20 Jul 2017

Why the Moon landing was not a hoax filmed in slow motion

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He was there. No, really. He was. End of. He was there. No, really. He was. End of. NASA

RedShark Replay (and in honour of the 47th anniversary of the first moon landing). A sizeable number of otherwise quite sane people now believe that the Moon landings never took place. Here’s one of the many reasons why they are very, very wrong.

When I was very young, space travel was part of everyday life. That's because at the same time as I was learning to read and write, the early manned space programme was taking place. Every time we put an astronaut into orbit, there was heavy TV coverage, and since, in the UK, there were only two channels, you didn't have much choice but to watch it.

My Dad was a metallurgist (a metal scientist) and worked in the aerospace industry. He used to make frequent visits to the US, some of which were to NASA. Sometimes he'd bring home fantastic examples of technology, like a miniature transistor tape recorder. Later on, he brought me back an HP35 - the world's very first scientific calculator, designed to fit in the shirt pocket of a NASA engineer.

So of course when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, we watched it live in the early hours of the morning, on a rather dodgy portable TV that was resting precariously on the fridge in the kitchen of a house we were renting for a summer holiday in a rather rainy Wales.

Later, I remember being horrified as the events of Apollo 13 unfolded, and I followed it second-by-second as the final minutes of the drama played out live on TV screens around the world.

So it came as a big surprise when I realised, only recently, that there's a seemingly sizeable number of otherwise quite sane people who now believe that the moon landings never took place.

Now, in common with everyone apart from the Apollo astronauts, I've never been on the moon. But what I do know is that hoaxes on this scale are very difficult to arrange. I'm not going to go into all the details here — there's plenty of material on both sides of the "argument" on YouTube. I just want to mention a couple of things that, as someone who writes about professional video, seem rather obvious to me.

The first point is actually nothing to do with video, but with life itself. And it is that, apparently, around 100,000 people worked either directly or indirectly on the moonshot. If that sounds like a rather large number, it certainly is, but it's easy to forget that NASA's budget then was nearly ten times what it is now — it reached a peak of 4.4% of the Federal Budget in 1966.

It seems pretty obvious to me that you can't keep 100,000 people silent for 54 years. Someone out of that huge number is going to let something slip.

The hoax theorists have pointed out all sorts of apparent anomalies in the moon coverage — from strange lighting and shadows to a flag that is seemingly waving in the wind. These are all easily explained by anyone with any knowledge of the mission. A common "complaint" is that there are no stars visible in the moon's sky. That's easy to deal with. There are no stars because the sun was shining. Any cameras used in those conditions would have had to be stopped down so far any stars would have been completely invisible.

I'm just going to mention one other point. A lot of supporters of the hoax "theory" say that the low gravity on the moon was simulated by slow motion filming. That would have involved shooting at a much higher frame rate and slowing it down. As some anti-hoax commenters have pointed outthis would have been difficult, because if it was shot on film, not only were there many hours of supposedly live coverage, but all of it would have had to have been shot at something like three times the normal framerate. That's an awful lot of film, and, to make matters worse, while the early TV pictures were shot at only around ten frames per second, later missions used the normal speed of thirty frames per second. That would have trebled the amount of film needed; not that any of the footage looked like it had ever been near a reel of film.

But the point is that you can easily tell that this wasn't slow motion footage, but instead — quite obviously to me — the effect of low gravity, which you can't accurately simulate with slow motion. Why? Because while low gravity might make some movements look like they've been slowed down, if you look closely, it's clear that the astronauts are actually making normal-speed movements. For example, one of the astronauts (I can't remember the exact mission) tripped up or lost his footing, and fell over. You could clearly see his reaction to this — putting his hand out to break the fall — happened at normal speed.

So, no, there was no slow motion simulation of low gravity, and — I'm sorry to disappoint so many people — the moon landings were not a hoax.

As is often the case with conspiracy theories, it would have been much harder to carry off a hoax on this scale than simply to put a small number of men on the moon.


David Shapton

David is the Editor In Chief of RedShark Publications. He's been a professional columnist and author since 1998, when he started writing for the European Music Technology magazine Sound on Sound. David has worked with professional digital audio and video for the last 25 years.

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