Science

Of moon landings and conspiracy theories

Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral was the site of one of mankind’s more remarkable achievements- the moon landing. The picture shows launchpad 39A (taken with my iphone through the window of a NASA organized bus). Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins achieved the historic landing (Collins did not actually walk on the moon’s surface; he orbited the moon while Armstrong and Aldrin touched down).

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Launchpad 39A, the historic site from which Apollo 11 was launched to the moon, resulting in the first human moon landing

For their remarkable courage and accomplishment, they were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. After all, it requires tremendous courage to sit in a rocket going at 5 miles per second, carrying enough fuel to blow up a small town!

The moon landings are testimony to what human minds can accomplish given the right conditions.

Since then, nine people have landed on the moon. NASA has left three land rovers there. India has landed chandrayaan, and just last week, China landed Yutu-2 on the far side of the moon. Russia of course has achieved craft landings there multiple times.

The moon is no longer the next frontier- it is Mars. NASA is planning a new manned space mission to Mars, using Orion, NASA’s newest spacecraft. Of course, NASA has already crash landed crafts on Mars – the question is how to get humans there and back. Orion will be launched from a huge launch pad system that is inside a building (see below)!

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Remarkable as the moon landings are, it is amazing that there are many people in modern bhakti sects who peddle the idea that the moon landings are a hoax. Bhakti scriptures dont seem to mention any restrictions that human beings cannot do interplanetary travel with machines. On the contrary, the Bhagavatam contains descriptions of interplanetary travel, whether through yogic powers or on vimanas, i.e. planes.

Such idiosyncratic views about the moon landings are surprisingly common. In a paper published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, Swami et al note that upto a quarter of respondents in North America believe that moon landings did not occur. They write that such moon landing conspiracy theories have the following features to them:

“[These are] a set of claims that some or all elements of the Apollo programme were hoaxes, perpetrated by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) and related organizations (Kaysing, 2002). The most notable of these claims is that the NASA manned landings were faked and that Apollo astronauts have never landed on the moon. Conspiracy theorists argue that NASA knowingly misled the general public into believing that astronauts landed on the moon by manufacturing or tampering with evidence, particularly photographs of the moon landings.”

Swami et al define conspiracy theories thus:
Conspiracy theories (CTs) are a subset of false beliefs in which the ultimate cause of an event is believed to be due to a malevolent plot by multiple actors working together, usually unlawfully and in secret.

The study by Swami et al with individuals who believed in such conspiracy theories resulted in the following conclusion: “Results showed that acceptance of the moon landings CT was associated with the adoption of a conspiracist worldview and schizotypal tendencies.”

Similarly many people are skeptical of the big bang, of modern astronomical explanations of the universe, of evolution, and even of that most basic of physical phenomena- gravity!

Such conspiracy theories can cause harmful and irreversible psychological damage, particularly to children, and make them total misfits in society. It is better to face and evaluate reality head on, than to succumb to delusional thinking. Uttama bhakti requires a healthy and balanced mind.

4 replies »

  1. An interesting observation I have made is that when evidence is provided to the advocates of CTs, particularly the “devotees”, against their unfounded bias, they enter into a sort of mental hibernation and refuse to discuss the topic further. The defensive antennas activate.

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  2. This article is the first that I felt was really not necessary. Even though I understand the implications of unfounded conspiracies and fanaticism (by devotees), what you have related as far as the moon landings is your belief that NASA is an agency incapable of deceit. Perhaps you yourself have gone to the moon and have verified NASA’s excursions, however there are videos and documentation that show a lot of inconsistencies about the moon landings. Those who have a doubt about such events may be called names but those who unquestionably believe such an event actually took place may also be faced with their own bias when trying to explain away the inconsistencies about the moon landings. To not have faith in some “scientific “ narratives doesn’t mean to not have faith in all science.

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