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Skeptic spreads word of NASA 'folly'
Films, Web stoke theory that mission was a fraud
He may be exasperated that conspiracy theories about the Apollo moon missions continue to lure devotees, but he's not surprised.
"I'm about as surprised that this persists as I am that conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination persist," Mr. Robbins said. "There are conspiracy theorists who will always disbelieve whatever the government says, no matter if it's vaccinations, the Kennedy assassination or 9/11. It's very easy to promulgate a conspiracy theory, and very difficult to shoot it down."
Making his job even more difficult is the Internet. In the past, the only way moon-landing skeptics could promote their theories was by writing articles and books, which often ended up being self-published and not widely distributed.
These days, Web sites readily spread hoax theories. Mr. Sibrel's films on the subject, notably "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon," can be viewed free of charge on YouTube, as can a 2001 Fox TV special, "Did We Land on the Moon?"
Mr. Sibrel is so convinced that the moon missions were a con job that he's confronted former Apollo astronauts and asked them to swear on a Bible that they're telling the truth. One of those, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, punched him in the jaw after Mr. Sibrel called him a "liar, a thief and a coward."
No charges were filed, and Mr. Sibrel said he later wrote a letter to the astronaut apologizing for his rudeness.
He won't apologize for trying to expose the moon landings as fakes. The theory holds that NASA officials filmed the moonwalking scenes on a soundstage and then transmitted those images to television audiences worldwide. The launch was real, conspiracy theorists say, but the astronauts merely orbited the Earth during the week in which they supposedly were making history and then splashed down into the ocean as scheduled.
If all that sounds familiar, it may be because it mirrors the plot of the 1978 film "Capricorn One," starring Elliott Gould, James Brolin and O.J. Simpson. In the movie, U.S. officials stage a Mars landing after the spacecraft is deemed unsafe. NASA actually cooperated with the making of the film.
Why would NASA take such an enormous risk? Hoax theorists say that President Nixon was desperate to stay ahead of the Soviets in the space race and to fulfill President Kennedy's vow that Americans would reach the moon before the end of the decade.
The problem, they say, was that NASA scientists lacked the technology to reach the moon. They feared that the astronauts would be unable to survive passage through the Van Allen radiation belt that surrounds the Earth. Instead of risking it, they used information from an earlier satellite to duplicate the readings from space for NASA computers.
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