The ‘Destroyed Technology’ to go to the Moon

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.

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NASA and Other Space Agencies

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.

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Frame of Reference

A frame of reference consists of an abstract coordinate system and the set of physical reference points that uniquely fix the coordinate system and standardize measurements. Speed or velocity is relative to a frame of reference. It is possible that two speeds/velocities are measured relative to a different frame of reference and thus cannot be directly compared.

Flat-Earthers would often compare two different speed measurements like an airplane moving at 900 km/h (560 mph) and Earth’s surface near the equator at 1674 km/h (1040 mph). They would conclude the airplane should not be able to catch up with Earth’s surface and would not be able to land if the Earth is rotating. They are wrong. The speeds are measured relative to the different frame of reference, and therefore, cannot be compared directly.

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Composite Photos of the Earth

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.

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Real Photos 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.

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Orbital Station-Keeping

A satellite in a high enough orbit can remain operational for a very long time because in space there is practically no air resistance. This is a situation that never occurs in our everyday life. A car requires a constant consumption of fuel to keep running, but a satellite can remain in motion without consuming any fuel because there’s practically no force stopping it.

Flat-Earthers claim that satellites cannot stay up there for such a very long time because ‘we never refuel any satellites.’ They are wrong. In space, there is practically no drag, and satellites only need to consume fuel to adjust their speed periodically.

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Rockets and the Lack of Oxygen in Space

Most combustion engines work with oxygen from Earth’s atmosphere as its oxidizing agent in the combustion process. But in the case of rockets, there’s no oxygen in space. It would have to bring the oxidizer in addition to its fuel or use monopropellant which doesn’t require an oxidizer.

Flat-Earthers claim rockets should not be able to work in space because there’s no oxygen in space. They are wrong. The lack of oxygen in space is merely an engineering problem which is not impossible to solve. Rockets are engineered to carry its oxidizer or utilize monopropellant which does not require an oxidizer.

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Drag

Drag is a force acting opposite to the relative motion of an object moving with respect to a surrounding fluid. The higher the density of the fluid, the higher the magnitude of the drag.

Flat-Earthers claim that it is impossible for satellites to have such high speed. Usually, they would compare the speed of satellites to something like the SR-71 Blackbird, which holds the record as the fastest aircraft. They are wrong. At the altitude where satellites reside, the air density is several magnitudes smaller compared to near the surface, and thus, the drag experienced by satellites is also several magnitude smaller.

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Apollo Mission Profile

The Apollo missions really happened and humans have actually visited the Moon. If someone fell victim to the flat-Earth conspiracy, then it would imply that they also fell victim to the Apollo moon landing conspiracy. But they are wrong. 

Someone usually fell for the moon landing conspiracy theory because of emotional appeals and confirmation bias, but also because of their ignorance of the Apollo mission profile itself.

The following is a very brief description of the Apollo mission profile, numbered according to the numbers in the illustration.

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Geostationary Satellites

If a satellite has the orbit of 35786 km above Earth’s surface, the satellite will be in motion at the same speed as the Earth’s rotational rate. As a result, the satellite will appear practically motionless when observed from the surface. Many communication satellites reside in this orbit, and a satellite dish receiving signals from the satellite does not have to track the satellite.

Flat-Earthers often take the fact that satellites are in motion and most satellite dishes have a fixed direction as ‘proof’ the dishes cannot be pointing to satellites. They are wrong.

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Orion EFT-1, Apollo and the Van Allen Radiation Belts

On December 3, 2014, NASA published a video describing the Orion EFT-1 mission, narrated by a NASA scientist, Kelly Smith. The mission was the first unmanned flight of the Orion spacecraft.

Some unscrupulous flat-Earthers decided to turn the video into ‘evidence’ that NASA never went to the moon. They cut down the video to the ‘important’ parts and added in prejudicial narration and subtitles. There are countless of such videos on YouTube, and at some point, it was nearly impossible to search for anything educational about the Van Allen radiation belts on YouTube.

They are wrong. There are, in fact, two Van Allen radiation belts. Apollo traversed the outer belt that has lower radiation level in a hurry, while Orion was deliberately sent into the far more dangerous inner belt. They are named ‘belts’ precisely because they are like the real belts. It is possible to bypass the most dangerous parts of the belt, just like Apollo did.

Orion EFT-1 is not ‘evidence’ that the Apollo mission didn’t happen.

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Velocity is Measured From Specific Frame of Reference

A widespread misunderstanding within the flat-Earth victims is related to velocity/speed. They seem to think velocity is absolute, while in reality it is measured from a specific frame of reference. Example:

“If the Earth is in motion around the Sun at 30 km/s, and Apollo traveled at only 11 km/s, then how could Apollo astronauts possibly make it back to the Earth?”

We used to measure velocity/speed relative to the surface of the Earth. But it is not always like that.

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Why Don’t We See Satellites in Photos Taken From The ISS?

“Why don’t we see satellites in photos taken from the ISS?” (or from space in general). That’s a recurring question within the flat-Earth community, usually asked without expecting an answer, assuming that an answer is impossible, and that it is a glaring oversight when the powers that be purposefully made the picture using CGI.

But no, the pictures are real. And satellites are not visible because they are too far spaced apart from each other.

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Curved Rocket Trajectory

Rockets follow a curved trajectory when going into space because their objective is not only to reach space, but also to enter Earth orbit. In Earth orbit, rockets have enough speed to counter Earth’s gravity and do not require a lot of energy to stay up there. To enter Earth orbit, a rocket needs to attain a high enough horizontal speed.

Flat-Earthers claim the curved trajectory of any rocket launch tells us no rocket has ever reached space. They are wrong. The curved trajectory is a way for rockets to enter Earth orbit.

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Space Flight and the Temperature in the Thermosphere

The thermosphere is a layer of the Earth’s atmosphere from about 95 km­ to 600 km. It is named ‘thermosphere’ because its temperature increases with altitude. The temperature in the thermosphere can reach 2500°C. However, air density in the thermosphere is very low to the point that heat conduction practically does not occur. Objects in the thermosphere will feel cold.

Flat-Earthers discovered that the temperature in the thermosphere could reach 2500°C. They are happy to ignore the other information which usually accompanies it: the air density up there is also far lower.

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Flight Altitude and Sphericity of the Earth

So, there was a flat-earther who took a spirit level on a flight. His intention was to determine whether the plane periodically adjust its angle in order to make it level in relation to the surface of the Earth. According to him, if the Earth were really spherical, then the plane would need to make these periodic adjustments; otherwise it would fly away straight into space!

His video became viral, and predictably, the plane did not make these periodic adjustments. The conclusion, surely, is not that the Earth is flat. The following are some explanations why the plane doesn’t have to make those periodic adjustments, and still reaches its destination.

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