Covid-19 conspiracy theory isn’t new – think Apollo

These days, as endless conspiracy theories about Covid-19 flow through my social media feed, I keep thinking of their grandparent, the Apollo moon hoax conspiracy. There are some surprising similarities.

Most of the claims today are to do with Covid-19, which (if we are to believe the conspirators) is a fake virus promoted by the Deep State (run by lizard men) to fool everyday people into accepting vaccine-driven mind control. Apparently all we have to do is ‘woke up’ to this and the Truth will become Evident, stopping people being ‘sheeple’. Or something.

In a way I can understand it: the world – and certainly the United States – seems to be entering its end-game. People are worried, frightened, and can’t influence or control their fates. Humans are also hard-wired to see patterns even when none exist; and it’s easier to suppose this scary and chaotic world out there is orchestrated by a ‘bad guy’ (or group of them). That’s somehow better than the reality in which many different factors and forces come together, without specific co-ordination, to produce what’s going on.

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon in July 1969 with the Solar Wind Experiment – a device to measure the wind from the sun. LM 5, Eagle, stands behind. Public domain, NASA.

The idea that ‘they’ were deceiving ‘ordinary people’, of course, is also what lies at the heart of the ‘Apollo hoax’ conspiracy. This alleges that, for some reason, NASA filmed Apollo on a sound stage, but despite spending vast sums on this fakery, nonetheless missed various kindergarten-level details that the conspiracy whistle-blowers are smart enough to see.

Basic details supposedly botched by NASA included, among other things, failing to put an exhaust crater under the Lunar Module, accidentally cross-lighting the set to produce non-parallel shadows, and blatantly using in-fill lighting in many of the lunar photos. To this can be added more subtle claims such as the notion that film cameras would overheat in the lunar sunlight, that the astronaut movements were simply slowed-down normal jumps, and the idea that the flag was waving in a non-existent breeze as the astronauts wrestled it into the lunar regolith.

What all this tells me is that the conspirators were suffering hefty doses of Dunning Krugerism. What they were alleging might well have been credible on earth, possibly. But of course, that wasn’t where the photos were taken. I’ve covered this in some of my earlier posts, particularly the photographic lighting issue, which you can easily demonstrate here on Earth.

The rest of the alleged ‘proofs’ offered by the conspiracy ‘whistle-blowers’ have been dealt with often enough by others, including Mythbusters.

Alan Bean descending the ladder of LM 6, Intrepid, during the Apollo 12 mission on November 1969. Note the blast marks from the engine beneath the descent stage and the fact that the lunar regolith has cross-lit Bean’s suit. NASA, public domain.

What worries me about the conspiracy theories and Apollo is that they all pivot off nit-picking supposed gaffes in photographs or taking other details out of context and then alleging fault which disproves the whole – the classic fallacy of composition.

But what about the elephants in the room? You know, the big-ticket stuff involving the sheer scale of the project, well visible at the time in everyday life across the US. One of those is the fact that 400,000 Americans worked on Apollo, one way or another – and the project involved industries as diverse as underwear manufacturer Playtex – whose subsidiary ILC Dover made the A7L spacesuits – North American, Grumman, Honeywell, Aerojet, and a host of others. Thanks to ‘two degrees of separation’, these people have connections with a huge number of others across the globe, including me. For example, there’s a reader of this blog whose Dad was pad safety officer for Apollo 11, and another reader whose Dad went to college with Neil Armstrong, and knew him as a friend.

Yet every single one of those involved in Apollo not only have consistent ‘work stories’ – which I wouldn’t expect if everything had been fabricated – but all 400,000 have kept the supposed hoax secret, even from their own families, all without a single leak, and have done so for over half a century. No deathbed confessions, no attempted blackmail, no clues or hints. Total silence.

Then there’s the way the Saturn V launches were public and unmistakably happening, witnessed in person by all who could attend. It’s hard to fake the launch of a 3,000 ton rocket.

More to the point there’s also the way Apollo tech spinoff has become part of our current world, notably modern desktop computers – because it was Apollo, with its insatiable need for IC chips, that crash-started the microprocessor industry. We’d have doubtless got that tech sooner or later, but Apollo gave it a kick it wouldn’t have had otherwise. Other spinoffs include CAT scanners, originally developed to find flaws in engineering elements, programmable pacemakers, fly-by-wire, scratch-resistant lenses for glasses, the motor in dustbusters (derived from the motor in the drill used on the lunar surface), water filtration systems (as used in domestic homes today), dialysis machines, home insulation such as mylar, teflon-coated fibreglass fabric, fireproof suits, and more. In fact, over 2000 technologies have come to us today from Apollo.

John Young driving the lunar rover at Descartes, during Apollo 16. Photo is a still from a 16mm film shot by Charles Duke on a 16mm Maurer camera. Note the dust from the rover rear wheels, which is moving an undisturbed parabolic arc. This is impossible in an atmosphere. Public domain, NASA.

Finally, the Soviets were watching NASA like a hawk, by every means including espionage, satellite surveillance, radio intercepts and the rest. The space race was, ultimately, political. If there had been any fakery, the Soviets would have known and screamed long and loud. After all, they were losing the race and knew it. The actual moon hoax, in point of fact, was Soviet – specifically, their pretense that they hadn’t been trying to shoot for the moon after all. Of course they had, and I wrote about that here.

You see the point. The allegation of hoax is ‘proven’ by nit-picking non-existent faults in evidence that the whistle-blowers imagine they understand, but which in fact they do not. But aside from this, the more fundamental foundation on which the whole ‘conspiracy’ idea rests by nature gives the lie to allegations of such a conspiracy, however much the ‘whistle blowers’ try to justify themselves. And that is pretty much how most of these conspiracy theories seem to work.

I suppose I should trot out my old joke – sure the lunar landings were faked, but they got Stanley Kubrick in to direct them and as a perfectionist he had to film them on location…

Do you have a favourite conspiracy theory?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2020

12 thoughts on “Covid-19 conspiracy theory isn’t new – think Apollo

  1. Well, sometimes I’m tempted to believe the one that we humans came to earth from space relatively recently and in our present form. So much of what we do makes us look unsuited for this planet.

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    1. There’s no question that we will destroy the ecosystem if we carry on as we are. I often think that much of what goes on in human society can be explained as an evolutionary strategy that’s survived well past its ‘use-by’ date; but, of course, back in the hunter-gatherer days there was always ‘another’ environment over the next valley after we’d destroyed the one in ‘this’ valley. Sigh…

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  2. Another well written post to ponder. Moon landing conspiracy makes me bristle. As you eloquently pointed out – a deception of this magnitude is unimaginable, preposterous at best. Considering all the actual covered up government shenanigans – forced sterilization, LSD experimentation on prisoners, covert arms deals with foreign governments, suppression of environmental accountability as a favour to corporate interests and so on, why the Moon landing fuss? As for my favorite conspiracy theory? The prize goes to flat Earth. Leads one to ask what’s in flat earther Kool-Aid. By what stretch of imagination is our planet a flat plane surrounded by a 150 foot ring wall guarded by NASA to keep people from falling off? The United Nations logo proof of that ring wall? Sheesh!!!

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    1. I read recently about a Flat Earther convention held in the UK. People /flew/ to the convention. I guess they must have kept their window blinds firmly closed the entire time so they wouldn’t be tempted to see the curvature of the earth…

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      1. And the aircraft will have navigated using GPS, which doesn’t work if Earth is flat… I really don’t understand how anybody can believe Earth is flat (I mean, even the ancient Greeks knew better!). I am put in mind of Cyril Kornbluth’s ‘The Marching Morons’, somehow.

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    2. As far as I can tell most of those who lived through the 1960s were in no doubt as to what NASA was doing. It’s the generations that have come since who doubt it. Whereas actual conspiracies to hide things have an uncanny way of being found out by mainstream observers – and in credible ways, witness such things as covert arms deals, etc.

      Don’t get me started on flat-earthism – as far as I can tell this is a 1953 concoction by a Mr Samuel Shenton of 24 London Road, Dover, Kent, UK, which would have fizzled had social media not come along. (Letters to Mr Shenton have been published here: I simply cannot understand how anybody could come up with this hotch-potch of silliness, let alone believe it.


  3. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    I’ve always believed they made a real landing. The lighting and shadows probably would be different because of the difference in the angle of the sun and the earth’s light. I don’t think our planet shines as bright as the moon, but surely there is enough to mess up some shadows. ~Connie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Earthlight is definitely a thing if you’re on the surface of the Moon! Earth has an albedo (reflectivity) of 0.367, which is just over three times the reflectivity of the Moon. It’s also a lot larger, and the result turns out that a full Earth, seen from the Moon, is 41.125 times as bright as a full Moon seen from Earth. This is also why the Earth was visible in some of the Apollo lunar surface photos, even though the shutter speeds the astronauts used were too fast to capture the stars. Most of the cross-lighting on the surface, though, came from the Moon itself – from sunlight reflecting off the surface. In one famous photo of Aldrin, some of that bounced light also came from Armstrong’s spacesuit – I recently saw a very precise reconstruction showing what happened here.

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  4. Thank you for explaining that. I never thought the earth would be brighter than the moon. I’ll have to look for some photos of the earth from the moon. After that first trip I thought we’d be going more often, but I guess the cost is rather prohibitive!

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  5. A “favourite” conspiracy theory? My most hated conspiracy theories are the ones where people take stuff they know absolutely nothing about and then override all the accumulated knowledge of centuries because they saw a 60 minute youtube video. “Einstein was wrong” says my former friend who believes the astonishingly moronic ‘Electric Universe’ conspiracy, (black holes don’t exists, dark matter doesn’t exist, the sun is not a thermo-nuclear reaction but powered by electricity flowing into it from plasma fields in space). But the one that gets me really spitting is one that takes a subject I happen to have as a speciality – musical pitch. I mean, who studies pitch? Musicologists are a rare breed and don’t have many conversations about their subject with the average punter. But now, suddenly everyone knows all about it, and A=440Hz is EVIL!!! So I am told by a market trader selling falafel. It was done by the NAZIS!!! It will corrupt your mind and bestow music with a controling influence. Had he read Helmholtz? No. He told me the ‘correct’ pitch was 432Hz because it is ‘natural’ and it’s what they used to use (before the NAZIS). No it is’nt. Italian Baroque pitch was around 420Hz and 415Hz is a common modern standard for that music, German church pitch was much higher at more than 450Hz. These theories all have something in common – they take material that is “out of reach” – how can I demonstrate the true nature of the sun to my friend for example? I tried talking about neutrinos but it didn’t work. It’s new religion. In my work at a UK science centre I once held a sample of moon rock in my hand. The Apollo conspiracy is downright offensive.

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  6. Of course, the term ‘conspiracy theory’ is used to discredit ideas that do not conform to the ‘official’ narrative. So sometimes they will be ‘true’.

    I’m no expert, but strongly suspect that there were hidden actors around 9/11, blowing things up and concealing evidence at the very least. Prof David Ray Griffin has written a number of books about this, which I have not read…

    Of course the moon landings really happened… I’m pretty sure…


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