February 6, 2003

By Michael Strickland

The Eagle Never Landed

On television yesterday, I heard a news commentator casually toss out the statistic that three-quarters of the world's population believe American astronauts never landed on the moon. The seeming absurdity of the comment made me highly suspicious—enough to do a little research on this alleged phenomenon myself. If there were any truth in this statement, I wanted to understand how such widespread skepticism could be possible.

My brief Google tour led me to a multitude of "experts" offering homemade videos and self-published books, all purporting to prove that mankind's giant leap took place on a sound stage. Amateur Web sites galore showcase photographic "evidence" that reveals NASA's extensive deception (which the agency has handily debunked). Conspiracy theorists of every stripe claim that the U.S. faked the moon landing to gain a strategic advantage over the USSR during the Cold War, and staged astronaut "accidents" (such as the Apollo 1 tragedy) to seal loose lips.

The few references I found which actually quoted poll numbers could not be called scientific by any stretch of the imagination. Nevertheless, even those polls claimed that only about seven percent of people—not seventy percent—believe the moon landing never happened. That's still a lot of ignorant people, though.

Speaking of ignorance... Fox aired a sensational special devoted to the "hoax" back in 2001, apparently trying to boost ratings during sweeps by giving the aforementioned conspiracy theorists national air time. Amazingly, the program prompted so many people to contact NASA that the space agency had to post the following notice on its home page: "A recent TV program resurfaced old questions about whether NASA really sent astronauts to the moon between 1969 and 1972. We did."

A 1978 movie called "Capricorn One" turned the moon landing conspiracy theory into a "what-if" drama. In the movie, NASA launches a spacecraft to Mars, secretly keeping the astronauts on Earth and faking the Mars landing on a sound stage. When the empty spacecraft inadvertently burns up on re-entry, the astronauts go on the run to expose the truth before NASA can kill them to keep the hoax intact.

I'm still not any closer to understanding the skepticism which could lead otherwise rational people to believe NASA staged the Apollo lunar landings. I've certainly learned more than I ever wanted to know about the conspiracy theories themselves, but I don't understand the thinking behind them. "Capricorn One" just arrived in the mail from Netflix, however, so maybe I'll feel differently after watching it. Or not.


Development note: I've noticed that this site doesn't look like it should in Netscape Navigator. Rather than waste time jury-rigging it to look right in a soon-to-be-obsolete browser, I'll just add the cliché "This site best viewed with Internet Explorer."
Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Daily Chuckle:

The gene pool could use a little chlorine.

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year, I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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2/5: Pope: Potter No Problem
2/4: Time for Another Rewrite
2/3: A Matter of Opinions
2/2: Suicidal Bravado
2/1: Godspeed, Columbia

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