Missions to the Moon, Post-Apollo

After the Apollo moon landings, we continue launching missions to the moon, but with uncrewed spacecraft. The Apollo program was not entirely a scientific mission. It also served as a political mission due to the Cold War. We can research a lot of things about the moon without risking human lives by sending them to the moon.

Flat-Earthers claim that there have not been any missions to the moon after the Apollo missions, and they conclude that the Apollo missions were fabricated. In reality, we continue sending spacecraft to the moon to this day.

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Angular Resolution

Angular resolution is the minimum separation between distinguishable features in an image. Objects smaller than the angular resolution are indiscernible in the picture. The theoretical maximum angular resolution is determined by the diameter of the aperture of the optical instrument.

Flat-Earthers like to demand images of the lunar landers taken with a telescope as proof that the Apollo Moon landings did occur. In reality, no optical telescope on Earth is large enough to resolve the landers.

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Apollo Astronauts and the Demand to Swear on the Bible

In the early 2000s, an unscrupulous Moon landing denialist lured Apollo astronauts into an audience with him under false pretenses. Then he insulted them as liars and pressed them to swear on the Bible that they went to the Moon.

Flat-Earthers use this incident as “evidence” that we never went to the Moon. In reality, the offender did not meet the astronauts with the best of intentions. This incident tells us more about the offender than it does about the astronauts.

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Curved Appearance of a Rocket Trajectory

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Rocket launches have a curved trajectory because their objective is not only to reach space but also to enter Earth orbit. To achieve it, a spacecraft needs to gain a sufficient horizontal speed, parallel to Earth’s surface.

Flat-Earthers claim the curved appearance of a rocket launch trajectory “proves” rockets never reach space. In reality, it is caused by the motion of the rocket parallel to Earth’s surface, perspective effect, and the curvature of the Earth.

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Rocket Staging

Rockets consist of several stages. Two or more smaller rockets are combined into a single rocket. They are ignited in order; when an earlier stage runs out of propellants, it is jettisoned to reduce the load for the rest of the rocket.

Flat-Earthers noticed videos of rockets being recovered from the ocean and use them as “evidence” rockets never went to space. In reality, these are the jettisoned earlier stages of the rockets. The latter stages do reach space.

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Apollo 11 Post-Flight Press Conference

Flat-Earthers claim that the Apollo 11 astronauts were gloomy and uneasy at their press conference. They allege this was due to their guilt of faking the Moon landing. In reality, the press conference was full of jokes and laughter.

Unscrupulous conspiracy theorists cherry-picked a single photo from the press conference video in which the astronauts were serious. They abuse the picture to ignite our emotions and lead us to believe the hoax they created that the Moon landings did not occur.

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Switching in Telecommunication Network

Switching is used to establish a telecommunication network between two non-adjacent communication nodes. The information is relayed by one or more intermediate nodes that might use very different means of data transmission.

In 1969, President Richard Nixon called the Apollo 11 astronauts from the White House using a landline phone. Flat-Earthers regard the fact as ridiculous. According to them, if we cannot reliably make a phone call to the next room, then it must have been impossible for President Nixon to make a phone call to a location 384000 km away using a corded phone. Such allegation only stems from their lack of understanding of telecommunication.

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“Who Recorded This?”

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.

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View of the Earth from the ISS

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The International Space Station (ISS) is only about 400 km above the Earth’s surface, only 6% farther from the center of the Earth than the Earth’s surface. Therefore, only a very small part of Earth’s surface is visible from the ISS at any time.

Flat-Earthers like to examine photos of the Earth from the ISS and compare them to those taken from a much farther location. They would take any difference as an inconsistency. In reality, the ISS can only observe a very small part of the Earth, unlike spacecraft much farther away.

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The Moon and Stars in a Single Picture

Stars are not visible in photos of the Moon –including those taken from the lunar surface— because the Moon is sunlit. The exposure needed to take a photograph of the Moon is not that much different from that used to take a photo in daylight on Earth’s surface.

To demonstrate this, we can try taking a picture of the Moon with stars visible, on the conditions: 1. The lunar features, like the craters, are correctly exposed, not overexposed. 2. Taken in a single exposure, not HDR, and not the result of editing. Even if we are using the best camera available today, the stars can’t show up in large enough quantity.

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Buzz Aldrin’s Interview & the Quote-Mining by Flat Earthers

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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.

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James Van Allen and the Van Allen Radiation Belts

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”

Photographic Evidence

A photograph alone is not sufficient to prove that the things or event in the photo is real. The reality of the things or event needs to be determined using inductive reasoning, where multiple information is considered and evaluated together.

Flat-Earthers often claim that we regard certain things or events as real only from photographic evidence. In reality, there is information other than the photographs themselves that was considered and led us to accept the things or events are real beyond any reasonable doubt.

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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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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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Sunlit Objects and Visibility of Stars

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.

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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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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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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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