This was my first entry is what is becoming a large series on the Apollo Moon Hoax — the conspiracy theory that NASA faked the Apollo moon landings. This is/was one of my first blog posts, which was relatively unorganized compared with my present posts. It was originally made on September 6, 2008, but it has been re-organized as of June 26, 2009.
All posts in this series:
In Apollo photograph AS16-107-17446 (Apollo 16, film roll 107, photo #17446), shown below, there is a large rock in the foreground. After the photograph had been duplicated many times by many people and sent out to the public, an apparent “C” was superimposed over the rock (shown below). Conspiracists claim that this is obvious evidence of a hoax because it’s a prop rock — they believe that the prop man forgot to turn the rock over because NASA took the time to label all the rocks to make sure they go where they’re supposed to.
Let’s Think Logically
Before I actually get into why this “C” is there, there are a few basic logical questions that one should ask when presented with this claim:
- Does anyone actually label props on sets? When Penn & Teller addressed this claim on their Showtime program (I won’t name it because I want to keep this blog at least G or PG), they asked their propman if he’s ever labeled sets. The answer was a resounding “No.” You may claim this is an argument from authority, but you should really ask movie producers if they label their props. Seriously.
- Even if Hollywood labels their props, why would NASA? Why would they risk accidentally putting a prop “label-side up?” After all, they must have had literally thousands of “prop rocks” to keep track of and make sure that they were put in their exact locations, which leads me to …
- … If NASA had hundreds or thousands of props to keep track of, why didn’t they set up their scenes ONCE, make certain that it looked alright (as in no props with the label facing up), and then do all of their filming? They should’ve checked everything and then filmed. Which leads to …
- … A major problem with this conspiracy theory, and many others, is that it lends the conspirators incredible power. After all, they must have been able to keep the lid on this for decades despite the half-million people involved in the project (1 out of ever 360 Americans, according to the 1970 US Census). And yet, with all this incredible power at their disposal, they miss something like a rock that’s flipped the wrong way?
Refuting This Claim the Standard Way
If you have managed to get this far and still believe this claim, then let’s actually get to what’s really going on. Have you ever scanned or photocopied something? If so, you know that any little piece of dirt, hair, dust, or whatever that gets between your original and your imaging device will show up in the copy. That is what happened in the case of the infamous “C” rock – a hair (such as an eyelash) or a small piece of lint got caught between the image and the imager when they were making copies of it. Plain and simple. In the original photograph (closeup shown below), there is no “C.”
Refuting This Claim My Way
That is the fairly standard way to explain/debunk this claim – it’s simply a hair in the copy and the original doesn’t show it. But there’s another way: The ONLY photograph that conspiracy theorists point to with the “C” rock is AS16-107-17446. The photograph taken just before it, AS16-107-17445, shows the bottom-half of #17446, including the rock in question. The rock is in the exact same position, orientation, etc. And yet … there is no “C” on it!
No hoax proponent has ever looked at photo #17445 and claimed that it has the “C” on the rock. In other words, their conspiracy “theory” is not internally consistent even in this one single claim. The photo is shown below, first in full, then in detail.
Why This Claim Is Not Consistent with Another Hoax Claim
Another hoax claim that I have not addressed as of the time of writing or updating this post is that photographs that NASA claims from Apollos 16 and 17 that were taken hours and miles apart show “identical” backgrounds. This would seem to imply that NASA had one set that they used for each mission. The next logical assumption is that they would set up the set once, check it over, and then do all their filming. But, that can’t possibly be true given the differences in Apollo photos AS16-107-17445 and AS16-107-17446.
In sum, there are three main reasons why this claim doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny: (1) It simply doesn’t make sense that a rock would be labeled and “accidentally” left label-side up, (2) It is very easily explained by a simple hair getting caught in the copying device, and (3) the claim is internally inconsistent because no hoax proponent has ever looked at other photographs of the same scene and claimed that there is a labeled rock or a cover-up.
This is, hence, another example of anomaly hunting to create a false dichotomy: There is something that appears anomalous in the Apollo footage (anomaly hunting), therefore the moon landings were faked (false dichotomy).