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15 Jul, 2019 15:53

Waving flag, dodgy footprints & Stanley Kubrick: 50 years of moon landing conspiracy theories

Waving flag, dodgy footprints & Stanley Kubrick: 50 years of moon landing conspiracy theories

Ever since the Apollo 11 mission touched down on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969 and Neil Armstrong uttered the phrase “one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind” conspiracy theories, and debunkings, have abounded.

As we near the 50th anniversary of one of the most iconic moments in human space exploration history, RT.com takes a quick glance at some of the most persistent conspiracy theories about the Moon landings.

The Moving Flag 


The entry-level lunar conspiracy theory concerns the US flag which appeared to flap in the non-existent lunar breeze and also move around in the footage captured by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (or Stanley Kubrick, but we’ll get to that one in a minute).

NASA attributes the flapping to the Moon’s microgravity in combination with the astronauts’ rotating it back and forth multiple times, while attempting to stick the flagpole in the ground, giving it the effect of rippling. The flag never moved after it was initially planted, the astronauts moved around it.

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“Unfurling a piece of rolled-up cloth with sore angular momentum will naturally result in waves and ripples – no breeze required,” the exasperated space agency explained.

The Apollo 11 flag has likely fallen over by this point, but flags from Apollo 12, 16, and 17 remain upright (though cosmic radiation has likely bleached all of them white by now).

Lack of stars in the lunar sky

Skeptics also frequently ask why the sky isn’t dotted with dozens of stars in footage of the landing. 


The experts offer a fairly straightforward answer to the question: the stars are there but they just can’t be seen.

The camera focused on the brightly-lit astronauts in the foreground not the faint, dim stars in the background that would likely have been washed out by the lunar light anyway.

Dodgy Footprints

Many point to the discrepancy between the grooved footprints left on the lunar surface and the smooth-soled astronaut boots on display back here on Earth.


There’s just one minor problem with that: the footprints were left by the astronauts’ “lunar overshoes” which were left behind (along with a host of other equipment) on the lunar surface. 

NASA wanted to maximize the amount of lunar rock samples that could be taken back following the mission, so all non-essential equipment was left behind, including clunky “overshoes.”

Much like the tedious and intractable conspiracy theories, these first footprints left by man remain on the surface, due to the lack of offending breeze, as previously discussed.

Stanley Kubrick faked it all

A master filmmaker he may have been, but even Kubrick couldn’t have pulled off such a stellar swindle, regardless of how mind-blowing ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ was. 

The film was in post-production in early 1968 and NASA approached Kubrick to help them stage the Moon landings, or so the theory goes. 

The theory does not address the major discrepancy between the Moon depicted in Kubrick’s cinematic masterpiece and the alleged hoax videos of the Apollo 11 mission. Kubrick’s astronauts don’t move like Aldrin and Armstrong did and spacecraft blow dust around as they land in ‘2001’ which simply does not happen in real life as (again!) the Moon doesn’t have an atmosphere. 

Future conspiracy theorists (from 1995 onwards) would cite Kubrick’s brother, Raul, the head of the American Communist Party as the time, as the leverage used by the US government to coerce the director into spoofing the world into believing man had landed on the Moon. Just one small snag: Kubrick didn’t have a brother named Raul and this particular nuance of the conspiracy theory was a joke posted on an early online discussion board.

Despite NASA’s tireless efforts to quash the dozens of hoax theories that have sprung up over the decades, polls have consistently shown that up to 30 percent of people don’t believe that American astronauts landed on the Moon. The US government better keep funding NASA’s debunk department.

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