Humans knew Earth is a sphere since at least the 3rd century B.C., far before the first spaceflight and before NASA was founded. Flat Earthers have no choice but to slander NASA to defend the flat-Earth belief, but there is no need to rely on NASA to know that Earth is a sphere.
In 2006, astronaut Tim Peake from the UK was tasked to perform some physics demonstration on the ISS for the National Space Academy. Tim performed the demonstrations in front of a gridded background specifically made for the purpose.
One of Tim’s video appeared during the former US president George H.W. Bush’s visit to NASA’s Mission Control Center. Flat-Earthers discovered the footage and quickly claim that it used a green screen background for CGI purposes. Such allegation was only from their ignorance and the eagerness to accuse others of lying. Tim’s videos are published in the National Science Academy’s web site as is, proving the background in the videos was merely an ordinary background, not a green screen for CGI.
A page on NASA’s website is at the center of the attention of flat-Earth followers. It is a page created by Fred ‘Mr. Eclipse’ Espenak, explaining the Saros cycle. The first paragraph from the page:
The periodicity and recurrence of eclipses is governed by the Saros cycle, a period of approximately 6,585.3 days (18 years 11 days 8 hours). It was known to the Chaldeans as a period when lunar eclipses seem to repeat themselves, but the cycle is applicable to solar eclipses as well.
After they discovered that the said ‘Chaldeans’ was a civilization from 25 centuries ago, they got excited and jumped to the conclusion that NASA used ancient technology to predict eclipses. But, like other similar cases, this tells us more about the flat-Earthers themselves than about NASA.
Showing a photo or video from the Apollo Moon landings, then rhetorically asking “Who took or recorded this image?” is a common behavior exhibited by many flat-Earthers, as if there is no plausible answer, and only a conspiracy theory can possibly answer it.
In reality, there are simple answers to those questions. And it is very easy for anyone to find the answers.
The quality of a photograph depends on the quality of the equipment. Higher quality equipment tends to give us better results than lower quality ones.
Flat Earthers like to use their Nikon P900/P1000 to take a picture of planets. When they discover their results have far worse quality than the images from NASA, they would conclude NASA must have faked them. In reality, it was due to their equipment are not in the same league as NASA’s, not to mention the skills to operate the equipment.
In making mathematical models, physicists often remove real-world details that have little influence over the final results for simplifications. In flight-dynamics, it is often perfectly adequate to assume Earth is flat & non-rotating, even if the aircraft is flying over spherical & rotating Earth.
Some flat-Earthers claimed to have exposed ‘a secret document’ from NASA saying that Earth is flat & non-rotating. They are wrong. The document is simply a derivation of a flight dynamics problem, assuming flat and non-rotating Earth, which is a common assumption made to simplify flight models. It does not imply the Earth is flat and non-rotating.
In September 2015, Buzz Aldrin gave an interview at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. Flat-Earthers misrepresented and quoted it out of context as if Buzz was admitting that the Apollo Moon landings never happened.
The original interview was 17 minutes long, and there were other occasions Buzz clearly said the Moon landings happened, without any possibility of misinterpretation.
Richard Garriott is a video-game developer and entrepreneur who is also an avid magician. On October 2008, he flew to the ISS on board of a Soyuz rocket as a private astronaut. During his time on the ISS, he performed several magic tricks.
One of his magic tricks involves a hammer that floats and a card that seem to fall down as if it is pulled down by gravity. Flat-Earthers were unaware it was a mere magic trick and wrongly assume it demonstrates things are falling down in the ISS, despite other objects in the scene that float.
In 1958, James Van Allen discovered the existence of the Van Allen radiation belts. Conspiracy theorists, including flat-Earthers, use it to “prove” the Apollo Moon landings were faked and never happened. To dispel the hoax, James Van Allen himself wrote letters clarifying the false allegation.
“The recent Fox TV show, which I saw, is an ingenious & entertaining assemblage of nonsense. The claim that radiation exposure during the Apollo missions would have been fatal to the astronauts is only one example of such nonsense.”
Both the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts and the statement that the radiation belts do not prevent space travel came from James Van Allen. Conspiracy theorists cannot merely quote one when it appears to support their belief and conveniently reject the other if it is against them. Continue reading “James Van Allen and the Van Allen Radiation Belts”
In 2014, scientists discovered an impenetrable barrier in the Van Allen radiation belts. It prevents dangerous ultrarelativistic electrons from getting too close to the Earth.
Some news outlets dubbed it “Star Trek style invisible shield.” Flat-Earthers were too excited reading the headlines and unable to understand the rest of the news. They used it to “prove” the mythical dome above Earth and that spaceflight is impossible. They are wrong. The barrier prevents dangerous ultrarelativistic electrons from reaching Earth. It does not stop us from going to space.
In 2014, the Christian rock band Remedy Drive released the album “Commodity”. Its cover image is a small hole from NASA’s Solar Max Satellite that was caused by space debris. NASA first published the original photos in 2006.
In 2018, astronaut Chris Hadfield showed the picture to illustrate how space debris can do to a spacecraft. Flat-Earthers were happy to accuse Hadfield of stealing the cover image from the “Commodity” album. They were simply looking for any reason do discredit space flight and did not realize NASA published the image first before anyone else, including Remedy Drive.
In an interview, Donald Pettit —a NASA astronaut— mentioned that he’d go the moon, but they no longer have the technology to do that. All the technology from the Apollo mission has been destroyed, and it is a painful process to build it back again.
Flat-Earthers interpreted the statement rather too freely and took that as “proof” we never had the technology in the first place. In reality, the word “technology” is polyseme. It has two different related meanings. Flat-Earthers misinterpreted Don’s statement as one meaning, while Don’s intention was another.
There are many space agencies from multiple countries. Some are from countries that are rivals or even enemies at some point in history. Even so, practically all their findings corroborate each other. Any made up claims or fabrications would have been noticeable and found very quickly.
Flat-Earthers accuse NASA of being part of the so-called globe Earth conspiracy, with the purpose of spreading “globe Earth propaganda” to the world population. However, there other space agencies, which are independent and employ thousands of staffs. And every one of them practically confirms NASA’s findings.
In 2017, the group who name themselves ‘ASAN’ staged a protest to Donald Trump by sending a high-altitude balloon carrying a camera and a crude message, which was quoted from a statement by Edgar Mitchell, an astronaut from the Apollo 14 mission.
Some unscrupulous flat-Earthers hijacked the protest and turned it as if ASAN did it to prove Earth’s curvature and to insult them. These flat-Earthers pointed out that ASAN somehow “forgot” to conceal the fact that a fisheye lens was used. In reality, it is never the intention of ASAN to prove Earth’s curvature, nor to throw insults to flat-Earthers.
NASA has published several pictures of the Earth that are composites. It means the pictures were the result of combining many images into a single picture. In most cases, the source pictures were taken from low-orbiting satellites to obtain higher resolution pictures of the Earth.
Flat-Earthers discovered the photos are composites and claimed to have exposed “yet another evidence” of wrongdoing. They would publish this “findings” everywhere to turn us emotional. They are wrong. Nobody is covering the fact the pictures are composites, and there is no intention to deceive. Information that the photos are composites can be readily found in NASA’s website, far before the claimed “discovery” by flat-Earthers.
Generally, sunlit objects are far brighter than any stars. It is the reason stars are not visible in a lot of photographs showing sunlit objects unless the objects are overexposed and made much brighter than the correct exposure.
Flat-Earthers take the lack of stars in photographs as evidence of misconduct. They are wrong. If the primary object in the picture is sunlit, then in most cases, stars will not be visible.
The amount of Earth’s surface we can see at once from a location in space depends on our distance to the Earth. The closer the observer, the smaller the amount of visible Earth’s surface. Conversely, the farther the observer, the larger the amount of Earth’s surface visible to them. But no matter how far the observer, they would not be able to see the entire hemisphere.
Flat-Earthers discovered that there are the differences in the sizes of continents in the different images of the Earth, and used the fact as ‘evidence’ of misconduct. They are wrong. Such differences in continent sizes are present because the images show the Earth from different distances and different field of view.
The surface of the Earth close to the equator is moving at the speed of about 1670 km/h due to Earth’s rotation. To take a sharp picture of the Earth with the resolution of 10000×10000 from a stationary position in space, it would require the shutter speed faster than 2.7 seconds. It is not difficult at all to take a sharp picture of the entire Earth without perceivable motion blur.
Flat-Earthers claim that it should be impossible to take a sharp picture of the Earth from space due to the speed of Earth’s rotation. To them, the fact that a photographer cannot take a sharp photo of a speeding race car from the sidelines (they actually can) tells us it should be impossible to take a sharp picture of the Earth moving at 10× the speed.
They are wrong. Motion blur is caused by the angular speed of the object relative to the camera, not from its absolute speed. The vast distance required to take a photo of the Earth results in a very low angular speed, making it not difficult at all to take sharp images of the Earth.
The first photo showing the entire Earth was taken in 1966 from the spacecraft Lunar Orbiter 1. Since then, there are too many photos showing the whole earth taken from various missions to space.
The advent of computers in the 80s introduced a new technique of generating such pictures. A satellite can be used to take many photos of the Earth from a low orbit, and computers can be used to assemble those pictures into a single photo of the Earth.
Flat-Earthers ‘discovered’ such technique, then they concluded that all pictures of the Earth taken from space are all composites, the results of manipulation or assembled by computers. They are wrong. Just because there were pictures created using such technique, it doesn’t mean there is no genuine picture showing the entire Earth, not composites, not stitched, and were taken from a single shot.
Flat-Earthers reject the existence of satellites. They are wrong. To prove the existence satellites, we can attempt to take pictures of the ISS when an ISS transit happens, or the ISS passes in front of the Sun or the Moon.