What If The Moon Landing Was Faked?

Let’s play devil’s advocate and say that the moon landing was faked. What would it take in order to pull off the world’s most epic hoax?
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One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind…

Or one giant special effects budget!

Image Source: Eric Kilby on Flickr

Can you believe that after nearly 50 years, conspiracy theories about the moon landing are still in orbit?

Image Source: NASA

Roughly 6% of Americans believe the moon landing was faked. While another 5% are undecided.

Image Source: NASA

What do you think it would take to pull off such a hoax?

Image Source: NASA

How many people would have to keep quiet?

Image Source: NASA

How much would it cost?

Image Source: NASA

Lights. Camera. Action!

Image Source: NASA

INSH has pondered the mathematical probabilities of the moon landing being a hoax before. If clicking on links mid-article isn’t your thing, allow us to give you a brief synopsis of the findings: it’s not looking good for the folks who think the Apollo moon missions are pure fiction.

Image Source: NASA

July 16th, 1969, – exterior, launchpad, day.

Image Source: NASA

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins board the Apollo 11 spacecraft, bound for the moon.

Across the world, 600 millions people watch live as the three men are launched into space, land safely on the moon, plant the stars and stripes, and make it home safely.

Image Source: NASA

Come to think of it, that does sound a lot like Hollywood.

Image Source: NASA

But can you think of a studio with an 150 billion dollar operating budget?

Image Source: Project Apollo Archive
Image Source: Project Apollo Archive
Image Source: Project Apollo Archive
Image Source: Project Apollo Archive

So what would it take to recreate the moon on Earth and then add astronauts and a space capsule into the mix? In order to pull off something on the scale of a faked landing on the lunar surface in the 1960s, one of the biggest hurdles would be the technological limitations. Assuming NASA was scheming the plan well in advance of the 1969 landing, they’d probably be having to make do with early 1960s equipment.

Image Source: Project Apollo Archive

NASA would have had to spend more time and money on the required tech to make the landing look real than what it would have cost to physically go to the moon in the first place.

Image Source: Project Apollo Archive

In total, the Apollo program was allocated $24 billion to get to the moon.

Image Source: Project Apollo Archive

Roughly 60% of NASA’s budget at the time. That equals $150 billion in today’s dollars.

Image Source: Project Apollo Archive

Assuming all that money went into pulling off the perfect hoax, how would it have been spent?

Image Source: Project Apollo Archive

Let’s start with payroll.

Image Source: NASA

At the time, NASA had about 411,000 employees.

Image Source: Project Apollo Archive

An Oxford physicist, Dr. David Grimes, calculated that the secret might’ve had a chance to stay quiet for as long as three years and eight months before someone cracked.

Photo Source: Project Apollo Archive

So how do you keep 411,000 employees quiet about a fake moon landing mission for longer than three years?

Image Source: Project Apollo Archive

A bribe might be able to buy some silence.

Image Source: Project Apollo Archive

Today’s NASA employees earn an average salary of $62,500. If you divide the Apollo budget in today’s dollars amongst a workforce of 411,000 people, it comes to a payout of roughly $365,000 per person – roughly six years salary.

Image Source: Project Apollo Archive

Of course, employees would have had to accept much less, given the cost of the equipment and production needed to fake a moon landing.

Image Source: Project Apollo Archive

You may have noticed that the shadows in photographs from the moon landing appear to be parallel. Image forensics say these shadows accurately reflect the sun’s position from 93 million miles (150 million kms) away.

Image Source: Project Apollo Archive

Under conventional studio lighting, the shadows would appear more divergent, meaning NASA would have to step up their game in order to achieve a convincing look.

Moon Landing Lunar Module Eagle Space Travel

To properly fake the sun’s lighting in the 1960s would require a wall of millions of powerful laser lights so close together, they’d be like pixels on a movie screen.

In today’s world, computer generated graphics are an integral part of almost every Hollywood blockbuster. Practical effects are now rarely used – but why? Because a realistic practical effect is really bloody hard to do, that’s why. Going back five decades and they wouldn’t be any easier.

Making astronauts appear to bounce-walk while exploring the moon’s surface would take groundbreaking wire work long before what is now known as “wire fu” (check out some kung fu flicks or The Matrix to see it in action)  was ever invented.

For argument’s sake, let’s say that NASA figured out the intricacies of basic wire and pulley systems – there’d still be the issue of rigging the gear to bulky outfits (can we say costumes in this scenario?) and lighting it in such a way that all of the wires were completely invisible.

Image Source: Henry & Jane Rios on Flickr

Let’s also argue that NASA did create practical effect magic, basic CGI software and some pretty epic costume design as well.

Image Source: NASA

But as we all know, NASA isn’t a small town mom & pop operation.

To create the moon landing event and make it hold up for decades as the absolute truth would involve dozens of different departments along with the man (and woman) power to staff them.

Image Source: Project Apollo Archive
Image Source: Project Apollo Archive
Image Source: Project Apollo Archive
Image Source: Project Apollo Archive
Image Source: Project Apollo Archive

Every single one of those individuals would have to be sworn to secrecy on what they did, heard or saw as it related to the landing.

Image Source: Cory Doctorow on Flickr

Now, consider that the $150 billion committed to the Apollo program was spent on six separate visits to the moon. So whatever the cost of the first conspiracy, bribes, equipment, et cetera, – multiply that by six.

In 2009, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter sent back high resolution photographs of each of the Apollo moon landing sites, showing tire tracks from lunar orbiters, along with boot marks left by astronauts.

To fake these, NASA would’ve had to send something to the moon.

Like a robotic rover to make some tracks. The combined cost of the vehicle and the mission to put it on the moon would be roughly 68 million.

Then another $504 million for a lunar orbiter to take the pictures.

Image Source: Project Apollo Archive
Image Source: Project Apollo Archive

And as long as the universal inhibition reducer we know as alcohol is available on this planet, the odds of anyone faking a landing and keeping quiet about it are out of this world.

The bottom line of this prolonged spending spree is that the cost of faking a moon landing, far outweigh the cost of doing it for real.

Can you say: astronomical deficit?

Luckily, we’re a species that puts its money where its mouth is – especially when we get curious.

And how’s your appetite for adventure?

Are you ready for another one?

Story by Jay Moon


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