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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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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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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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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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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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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ISS Construction Video

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The International Space Station (ISS) was not constructed overnight. It is built gradually, and new components are still arriving after more than 20 years since it was first launched.

The ISS is one of humankind’s greatest achievements, but there is no video showing its construction from start to finish. Flat-Earthers use the fact to “disprove” the existence of the ISS. In reality, the ISS was constructed gradually in years. There is no such video the same way there is none for New York City, for example. It does not mean New York City does not exist. On the other hand, we can find plenty of videos showing the assembly of its specific modules on the Internet. Continue reading “ISS Construction Video”

Communication Delays in Apollo Missions

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Radio waves travel at the speed of light; it takes 1¼ seconds to cover Earth-Moon distance. It is the reason in the Apollo missions after Houston says something, the response from the astronauts on the Moon will arrive only after 2½ seconds.

Some presentations of the Apollo missions are edited to cut out the gaps created by the delay, and flat-Earthers use them to dismiss the Apollo missions as fake. However, in the actual audio recordings and the transcripts, the delays are there.

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2001 Mars Odyssey Launch Video

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Flat-Earthers often challenge us to provide a video of a rocket launch that was taken from the rocket itself, without interruption from launch to reaching space, as if it would convince them to accept that it is real and the Earth is a sphere.

The launch video of the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission easily fulfills their demand. But whether they can manage to accept the reality that Earth is a sphere is entirely another matter.

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Flight Dynamics: the Assumption of Flat & Non-Rotating Earth for Simplification

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 final aircraft will be flying over spherical & rotating Earth.

Flat-Earthers claimed to have exposed ‘a secret document’ from NASA, saying that Earth is flat & non-rotating. In reality, 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.

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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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“Mouse” on a SpaceX Falcon9 Rocket Launch

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In the video of the CRS-19 mission of the SpaceX Falcon9 rocket, flat-Earthers noticed something is moving near the exhaust of the second stage rocket. Creatively, they interpreted it as a “mouse, ” and then use it to discredit spaceflight and the people involved in it.

In reality, it was merely crystallized waste from the rocket engine. To know this, we only need to see the part of the video after the one cherry-picked by flat-Earthers. The “mouse” slowly disappeared by evaporation.

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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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Psychological Projection

One reason a person can believe in conspiracy theories is the psychological projection. They attempt to deny their negative attitudes by assuming that instead, others have them, even though it is not necessarily the case.

Some people believe others are in a conspiracy against them because of their moral problem: if they were in the same positions of the people they are accusing, they would do the same thing they are accusing others of doing.

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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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Mentioning NASA in Arguments About the Shape of the Earth

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.

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Tim Peake’s Scientific Demonstration on the ISS and the Green Screen Conspiracy Theory

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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.

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Quality of a Photograph

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.

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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”