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Did Man Really Land on Moon? The Dilemma of Apollo 11’s Missing Tapes

BY Bir Singh October 21, 2018
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Apollo 11’s Missing Tapes

Apollo 11 slow scan television photo. (NASA)

When the first human, Neil Armstrong, walked on the moon on 21st July 1969, America as a nation was facing multiple challenges on several fronts. With more than 15 thousand soldiers killed, over a lakh wounded, and 5 lakh soldiers deserting US army till 1973, anti-Vietnam-war sentiments were at a peak. Credibility, as well as the Economy of American state, was in bad shape.

A domino effect, NASA began to dismantle ALSEP’s (Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package) network of Scientists and Engineers in 1974. By 1977 there was a total shutdown of stations receiving radio data from lunar instruments put on the moon by Apollo missions. But an exploration of the moon was too significant to be stalled abruptly. The body of knowledge it created required refining and updating for space research.

Apollo 11’s missing tapes

Dr. Marcus. G. Langseth, Scientist at Columbia University had studied the flow of heat through Earth’s upper layer between 1966 and 1975. Seiichi Nagihara, a geophysicist at Texas Tech University wanted to analyse Langseth’s data with upscale analytical techniques which were not available in Langseth’s time. But he was shocked to find that half of the ALSEP data was lost following project shut down. Search for the missing files being a top priority; two dozen scientists joined him and formed ‘ALSEP Data Recovery Focus Group’ in 2010. The Group, funded and supported by NASA, recovered 450 tapes at National Records Centre in Maryland. But 4550 archival tapes, which would go bad in a decade’s time, remained untraced giving agonists fodder for calling the moon missions a hoax.

Impact of the missing tapes

Rumour Mills worked overtime, right since the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, to say that no man ever landed on the moon. What was flashed on television worldwide, they said, was a film made in a studio. Those who couldn’t send even a chimp into space in 1961, argued wags, now claim 2 men have landed on the moon; how come? Where has the huge $25 billion Apollo budget gone? Bickering found a base in a book “We never went to the moon: America’s $30 billion swindles” self-published in 1974.

Author, Bill Kaysing said Apollo program was a subterfuge for the secret militarization of space by America and that moonwalk was stage show passed as space odyssey. Author’s association with Atlas V (a rocket used for interplanetary missions and military payloads to International Space Station) gave him some credibility but the book had little in the name of scientific approach and investigative journalism.

Another sceptic, Bart Winfield Sibrel asked Buzz Aldrin, the Astronaut on Apollo 11, to swear on Bible that he walked on the moon. Enraged Aldrin hit him on the face. Time and tide being against the American government, naysayers had a field day and remained in news. Vietnam War and Watergate scandal had seriously eroded people’s faith in State Administration which appeared on the back foot in defending the veracity of Apollo expeditions.

Apollo 11, as a matter of fact, is easy to understand. Let’s begin with the missing tapes. Though only 450 tapes could be found and 4550 remained untraced, bona fides of NASA and the American government can’t be doubted. For, if there were a mala fide attempt at destroying them, even 450 wouldn’t have been found, and the state wouldn’t have supported team searching for the missing tapes.

Is moon landing just a hoax?

Why no stars were visible in lunar photos? Well, just as they are not visible on earth in daytime. How did Astronauts survive radiations of Van Allen Belts? Simple, they took care to avoid hotspots of this belt and navigated through a safe zone. That apart, Apollo 11 was fairly insulated against radiations.

Videotapes of men walking on the moon are fuzzy and indistinct; why? The answer is the underdeveloped technology of that time. Cameras captured images on a slow scan format so that space on Broadcast Spectrum could be saved for important communications. Sceptics laughed saying shadows in photographs were bizarre. That, they said, indicated shifting of arc lights for on-stage photo-shoot. Scientists explained that objects photographed on snow-covered hills, rough and uneven surfaces are bound to have shadows of varying dimensions.

How did flag flutter when no wind blew on moon surface? Well, flag fabric was supported with metallic wire to keep it spread, in flying shape. Astronauts jumped in the air supported by thin wires, said, sceptics. The scientists argued that this was impossible calling attention to dust that rose with movement. Were it earth, rising dust would mingle in atmospheric air, creating a dusty cloud. But that being moon, the dust didn’t rise, but fell back on the moon surface.

The cameraman was nowhere seen in footages, how was the videography done then? Actually, the Astronauts had cameras tucked in their suite. The moon lander vehicle too was equipped with the camera. With the passage of time, problems faced by America were sorted out, the credibility of state restored and Apollo rumours petered out in face of consistent and logical rebuttal from state agencies.

Presently Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is circling around the moon, collecting images and scientific data, and collating it with findings of Apollo Mission. This project of NASA has put to rest many misgivings about man’s landing on the moon. Though doubts are still raised off and on, general opinion favours the stand of the scientific community. Man, doubtless, landed on the moon, claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

Enjoyed this article? Also, check out “Lost Cosmonauts of USSR: Did the Soviet Union Cover up its Secret Cosmonaut Casualties?“.


Fact Analysis:
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