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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 19:16 GMT
Nasa challenges Moon hoax claims
Training for the Moonlandings, Nasa
Lights, camera, action: Training for the Moon landings

For years there have been rumours that the Apollo lunar landings were faked, staged on a movie set to convince the world that the US had beaten the Soviets to the Moon.

And, despite evidence to the contrary, the belief that the "one small step for man" was a sham continues to spread.

Now, having tried to stay above all the talk, the US space agency (Nasa) has finally got fed up with the conspiracy theorists and asked James Oberg, a leading aerospace writer, to produce a book that it hopes will settle the issue.

Buzz Aldrin - former US astronaut and second man on Moon
Buzz Aldrin: Angry at claims that landing was faked
But will it work, or will it just add a certain credibility to the hoax theory?

Flags that ripple on the airless Moon, discrepancies in the part numbers of lunar lander components, shadows that point in the wrong direction, the lack of stars seen in the sky - these are all "facts" that have fuelled the conspiracy theory.

It is claimed that the six Apollo landings took place in a hangar on a secret military base.

Over the years, every one of the lines of evidence has been discredited but the rumours refuse to go away.

In September, Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, punched a man in the face after he had confronted the former astronaut at a Beverly Hills hotel.

Bart Sibrel - who has made a film questioning the Apollo Moon missions - had demanded that Mr Aldrin, 72, swear on the Bible that he had in fact walked on the Moon.

Prosecutors declined to file assault charges against Mr Aldrin.

Truth out there

Tackling the conspiracy theory head-on in an official book was the idea of Nasa's former chief historian Roger Launius.

Flag, Nasa
Lunar flag: Not fluttering
He says that hardcore conspiracy theorists are not the book's main audience, as they will never be convinced of the truth.

Instead, the book will be aimed at the general public and especially teachers, giving them the science to answer questions in class.

Doubters will no doubt dismiss the new book as just another attempt by the establishment to cover up the truth.

Nasa says the rippling flag is easily explained by the fact that the astronauts twisted it as they planted it in the soil.

The stars are not visible in the lunar sky because of the bright landscape and the light from the Earth drowning them out.

In a few years a definite answer could be possible.

A private company, Transorbital, will place a private high-resolution satellite into orbit around the Moon. It should have the power to see the Apollo hardware left on the surface.

See also:

21 Jun 01 | Media reports
23 Jul 99 | The moon landing
20 Jul 99 | Science/Nature
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