July 20, 1969 the Apollo program, also known as Project Apollo by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) met President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon before the decade was finished.[1] For different reasons, that will be explored in the module, people and organizations claim that the Apollo Moon landing was a hoax staged by NASA. There is not a single theory explaining how, why, or even who faked the landing. Although there are different variations, the leading theory, and the focus of this module, suggest that NASA intentionally mislead the public by manufacturing the footage of Apollo 11. Proponents of this theory claim that the United States and NASA were motivated for political reasons. The moon landing occurred during the Cold War, a period of political and military tension between Western and Eastern powers after World War II. Two major powers, the Soviet Union and the United States were engaged in a Space Race, a competition for supremacy in spaceflight capabilities. Becoming the first country to land a person on the moon and safely return them to Earth would mean a significant win, marking the winner as superior. 

This analysis will focus on three major proponents of the theory Bill Kaysing, Ralph René, and Bart Sibrel, their background and contributions to the theory. Additionally, this module will highlight the truth, and fabrications in their arguments, the logical fallacies, and propaganda techniques they use to convince their audience. Finally, the module ends with a series of questions to consider when reading information about the Moon landing hoax, and their responses.

bk_tv2_hr
Figure 1. Bill Kaysing, considered by many as “The Father of the Moon Hoax Theory”, was an avid proponent for the conspiracy. He is often cited as the first legitimate source to write about the theory. Image take from: http://www.billkaysing.com

Considered by many as “The Father of the Moon Hoax Theory”[2], Bill Kaysing, self-published a book on the subject, We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle. Kaysing was a former U.S. Navy office with a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Redlands. Kaysing began work as a senior technical writer at Rocketdyne, an American rocket engine design and production company, in 1956.[3] He worked there until 1963, in various positions including head of publications before resigning.[4] He sold his house and purchased a small travel trailer, finally settling in Santa Barbara, California to work in marketing and advertisement. There he created a successful dental instrument business for an inventor he met. He then moved to Oakland, California. It was there that he befriended disillusioned Vietnam War Veterans that inspired him to research the then recent Moon landing.[5] Kaysing also felt encouraged to write because of his belief that the U.S. government has historically covered up various events. He claims that for many years they withheld information on social security, and our food products.[6]

 

In 1976, Kaysing self-published his book claiming among several points that NASA lacked the technical expertise to put a man on the moon. He also cited the mysterious death of Thomas Ronald Baron, a quality control inspector for North American Aviation who testified before Congress negating the probability of a successful moon landing. He claims that NASA and the Defense Intelligence Agency worked together to create a lunar landscape in Area 51 because of pressure due to the Cold War. It is important to note that Kaysing became a popular guest on talk radio and television shows around the world, creating an industry of reception, with others following him. His book opened a niche market that allowed him to make money.[7]

Ralph René was an American conspiracy theorist, and small press publisher, who similar to Kaysing, was a vocal proponent of the moon landing conspiracy theory. Although introduced in various third party material as an author, scientist, and physicist including the Fox Network television special, Conspiracy Theory: Did We Go to the Moon?[8], René

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A screenshot from the FOX Network television special Conspiracy Theory : Did We Land on the Moon? by John Moffet, that featured both Bill Kaysing, and Ralph René. The full film can be seen here.

has admitted that he does not hold a degree from a university, everything he knows was “self-taught”. René attended Rutgers University for a year before dropping out. He became a carpenter and millwright while continuing his education at home. He taught himself structural and mechanical engineering, sketching and built prototypes for numerous inventions. Due to finances, he was limited to the number of patients he could afford, and was granted two basic patients of those he applied.  Later in life, he claims he was contacted by the Rand Corporation for contributions to inventions and ideas related to space for NASA. Two years after the first claimed contact, René states that his name was falsely published in a NASA propaganda document, with the intent of using his credibility to gain approval for the NASA’s manned Mars mission. His anger at the misuse of his free ideas resulted in scrutiny of NASA Moon landing photos. In 1992, René self-published a book, NASA Mooned America!, presenting evidence that the Apollo Moon landings were faked and produced in a closed studio.[9]

Another significant proponent of the Moon landing conspiracy theory is Bart Sibrel, a self-proclaimed filmmaker, writer and investigative journalist who claims that the six Apollo Moon landings between 1969 and 1972 were hoaxes. He is most known for a confrontation with astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man after Neil Armstrong to set foot on the moon, after harassing and insulting him. Sibrel wrote, produced, and directed a documentary in 2001, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon, where he states the moon landings were faked, as the spacecraft is stayed in low Earth orbit. Sibrel uses widely available footage claiming it to be secret NASA footage sent to him from NASA that shows the astronauts practicing for an upcoming live telecast.[10] Sibrel argues in his documentary that the technology in the United States was behind that of the Soviet Union. His most prominent piece of evidence is the “five-to-one superiority” in man-hours in space the Soviets held over the United States. He also highlights the Soviet’s first “ins space” over the United States. He claims to have collected years of innumerous military, government, industrial and private sources of conspiratorial crimes against humanity, which he cites as further evidence in his articles.[11]

It is important to note that within the conspiracy theory(s) there are shreds of truth. For example, Bill Kaysing cites the mysterious death of Thomas Ronald Baron shortly after his testimony before Congress. This is true, six days after his testimony Baron and his family

thomas_baron
A photo of Thomas Ronald Baron, a quality control inspector in Apollo 1’s construction. After the fire, he testified before Congress that that the Apollo program was in a disarray and would not succeed in making it to the moon. Image taken from: http://projectcamelot.org/nasa.html

were killed as their car was struck by a train at a crossing. However, their deaths were ruled an accident. This example is one of many used with the claim that personnel were killed because they might have revealed the program to be a hoax, as it is true that a notable number of NASA personnel passed during the period of the Apollo mission. NASA personnel that passed including ten NASA astronauts.[12] However, it is here that conspiracist use a logical fallacy, false cause. The logical fallacy false cause is when an individual promotes an idea with the presumption that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other. In this case, it is true that a number of NASA personnel passed away before the Apollo mission, however their death does not mean that NASA faked the Apollo mission.

Another significant piece of evidence conspiracist cite is the United States technological advancements prior to the Apollo mission. Conspiracist also point out the fact that the Soviet Union’s technology was superior to the United States before the mission. Research demonstrates that this is true, however during the middle and late 1960s the Soviets began to falter as the U.S. made key advances. Before Apollo 7, the Soviet Union made 9 spaceflights, while the U.S. had achieved 16. During this time the United States also achieved 600 more hours in space that the Soviet Union. It was in 1965, when the United States started to gain ground developing a rocket with the capacity to land on the moon[13]. This evidence is an example of the Texas sharpshooter fallacy that states, the individual selects the data or information that best supports their idea. In this case, proponents of this piece of evidence choose to focus on the United States technological deficits before 1965, when it’s technological abilities were behind the Soviet Unions.

When encountering the moon landing theory, and the supporting text by authors such as Bill Kasying, Bart Sibrel, and Ralph René it is necessary to point out other forms of propaganda that they use to present their claims. That is, the techniques that they use to persuade their audience to believe in their ideas.  Kaysing and Sibrel use the common technique of relying on their testimonial. Both conspiracist base their argument on their understanding of the complex financial and scientific working of NASA, and space technology. Kaysing, while an educated individual received his degree in English and not in engineering, or aerospace technology. In this case he is not a well-qualified individual to assess the technological advances or deficits of NASA. This is similar to Sibrel’s argument, who is a self-proclaimed filmmaker, writer and investigative journalist. His qualifications are self-proclaimed, and are used to warrant his evidence that the United States lacked the technology to achieve a successful Moon landing, as well as the authenticity of the military, government, industrial and private sources he has collected.

Likewise, another technique used by proponents of the Moon landing conspiracy theory is the plain-folk’s technique. This is when the speaker presents him or herself as an everyday man to convince the audience that they, and their ideas are ‘of the people’. For example, Ralph René relies on his testimonial similar to Kaysing and Sibrel. However, René upholds his evidence by claiming that he does not have background knowledge on the technology involved in the Moon landing. More importantly, his knowledge was self-taught and therefore free of bias or corruption. René’s evidence is the common man’s evidence.

 Lastly, it is important to ask questions[14] when reading a conspiracy theory:

  1. How many people were a part of the conspiracy?
  2. How much time and money did it take and where did the money come from?
  3. If there are many thousands of conspirators, how are they organized?
  4. How likely is it to remain covered up if it has gone on for a long time?
  5. If there are thousands of conspirators, and the conspiracy theory has gone on for decades, why have none of them defected?
  6. Who gains from the conspiracy and for what price?

For our purposes, consider the following questions, and responses when reading a conspiracy theory about the moon landing:

  1. How many people, including NASA and government employees are a part of the conspiracy?

A: Depending on the variation of the conspiracy theory you are confronted with, there is a number of responses to this question. However, given the nature of the work a significant number of people must be involved, whether that be every NASA employee and outside contractor, or only the individuals with the highest clearance. If NASA did falsify the landings how did it, or the United States government manage to keep everyone quiet?

  1. How much time, and more importantly money did the United States government and/or NASA use to fake the moon landings?

A: This question is directly linked to the previous question, conspirators such as Bart Kaysing claim that NASA used government funding to ensure that everyone who participated in the hoax would stay quiet. It is estimated the NASA spent $25.4 billion on the Apollo mission, and most of this money was used to pay outside contractors and was accounted as stated before Congress in 1973.[15]

  1. It has been more than four decades since the Apollo moon landing mission. How has the conspiracy managed to remain covered up for such a long time? Why have none of the conspirators defected?

A: The probability that such a large number of individuals would not reveal the truth, especially over such a long period of time is highly unlikely. To be exact, Dr. David Robert Grimes[16] published a mathematical model to determine the lifespan of a conspiracy before someone steps forward, revealing the truth. The formula takes into account the number of people involved and the sheer scale of the hypothetical idea. His findings suggest that if the moon landing was hoaxed, a person involved would have come forth with the within 3, almost 4 years’ time.

In conclusion, an analysis of the Moon landing conspiracy, its proponents backgrounds and their propaganda techniques demonstrates the type of analysis a reader can use when reading texts on any conspiracy, or general information on the internet. It is essential when reading an online source to approach the text critically, with an understanding of the author, their background and purpose. Further, the few propaganda techniques, and fallacies mentioned here illustrate the type of tools speakers will use to influence an audience. Specifically, when reading a text about a conspiracy theory this may be difficult, but applying the questions provided at the end of this analysis is a good place to start.

[1] July 20, 1969: One Giant Leap For Mankind. (2014, July 14). From: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/apollo11.html

This article is part of a series published mid-July in 2014, by NASA to commemorate the same dates in 1969 as the Apollo program neared the Moon landing mission.

[2] Windley, J. (n.d.). Clavius Moon Base – debunking the moon hoax. From: http://www.clavius.org/index.html

Clavis.org is a website maintained by Moon Base Clavius, an organization of amateurs and professionals devoted to debunking the conspiracy theories associated with the Moon landing hoax. The webmaster Jay Windley is a trained mechanical engineer who studied mechanical engineering and computer science as Kansas State University, and engineering design and computer science at the University of Utah. He currently works as a systems engineer. He has been acknowledged as an expert in the technical history of Apollo and had consulted with several authors including Arthur C. Clark, and Ed Mitchell, and his comments have appeared in the New York Times Magazine.

[3] Kaysing, W. L. (n.d.). Bill Kaysing Tribute Website – Biography. From: http://billkaysing.com/biography.php

The tribute website to Bill Kaysing is managed by his first daughter Wendy Lynn Kaysing. The site is useful in determining his motivations, and beliefs, however the information does have the potential for bias given the site owners relationship to the Bill Kaysing.

[4] Windley, J. (n.d.). Clavius Moon Base – debunking the moon hoax. From: http://www.clavius.org/index.html

[5] Kaysing, W. L. (n.d.). Bill Kaysing Tribute Website – Biography. From: http://billkaysing.com/biography.php

[6] Watson, D. (n.d.). Nardwuar vs Bill Kaysing. From: http://nardwuar.com/vs/bill_kaysing/

The following information was taken from Bill Kaysins’s interview with John Ruskin also known as Nardwuar the Human Serviette, on his website nardwuar.com. Ruskin is a Canadian celebrity interviewer and musician. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1990.  He is most known for his interviews with music celebrities which appear frequently shown on MuchMusic’s Going Coastal.

[7] Kaysing, W. L. (n.d.). Bill Kaysing Tribute Website – Biography. From: http://billkaysing.com/biography.php

[8] Moffet, J. (Director). (2001). Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon? [Motion picture on television]. USA: FOX Network.

In 2001, Fox Network aired a special television film Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon, where skeptics analyzed the discrepancies and inconsistencies in the evidence that the United States landed on the moon. In the process they interviewed both Bill Kaysing, and Ralph René. In the end they concluded that he NASA Faked the moon landings.

[9] White, J. Ralph Renés’ Website about the NASA/Apollo moon hoax and … From: http://ralphRené.com/index.html

This website is dedicated to archiving the work of Ralph René. It is managed by Jarrah White, an Australian conspiracy theorist known for his long-running YouTube series on the Moon landing hoax. His theories most align with René’s, and many of his YouTube videos reproduced his calculations addressing basic errors he attributes to René’s lack of understanding. White claims to have befriended René before his death, this may be a drawback because White may be bias when writing about René.

[10] Sibrel, B. Bart Sibrel-About. From: http://www.moonmovie.com

This website is maintained by Bart Sibrel and only feature his biographic information and links to his other outlets, such as his YouTube channel, and his merchandise. Therefore, it is important to note that this information may be bias as Sibrel may choose to present himself in the best light to build up his credibility.

[11] Conspiracy Corner | The Sleuth Journal. (n.d.). From: http://www.thesleuthjournal.com/conspiracy-corner/

The Sleuth Journal is an independent alternative media organization with the intention of exposing what they claim to be the truth in government, politics, world, and local news. Bart is a contributor to the journal’s Conspiracy Corner, where he writes about conspiracies.

[12] Windley, J. (n.d.). Clavius Moon Base – debunking the moon hoax: Thomas Baron. From: http://www.clavius.org/baron.html

[13] Windley, J. (n.d.). Clavius Moon Base – debunking the moon hoax: Technology, Doing it over. From: http://www.clavius.org/technasa.html

[14] Conspiracy theory. (2016, October 27). From: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Conspiracy_theory

The following questions were selected from the “Conspiracy Theory”. Conspiracy theory checklist section of the RationalWiki site.

[15] Windley, J. (n.d.). Clavius Moon Base – debunking the moon hoax: Technology, Doing it over. From: http://www.clavius.org/bibfunny3.html

[16] Shoemaker, N. (2016, February 02). What’s the Probability That the Moon Landing Was All a Hoax? One Man Has Done the Math. From: http://bigthink.com/natalie-shoemaker/whats-the-probability-that-the-moon-landing-was-all-a-hoax-one-man-has-done-the-math

Dr. David Robert Grimes is a physicist and postdoctoral research associate at the Gray laboratories. He is a frequent contributor to the Irish Times, BBC, and the Guardian where he writes science opinion pieces.

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