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Name: Joel R.
Status: educator
Age: 40s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Saturday, October 12, 2002


Question:
How can I prove to my student that the moon landings were not faked by the U.S. government?


Replies:
Joel,

You cannot. There are only three ways to "know" something. To witness it with one's own senses, to accept the account of a trusted observer or reference source, or to acquire the information by divine revelation. Of these three, which do you think will be acceptable to your student? There is nothing so tight as a closed mind. I wish you luck.

Regards,
ProfHoff 503


Like flying saucers, aliens from outer space, and other "hoaxes", the moon landing "hoax" charge was only a matter of time. There is a wealth of information debunking the allegation that the lunar landings were a hoax. A vast hoax indeed it must of been considering the thousands of people who must have participated in the "big lie". If you search www.google.com for the term: "lunar landing hoax debunked" you will find many links to sites that present various rebuttals. Some even start with the proposed allegations and proceed to pull them apart, while others present arguments start from a perspective of a rejection of the hoax claim. Also check out Skeptic Magazine published by Michael Shirmer (who also has a column in Scientific American) and you may find links on his web site.

Actually, discussion of the moon landing hoax offers you an opportunity to confront such wild claims in general. You could choose up sides, have each side present its case, and then have each respond to the counter-arguments of the other. This is not an empty exercise. Increasingly these days we are confronted with all sorts of pseudo-science, and false claims -- another example: The second law "proves" creationism and/or "intelligent design". The ten questions to confront hoax claims and other resources can give students a good opportunity to sharpen their critical skills.

Vince Calder


I suppose if one believes strongly enough in conspiracies, then it's impossible to truly "prove" the existence of any event not personally witnessed. And even then, one could believe that what was witnessed was some sort of fraud or trickery. Consequently, one must, at some point, be willing to accept the preponderance of evidence that something did or did not occur or refuse to believe anything regardless of logic. Short of going to the moon and looking at the debris from the landings, they will have to take the word of someone about it.

Perhaps you could find someone who had firsthand experience with the space program in the 1960's. This person could come to your classroom and discuss their work with the students. Hundreds of thousands of people, including tens of thousands of scientists and engineers, worked on the space program during that period and many of them are still around. Anyone who could reason his or her way out of a paper bag ought to be able to see that faking the moon landings would require acquiescence and total silence from many thousands of people, which is theoretically possible but highly unlikely. It should not be too hard to track down someone in your area with NASA experience. I would suggest checking with nearby colleges of physics and engineering to see if they know of anyone local.

For instance, in my own family, my 81-year old uncle was an electrical engineer, first in the Air Force then for the Bendix Corporation during the 1950's and 60's. He initially worked on both the Whirlwind and SAGE projects, which were early computerized air-defense radar systems that formed the basis for air-traffic control systems still in use today. Next, he worked on installing surface-to-air missile defense systems around New York City. These were designed to provide a last line of defense for intercepting Soviet bombers carrying nuclear weapons (and were shortly rendered obsolete by the development of ICBM's).

Finally, working for Bendix under contract to NASA, he worked to develop and install communications and tracking stations for space flights. As part of his work, he interacted with the Mercury and Gemini astronauts. He personally witnessed communication with and tracking of space flights and has, I think, well-justified pride in the work he did in those years.

So, if the space program was faked, this would mean that a) my uncle has been consistently lying about his work for nearly 40 years, b) he went around pretending to install ground tracking stations for years on end, c) another group of engineers worked in secret to cause radar, telescope, and communication stations all around the world to display false data without any of the other engineers or operators realizing it or d) I am a government agent who has pretended to be a civil engineer on this BBS while biding my time waiting for just the right moment to spread disinformation. While these scenarios are theoretically possible, they are so preposterous that anyone with any sense ought to be able to dismiss them outright.

My uncle's experience is only one of many thousands. (I will spare you the story of my professor and doctoral adviser who, as a grad student, helped make concrete out of moon rocks as part of research done at Penn State in the 1970's.) It is just not practical that all these people are either liars, stooges, or dupes. But, if your students prefer absurd paranoid fantasies, then probably none of this will sway them.

Dr. Andrew Johnson, P.E.



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