How Did The Moon Landing Conspiracy Go Galactic?

It's been 50 years since first Neil Armstrong and then Buzz Aldrin stepped on the moon. It's also been 42 years since the moon landing conspiracy was birthed.

'The moon landing was fake' is arguably the most famous conspiracy hoax of all time. It's up there with the September 11 terror attacks being an inside job, the existence of Big Foot, or the many, many conspiracies about who assassinated JFK.

For decades, people have pointed to so-called 'evidence' the moon landing was faked by NASA, likely to achieve President John F. Kennedy's goal that America would put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s.

Conspiracists point to everything from the lack of stars to the fluttering of the American flag -- seemingly in the wind -- as proof the whole thing was faked. The footage millions of people around the world watched live? Filmed in a studio, of course, by none other than Stanley Kubrick.

This picture is actually of Neil Armstrong practising using a lunar surface television camera while in his spacesuit. Photo: NASA.

It all began with the self-publication of a little known book by someone only tangibly connected to the Apollo 11 mission. We Never Went to the Moon: America's Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle was self published in 1976 by Bill Kaysing, a former senior technical writer at the subdivision which built Apollo 11's famous Saturn V rockets.

Of the estimated 400,000 people involved in the moon landing, Kaysing -- a man with no engineering experience -- is unlikely to have authoritative insight.

READ MORE: What's Really Behind Conspiracy Theories?

However, a man with no technical experience was able to convince a not-small portion of the general public the moon landing had been faked, in part due to the broader distrust in the government of the 1970s.

And his work has legacy.

Dozens of people have added to it over the years, and today the conspiracy lives on in YouTube, podcasts and Reddit, but several pieces of Kaysing's 'evidence' are still referenced by 'moonhoaxers' today. (The crucial and 'mysterious' absence of blast craters beneath the Lunar Modules? That's Kaysing's work.)

This iconic image? Fake. Or so millions would have you believe. Photo: Getty.

NASA was even forced to issue a fact sheet in 1997 debunking the claims in response to Kaysin's book. It did not mince words.

"Yes. Astronauts did land on the moon," it said.

"Apart from the fact that millions of people saw the Apollo series on television and heard them on radio in real time, perhaps the lunar material is as irrefutable proof as any of that the moon missions were not 'faked' ... the material could not have been collected, or even manufactured on Earth, and clearly comes from an entirely different world."

READ MORE: Apollo 11 Moon Mission Could Have Infected Earth With Moon Germs

In 2001, the conspiracy reached new life with a Fox Network television documentary which essentially presented the conspiracy talking points as fact.

Conspiracy Theory: Did We Really Land on the Moon? presented 'evidence' the moon landing was faked to an audience of approximately 15 million people.

Fox bragged that skepticism increased to about 20 percent after it aired.

A screenshot from the Fox documentary.

In our post-truth, #fakenews, 'alternative facts' world, nothing has changed.

A recent YouGov poll found that one in six Britons (16 percent) was probably staged (12 percent) or definitely staged (four percent).

Thankfully, unlike conspiracy theories about how 'climate change isn't a fast-approaching catastrophe' and 'vaccines causing autism', the moon landing being faked doesn't hurt anyone else.

(With one exception: an 'expert' denier who appeared on the Fox program harassed Aldrin the following year, calling him a liar; Aldrin responded by punching him in the face.)

But if you're looking for conclusive evidence that the moon landing was real -- aside from everything else NASA has put forward -- then consider this:

Masterminding a secret operation involving 400,000 people, not to mention the Russians, and keeping that secret going for decades, just seems a great deal harder than just landing on the moon in the first place.

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