Help me defend the Moon landing!

Brave legions of the Straightdope, I need some help and assistance to fight ignorance, I come humbly seeking assistance as this is a battle being fought on a ground I’m not familiar with.

Anyway, the point, I am coming to it.

I have a cousin who is an engineer and generally a nice guy, along with others we got discussing and debating conspiracy theories when the subject of the Moon landing came up. He loudly and with authority proclaimed that the Moon landing was impossible as back in the 60’s they simply didn’t have the technology available to perform it. That not being my area of expertise I was unable to argue the point with him, and worst of all I believe he may have convinced at least some of the others present that he was correct, arguing from apparent authority.

Leaving the other aspects aside what engineering/technological arguments could I use to prove him wrong. I’m not an engineer or particularly technological minded so please use small words and short sentences. :wink:

I’m not sure what kind of engineer he is, all I know is he designs those little widgets used to detect loss of air pressure in run-flat tyres, whatever discipline that is, Widgetology maybe.

Ask him why the USSR never once questioned its authenticity, when if there was any doubt they would have loved to expose their capitalist enemies as frauds.

I’ve used those arguments, he kept coming back to the engineering aspect, which is why I’m wondering how I can counter that argument.

If he dismisses those arguments so easily it’s doubtful you can convince him otherwise, but the simple reality is that the technology had been developed with the assistance of thousands of engineers and technicians throughout the '60s, specifically at the STG in Virginia where the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous was developed. The rocket was developed and tested at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

Does he make any more specific claims? A favourite one is that radiation would have killed the crew, which isn’t true - wiki has a decent overview of the usual claims. The Apollo missions also put a bunch of mirrors on the moon that anyone and their mother can point lasers at, so tell him to explain that.

Well, they certainly didn’t fake the takeoffs. I saw Apollo 16 take off with my high school, as astronaut Charles Duke was an alum. He took a high school patch to the moon and back and presented it to the school. I’d hate to call the guy a liar.

Frankly, the “they didn’t have the technology” argument is patently false, because they DID it. Which specific technology didn’t we have?

But yeah: I doubt we’d have fooled the USSR about it. If we didn’t leave evidence behind, the Russian Luna (Lunik) and Lunokhod-series satellites certainly would have seen it. What is his answer to this? The answer to the technical ones are simple: “I don’t know enough about rocket science to address that, and obviously you don’t either, because simple logic proves that either we got there, or it’s a co-conspiracy with Russia. What’s the chance of that?”

Good point!

Here’s a video opining that we didn’t have the technology to fake it at the time:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGXTF6bs1IU

Like all CT’ers he is avoiding and denying the huge volumes of data and people involved. There is simply no way thousands of people could keep such a secret. And keep it over, and over again as we performed manned moon landings 6 times.

What specifically (or even generally) does he think could not be done? I’m really curious about that.

Well I guess anyone and their mother can’t bounce a laser off the moon, but if it’s a hoax, then Mythbusters are part of the conspiracy, according to SMDB GQ “Bounding a laser off the moon” thread. The video link there doesn’t work but I bet it could be googled.

Well, you have to have a laser. But point is anyone who is capable can test that there are reflectors on the moon and if there weren’t it could be quite easily exposed.

Ask him what necessary technologies were lacking at the time? Insist on specifics. He’s an engineer. He should be able to go into detail about what was needed but not available.

Was it a lack of the computing power needed for guidance? Then how did we manage things like the voyagers, which we still have communications with as they are leaving the solar system?

Was it a lack of life support technology? How did people survive on the Space Shuttle, which was first launched only 9 years after the last lunar landing?

It certainly wasn’t rocket technology, humans were sending probes to other planets and putting up communications satellites during the same era, and thousands saw live rocket launches.

I was alive in the 60s and it wasn’t the stone age for cripes sake.

I have a laser pointer around here somewhere…

He didn’t really go into specifics, it was pretty much, “Trust me, I’m an engineer”. But he did mention, as davidm brings up below, that the computing power for a moon landing wasn’t available, thats one thing that did stick out for me.

Next time I manage to waylay him I’ll ask specifically what he’s objecting to, because with the chance to reflect on the debate I’m intruiged myself.

He’s not a history/political person, you could see his eyes glaze over when those subjects were brought up, I imagine he doesn’t know enough about Cold War history to realise how utterly unlikely such a co-conspiracy would have been. And now I’m wondering how much of a conspiracy-theorist he is in general apart from the moon-landings, I should ask him about contrails. :wink:

On a sidenote, couldn’t those have been emplaced by unmanned landers? Or was that not technologically feasible at the time?

Thanks for the answers everyone!

This is so ridiculous that I don’t even know where to start except to say that calculating for spacecraft navigation is one of the easier things computers do. Hell, it can be done on slide rules!

It’s all just mathematics. Issac Newton figured it out. About the only difference between the 60s and now is that we can do it faster and with fancier and more human friendly interfaces.

[quote=“Learjeff, post:6, topic:698473”]

Good point!

Here’s a video opining that we didn’t have the technology to fake it at the time:

[/QUOTE] That is an awesome video.

I’ll just add that if your friend is correct that we didn’t have the necessary technology at the time then all of the engineers and scientists of the time were too stupid to realize it, because I don’t recall hearing one claim that it was faked. Plenty of people decried it as a waste of money and resources that could be put to better uses, but no one of any note, that I’m aware of, said that it was faked.

People claiming that the Moon landings were faked are like anthropogenic climate change deniers: they believe that the entire world’s scientific establishment can be either bribed or threatened into maintaining a lie. It’s ridiculous.

This, this and this. It took a hell of a lot of coordination to be sure, but the astronauts had dozens of people helping them with the calculations. Computers only do it faster.

It’s what, a three and a half day trip? Communication lag was (and still is) minimal.

I mean a frickin’ big laser beam, attached to a shark.

Unmanned Soviet moon missions in the early '70s placed similar arrays, but if you can argue him down from ‘the entire thing was faked’ to ‘alright, we went but it was unmanned’ then it’s progress of a sort.

Another point is if he thinks we didn’t have the technology then, we sure have the technology to examine the sites now - here’s the Apollo 11 site in 2009 photographed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Or the Japanese SELENE program mapping the lunar surface; here’s Apollo 15’s photo, here’s Japan’s 3D terrain reconstruction from 2008. Trouble is the easiest counterargument is for him just to say ‘well, they are part of conspiracy too’, at which point further discussion becomes futile as any evidence can be dismissed at will with that mindset.

You’re wasting your time. You will never convince your cousin the moon landing wasn’t faked. By definition, his CT is not falsifiable in his mind; facts and evidence will not matter to him. Just change the subject the next time he brings it up and buy another round of beers.

Anyone who says that current images of the landing sites are part of the conspiracy is proposing an enormous mulit-national multi-generational conspiracy of unbelievable proportions.

Just to clarify, the calculations were done by computers back then, just bigger and slower computers, and they were on the ground so the results had to be sent by radio to the astronauts, as you noted.