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Saturday, 21 September, 2002, 07:01 GMT 08:01 UK
Ex-astronaut escapes assault charge
Astronaut walks on moon by planted US flag
Aldrin was the second man in history to walk on the moon
Californian authorities have decided against prosecuting former astronaut Buzz Aldrin after he punched a documentary maker who claimed his moon missions were faked.

Buzz Aldrin
Astronaut was called "a liar and a coward"
Mr Aldrin, famous for his participation in the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969, hit Bart Sibrel after he approached the former astronaut outside a hotel in Beverley Hills, Los Angeles and demanded he swear on a Bible that the landing was not staged.

Mr Aldrin responded by punching Mr Sibrel, but said he merely struck out to defend himself and his stepdaughter, who was with him at the time.

Beverly Hills police investigated the incident, which occurred 9 September, but said that the charges were dropped after witnesses came forward to say that Mr Sibrel had aggressively poked Mr Aldrin with the Bible before he was punched.

'False pretences'

Witnesses also told police that Mr Sibrel had lured Mr Aldrin to the hotel under false pretences in order to interview him.

Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth Ratinoff told Reuters news agency that a videotape shot by a cameraman hired by Mr Sibrel had shown the film-maker follow Mr Aldrin, calling him a "thief, liar and coward".

Mr Sibrel handed over the tape to police investigators, but as Mr Sibrel sustained no visible injury and did not seek medical attention, and Mr Aldrin had no previous criminal record, no charges were filed.

Mr Sibrel says his new documentary proves the Apollo 11 landings were faked by the Nasa space agency in order to fool the then-Soviet Union into thinking the US had beaten them in the space race.

The two countries had been embroiled in a desperate race to reach the moon, with the US initially trailing after the Soviets became the first to send a man into space and orbit the earth.

Moon walk

Mr Aldrin, the second man after Neil Armstrong to set foot on the moon in the Apollo 11 mission, is one of America's most famous space pioneers.

A former US Air Force pilot who flew in the Korean war, Mr Aldrin joined Nasa space agency in 1963.

Since his retirement from Nasa, Mr Aldrin has dedicated much of his time to publicising space travel for civilians.

See also:

26 Sep 99 | Science/Nature
16 Jul 99 | The moon landing
23 Jul 99 | The moon landing
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