy.
    And in one message (Subject: Mix) here are placed the filmed Telepathy’s proofs from the times before 2000’th. The proofs, which objective arising ABSOLUTELY cannot be disqualified.
    Unfortunately they came not from the Sheldrake’s efforts.
    Good morning folk..!

    Comment by Rutt — February 18, 2014 @ 3:22 am | Reply

  6. What’s the event ‘of really enormous importance’ you refer to in Answer 3?

    Comment by Trekker — February 18, 2014 @ 8:01 am | Reply

    • It’s a quote, he was referring to Apollo.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — February 18, 2014 @ 10:23 am | Reply

  7. This new video of mine is only tangentially related, but perhaps useful. I’ve invited YouTube’s most-notorious defamers of real scientists to respond, and some have.

    Comment by Jim Smith — February 23, 2014 @ 11:34 am | Reply

    • Jim Smith — The comments section under your video was very revealing. Instead of providing counter predictions about the Jovian moons’ eclipses, backed by evidence, several of the people named in the video responded by whining, complaining, and accusing you and/or the scientists at TPTB of all sorts of nasty things. They know deep down inside their positions are incorrect, but they have too much invested in their worldviews. So they doubled down, going on the attack to hopefully divert attention from their hollow claims. I feel sorry for them; they’re trapped in their own fantasies.

      Comment by Rick K. — February 24, 2014 @ 10:45 am | Reply

  8. Dear Bad Science / Bad Astronomy; I interviewed Bill Kaysing in the mnid 90’s, about 1994 and actually did one of the first lengthy documentaries. We Never Went to the Moon, by Ross Marshall, Plutronium Films, Inc., Which is still boot-legged around the country by apollo hoax buffs. I once believed it but since abandoned it; only to be boondoggled by Richard Hoagland and his predicessors; and since then have written much in debinking it. See Amazon Books for my vol-1 of two, call IS ANYONE ELSE ON THE MOON? – key words, “alien artifacts”. You may request copys of both dvd on bill and my book. ROSS at…..

    Comment by Ross Marshall — March 26, 2014 @ 3:46 am | Reply

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