I have spoken before of my youthful belief in conspiracy theories and after UFOs perhaps the one that fascinated me the most was the Moon landing hoax. Fortunately, this week’s SITP Online guest Dr. Steve Barrett has also turned his image analysis expertise to explaining away many of the questions my youthful self was just asking about this.
The first big mystery Dr. Barrett answers is how astronauts with chest mounted cameras and no view finders were able to take such beautifully framed shots: they weren’t. The shots we see are aesthetically cropped, including the famous photo of Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface, which has had a black strip added to the top, while the unedited originals sit largely unseen in the public archives.
The seemingly impossible shadows apparently cast by multiple light sources, for young me the most convincing evidence that the landings were shot in a studio, are easily explained away by Dr. Barrett as distortion from uneven lunar surface. These natural variations also explain why Lunar Modules footpads are shown sometimes not to make an impression in the dust while astronaut footprints do.
Pictures where the subject overlaps the internal crosshairs were also highly convincing evidence for young me, but these Dr. Barrett explains as overexposure causing bright white areas to bleed over the thin black crosshairs. Exposure is also the reason stars don’t appear on the pictures, which were taken with cameras set for daytime exposure lengths.
Turning to the video footage, Dr. Barrett’s explanation of flags flapping as a result of being touched by astronauts seems more believable than a draft caused by someone leaving the soundstage door open, while the lack of exhaust plumes when the lunar module launches seems more likely due to the type of fuel used rather than it being a model on strings.
Video footage also provides what Dr. Barrett believes to be the most convincing evidence that the moon landings were not faked, for while the famous hammer and feather experiment could perhaps have been faked on a soundstage, the footage of a lunar rover kicking up dust which follows a perfect parabola, rather the billowing as it would on Earth, could not.