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The Today Show (7:00 AM ET) - NBC TV August 8, 2001 Wednesday

Truth or conspiracy: Lunar landing

Bill Kaysing, author of "We Never Went to the Moon," and John Pike of globalsecurity.com discuss whether moon landings were fake

KATIE COURIC, co-host: And now part three of our series TRUTH OR CONSPIRACY. Recently Zogby Internatonal asked Americans their opinions on some of the most debated mysteries of our time. Today we go back to 1969 and Apollo 11, the NASA mission that stunned the world by landing the first man on the moon. Certainly, that was one of the seminal events of the 20th century, but for those who believe it actually happened.

(File footage of moon landing)

COURIC: Nearly 600 million people around the world were watching on television when Neil Armstrong made history in July 1969. The goal of putting a man on the moon was made plain by President John F. Kennedy early in the decade.

President JOHN F. KENNEDY (From file footage) I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.

(File footage of moon landing)

COURIC: Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin became the first two men to leave their footprints on the lunar surface. The third astronaut in the Apollo 11 mission, Michael Collins, remained in lunar orbit in the command module Columbia.

Offscreen Voice #1: Columbia, this is Houston reading you loud and clear, over. I guess you're about the only person around that doesn't have TV coverage of the scene.

Mr. MICHAEL COLLINS: That's all right. I don't mind a bit.

Voice #1: They've got the flag up now.

Mr. COLLINS: Beautiful, just beautiful.

Mr. NEIL ARMSTRONG (First Man on the Moon): We are men from the planet Earth, first set foot upon the moon, July 1969 AD.

COURIC: But despite a phone call from President Nixon...

President RICHARD NIXON: Hello, Neil and Buzz. I'm talking to you by telephone from the Oval Room at the White House. And this certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever made.

COURIC: ...an ocean splashdown, a ticker-tape parade and an appearance before a joint session of Congress and a ceremony at the White House, there are some who doubt the Apollo 11 mission ever took place. In May the polling firm Zogby International collected opinions from 1220 Americans on, among other things, whether or not the first man on the moon mission really happened. Most Americans polled, 87 percent, are certain that mankind's first visit to the moon did happen. A small percentage, seven percent, think it was all staged for TV, and four percent aren't sure what happened.

Apollo Moon Landing Hoax??
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Dr. BOB CRADDOCK (Smithsonisan Air & Space Museum): This is one of the queen mothers of all conspiracy theories.

COURIC: For decades there have been naysayers who believe for various reasons that the moon missions were all a hoax staged by NASA and the government, in part because of the United States space race with the Russians. Bill Kaysing is one of them. In the 1960s he was technical writer for Rocketdyne Corporation.

Mr. BILL KAYSING: Since I has an aerospace background, I thought, OK, I'll blow the whistle on the government. I'll challenge the government to really prove that we did or didn't go to the moon.

COURIC: So Kaysing started doing research, eventually writing a book called "We Never Went to the Moon." It's Kaysing's contention that what the world thought were pictures of Aldrin and Armstrong on the moon's surface was really the Nevada desert on an old government atomic energy site.

Mr. KAYSING: This was an ideal place because much of the terrain already looks like the moon, so it would have been very easy to shoot some of the exterior shots in that area.

COURIC: According to Kaysing, NASA realized it couldn't pull off the technical feat of sending a man to the moon..

Mr. KAYSING: They were forced to do the Apollo simulation in order to maintain their commercial contacts throughout the world.

COURIC: He contends that the so-called Apollo Simulation Project created...

Mr. KAYSING: All of the motion pictures and television and still photos that are the basic proof...

COURIC: ...of man's presence on the moon.

Mr. KAYSING: And then they manufactured the rocks that came back from the moon.

Unidentified Astronaut #1: This one right here?

Offscreen Voice #2: That's it. You got it right there.

Mr. JOHN YOUNG: Our flight collected over 200 pounds of lunar surface samples.

Astronaut #1: I got it. That's 20 pounds of, that's 20 pounds of rock.

COURIC: Charles Duke was on Apollo 16. He and John Young landed on the moon in April, 1972.

Mr. YOUNG: We were just bouncing around like two little kids and babbling back and forth, and we had a wonderful, exciting, emotional time.

Astronaut #1: Oh, rats.

Mr. YOUNG: There's so much overwhelming evidence that we landed on the moon that it has to be true. If it was a hoax, why did we do it more than once?

Dr. CRADDOCK: If you're asking me what the hard proof is besides the--the photographic record and the film records that we have, we also have a large number of samples that are viewed chemically very different than any rocks that you would find here on the earth.

COURIC: For conspiracy theorists, the lunar photographs raise big questions. For example, the American flag. Why does it look as if it's rippling in the wind when there's no atmosphere on the moon to make the flag move?

Mr. YOUNG: There was a curtain rod that went through the top of it.

COURIC: And what about this reflection in Aldrin's visor. What was the light source?

Mr. YOUNG: There are three light sources on the moon. The sun is the brightest, the earth was there, and there's a lot of reflection from the moon. That reflected light lights up the space suit and lights up, and in that case, lit up his visor.

COURIC: And why are there no stars visible?

Mr. YOUNG: The sky's pitch black because there is no atmosphere, and you don't see the stars because the sun's shining.

COURIC: And Hollywood's "Ground Zero" fantasy unwittingly added fuel to conspiracy theorist's arguments.

(Clip from "Ground Zero")

COURIC: Nineteen seventy-eight, "Capricorn One" was the story about a fake landing on Mars.

(Clip from "Capricorn One")

COURIC: And even James Bond got into the act in 1971 in "Diamonds Are Forever."

(Clip from "Diamonds Are Forever")

COURIC: But if you listen to the Apollo astronauts, Hollywood magic is no match for the real thing.

Mr. YOUNG: Looking across the beauty of the moon, it's the most barren place imaginable because there's never been any life up there. But it's beautiful in its way because it's rolling terrain, gray in color.

Astronaut #1: (Singing) I was strolling on the moon one day.

EDWIN "BUZZ" ALDRIN: (From film footage) Well, it's a great majesty to look up in the velvet sky and to see the earth with all of humanity back there, and that's where home is. The moon was a magnificent desolation.

Offscreen Voice #3: Houston confirms a good ignition. Start on (unintelligible).

Unidentified Astronaut #2: What a ride! What a ride!

COURIC: So what do you believe? John Pike is director of globalsecurity.org.

John Pike, good morning.


COURIC: What irrefutable evidence do we have other than photographs and moon rock samples that this actually happened in your view?

Mr. PIKE: Well, in my view, the fundamental proof is that if it had been a hoax, the Soviet Union would have told the world. I mean, after all, we were not big buddies with the Soviets during the Cold War. We had an arms race, and the space race going on. We were able to detect what the Soviets were doing. They were certainly tracking what we were doing, and if we'd filmed the whole thing, they would have told everyone and the notion that we had some sort of sweetheart deal with the Soviets...

COURIC: Right, because I was going to say...

Mr. PIKE: ...that we paid them off, I think makes it very difficult to understand why we were fighting the Vietnam War, why we had the arms race and everything else going on. This would--frankly, if we had paid off the Soviets to not tell anybody about the moon race, that would not be the big story. The big story would be that the entire 20th century was a hoax, and I don't think anybody believes that.

COURIC: But what was happening around the time that would actually fuel the theory that somehow the US government and the Soviets were in cahoots?

Mr. PIKE: At that time, nothing. I think that this has a lot more to do with very basic suspicions about the United States Government which, ultimately, is a very, a very American thing. I mean, that's what the country was founded on--that you can't trust the government, you have to look for yourself. But I think in this case they've really gone beyond any conceivable evidence and really come up with not the best conspiracy theory I've heard of.

COURIC: And you say it's really kind of like a Nancy Drew mystery and that all the questions that are raised are quite simple to answer.

Mr. PIKE: Are easily answered.

COURIC: Like the flag waving and--and the fact it was pitch dark and where were the stars.

Mr. PIKE: Right, right.

COURIC: And the fact that there should have been a big crater and who actually took Neil Armstrong's photograph. If he was the first man on the moon, how did...

Mr. PIKE: There was a little camera on the lunar excursion module that was taking pictures. Everybody knew that we were going to want to have photographic proof, and this is going to be one of the most historic moments in human history. They had to get that on TV and they did.

COURIC: Meanwhile, John, naysayers say that the astronauts were somehow programmed to--to--or brainwashed to say this.

Mr. PIKE: Well, the question is not brainwashing the astronauts, the question is, how would they have been able to control all of the tens thousands of other people who were part of the production company that were part of the hoax. Because you all have got a lot of people on the set here, but you have dozens and dozens of people behind the cameras making the show happen. They would have had to had tens of thousand of people who were part of the hoax, and a lot of those people would have had to been in the Soviet Union tracking the fact that we were not landing on the moon, and surely there's going to be some old Russian veteran who's going to want to sell his story to some tabloid to expose this hoax. No one's come forward, and is that because it was real or is that because hundreds of thousands of people were brainwashed. I think the easiest assumption is that it was real.

COURIC: Yeah, either that or, as you say, brilliantly orchestrated with...

Mr. PIKE: A conspiracy so immense.

COURIC: ...perhaps involving thousnads of people. What other things have added to this whole notion that this could happen other than suspicion of government, other than some of these little, small quetions. Actually they are large questions for these people who belive it didn't happen.

Mr. PIKE: Kind of a part of it is a blurring between fact and fiction.

COURIC: We talked about that in the piece. Do you think that popular culture has contributed to some of the skeptical feelings about this?

Mr. PIKE: Well, we--you saw in the James Bond movie, if we saw in other documentaries. Part of it is, I think, that the special effects have gotten so good now in the movies that actually the movie science fiction stories about space, space flight, look a lot more compelling than the real ones.

COURIC: And as was brought up in the piece, if it was a conspiracy, then why did we do this over and over again? In other words, why were there space missions following this and were...

Mr. PIKE: And if--and if--right.

COURIC: ...they all conspiracies?

Mr. PIKE: And if it was beyond our technological capacity to land on the moon, at what point did the fake space program turn into the real space program or are all of these shuttle flights that we've been watching also made for TV?

COURIC: Well, it's certainly interesting, an intersting notion and fun to talk about. John Pike, director of globalsecurity.org. Right?

Mr. PIKE: Yes.

COURIC: Thank you very much for coming by. Good to see you again.

We'll be back with more of TODAY right after these messages.

Copyright 2001 National Broadcasting Co. Inc. NBC News Transcripts