The tenacious, idiotic appeal of moon landing conspiracy theories

It is the summer of 1969. The world’s attention is skyward: toward the moon, where Apollo 11 approaches its epoch-making destiny. But in a house on the beach off the coast of central California broods a man who knows better than to care. His name is Bill Kaysing. He is a former technical writer at Rocketdyne, the company that built the spacecraft’s main propulsion units.

Kaysing has a hunch. It will eventually manifest as a suspicion, and then mutate into one of the most pervasive and insidious conspiracy theories of all time. Kaysing will write a book on the subject. Rather he will write the book — the primary text, outlining his every intuition, misgiving and doubt about the moon landing.

Among common conspiracy theories, the moon landing is the most tenacious. It has a long and pervasive history: no matter the volume of proof, no matter the ease with which it can be further substantiated, otherwise reasonable men and women continue to affirm their incredulity. They insist that radiation from the Van Allen belt between earth and the moon would make a safe trip between the two physically impossible. They say solar flares and solar winds would have destroyed any spacecraft making an attempt. They claim surface temperatures on the lunar surface by day would have cooked the astronauts alive in their suits, or as least spoiled a camera film. They argue transmissions of sound or video from such an extraordinary distance could not have come through so quickly or so clearly. They contend the failed and thwarted efforts of the Gemini and early Apollo missions demonstrate a basic incompetence it would have been impossible for NASA in a matter of months to overcome.

And so on. None of these contentions has any basis in scientific fact. Indeed, it’s essential to …read more

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