Moon Landing Footage MYTH Debunked !
It’s been half a century since the magnificent Apollo 11 moon landing, yet many people still don’t believe it actually happened. Conspiracy theories about the event dating back to the 1970s are in fact more popular than ever. A common theory is that film director Stanley Kubrick helped NASA fake the historic footage of its six successful moon landings.
Today I am going to explain to you why it was impossible to fake the first moon landing in 1969. The video technology at that time was not yet developed far enough. I know, you can prove the topic also purely with physical knowledge. However, that was already done enough times by other people. The video technical aspect is often completely ignored.
But would it really have been possible to do that with the technology available at the time? I’m not a space travel expert, an engineer or a scientist. I am a filmmaker and lecturer in film post-production, and — while I can’t say how we landed on the moon in 1969 — I can say with some certainty that the footage would have been impossible to fake.
Here are some of the most common beliefs and questions — and why they don’t hold up.
‘The moon landings were filmed in a TV studio.’
There are two different ways of capturing moving images. One is film, actual strips of photographic material onto which a series of images are exposed. Another is video, which is an electronic method of recording onto various mediums, such as moving magnetic tape. With video, you can also broadcast to a television receiver. A standard motion picture film records images at 24 frames per second, while broadcast television is typically either 25 or 30 frames, depending on where you are in the world.
Complete Apollo 11 television broadcast
If we go along with the idea that the moon landings were taped in a TV studio, then we would expect them to be 30 frames per second video, which was the television standard at the time. However, we know that video from the first moon landing was recorded at ten frames per secondin SSTV (Slow Scan television) with a special camera.
‘They used the Apollo special camera in a studio and then slowed down the footage to make it look like there was less gravity.’
Some people may contend that when you look at people moving in slow motion, they appear to be in a low gravity environment. Slowing down film requires more frames than usual, so you start with a camera capable of capturing more frames in a second than a normal one — this is called overcranking. When this is played back at the normal frame rate, this footage plays back for longer. If you can’t overcrank your camera, but you record at a normal frame rate, you can instead artificially slow down the footage, but you need a way to store the frames and generate new extra frames to slow it down.
At the time of the broadcast, magnetic disk recorders capable of storing slow motion footage could only capture 30 seconds in total, for a playback of 90 seconds of slow motion video. To capture 143 minutes in slow motion, you’d need to record and store 47 minutes of live action, which simply wasn’t possible.
‘They could have had an advanced storage recorder to create slow motion footage. Everyone knows NASA gets the tech before the public.’
Well, maybe they did have a super secret extra storage recorder — but one almost 3,000 times more advanced? Doubtful.
‘They shot it on film and slowed down the film instead. You can have as much film as you like to do this. Then they converted the film to be shown on TV.’
That’s a bit of logic at last! But shooting it on film would require thousands of feet of film. A typical reel of 35mm film — at 24 frames per minutes second — lasts 11 minutes and is 1,000 foot long. If we apply this to 12 frames per second film (as close to ten as we can get with standard film) running for 143 minutes (this is how long the Apollo 11 footage lasts), you would need six and a half reels.
These would then need to be put together. The splicing joins, transfer of negatives and printing — and potentially grains, specks of dust, hairs or scratches — would instantly give the game away. There are none of these artefacts present, which means it wasn’t shot on film. When you take into account that the subsequent Apollo landings were shot at 30 frames per second, then to fake those would be three times harder. So the Apollo 11 mission would have been the easy one.
‘But the flag is blowing in the wind, and there’s no wind on the moon. The wind is clearly from a cooling fan inside the studio. Or it was filmed in the desert.’
It isn’t. After the flag is let go, it settles gently and then doesn’t move at all in the remaining footage. Also, how much wind is there inside a TV studio?
There’s wind in the desert, I’ll accept that. But in July, the desert is also very hot and you can normally see heat waves present in footage recorded in hot places. There are no heat waves on the moon landing footage, so it wasn’t filmed in the desert. And the flag still isn’t moving anyway.
‘The lighting in the footage clearly comes from a spotlight. The shadows look weird.’
Yes, it’s a spotlight — a spotlight, 93m miles away. It’s called the sun. Look at the shadows in the footage. If the light source were a nearby spotlight, the shadows would originate from a central point. But because the source is so far away, the shadows are parallel in most places rather than diverging from a single point. That said, the sun isn’t the only source of illumination — light is reflected from the ground too. That can cause some shadows to not appear parallel. It also means we can see objects that are in the shadow.
‘Well, we all know Stanley Kubrick filmed it.’
Stanley Kubrick could have been asked to fake the moon landings. But as he was such a perfectionist, he would have insisted on shooting it on location. And it’s well documented he didn’t like to fly, so that about wraps that one up… Next?
Conspiracy theorists/critic arguments
Since most critics have a consensus on the arguments, I will also focus on them. Here I list which arguments or techniques are mentioned, which according to conspiracy theorists clearly speak for a television production on earth:
- The weightlessness of the astronauts was faked with slow-motion cameras.
- There are no stars visible in the background on the photos or the film transmission, even though they should be visible in space
- Multiple light sources were used
Then let’s explain them one at a time!
Argument 1: Weightlessness because of slow motion cameras
In principle, the argument that weightlessness could be simulated with a slow motion camera is not far-fetched. If the actor is practicing a little, you’re surely going to get some useful results. But the term weightlessness is not correct anyway. Of course there is the same gravity on the moon, but it is weaker than on earth because of the much smaller mass of the moon. The moon is a quarter the size of the Earth, but only 1.2% of the mass of our planet. Calculatively, this is one sixth of the typical earth’s gravitational pull.  However, the weight of the space suit must also be taken into account. The Skylab A7L suit of the Apollo 11 Mission weighed about 80kg. 
A slow-motion camera (often called a high-speed camera) takes more pictures per second than is necessary. For example, 50 frames per second are recorded although the later playback rate is only 25 frames per second. So you can play the material of the slow motion camera in half speed and still get a smooth picture.
The playback rate of the NASA transmission was 30 frames per second (called NTSC format which was the standard in USA). Accordingly, a camera that could take 60 pictures (or even more) per second would have been necessary. It didn’t exist at that time. Not by a long shot.
This is quite simple with analogue film cameras. It is called “overcranking”, so the film roll is simply moved through the camera faster and more images are exposed per second than actually necessary. But analog film cameras are totally useless if you want to transmit a possible milestone of humanity with a live broadcast. So you need video cameras that deliver a suitable video signal which can be transmitted directly to Earth. Of course, film cameras have to be developed in a darkroom beforehand. This process is not necessary with a video camera.And here the whole theory bites its tail. There were no high-speed video cameras back then. Not even close. The only devices like the AMPEX HS-100 were more or less close to this.
This huge recorder was the most modern technology at that time and could only record 30 seconds of NTSC video on a disc and then play it back in slow motion. However, it should be noted that by only 30 frames per second would not have been enough for smooth playback. It was used for sports broadcasts at the time.However, the TV broadcast of the Apollo 11 mission ran for hours without interruption. You can’t get far with 30 seconds of discs, let alone the sheer size of the device wouldn’t have found space in the mission anyway.
To continue describing how primitive the video cameras were back then, I would like to briefly present the specifications of the the camera which was used to film the first steps of Mr. Armstrong:
Specifications of the Lunar Television Camera:
- Manufacturer: Westinghouse
- Sensor size: 1/2 inch
Frame rate: 10 frames/second (at 320 lines) ||| 0.625 frames per second (at 1280 lines)
- resolution: 320×200 (at 10B/sec)
- Colour coder: Black/White only
aspect ratio: 4:3 Admission procedure: Full pictures
- Weight: 3.3kg
- Power consumption: 6.5 watts
So even with a tiny resolution of 320×200 pixels only a frame rate of 10 frames per second was possible. Not even thinking about color yet. This also explains why the continuous 143 minutes of recording looks the way they look like. But the technology just wasn’t further developed at that time.
But what if it wasn’t live?
Now you could of course make the argument that the signal just wasn’t broadcasted live but recorded. Then you have to tie the whole conspiracy really far. A Saturn V rocket was launched at that day and the Russians would certainly have loved to bust the the Americans land in this respect. The live video signal was not only transmitted to NASA. In Australia, two locations were used for receiving the live video signal, from which NASA received one signal. So the Australian Broadcasting Corporation would also have to be par this conspiracy. The Aussie people saw the live transmission about 0.3 seconds earlier than the Americans because there was no additional transmission distance. It was also mostly only the Australian signal on air worldwide due to having better quality. Again, the signal could logically not only be received at these three stations using the appropriate technology. The Russians could’ve blown the whistle on that one again quite easily.
Argument 2: You don’t see stars
This point is much easier to explain and is not necessarily due to the capabilities of the cameras of that time. This argument logically refers not only to the video broadcast but much more to the many photographs taken by the astronauts. The explanation should be immediately clear to everyone who has dealt with the theory of photography a little bit: The exposure of the photos was set in such a way that the astronauts and the moon surface are properly illuminated. The stars in the background glow way too weak to be visible in the photo at this short shutter speed/tiny aperture. If you could see the stars, the motifs in the foreground would simply be white. You wouldn’t be able to recognize anything.
I illustrated this phenomenon up here with the help of an old photo of me. Everyone probably knows this situation, that you occasionally get pictures with a completely white sky. Although you can precisely remember that the sky was actually quite bluish or you were able to see clouds when you took that photo. Your camera set the exposure settings to get a properly exposed foreground. If I just looked at one version of my photo example above, you could conclude that the sky was completely white. Do not forget that it is extremely bright on the moon when you are on the sunny side. There is no atmosphere, no air or weather on the moon. Nothing that weakens the sun’s rays, therefore the light conditions are immensely bright.
Argument 3: The images shows the use of multiple light sources
This is also a very common argument. However, it is very common that this argument is limited to a few photos and not meant to criticize the entire video broadcast. Especially one picture is mentioned and analysed over and over again. The photograph shows Buzz Aldrin climbing back into the Lunar Landing Module. In the picture it looks like that he should be in the shade because of the landing module. Nevertheless, Buzz Aldrin is brightly lit and easily recognizable. This is the perfect sign for using an additional light source, according to conspiracy theorists.
However, the fact that the lunar surface does indeed reflect light is not taken into account here. Thanks to the sandy dust, approximately 12% of the incoming light is reflected. This 12% leads to an enormous amount, after all nothing else is absorbed by the atmosphere. Graphics card manufacturer Nvidia used the discussion about this famous image for an interesting PR campaign.
Summary & Explanation
Today it would of course be a piece of cake to fake such a mission from the video technical aspect. Films such as Interstellar show that even topics such as black holes can be displayed and animated correctly. This film explicitly used the knowledge of physicists to make the rendering as physically correct as possible.
In the year 1969, though, all of this was not even remotely possible. On the other hand, space travel, and rocket technology was very advanced. That’s quite understandable if you think about it. During the Cold War, vast sums of investment were spent on research projects and developments that the world has never seen again. At that time, the Apollo programme cost around 20 billion US dollars. With today’s inflation, that is over 120 billion US dollars. That was over 4% of the total US budget. Today NASA only has a modest percentage of 0.47% of the American state budget.  During certain times of the Apollo program 400,000 people were employed simultaneously. An unimaginable high number.
I hope I could give you an interesting new perspective on how to prove relatively easily why it would have been totally impossible to fake the moon landing. In my opinion, all the conspiracy theories should be seen as a compliment anyway. It only shows how magnificent the success at that time was, and how groundbreaking the development at that time went forward in this short period. If you combine politics, research, development and a decent budget, fascinating projects can be realized. Even without any (direct) military background. I would be very happy if I experienced such a time again in my life. As a joint project across national borders, even continents. It can bring an entire species closer together.