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.
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 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, 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.
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.
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.
The fact that the Earth is spherical was known since at least 3rd century BC, or about 24 centuries ago, far before we can send anything to space. We knew the fact from countless observations, and not merely from photos and videos taken from space, or that “NASA told us so.”
On the other hand, flat-Earthers often mention NASA or other space agencies because they don’t have a choice. If they insist on the wrong notion that the Earth is flat, then they would need to invent various excuses why there are photos and videos taken from space.
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.
These days, predicting eclipses is easily done using computers. Prediction is made by determining the position of the Sun and the Moon at a time, and calculating if an eclipse happens. The same procedure is then repeated numerous time, each for a different time.
The victims of the flat-Earth dogma insist nobody can predict eclipses from the position of the Sun and the Moon. They believe NASA simply used the Saros cycle to predict eclipses by calculating the interval between eclipses. They are wrong.
In many pictures taken from space, stars are not visible, even with a dark sky. The reason is that stars are very dim compared to the primary object in the pictures. If the camera is set to take a correctly exposed image of an object that is much brighter than the stars, then the stars would not be visible in the picture. The same thing would happen everywhere, in space, or on the surface of the Earth.
Flat-Earthers often take the lack of stars as fakery. They are wrong. This is simply a limitation of any camera.
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.
The film ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ is a mockumentary. It is fictional but presented as if it is a real documentary. The film features guests like Donald Rumsfield, Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig, Vernon Walters, Buzz Aldrin, and Stanley Kubrick’s wife. In the film, they all pretend that the Moon landings were faked, and created in a studio by Stanley Kubrick.
There are many doctored versions of the film circulated on the Internet. Usually, the ‘giveaways’ are cut to make the film more believable. Then, the film is presented as ‘evidence’ that the Moon landings did not happen. Unfortunately, many believe these edited versions of the film and don’t realize the events in the movie are entirely fictional.
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.
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.