Conspiracy Times –   Moon Wars?
NASA has been dubbed “Never A Straight Answer”. In recent years, the controversy about whether or not we went to the Moon, and whether or not NASA is hiding the existence of extraterrestrial life on Mars, has reached the mainstream media. What is going on? And could it be that something altogether different is happening?
by Philip Coppens

In “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “2010: Odyssey Two”, Arthur C Clarke interprets the conquest of space as a metaphysical voyage of discovery that brings the astronauts in contact with the source of life – if not God himself.

It is in sharp contrast with the common perspective of the conquest of space, which is seen as nothing more – or less – than a contest between the United States and the Soviet Union, won by the US when Neil Armstrong, on July 21, 1969, made a human footprint on the Moon. Beaten to the finish line, it seems the Soviets then stopped their attempts to send a cosmonaut to the Moon. However, in recent years, a number of books have presented the case that “we” never went to the Moon. In 2001, the Fox TV network aired “Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?” and documentary maker Bart Sibrel created “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon”; the former asked whether, the latter claimed that the Apollo Moon landings were faked. Sibrel even confronted Apollo 11 crew member Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, telling him to swear on a Bible that he had walked on the moon. Aldrin refused, instead punching Sibrel on the jaw.

It was, of course, the type of publicity that made the documentary even more controversial. But with fame came a legion of “acclaimed scientists”, who all “knew” that Sibrel had gotten it all wrong. One, Jim McDade, writing in the Birmingham News, stated that the documentary was “full of falsehoods, innuendo, strident accusations, half-truths, flawed logic and premature conclusions.” But McDade had to give Sibrel credit for unearthing one veritable bombshell: that something indeed was not right about how Apollo 11 astronauts had filmed the Earth through a small hole of their Command Module, giving the impression as if Apollo 11 was thousands of miles away from Earth, on course to the Moon; in truth, Apollo 11 was in a low earth orbit.

The deception was exposed when on the unedited film, after presenting an image as if the camera is pressed against the window and the round Earth is in view, the camera pulls back, and it becomes apparent the camera was never against the window at all; the “round shape” of the Earth is really only the “round shape” of the window and once the camera is pulled back, you can see how the astronauts are in a low orbit.

For Sibrel, the footage was evidence that the astronauts were deceitfully simulating deep space by claiming to have the camera fully up against and “blocking the window” – when in fact the camera was nowhere near the window. Those defending NASA stated that the “secret” NASA footage Sibrel had unearthed was actually widely available and merely showed the astronauts practicing for an upcoming live telecast. This, of course, does not really address the central issue, for it means they were practicing how to make deceptive images… for a live telecast – i.e. did they plan to trick the entire earth’s population on live TV? Another obvious fake photograph appears in Alan Shepard’s autobiography “Moon Shot”. The man who played golf on the Moon has a photograph of both he and Edgar Mitchell on the Moon during the Apollo 14 mission. But as there were – as everyone knows – only two astronauts at one time on the Moon, and only two cameras, who took the photograph of the two astronauts? The photograph is also not a still from the video camera, drawing but one possible conclusion: this is a faked photograph.

The same problem exists for Michael Collins, the third astronaut on the Apollo 11 mission, who used an image for the front inside cover of his book “Carrying the Fire”. It pretends to show Collins floating in space on a space walk, but it is in truth a flipped image – with the background darkened – of Collins on board a zero-F aircraft on a parabolic flight during training. So two true American heroes used faked photographs in their autobiographies; photographs provided by NASA. Why? These three examples are some of the most obvious evidence that some of the Moon landing photographs have been faked. Critics have put question marks to many more. But the fact that some – even many – of the official NASA photographs are faked does not necessarily mean we didn’t go to the Moon. It might merely mean that astronauts were lousy photographers.

Officially, the astronauts took entire series of photographs that were near professional quality. This is a remarkable feat, as they could not use the view finder (the camera was mounted on a chest bracket), nor had they control over other manual settings the Hasselblad camera required, namely aperture and exposure time. In the case of aperture, the readings were displayed in the viewfinder, but as the astronauts could not look into the viewfinder, they were largely shooting blind. Somehow, we are led to believe that despite all of this, they managed to take photographs that were of professional quality – true American heroes indeed!

To show the near impossibility of their task, in 1993, critic Ralph René constructed a special vacuum chamber, to demonstrate how the neoprene coated, cotton-lined glove made it, under these circumstances, virtually impossible to move a finger, let alone take a photograph. Finally, experts have pointed out that ordinary Kodak Ektachrome diapositive film 160A – which was used for these missions – was a bad choice. But if the photographs were faked, then could it be we never went? That is definitely the conclusion Ralph René and Gerhard Wisnewski adhere to. They also argue that for an entire decade, the USA lagged behind the Soviets in the space race, and that all Apollo missions were plagued with disasters – including the infamous explosion of the Lunar Landing Research vehicle in midair, with Armstrong ejecting at the very last moment.

But it was but one in a long list of accidents and setbacks. Other favourite pleas made against the Moon landing is that photographs showing the lunar module sitting on the lunar landscape, reveal not the slightest dip in the lunar surface – nor is there a speck of dust on its landing pad – nor is there a flame visible when the module lifts off from the Moon. Defenders have come up with various reasons why this would be so, but, in truth, their defence is unconvincing, though their accusers cannot make a watertight accusation either. The strongest evidence against is whether or not the astronauts could withstand the radiation of outer space. Again, defenders argue that the astronauts would not have been exposed to a lethal dose of radiation, giving examples that are somewhat convincing, but are on occasion also somewhat circular in reasoning (“they went to the moon, they are all still alive, hence radiation levels are clearly not lethal.”).

The best evidence against comes from the Soviet space programme. It begs the question whether lethal doses of radiation was indeed the reason why they never went into outer space or the moon. The sad fate of Laika, the dog sent into space on board the Soviet satellite Sputnik II on November 3, 1957, was confirmed during a space congress in 2002: she had died much more quickly than previously claimed – she died after only five to seven hours. Laika was the first animal to be sent 1660 km away from Earth – into the lower radiation belt. Her voyage was there to test the levels of radiation and its effect on animals. Was Laika’s sudden death, officially due to “overheating”, actually due radiation poisoning? Interestingly, Dutch space journalist Peter ‘Piet’ Smolders has observed that “Soviet space biologists have more than once given the impression of being pessimistic regarding the problem of space radiation.”

There is also evidence from the US side of the space race. The Geiger counter on Explorer I (launched February 1, 1958) died soon after arriving in space; it is officially explained as a mere malfunction of the instrument. But what is often left out, is that the further it had travelled from earth, the readings increased, until they suddenly ceased. When Explorer 3 was launched on May 26, 1958, the instruments showed the same results. Interestingly, as the satellite re-approached Earth, the Geiger counter began to work again, with radiation levels slowly declining. The obvious conclusion is that at a certain distance from Earth, radioactivity was so strong that the Geiger counter could no longer measure levels, and hence ceased to function. Once the radiation level had gone down, the counter was once again able to… count, and return readings back to Earth. Though defenders have again a series of “reasons”, none are airtight. Interestingly, Smolders also wrote a book about the Apollo 11 mission that was published within a week of the Moon landing. I asked him how he was able to accomplish this almost superhuman feat, to which he replied that large sections of the book were written before the actual voyage, using the scenario outlined by NASA as to how it was meant to happen. The mission literally was textbook perfect, requiring Smolders to make little or no revisions to his manuscript. Indeed, for the critics, Apollo 11 was so perfect – this in sharp contrast to previous missions – that they find it impossible to believe.

Hence, for Wisnewski, everything was staged. Whereas some have argued that the landings were staged in Area 51 –James Bond’s “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971) has it staged in a television studio – Wisnewski points out that facilities such as the Lunar Landing Research Facility, part of NASA’s Langley Research Center, not only came with a giant crane that could lift the Lunar landing module in an identical manner as was shown on the “live moon feed”, the site also comes with fake craters. And why did NASA place orders for 34 different kinds of artificial moon dirt, which it then sent out to researchers and universities… for study? Space journalist Richard Hoagland too believes that some of the photographs have been faked – and highlights that even the television feed was in a disastrous black and white, whereas the colour camera was left to make images on the Command Module. Max Faget, designer of the Mercury capsule, felt it was “almost unbelievable” that the culmination of a $20-billion programme was to be “recorded in such a stingy manner”. But Hoagland argues that the reason for the faked and low quality images was so that we would not see the real Moon – and its various lunar – alien – bases. Ever since the 1980s, Hoagland has pointed out anomalies on various photographs from Mars and the Moon and has interpreted these as artificial structures – evidence of an extraterrestrial civilisation that left its imprint behind in our solar system. Some of his scenarios are imaginative at best, ludicrous at worst, though he is right to point out that NASA’s behaviour from the 1990s onwards, when it comes to remapping the so-called Face on Mars, has not been straightforward, often contradictory and containing discrepancies.

Hoagland also points towards pugilist Aldrin’s statement that the Apollo 11 mission was “plagued” by a UFO sighting. The crew reported the sighting back to Houston, but ceased communication, thinking that as the discussion occurred on an open broadcast channel, NASA would order the astronauts prematurely home.

Others refer to the statement by “NASA employee” Otto Binder who argues that radio amateurs indeed picked up the conversation, which included statements like “These babies are gigantic. Enormous. Oh, my God. You wouldn’t believe it! I tell you, there are other spacecraft out there, in a row on the opposite edge of a crater. They are on the moon and are watching us.” If true, it could explain why Aldrin got so upset with Sibrel – and didn’t astronaut Mitchell have a mystical experience on the Moon – similar to Arthur C Clarke’s fictional astronaut?

However, critics have pointed out that “NASA employee” Binder was a science fiction author. Wisneski has even labelled such thinking the “UFO trap”: a fake story that creates a secondary level of speculation (whether there were aliens on the Moon during the Apollo 11 or not) that is there to cement the first layer – that we indeed went to the Moon. Still, if – if – NASA were to uncover evidence of extraterrestrial life, it would surely tell us? See Bill Clinton’s 1996 announcement about life found in a Martian meteorite, which was then ingeniously worked into the movie “Contact”, based on Carl Sagan’s novel about Mankind making contact with an extra-terrestrial civilisation via SETI – the radio-telescope based search for extraterrestrial life.

“Not so” argues Hoagland, producing the proper credentials to back his opinion: the 1959 Brookings Report. “Proposed Studies on the Implications of Peaceful Space Activities for Human Affairs”, to give it its official title, was a study about the sociological impact of an official announcement of the existence of alien life. The report referenced public reactions to Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” 1938 broadcast that according to some – though not all – reports created panic in the streets of America.

Still, though Hoagland unearthed the report and used it to show that evidence of extraterrestrial life is likely to be covered up by NASA, it was not a secret study, as Arthur C Clarke had worked the key passage of the Report into “2001: A Space Odyssey”: “I’m sure you’re aware of the extremely grave potential for cultural shock and social disorientation contained in the present situation, if the facts were prematurely and suddenly made public without adequate preparations and conditioning.” Whereas Hoagland sees in the Brookings Report the reason why “the truth” about alien structures on the Moon and Mars has never been made public, he fails to point out that since 1959, when the report was published, decades of science-fiction and UFO stories have now definitely prepared Mankind for the revelation of extraterrestrial life; and that in 1996, Clinton made one. Today, even the Vatican is ready to deal with ET, but they – and the world –seem unable to sanely debate the possibility Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. Since 1996, the possibility that Mars contains water and/or life has been very much a story of one step forward, one step back: some official announcements have made claims pro, and other scientists have countered against, which is in essence nothing but the normal way of science. It is easy to add a layer of intrigue to this to-and-fro, querying what “might” be going on. But that “something” strange is going on, was made evident by testimony by Dr. Gilbert Levin and his son, Ron Levin, now a physicist at MIT, who at the time of the 1976 Viking mission to Mars, helped his father out at JPL. Levin’s account is recounted in Barry DiGregorio’s book “Mars the Living Planet”. When Levin saw the first colour images from Mars, he shouted how it looked like Arizona. But then, “two hours after the first color image appeared on the [JPL] monitors, a technician abruptly changed the image from the light-blue sky and Arizona-like landscape to a uniform orange-red sky and landscape. Ron Levin looked in disbelief as the technician went from monitor to monitor making the change. Minutes later, Ron followed him, resetting the colors to their original appearance.” However, Levin was ordered to cease, told that if he continued, he would be thrown out of JPL for good. Later, it was learned that the order had come from NASA administrator Dr. James Fletcher himself! Dr. Thomas Mutch, the Viking Image Team leader, added that he was actually told to “destroy the Mars blue sky negative created from the original digital data.” Indeed, ever since 1976, NASA has reddened all images of Mars, to make them look more “alien” – make Mars look less like Earth, less hospitable. Why? Does it merely want to produce images that conform to the public expectation that Mars is indeed a “red planet”? Or is there indeed more to it? In conclusion, there is a catalogue of instances in which NASA is known to have been less than honest from a scientific point of view. It can be argued that NASA is trying to make Mars conform to what the popular imagination has made it into, and that it wanted to give the people good – though faked – photographs of the Apollo missions – to please us.

But with a lot of attention going to whether or not we went to the Moon and whether or not there are alien artefacts on the Moon and/or Mars, the sad fact is that we have indeed forgotten to take a thorough look at NASA.

We all know that the moon rockets were in essence nothing more than intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that were not sent to Moscow, but into space. Rather than a nuclear warhead, three astronauts in a capsule sat on top. We know that some of the Space Shuttle Missions in the 1980s and early 1990s were military in nature. The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 specifically states that NASA “shall be considered a defense agency of the United States” – highlighting that though officially “civilian”, when required, NASA was part of the military.

Indeed, Wisnewski unnecessarily overshoots his argument that the Moon Race was a hoax. Even if genuine and we went to the Moon, it was merely a gloss, a civilian veneer, on a race to dominate Earth from space – or to be brutally sceptical, if not honest: to get even more money to the military-industrial complex, which has always been the primary resource upon which NASA relied to send us to the Moon. And when it came to identifying astronauts, civilian NASA took men from the military – often the Air Force. Indeed, in his January 17, 1961 farewell address to the nation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about the rise of the military-industrial complex: “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” Though filmmaker Oliver Stone saw in these industrialists the main culprits for the assassination of President Kennedy, it was Kennedy, on May 25, 1961, who aided them – and their continued rise – by creating the race to the Moon.

Against a military-industrial setting, one can argue whether it is indeed a coincidence that the American government stopped the Apollo programme just as the war in Vietnam was ending? As soon as America was no longer depressed from the enduring nightmare of VietNam, the government took away its painkiller: the Apollo program.

It is therefore an interesting coincidence that President George Bush in January 2004 created another ambitious space program, calling for manned missions to Mars and the Moon. It was the very month that former chief weapons inspector David Kay testified in a Senate hearing that he – and the US – had it all wrong, and that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It was also the time that the US began to realise that the invasion of Iraq was not going to be as rosy as originally forecast. Bush’s 2004 mission statement was just as radical as Kennedy’s: completion of the International Space Station by 2010, retiring the shuttle and substituting it with a new Crew Exploration Vehicle, that will also enable trips to the Moon and Mars, with manned missions to start no later than 2014, with a return to the Moon by 2015 if possible, but no later than 2020.

The bottom line is that the entire programme was a further gigantic injection of money into the military-industrial complex. Observers queried why Bush was in such a rush, noting that the most likely reason was that a new government – coming into office in 2008 – was unlikely to scrap an ongoing project – hence the rush to get the initiative off the ground.

Indeed, it is a fact that the militarisation of space is a hard sell – not only because of the cost, but also because of international desires to keep space demilitarised. Reagan’s 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) – his Space Shield – did not sell, and neither did Bush’s “Son of Star Wars” when he claimed it was required against attacks by “rogue statues” – those that “harboured terrorists”. But put a veneer of space exploration on it, and all of a sudden, Congress does part with billions of dollars – money going to the same military-industrial complex. A critic should therefore conclude that the real driver is to give as much money as possible to the military-industrial complex, and that the “exploration of space” is but one hue in a variety of shades to pump money into that industry. Others might argue that the space program is a – the – status symbol that has always and continues to set the United States apart from the rest of the world, gives it – otherwise undue – street cred; and like Ferraris, space shuttles are costly toys.

However, the world has changed from the 1960s or even the 1980s; in the 21st century, space is no longer the final frontier, space has become but an extension of Earth, occupied as it is with hundreds of satellites, most of which are for civilian communications purposes. More importantly, space has become an integral part of our economy – and some argue it is also the first line of attack, or defense, with Donald Rumsfeld having warned against a “Pearl Harbor in space”.

Some indeed see space as the next battleground – and the beginning of World War III. In 2007, the book “Space Wars, the first six hours of World War III” argued that space would be where World War III would begin – ca. 2010. One of the book’s authors was Michael Coumatos, the US Space Command director of war gaming, and a National Security Council counterterrorism advisor.

The scenario is that some satellites have mysteriously refused update commands; some have disappeared altogether. The International Space Station has been equally hit, resulting in a total evacuation; unknown to the military on Earth, all resident astronauts have just died in their escape pods, drifting in space. Though the war has started, at present, no-one knows who is attacking America. All one seems to know is that somewhere in the Middle East, someone is shooting satellites out of the sky when they come into range. Terrorists? An international crime consortium trying to make money and keep America’s prying eyes from finding out where their latest lucrative business deals are going down? Or a foreign government – Iran, of course – intent on destroying America? Or all of the above, at the same time?

The book seems to be Coumatos’ effort to impress the powers that are that war games are important and that space and satellites, though a vital component of the world economy, have hardly if any – military – protection. For Coumatos, it is an area which politicians have preferred to ignore, and which will thus be the weak link in the chain, used by terrorists to commence World War III.

As such, the book tries to get Coumatos – and the military-industrial complex – an even larger budget and hence is not without overstatements and some obvious fearmongering. But like Orwell’s 1984 was meant to be taken as a warning, might some use it as a template? Irrelevant of whether we went to the Moon or not, whether there are aliens out there or not, in the final analysis, it is a fact that the Moon missions were a new veneer for America’s ego. NASA made sure that the United States would get a level of street cred it continues to exert over other nations. Whether that was for purely earthly, or extra-terrestrial reasons – however unlikely the latter are – is really not that important. In the “Moon Race”, the biggest winner was America’s ego and its military-industrial complex. It is not expressed in a human footprint on the Moon, but in a bank statement. This article appeared in New Dawn, Volume 10, Number 8 (May – June 2008).