Scientific Methods

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Sherlock Holms would say its “its elementary my Dr Watson”, but is it elementary to answer this question, have we a very clever Space Agency that could not deliver what the Government wanted and need a psychological way to win the Cold War and emerge as the only “Super Power” or a group of conspiracy theorists who will grab onto any small issues of inconsistency and a blow it up out of proportion for their own agenda or because they simply have not understood the science behind the technology/ What I mean by starting this debrief as a conversation between the legendary Crime Detector and Dr Watson is the only real way to analysis this question is as to be at the crime scene. Normally if you wish to test somebody’s research findings you will go through the experiment and re-do it. Well this is not entirely possible in this case, a) it would be a very expensive experiment and b) conspiracy theorists have stated that that blue-prints for the Apollo programme design were “destroyed”. There does seem to be some strange issues on this aspect and the best response I have had on this is “According to Paul Shawcross from NASA's Office of Inspector General, the blueprints for the Saturn V are held at the Marshall Space Flight Center on microfilm. There are some diagrams of the LM [Landing Module insert RK] and Moon buggy on the Nasa web site, but the technical blueprints showing sizes, etc. do seem to be missing" [1]. So from logistic and technical aspects we cannot actually re-construct this experiment and observe whether it is true or not true and that would have been the scientific approach which clearly NASA did not want re-examined (the moon buggies were left on the moon as were the cameras). While quantum mechanics theoretically argues that time travel is a future possibility, our technology is far off from exploring it so we cannot go back and re-observe the experiment unfolding. Consequently this is like a crime scene, where you cannot even re-enact the sequences and review the evidence. This question is rather difficult for those conspiracy theorists attempting to falsify NASA’s claims; first the crime scene is some 384,400 km away and some rather nasty radiation belts (van Allen) to contend with. So again unlike both scientific experiments and most crime scenes – this crime scene is beyond bounds.

So how does this relate to the hypothetico-deductive method, induction and deduction falsification? It can probably be answered most effectively using deduction and is rather difficult to establish through falsification and induction. It should be realized that certain cases lend themselves to a particular method of inquiry (be it hypothetico-deductive falsification, induction or deduction). The major issue is that in this case the observation cannot be redone so essentially you cannot use induction. Consequently you have to really deduce what happened by using the available evidence, and assess how contaminated that evidence was. Essentially you should have case STRENGTHS and WEAKNESSES for the plaintiff and defendant, the conspiracy theorists and NASA respectively. I found this approach rather difficult due to so much conflicting evidence.

Consequently I have sought an epistemological approach to focus on analyzing the nature of knowledge in this case and how it relates to similar notions such as truth, and belief [2] Please review this reference. Much of this discussion concerns justification and epistemologists analyze the standards of justification for knowledge claims, that is, the grounds on which one can claim to know a particular fact. In a nutshell, epistemology addresses the question, "How do you know what you know?"

Another useful philosophical tool is called Occam's razor. Occam's razor simply stated the explanation of any phenomenon should have the fewest possibly assumptions as possible, and specifically eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory [3] Please review this reference as well. This principle is often expressed in Latin as: “entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem” which translates to: “entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity”.

Most crimes work on examining the Motives, Opportunities and Means (MOM). So for NASA hoaxing the moon landing, lets exam their motives to doing this. In the early 1960’s President J.F. Kennedy had tasked the USA to land a man on the Moon before the decade ended. At the time the USA was in a Cold War with USSR, in contrast to the USA, the USSR space programme appeared to have been progressing well [4] and even today has the following firsts

  • Artificial satellite launched on October 4, 1957; Sputnik 1,
  • First living passenger, a dog named Laika in space but was never intended to return to the earth; Sputnik 2
  • First passengers (dogs Belka and Strelka, 40 mice, 2 rats and a variety of plants) in space that were returned to earth; Sputnik 5
  • First person in space and in orbit, Yuri Gagarin on Vostok 1, Vostok programme
  • First dual manned flight and approach in space with Vostok 3 and Vostok 4.
  • First woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova on Vostok 6
  • First three man crew, Voskhod 1
  • First EVA, Voskhod 2 by Aleksei Leonov
  • First docking between two manned craft in Earth orbit and exchange of crews, Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5.
  • First firing of a rocket in Earth Orbit, Luna 1
  • First probe on the moon, Luna 2
  • First images of the moon's far side, Luna 3
  • First probe to land on Venus, Venera 3
  • First probe to land on Mars and return data, Mars 3
  • First samples automatically returned to Earth from another body, Luna 16
  • First robotic space rover, Lunokhod 1
  • First space station, Salyut 1
  • First woman to walk in space, Svetlana Savitskaya while on Salyut 7 space station.
  • First crew to spend over one year in space, V. Titov and Manarov on board of TM-4 - Mir Dec 12 1987
  • First permanently manned space station, Mir, which orbited the Earth from 1986 until 2001
  • First space satellite, launched on 7 July 1998 from submarine Novomoscovsk

    Finally despite far more manned hours in space only four Russian cosmonauts were killed compared to 18 American astronauts killed in flight. The USA fatalities were Apollo 1 (3), X-15-3(1,) Challenger (7), Columbia (7) and USSR fatalaities were Soyuz 1 (1), Soyuz 11 (3) [5]. Consequently the USA was very aware of its shortcomings, and even today it is debatable as to whether it really was any more successful than the Soviet/ Russian programme.

    The early success of the USSR space programme was a worry to citizens of the USA since the implication was that a space rocket is little different to an attack missile armed with a nuclear warhead. The USA had to respond to USSR The stakes were very high, and failure by NASA and the USA not to land on the Apollo and do one better than the Soviet Space Programme Soyuz would have done irreversible damage to its Cold War campaign. There certainly is a motive to a least having photos and video material as “backup” in the case of any mission problem, including technical ones in securing the necessary photographic/video evidence. At least one astronaut has openly stated

    "If some of the film was spoiled, it's remotely possible they [NASA] may have shot some scenes in a studio environment to avoid embarrassment."

    Dr Brian O'Leary

    Did NASA have the opportunity to either go to the Moon, or to hoax the operation? I will answer this by using the following question…

    Was NASA sufficiently prepared to launch a landing on the moon?

    Of all of the space programmes manned Apollo missions were remarkable trouble free, given the history of NASA. Apollo 1 lost a crew of three while still on the ground and Apollo 13 had numerous well publicized problems. Further other than the manned Apollo space programmes no manned space craft has gone further than about 600 km or 0.156% of the 384,400 km journey to the moon. The Soviet Union up until the mid 1960s was clearly ahead in the space race and was preparing to send a rocket to the moon, but from the day of the Apollo landing until now has never attempted it (or at least admitted to attempting this). It is also interesting that having six success landings by NASA over a very short period that the motivation in human landing on the moon has not continued. The advances that NASA made between its first astronaut in space, Alan Shepherd in 1961 whose entire mission lasted a mere 15 min 28 s and gained an altitude of 187 km [6] to Apollo 8 in 1968 which made the first three-manned lunar orbit and lasted 6 day 3 hours 0 min 42 secs [7] is spectacular. Expressed differently in seven years NASA’s space programmes made trips 2 000 times further, 600 times longer while carrying 3 times the number of passengers! Using Occam's razor approach, there are rather more assumptions in NASA getting to the moon that to create convincing film footage and photographs, since the year earlier than the moon landing Stanley Kubrick directed the film 2001: A Space Odyssey [8] which convincingly showed that it was possible to fabricate this evidence. There is certainly an opportunity and the means for NASA to at least “make the evidence” which is demonstratably easier than doing the real thing. Looking at other evidence it becomes clear that a certain amount of deception has taken place on the part of NASA.

    Van Allen radiation belts

    Conspiracy theorists argue that the Apollo space craft could not transverse the Van Allen radiation belts. These high radiation belts stretch from 10,000–65,000 km altitude [9]. In defence of this it is claimed that they spent only half an hour [8] travelling the 55 000 km of the radiation belts. If they had maintained this speed for entire trip they would have arrived at moon in a little over three hours rather than almost three days. A possible explanation is that “orbital transfer trajectory from the Earth to the Moon through the belts was selected to minimize radiation exposure” [10]. Conspiracy theorists have also argued that the Apollo missions were done when the radiation belts would have been at one of their worst condition due to very high sunspot activity. Monthly measurements of sunspot numbers taken by Royal Observatory of Belgium have indicated that the 11-year sunspot cycle had maxima in 1958, 1969, 1980, 1990 [11]. While 1969 was the lowest of the four peaks in this period, such sunspot peaks and solar winds have been linked to a lot of satellite failures in telecommunications operations [12] and these satellites operate well below the Van Allen radiation belts. This Apollo missions certainly coinciding with the least favourable times if consideration for reliability of the electronic equipment was a consideration.

    Photographic discrepancies

    Conspiracy theorists have argued that flag waving (in no atmosphere?) and blast carter below the lunar module are also evidence. Further, the shadows and lighting under lunar conditions (characteristic of high cosmic and gamma rays, extreme fluctuation of temperatures), the cross hairs etched onto the camera lens getting obscured by bright objects, and similar backgrounds despite supposedly been taken on different missions as provided as evidence for fabrication [10]. Many (but not all) of explanations for these inconsistencies in the photographic evidence are plausible and can be re-created [13]. However, the non-parallel and hugely different length of shadows of the two astronauts (shown in official NASA video material) is difficult to explain. It should be remembered that the only way to distort the direction of the shadows as much as in the photographs would be to use a wide angle lens. Unfortunately defenders of the NASA lunar landing have fabricated the evidence by using different focal lengths of the camera to demonstrate the possibility of this [13][14]. Further the photographs showing the converging shadow are always less extreme despite using a wide angle lens! [13][14]. Using a 60 mm lens as fitted to the lunar cameras will not distort to this extent. Jan Lundberg Group Manager Space Projects Hasselblad (1966-1975) in an interview for the film What Happened on the Moon? [available from] commenting on one of the famous Aldrin photograph “seems as if he is standing in a spot light and I cannot explain that”……”that escapes me” and finally “maybe you have to find Armstrong and ask him”.

    To make matters worse for NASA they appear to have stated that they used special emulsion film (Brian Welsh, Director of Media Services, NASA as interviewed in the documentary What Happened on the Moon?” [available from] called it XRC. The official NASA website on its still photography said the following…

    “Kodak was asked by NASA to develop thin new films with special emulsions. On Apollo 8, three magazines were loaded with 70 mm wide, perforated Kodak Panatomic-X fine-grained, 80 ASA, b/w film, two with Kodak Ektachrome SO-68, one with Kodak Ektachrome SO-121, and one with super light-sensitive Kodak 2485, 16,000 ASA film. There were 1100 color, black and white, and filtered photographs returned from the Apollo 8 mission.” [15]

    Interestingly Kodak makes no mention of this technology on its website and lists of achievements for 1969 are “Construction began on Kodak Colorado Division - a manufacturing unit for films and papers, located in Windsor, Colorado. A very special stereo camera made by Kodak accompanied astronauts Aldrin and Armstrong when they set foot on the moon. Kodak received an "Emmy" Award for its development of fast color film processing for television use. The number of shareowners passed the 200,000 mark.” [16]

    In an interview with HJP “Douglas” Arnold who worked for Kodak as an assistant to the MD in the UK from 1966-1974 What Happened on the Moon? [available from] stated the film that was used on these missions was basically the standard Ektachrome X 64 and 160 ASA (now ISO) that we use on Earth [17].

    My caveat for the rest of the photographic anomalies is that it should not be ruled out that persons wishing to be a “whistle blower” that the photographs were non-ingenious could have introduced deliberate tell-tale signs in them that would not be immediately evident to the NASA officials at the time and would get revealed at a latter stage. However, fabricating the photographs does not necessarily mean that the entire mission was hoaxed. I am certain (95% sure) that the photographic evidence presented by NASA was not genuinely obtained from the moon surface.

    Evidence from SMART-2

    ESA SMART-1 probe was hopefully providing the much needed independent photographic evidence that indeed the Apollo missions were undertaken and Bernard Foing, Chief Scientist of the ESA Science Program allegedly told that the “SMART-1 orbiter circling the Moon has already covered the Apollo 11, 16, 17 landing sites, as well as spots where the former Soviet Union 's Luna 16 and Luna 20 automated vehicles plopped down. The images have not yet been released” [1]. To me the problem with this statement is the official line for a lack of a crater or burn marks under the Lunar Module in the photographs is “No crater should be expected. The Descent Propulsion System was throttled very far down during the final stages of landing. The Lunar Module was no longer rapidly decelerating, so the descent engine only had to support the module's own weight, which by then was greatly diminished by the near exhaustion of the descent propellants, and the Moon's lower gravity. At the time of landing, the engine's thrust divided by the cross-sectional area of the engine bell is only about 1.5 PSI ), and that is reduced by the fact that the engine was in a vacuum, causing the exhaust to spread out” [10]. In fact it was such a gentle landing that no real dust was sufficiently disturbed to settle on the landing pads of the lunar module and this has been explained as follows “The dust around the module is called regolith and is created by ejecta from asteroid and meteoroid impacts. This dust was several inches thick at the Apollo 11 landing site. The regolith was estimated to be several meters thick and is highly compacted with depth. In an atmosphere, we would expect a rocket engine to blast all the surface dust off the ground for tens of meters. However, dust was only removed from the area directly beneath the Apollo landing engine. The important observation here is "atmosphere". Powerful engines set up turbulence in air which lifts and carries dust readily, far beyond the engine itself. However, in a vacuum, there is no air to disturb. Only the actual engine exhaust's direct pressure on the dust can move it” 10]. Given the official line could an orbiting satellite clearly photograph landing sites of the Apollo missions, and more curiously my searching on the Internet has never confirmed that they these photographs were ever released. Somebody must be telling an untruth, either ESA or NASA?

    My conclusions

    Unfortunately, there is little doubt that there are too many inconsistencies, to at least conclude that not all that has been reported to the public by NASA can be true. Even if you accept that some photographic evidence could have been tampered with either to indicate that is was faked (whistle blowing) or by people wishing to discredit NASA. To accept that NASA made such major advancements in such a short period and undertook their missions when space conditions were at one of their most hazardous in the last fifty years and appeared to have done repeatedly missions with only one failure (Apollo 13), stretches the credibility (epistemological approach) of a scientific mind. Using Occam’s Razor, again suggest that the most parsimonious use of assumptions suggest that the evidence for the Lunar Landing was more easily fabricated than undertaken. If this is the case why have the USSR not blown the whistle on the USA? I can only conclude that NASA’s economy with truth was matched by Soviet Space Programme, the only difference is that the latter have been caught out with at least one untruth and that surrounded the details of the first animal in space, the unfortunate dog named Laika in 1957. At the time Soviet officials had said she died painlessly in orbit about a week after launch [18]. In October 2002 Dimitri Malashenkov, one of the Soviet scientists involved with the Sputnik 2 mission admitted that she died from overheating and panic just hours after the mission started [19]. If it took 45 years to come clean with the truth about the death of a dog, how many skeletons does the Soviet Space programme still have and rather more importantly how many of them are known to NASA? For me, it is only my faith in human nature that accepts that NASA did land man on the moon, the alternative is that pinnacle of humanity’s achievement is no more than a Government’s ability to manipulate the beliefs of all of us citizens of the world. Taking as scientific an approach as possible (at least an epistemological approach) seems to lead me to a very different conclusion, despite my deliberately avoiding using references originating from the conspiracy theorists (barring the film What Happened on the Moon). Finally I am still wondering why James Webb chief administrator of NASA and architect of the Apollo programme resigned early from NASA in October 1968 [20], just as the Apollo programme was nearing such a momentous occasion for all humankind?


    Faghrie Mitchell provided much discussion as well as some notes on how we could examine this topic as scientifically as possible as well as the Sherlock Holmes analogy. I am indepted to his useful insight, although our conclusions are not necessarily the same. Indeed, I surprised myself that so much of the conspiracy theorist’s information turned out to be supported using, where ever possible, independent sources, and that my scientific and faith beliefs appear to oppose each other leading to inevitable lack of a definitive conclusion.


    [1] David, L. End of Conspiracy Theories? Spacecraft Snoops Apollo Moon Sites [Internet]. Moon Hoax Related News; 2005 March 04, 12:26 pm ET [cited 2006 Apr 30]. Available from:

    [2]Wikipedia contributors. Epistemology [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2006 Apr 29, 04:56 UTC [cited 2006 Apr 30]. Available from:

    [3]Wikipedia contributors. Occam's razor [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2006 Apr 30, 16:17 UTC [cited 2006 Apr 30]. Available from:

    [4] Wikipedia contributors. Soviet space program [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2006 Apr 30, 12:05 UTC [cited 2006 Apr 30]. Available from:

    [5] Wikipedia contributors. Space disaster [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2006 Apr 29, 22:36 UTC [cited 2006 Apr 30]. Available from:

    [6] Wikipedia contributors. Freedom 7 [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2006 Apr 27, 18:03 UTC [cited 2006 Apr 30]. Available from:

    [7] Wikipedia contributors. Apollo 8 [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2006 Apr 28, 15:52 UTC [cited 2006 Apr 30]. Available from:
    [8] Wikipedia contributors. 2001: A Space Odyssey (film) [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2006 May 1, 01:55 UTC [cited 2006 May 1]. Available from:
    [9] Wikipedia contributors. Van Allen radiation belt [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2006 Apr 29, 22:46 UTC [cited 2006 Apr 30]. Available from:

    [10] Wikipedia contributors. Apollo moon landing hoax accusations [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2006 Apr 30, 20:19 UTC [cited 2006 Apr 30]. Available from:

    [11] D'Aleo J.S., How Weather Affects the Sky [Internet]. Earth and Sky Radio Series; undated, [cited 2006 Apr 30]. Available from:

    [12] Baker, D. N.; Allen, J. H., Kanekal, S. G. and Reeves G. D. Pager Satellite Failure May Have Been Related to Disturbed Space Environment [Internet]. SPACE PHYSICS; undated, [cited 2006 Apr 30]. Available from:

    [13] Goddard, I.W. Are Apollo Moon Photos Fake? [Internet] Goddard’s Journal, 2001 February 26, [cited 2006 Apr 30]. Available from:

    [14] Anon, The camera never lies! [Internet]. The truth is out there!; undated [cited 2006 Apr 30]. Available from:

    [15]. Kitmacher, G.H. Astronaut Still Photography During Apollo [Internet] NASA History Division; 2004, August 3 [cited 2006 Apr 30]. Available from:

    [16] Eastman Kodak Company [Internet]. History of Kodak 1960-1979. Undated, [cited 2006 April 30]. Available from:

    [17] Anon. Some Answers – Page 1 [Internet]. Moon Hoax Debate; 2005 August 3 [cited 2006 Apr 30]. Available from:

    [18] Whitehouse, D. First dog in space died within hours. [Internet] BBC News World Edition, 2002 Monday, 28 October, 10:34 GMT [cited 2006 Apr 30]. Available from:

    [19] Wikipedia contributors. Dimitri Malashenkov [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2005 Apr 29, 19:41 UTC [cited 2006 May 1]. Available from:

    [20] Wikipedia contributors. James E. Webb [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2006 Apr 12, 17:33 UTC [cited 2006 May 1]. Available from:

Dr Richard Knight
Co-ordinator: National Information Society Learnerships - Ecological Informatics
Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology
University of the Western Cape
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