Going Beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO)

As of 2021, the Apollo missions are the only time humans travel farther than Low Earth Orbit (LEO). After the equipment used by the Apollo missions was decommissioned, no humans had the capability to go beyond LEO, and it remains the case in 2021.

Space agencies said we cannot go beyond LEO and are currently developing the capability. Flat-Earthers interpret it as “proof” we never went to the Moon. In reality, these space agencies were describing the present situation; it does not mean we never previously achieved beyond-LEO human spaceflight. As of 2021, we have the means to deliver beyond LEO, but not humans yet again.

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First Image of Earth From Space Taken By a V-2 Rocket

The first image of Earth from space was taken by the V-2 No. 13 rocket in 1946 using the DeFry 35mm movie film camera and a 50mm lens attached to the rocket. The camera had a relatively narrow field of view. As a result, Earth’s curvature is only very slightly visible.

Flat-Earthers claim the flat appearance in the photo “proves” a flat Earth. In reality, 1. by careful examination, we can see the curve, 2. the camera has a narrow field of view, reducing the visible curvature, 3. the photo shown by flat-Earthers is usually a cropped version, further reducing the visible curve, and 4. the photo matches the expected curvature according to simulation.

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Cost of the Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV)

The Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) cost $38 million, equivalent to $260 million in 2021. Flat-Earthers claim the cost was too much for such a “dune buggy” & use it to discredit the Apollo mission. In reality, the cost was reasonable for such a project.

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Operation Avalanche

Operation Avalanche is a conspiracy thriller film released in 2016. It is of a deconstructive parody genre that assumes as if the Apollo moon landings did not occur and gives a fictional backstory on how secret agents managed to “fake” the moon landings.

Flat-Earthers took footage from the movie, then modified them to make them more convincing, and presented the result as if it is a recently discovered video on how the moon landings were “faked.” The video then spread in flat-Earth communities as a hoax.

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Satellite Watching

We can observe satellites with the naked eye, and they will appear like fast-moving stars across the sky. The required conditions: the satellite is large enough and/or close enough, the sky is dark enough, and the satellite is lit by the sun. As a result, the best time to observe satellites is a few hours before sunrise and a few hours after sunset.

Flat-Earthers claim it is impossible to see satellites and use the fact as “proof” the satellites do not exist. In reality, we can observe the satellites even with the naked eye. Apps and websites like heavens-above.com provide us with information on satellite watching opportunities.

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Transporting the Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle

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The Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) is a battery-powered rover used on the Moon in the last three Apollo missions. Each LRV was carried to the moon folded up in the Lunar Module’s quadrant 1 bay, which was kept open to space.

Flat-Earthers claim the LRV is too large to fit inside the Lunar Module and they use it to dismiss the mission as fake. In reality, the LRV was carried folded up in open cargo space, similar to transporting a bicycle using a bike carrier attached to a car.

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Camera Exposure Settings in the Apollo Missions

Cameras used by Apollo astronauts were equipped with ASA 160 film (equivalent ISO 160 in digital cameras). And they were instructed to use the following camera exposure values: shutter speed 1/250s, aperture f/5.6 (in shadow), and f/11 (sunlit). We can try the same values to everyday scenes and see how they end up in the results.

Stars are not visible in the photos from the Apollo missions, and flat-Earthers use the fact to dismiss them as fake. In reality, by using the same exposure settings as the astronauts used, we cannot get the stars to appear either. Therefore, there is no reason to expect stars to appear in photographs taken by Apollo astronauts.

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Shadows in Photographs Taken on the Moon

Flat-Earthers and other conspiracy theorists incorrectly claim that the shadows in photos taken on the Moon in the Apollo missions are inconsistent. In reality, it is just due to their confirmation biases, and we can easily explain how the shadows were formed.

The perspective effect can cause parallel shadows to appear angled to each other and converge to a distant point. Conspiracy theorists incorrectly claim that non-parallel shadows can only be caused by a nearby light source.

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Neutral Buoyancy Pool for Astronaut Training

A neutral buoyancy pool is a pool of water in which neutral buoyancy is used to train astronauts for the difficult task of working outside a spacecraft in a weightless environment. Some of these pools contain full-scale mock-ups of ISS modules and other spacecraft.

Flat-Earthers discovered videos of astronauts in a pool of water, and they jumped to the conclusion that it is how they faked videos of astronauts in space. In reality, these are videos of astronauts in a neutral buoyancy pool, in training for their upcoming mission to space.

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Orbit of DSCOVR Satellite

The DSCOVR satellite orbits around the Lagrangian point L1 between the Sun and Earth. We can say the DSCOVR satellite lies between the Sun and Earth, but it is not exactly between them.

Flat-Earthers discovered images taken by the DSCOVR satellite showing the Moon in front of Earth and a solar eclipse shadow on Earth’s surface. Then they concluded it should be impossible if DSCOVR is really between the Sun and Earth. In reality, the DSCOVR satellite is not exactly between the Sun and Earth. It orbits a point between the Sun and Earth.

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Earthrise

Earthrise is a photograph of Earth that was taken from lunar orbit by William Anders during the Apollo 8 mission. It was taken just after Earth rises from behind the Moon.

From Earth, the Moon always shows the same face, and from a location on the Moon facing Earth, it is impossible to see Earth rising. Flat-Earthers use it to reject the Earthrise as fake. In reality, the photo was not taken from the lunar surface, but from the lunar orbit. Apollo 8 did not even land on the Moon.

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“Moontruth” Prank Video

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In 2002, the advertising company Viral Factory filmed the “moontruth” video, which is a prank showing an “outtake” from the supposed faking of the “one small step” scene. The video shows “Neil Armstrong” (played by an actor) being interrupted by a falling studio light.

Flat-Earthers and other conspiracy theorists failed to realize that the video was just a viral prank video. It spreads in conspiracy theory circles as if it “proves” that the Apollo moon landing was faked.

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Communication Delays in Apollo Mission & The Direction of Conversation

Radio waves travel at the speed of light. In Apollo missions, after Houston said something, the response from the Moon arrived after 2½ seconds. But no delay occurred when Houston replied to the astronauts because the conversation was recorded on Earth.

Flat-Earthers use the lack of delay when Houston (and President Nixon) replied to the astronauts to discredit the Apollo missions. In reality, they cannot understand how the recording’s location and the direction of the conversation affected the delay in the recording.

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Making-of or Behind-the-Scenes

In cinema, a making-of or behind-the-scenes is a documentary featuring the production of a film. It describes how the scenes in a movie were created. Some trolls took footage from the behind-the-scenes of various space movies and present them to flat-Earthers as though it is how space agencies “faked” their videos.

Flat-Earthers fail to realize that these footage were just behind-the-scenes of space movies and unrelated to the actual space footage from space agencies. These spread as hoaxes in flat-Earth circles.

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Fake Moon Rock That Turns Out to Be a Petrified Wood

The Apollo missions brought back moon rocks to Earth. Some of the moon rocks Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 brought back were gifted twice by President Nixon to 135 countries. In the Netherlands, both of these gifts are intact and preserved in a museum. However, there is another unrelated gift, in the form of petrified wood that was mistaken to be a moon rock for several years.

Flat-Earthers use the petrified wood incident to discredit the Apollo missions. In reality, the incident is not related to the two moon rocks that the United States officially gifted to the Netherlands, which are still displayed in Museum Boerhaave, Leiden.

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Lunar Transit Images from DSCOVR-EPIC

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DSCOVR is a spacecraft positioned in the Lagrangian point L1 between the Sun and Earth. It carries the EPIC camera that continuously takes images of Earth in 10 wavelengths from 317nm to 780 nm in rotation.

The Moon can appear in EPIC images, and flat-Earthers incorrectly use the color fringing around the Moon to dismiss the images as fake. In reality, the full-color images are composite of three single-color images taken in consecutive exposures in a one-minute span. As a result, the Moon had shifted in the time span and not perfectly aligned in the different exposures, causing the color-fringing after the images are composited together.

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Perspective of Earth Due to Different Observer Distance

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Because of a perspective effect, an observer in space can see more of Earth’s surface if they are farther from Earth.

Flat-Earthers noticed the different visible Earth’s surface in different Earth images and used it to “prove” they are fake. In reality, it is just a perspective effect caused by the fact that the Earth was seen from a different observer distance.

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The Saros Cycle and Saros Series

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The Saros is a period of 18 years, 11 days, and 8 hours between related eclipses. The eclipses with the same Saros cycle are classified into a Saros series which is numbered for identification.

Flat-Earthers claim the usage of the Babylonian term Saros “proves” that eclipses are predicted using ancient Babylonian technology. In reality, the Saros is now used to classify related eclipses. For example, the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 is the 22nd member out of 77 in the Solar Saros 145.

The term Saros was first used in association with eclipse by Edmond Halley in 1691. The Babylonians never used the term Saros to describe eclipses. And the numbering system of the Saros series was created by G. van den Bergh in 1955.

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Saros Cycle and Prediction of Eclipses

Saros is a period of 6585⅓ days separating the occurrence of two eclipses. One Saros after an eclipse, a similar eclipse will occur. The eclipses that belong to the same cycle are grouped in a Saros Series.

Flat-Earthers claim that we can only predict eclipses using the Saros Cycle. In reality, it is impossible to determine many characteristics of an eclipse from its Saros Cycle alone.

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Predicting Eclipses Does Not Require the Saros Cycle or NASA’s Involvement

Using the current computing power, predicting eclipses is usually done iteratively. We determine the position of the Sun and the Moon at a time and calculate their elongation to determine if an eclipse happens. This same procedure is then repeated many times, each for a different time.

Flat-Earthers insist that nobody can predict eclipses from the position of the Sun and the Moon. They incorrectly believe NASA used the ancient Saros cycle to predict eclipses by calculating the interval between eclipses. A tiny Python script can easily debunk it.

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