Some people have made the controversial allegation that the Apollo program landings were faked by NASA with possible CIA support. Although the hoax idea has apparently gained credence with some in the general public (a 1999 Gallup poll suggested 6% of the population of the U.S. believe the claim) nearly all interested scientists and historians have rejected the claim, considering it to be a baseless conspiracy theory.

The landing skeptics believe that the moon landings of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969 and subsequent missions never happened, but were faked on Earth. The theory grew significantly in popularity since the release of the movie Capricorn One (1978), in which NASA attempted to fake a landing on Mars. It is possible that a brief sequence in the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever (1971) which appears to show a moon landing being simulated may coincide with some of the first suggestions of the landings being faked.

A more subtle version of the theory is that although the Apollo missions were not faked, some of the photographs were. According to this theory, the US government feared the humiliation that would occur if the mission failed and fake photographs etc were prepared on Earth "just in case." Although the mission was a success, some of these fake photographs were so impressive that it was decided to release them anyway for propaganda purposes. This version of the theory has the advantage—or disadvantage—that it is more difficult to disprove.

Regarding Apollo 11 there are many claims and counter-claims. Theorists protest that most rebuttals address statements they never made, or else ignore the relevant facts.

Table of contents
1 Motive
2 Issues of photographs
3 Issues of radiation
4 Transmission issues
5 Mechanical issues
6 Moon rocks
7 Stanley Kubrick
8 Deaths of key people involved with the Apollo program
9 Falsifiability
10 External links


Regardless of whether one accepts the accusation that the landings were faked, several motives existed for the U.S government to fake the moon landings - some of the major elements are:

  1. Distraction - The U.S. government benefitted from a popular distraction to take attention away from the Vietnam war. Landing skeptics point out that lunar activities abruptly stopped around the same time that the Vietnam War ended.
  2. Cold War Prestige - The U.S. government considered it vital that the U.S. win the space race with the USSR. Going to the moon, if it was possible, would have been risky and expensive. It would have been much easier to fake the landing, thereby ensuring success.
  3. Money - NASA raised approximately 30 billion dollars pretending to go to the moon. This could have been used to pay off a large number of people, providing significant motivation for complicity.
  4. Risk - The available technology at the time was such that there was a good chance that the landing might fail if genuinely attempted.

However, landing believers point out that the Soviets would have cried foul if the USA tried to fake a moon landing. Theorist Ralph Rene responds that shortly after the alleged moon landings, the USA silently started shipping hundreds of thousands of tons of grain as "aid" to the starving USSR. He views this as prima facie evidence of a cover-up, the grain being the price of silence.

Issues of photographs

Landing skeptics have alleged various issues with photographs claimed to have been taken on the moon.
  • Landing skeptics:
Crosshairs on some photos appear to be behind objects, rather than in front of them where they should be, as if the photos were altered.
  • Quality.
  • There are no stars in any of the photos, and astronauts never report seeing any stars from the capsule windows. In a vacuum, facing away from the sun, the stars should be gloriously brilliant.
  • The color and angle of shadows and light.
  • Identical backgrounds in photos are listed as taken miles apart.
    • Landing believers:
    In photography, the light white color (the object behind the crosshair) makes the black object (the crosshair) invisible.
  • Early photos were poor and later ones better as better equipment was sent. There were also several thousand photos taken. NASA selected only the best for release to the public and the popular press selected only the best from these.
  • There are also no stars seen in Space Shuttle, Mir, International Space Station and Earth observation photos. Cameras used for imaging these things are set for quick shutter speeds in order not to over-expose the film for white and light gray objects. The dim light of the stars simply doesn't have a chance to expose the film. (Science fiction movies and television shows confuse this issue by inaccurately depicting the stars as visible in space under all lighting conditions.) Stars were easily seen by every Apollo mission crew except for the ill-fated Apollo 13 (they couldn't see the stars due to the fact that oxygen and water vapor created a haze around the spacecraft). Stars were used for navigation purposes.
  • Shadows on the moon are complicated because there are several light sources; the sun, the earth and the moon itself. Light from these sources is scattered by lunar dust in many different directions, including shadows.
  • Distance and scale are perceived very differently on the moon than on earth due to its much smaller size and lack of lensing and other effects that are caused by light passing through air, mist and atmospheric particulates. The topography on the mares is also very redundant.

  • Issues of radiation

    • Landing skeptics
    The astronauts could not have survived the trip because of exposure to radiation from
    van Allen radiation belt and galactic ambient radiation.
  • Film in the cameras would have been fogged by this radiation.
    • Landing believers
    The Moon is ten times higher than the van Allen radiation belts, and the astronauts were protected by very sophisticated spacesuits. The spacecraft moved through the belts in just 30 minutes, and the astronauts were protected from the ionizing radiation by the metal hulls of the spacecraft. Theorists argue here that James van Allen wrote a paper arguing against the possibility of travelling through the belts and also note that the Russians were never able to figure out how to do it. They then ask for more detailed information than "sophisticated spacesuits."

    Transmission issues

    • Landing skeptics
    The lack of a more than two-second delay in two-way communications at a distance of a quarter million miles
  • Typical delays in communication were on the order of half a second
  • Better signal supposedly received at Parkes observatory when the moon was on the opposite side of the planet
  • Parkes billed to the world for weeks as the site that would be relaying communciations from the moon, then five hours before transmission they were told to stand down
  • Various conflicting stories from Parkes re: their involvement in the hoax
  • Parkes supposedly provided the clearest video feed from the moon, but Australian media and all other known sources ran a live feed from the United States
    • Landing believers
    -no rebuttal available-

    Mechanical issues

    • Landing skeptics
    The lack of a blast crater from the landing
  • That the launch rocket produced no visible flame
  • The rocks brought back from the Moon are identical to rocks collected by scientific expeditions to Antartica
  • The presence of deep dust around the module
  • The flapping flag
    • Landing believers
    Exhaust from the propulsion system was throttled low during the final stages of low gravity descent and the lack of air-pressure on the moon causes those exhaust gases to rapidly expand well beyond the landing site. Therefore there was in fact little pressure right below the landing site.
  • Hydrazine (a fuel) and dinitrogen tetroxide (an oxidizer) were used as the propellants. These two chemicals ignite hypergolically - upon contact - producing a transparent jet of particles. They simply produced an equal and opposite motive force, pushing the rocket. See Newton's laws of motion. This combination has been also been used on the American Titan, Russian Proton and Chinese Long March launchers.
  • Chemical analysis of the rocks confirms a different oxygen isotopic composition and a surprising lack of volatile elements.
  • The dust around the module is called regolith and is created by ejecta from asteroid and meteoroid impacts. This dust was several inches thick at the Apollo 11 landing site.
  • The astronauts were moving the flag into position, causing motion. Since there is no air on the moon to provide friction, these movements caused a long-lasting undulating movement seen in the flag. Morever, former astronauts have stated that they left the horizontal (spring-loaded) bar not fully extended because they liked the fabric's rippled appearance--which could be mistaken for motion in a still photograph.

  • Refutations of the theory generally focus on the following topics:
    • Telemetry
    • Prior missions
    • The rocks brought to Earth from the moon
    • The presence of retroreflectors left on the moon

    Some landing skeptics have claimed that famed director Stanley Kubrick was somehow a part of the conspiracy, usually casting him as the director of the moon landing sequence. These proponents hypothesize that the superb "realistic" outer space effects of the movie were developed and perfected in special CIA film sets while preparing the faked moon landings, and that Kubrick later made use of the same special effects technology to make his movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    Moon rocks

    Landing believers claim that rocks allegedly brought back from the moon prove that the landings took place, however, skeptics raise concerns about ex-Nazi and NASA's chief rocket scientist Wernher von Braun's trip to Antarctica two years prior to Apollo missions. They contend that no credible explanation for the trip was ever offered, and that he would have been susceptible to pressure to agree to the conspiracy in order to protect himself from recriminations for his Nazi past. Others counter that secretly obtaining extraterrestrial-seeming rocks from Antarctica could have been more easily done by anonymous CIA operatives.

    The claim that the rocks are the same as ones found on Earth does carry some weight in the scientific community. However, it is believed that rocks dislodged from the moon by meteoric impacts occasionally land on Earth. The physics of this process is well understood. A handful of rocks believed to be from Mars have also been found in Antarctica.

    Stanley Kubrick

    It is alleged that in early 1968 (while 2001: A Space Odyssey was in post production), NASA secretly approached Kubrick to direct the first three moon landings. He initially said he was not interested, but, apparently, NASA convinced him using a combination of carrot and stick; exclusive access to the alien artifacts and autopsy footage from the Roswell crash site, and threats to publicly reveal Raul's (Kubrick's younger brother) links with the American Communist Party. Kubrick is alleged to have spent sixteen months working on the project with a special effects team led by Douglas Trumbull on a sound stage in Huntsville, Alabama, with the Apollo 11 mission being staged in July of 1969. Allegedly a Saturn V rocket was launched into low Earth orbit with astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins remaining there while Kubrick's footage of the 'landing' was released to the press. The return to Earth and splashdown were, of course, real. Several months later, the Apollo 12 mission was successfully staged in a similar manner. Randall Cunningham was later recruited to direct a 'failed mission'.

    Deaths of key people involved with the Apollo program

    10 astronauts and others related to the program died in accidents - landing skeptics claim that these are part of a cover-up, and that NASA or other U.S. government agencies were disposing of people who they feared would 'blow the whistle'.
    • Ed Givens (car accident)
    • Ted Freeman (T-38 crash)
    • C. C. Williams (T-38 accident)
    • Elliot See and Charlie Bassett (T-38 accident)
    • Virgil "Gus" Grissom (an outspoken critic of the Space Program) (Apollo 1 fire)
    • Ed White (Apollo 1 fire)
    • Roger Chaffee (Apollo 1 fire)
    • X-15 pilot Mike Adams (the only X-15 pilot killed during the X-15 flight test program - not a NASA astronaut, but had flown X-15 above 50 miles).
    • Robert Lawrence, scheduled to be an Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory pilot who died in a jet crash shortly after reporting for duty to that (later cancelled) program.
    • NASA worker Thomas Baron (claimed to be a coverup of a 500 page report on the Apollo 1 accident).
    • Bill Kaysing contacted Paul Jacobsh, a private investigator from San Francisco and asked him to help him with his Apollo anomalies investigations. Mr. Jacobs went to see the head of the U.S. Department of Geology in Washington and asked: 'Did you examine the Moon rocks, did they really come from the Moon.?' The geologist just laughed. Paul flew back from Washington and told Keysing that the people in high office of the American Government knew of the cover-up. Paul Jacobs and his wife both died from cancer within 90 days.
    • Lee Gelvani claims to have almost convinced informant James Irwin to confess about the cover-up. Irwin was going to ring Kaysing about it, however he died of a heart attack within 3 days.


    Unlike some other theories, this is claimed by some to be
    falsifiable. Observations could be made—for example, through powerful telescopes or via new moon landings—of the physical evidence—landing bases, equipment, footprints, etc.—that would prove or disprove the theory.

    For example, the Apollo astronauts reportedly left reflectors on the moon, during Apollo missions 11, 14, and 15, which scientists routinely use to very precisely measure the distance between the earth and the moon. Skeptics contend that those data could also be faked, or that reflectors, if they exist, could more easily have been placed by robot missions (such as the French-built mirror was on the Soviet Lunakhod 2) and do not prove a human landing. However, supporters note that the Apollo retroreflectors are apparently more accurate than the Lunakhod mirror--they claim that this was only possible through manned placement.

    In September, 2002, astronaut Buzz Aldrin was harassed by, and in return assaulted, Bart Sibrel who had repeatedly, over several years, demanded that Aldrin swear an oath on the Bible that he had walked on the moon, or admit that it was all a hoax. Aldrin repeatedly refused to do this.

    In early November 2002 NASA announced that it was cancelling publication of a book by Jim Oberg that was intended to challenge the claims that the Moon landings were a hoax. Their decision was apparently prompted by the outcry raised by people who felt such a book would legitimize the claims of hoax theorists.

    European scientists announced in 2002 that they intend to use the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope to obtain images of the moon landing sites, which are expected to show the moon lander bases still in place. No firm date has been given when the telescope will be used for this purpose, or when the results will be released. It also seems likely that any photographs produced would be subject to the same scepticism that has dogged other evidence, and that accusations will be made that these too could be faked.

    External links