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The Moon Landing of 1969

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong planted his left foot in the lunar dust and became the first human to walk on the moon. Unfortunately, that stellar moment in history may have been marred by one not-insignificant detail: If inquiring author Bill Kaysing has it right, Amstrong made his giant leap for mankind not 240,000 miles above the Earth in the barren Sea of Tranquillity, but a mere 90 miles north of lusty Las Vegas on a top-secret movie soundstage. Yes, as Kaysing tells it, the nation was gulled into believe that Armstrong and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., were gamboling through a bona fide lunar landscape, when in fact the two “actors” were hamming it up in a sinister government production that qualifies as the greatest hoax of all time.

Sheer lunacy, you say? Not according to the millions of skeptics who watched the spectacle of men walking on the moon in disbelief. And not according to Kaysing, who outlined his highly evolved theory in a self-published expose, We Never Went to the Moon. A former technical writer for Rockwell International (which contributed to the alleged “moon missions”), Kaysing claims no direct knowledge of NASA’s shenanigans. Rather, his certainty derives from the epistemological alignment of a “hunch,” photographic “proof,” and a gnawing feeling that “the government is a specialist in hoaxing the public.”

If his thesis is, well, somewhat weightless in the hard evidence department, Kaysing more than compensates with copious enthusiasm. “America’s 30 Billion Dollar Swindle!” he declares, played itself out over the course of five more sham moon landings and involved “well-faked photographs,” phony moon rocks, and “programmed astronauts” – not to mention “the help of father-figure [Walter] Cronkite as the journalistic goat.”

First and foremost, Kaysing has questions – questions that NASA and the former astronauts evade like a grifter dodges the “heat”;

In photographs of the lunar sky, why are no stars visible, and why are the
astronauts “extremely evasive regarding stars”? With no blocking atmosphere,
the celestial tableau would have been “the most magnificent available to mortal
man,” Kaysing writes. The answer, he posits, is that NASA’s set decorators knew
they couldn’t dupe professional astronomers with an ersatz starry backdrop.If the moon’s surface was powdery enough for deep footprints, why didn’t the
lunar lander’s rocket thruster dig a gaping crater? And why in photographs is
there no moon dust on the lander’s legs?

If the moon was proven to be “sterile” after the first Apollo mission, why were
astronauts in later missions held in quarantine so long? Kaysing submits that they
needed quality time in an airstream trailer to “1) eliminate guilt feelings; 2) study
and memorize moon data; and 3) practice responding to questions.”

“Why did so many astronauts end up as executives in very large corporations?”

Kaysing provides answers to most of the questions, including the most obvious – why would NASA go to the trouble of faking the Apollo moon shots? It seems the space agency launched its elaborate ruse when, after years of technological screw-ups and bureaucratic snafus, NASA realized it would never put a man on the moon by the close of the 1960s.

To avoid international embarrassment, NASA and the military’s stealth apparatus, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), established a top-secret operation that Kaysing calls the Apollo Simulation Project (ASP). For their secret base of operations, the cold-blooded ASP team chose a site in Nevada adjacent to land used by the Atomic Energy Commission in nuclear bomb testing – the perfect deterrent to the overly curious. Of course, ASP’s secret base also had the advantage of being less than an hour’s drive from “a twenty-four-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week, anything-goes resort boasting more than thirty large casinos.” According to Kaysing, who presents his case in semiomniscient fashion, ASP quite naturally hooked up with the Vegas “Cosa Nostra,” which patriotically provided the space program with expert “services,” apparently in the lethal splashdown department, so to speak.

In its desert redoubt, ASP excavated an underground cavern and installed “a complete set of the moon.” (Some word-of-mouth versions of the moon scam theory place the phony set in Arizona or New Mexico.) In fact – and in the absence of traditional journalistic sourcing, we must take Kaysing at his word on most “facts” – none other than film director Stanley Kubrick assisted in the plot, generously using his 2001: A Space Odyssey to develop the Hollywood special effects required to foist the NASA hoax on an unsuspecting public. (It makes you wonder what The Shining was all about.)

According to Kaysing, ASP’s modus operandi went something like this:

An empty Saturn V rocket lifts off in Florida – in full public view, thereby lending
the Apollo con a patina of authenticity. However, once out of sight, the ghost
rocket ditches into the South Polar Sea.The “astronauts” are jetted to ASP’s Nevada complex where the enjoy “every
conceivable luxury, including a few of the shapeliest showgirls from Las Vegas,
cleared for secret, of course.” When Armstrong and his fellow playboy thespians
aren’t earning membership in the 240,000 Mile High Club, so to speak, they “are
free to wander about and play the slots” and “sample the twenty-four-hour buffet
from the Dunes” hotel. (In this moral vacuum, the well-informed Kaysing
reports, one of the astronauts may have “socked an ASP official in a dispute over
a showgirl named Peachy Keen.”

When the curtain finally rises, the special -effects team, TV cameramen, and
“ASP moon walk director” create a near-seamless piece of performance art, as
Armstrong recites his scripted “one-small-step” line. Every aspect of the phony
video feed is “meticulously” choreographed, down to the “boo-boos,” jokes, “and
seeming improvisations of the astronauts.” Meanwhile, NASA cooks up
counterfeit “moon rocks,” the purported hard evidence of the journey, in a high-
tech ceramics kiln.

In time for their triumphal return to Earth, the astronauts are coaxed away from
the Vegas vixens and whisked to a hidden air base south of the Hawaiian Islands
(the “Tauramoto Archipelago,” Kaysing obligingly specifies). There they are
sealed inside a dummy space capsule and dropped from a C5-a transport plane
into the roiling seas.

If the plot sounds a lot like the 1979 film Capricorn One, which dramatized a similar cabal involving a bogus mission to Mars, it is because, according to Kaysing, Hollywood borrowed the idea from the first edition of his book.

Like the O.J. Simpson-Telly Savalas film (or any conspiracy hypothesis worth its salt), Kaying’s theory has its martyrs, a whole cemetery full. There’s Tom Baron, the aerospace technician who complained to Congress about dangerous corner-cutting in the Apollo program – and died in a train accident “just four days after he testified.” There are also the three astronauts – including Gus “the Right Stuff” Grissom – who died on the launchpad in a 1967 “mishap” when fire swept through their capsule. Grisson had groused publicly about Apollo’s safety troubles, leading Kaysing to postulate that perhaps the DIA arranged a little “accident” to silence the whistle-blower and impress other loud-mouth fly-boys.

And, as in many a postulated conspiracy, this one involves brainwashing. Kaysing suggests that the astronauts might have been subjected to state-of-the-art mind-control techniques and turned into “Manchurian Candidates,” thus ensuring their obedient participation in the hoax. This, he postulates, might explain their subsequent reclusiveness and, in some cases, “severe mental problems.”

What are they trying to hide, anyway? Kaysing wonders. Neil Armstrong “will not speak on the phone to me,” Kaysing complains in his book. Buzz Aldrin apparently won’t appear on talk shows alongside Apollo’s intractable critic. Despite their seeming aloofness, however, the space jockeys may in fact be very interested in the California researcher’s doings: Kaysing intimates darkly that agents of Armstrong keep close tabs on his ongoing quest to defrock Apolloscam.

Alas, NASA’s secrets remain as impenetrable as any Vegas vault. Barring unforeseen revelations, hectoring ex-astronauts may be the only way for Kaysing to get to the bottom of the conundrum. Like David flinging tiny Earth rocks at a space-suited Goliath, the intrepid investigator has issued a standing challenge: “I am willing,” Kaysing pledges, “to debate any or all of the astronauts at any time on live TV or in person anywhere.”

So far the Manchurian Spacemen have declined to take that one small step.