Climate and moon landing conspiracy theories debunked

moon landing conspiracy

Everyone knows at least one conspiracy nut. They might be convinced by the moon landing conspiracy, believe that climate change is a hoax or they might even be a flat-Earther (they’re rare, but they’re definitely out there!) There’s even a bizarre theory circulating on social media that Australia doesn’t exist, which would make us another cog in an elaborate global conspiracy!

With that in mind, we think it’s high time to revisit three of the most popular science and moon landing conspiracy theories and look at what they tell us about scientific evidence and critical thinking. Take it away, conspiracists!

The moon landing was faked

The claim: The Apollo lunar mission never succeeded – all the video footage and photographs of the moon landing were faked by NASA to avoid international humiliation and secure funding.

STEM skills used to bust it: geology, instrument science, astronomy, physics

The evidence to the contrary: So, so much evidence.

For starters, NASA astronauts brought back samples of moon rocks (382kg worth of rocks, in fact!). Scientists from all over (including at the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne) have studied these rocks, and found that their chemical composition shows that the moon might have been formed from an early collision between the Earth-moon prototype and a large planet about the size of Mars.

moon landing conspiracy
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) captured the sharpest images ever taken from space of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites. Images show the twists and turns of the paths made when the astronauts explored the lunar surface. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/ASU

Check out these NASA-released images of the Apollo landing sites, taken by an orbiting spacecraft earlier this decade. They clearly show scientific equipment, the lunar rovers and footprints left by astronauts 40 years ago. What’s more, anyone with a powerful telescope and a clear view of the moon can spot the landing sites for themselves. Many independent institutions apart from NASA have confirmed this, as well as amateur astronomers.

In 2008, lunar orbiter Japan’s SELENE (known as Kaguya), captured lunar landscapes (like the Apennine Mountains) which Apollo 15 photographed over 40 years ago, and found traces of the landing plume created by the Apollo spacecraft.

Astronaut and Lunar Module pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. is pictured during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity on the moon. He had just deployed the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package. In the foreground is the Passive Seismic Experiment Package; beyond it is the Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector (LR-3). The main image shows the Apollo 11 Moonwalk (20 July 1969). Astronaut Aldrin., lunar module pilot of the first lunar landing mission, poses for a photograph beside the deployed United States flag during an Apollo 11 extravehicular activity (EVA) on the lunar surface. The Lunar Module (LM) is on the left, and the footprints of the astronauts are clearly visible.

There’s also plenty of counter arguments to more specific moon landing conspiracy arguments about the nature of the NASA photographs and video, such as whether the shadowing of the lunar module looks suss to the flag appearing to flutter in the “wind” while being planted. You can read the detailed explanation here.

Explore more careers in space science: NASA engineer Elizabeth Jens, plus more space exploration careers

Larissa Fedunik-Hofman

Author: Larissa Fedunik-Hofman

Larissa is the editorial assistant for Careers with STEM and a Chemistry PhD student. Larissa’s goal is to promote public engagement with STEM through inspiring stories.


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