Fireside 2.1 (https://fireside.fm) Universe University Blog https://universeuniversity.fireside.fm/articles Mon, 18 May 2020 14:00:00 -0700 Universe University Blog en-us Interstellar Culture https://universeuniversity.fireside.fm/articles/interstellarculture Mon, 18 May 2020 14:00:00 -0700 show@universeuniversity.space 9784ef47-000e-420d-a759-87491eb08169 It is within the power of the human race to propagate ourselves throughout this vast cosmos of which we are a part. There is nothing impossible about such a notion and there are many worlds where we might find ourselves very much at home. According to data from the Kepler space telescope, 20 percent of all stars in our galaxy may contain habitable exoplanets very similar to the Earth. Whether those distant planets contain indigenous life of their own and whether they will be ideal for human habitation is likely a question we will have to answer by visiting those worlds ourselves. One of these potentially habitable planets is a place called ‘Proxima Centauri b’, orbiting the closest star to our own sun: Proxima Centauri. Unfortunately, this planet is still trillions of miles away from the Earth. Much closer, within our own planetary neighborhood, lies a world called Mars. There is enough frozen water on this planet to fill up an entire ocean on Earth and while it has a thinner atmosphere than our own planet, it is enough to offer some protection from solar flares from the sun. There is an old Chinese proverb that states, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” and Mars is the first step on our journey towards interstellar civilization.

If we wish to understand what an interstellar culture of human explorers and pioneers will look like, we need only look at the great deeds our species has accomplished in the recent past. For those who say that interplanetary and interstellar colonization are mere science fiction, the fact is that we have already taken the first preliminary steps. In 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison ‘Jack’ Schmitt lived and worked on the surface of the Earth’s moon for over three days. During this time, they spent a cumulative total of over 22 hours outside their spacecraft exploring the surface of another world, aided by their lunar rover. It is a record for lunar exploration that still stands to this very day. In astronaut Cernan’s autobiography, ‘Last Man on the Moon’, he describes his final day of lunar exploration in the following words: “Like ordinary commuters, we ate breakfast, dressed and drove to work, although our clothes and car were quite different than those of the average person. Bone tired, we took off for another seven hours.” Someday in the not-too-distant future, a new generation of humans may be commuters on other worlds once again!

Yet how did such a fantastic reality become almost mundane for the men who experienced it nearly half a century ago? It was the culmination of just over a decade of aggressive effort on the part of two global superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union. First, the Soviet Union proved they could place simple machines into Earth orbit, humiliating the United States politically with their launch of Sputnik; the first artificial satellite. Then as an encore, they proved that human beings could be placed into Earth orbit with the launch of Yuri Gagarin; the first human being to venture into space. Desperate to catch up to the Soviet Union in what was an apparent race in space technology, American President John F. Kennedy proposed sending a man to land on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. The United States spent substantial time, money, and effort on developing space technology and space infrastructure in low Earth orbit, and then used those tools to press on to land on the moon.

So why did our progress in human space exploration cease in recent decades? The simple answer is that we decided to stop. The Soviet Union lost the political willpower to follow the United States to the moon when the United States got there first. The United States congress also grew weary of the financial costs of space exploration. Then, President Richard Nixon drastically reduced NASA’s budget and opted to develop the American space shuttle; a craft incapable of taking astronauts beyond Earth orbit.

I recently had the opportunity to interview aerospace engineer and founder of the Mars Society, Dr. Robert Zubrin. It was a truly inspiring experience to speak with a man whom I believe to be the strongest advocate for space exploration of all time. It is no exaggeration to say that Dr. Zubrin inspired a young Elon Musk to set his sites on going to Mars! At the conclusion of our interview, Dr. Zubrin told me, “There is an infinite sky and its wide open.” This is as inspiring a message as can be imagined during our current global pandemic.

In his new book, ‘The Case for Space’, Dr. Zubrin predicts that brilliant minds such as Elon Musk are on the precipice of making space travel as routine and inexpensive as air travel within the coming years. To support this conclusion, his book cites the first launch of the (mostly reusable) SpaceX Falcon Heavy booster, which has a payload capacity roughly three times that of the American space shuttle. It is technically capable of sending human beings to the moon or even Mars and it was developed for less than one tenth the cost that most aerospace engineers had predicted. In the book, Dr. Zubrin states, “The age of stagnation will end … But what will it mean for you personally? Well, for starters, it means you will be able to fly to orbit for about 20,000 dollars. This is the same range as current long-distance first-class airplane flights-

This reality is a matter of science fact to Dr. Zubrin but I must concede that his prophecy bears a strong resemblance to science fiction. Mr. Musk himself found inspiration not only from Dr. Zubrin but also from the ‘Foundation’ novels by science fiction author Isaac Asimov. In reflecting on these novels, Mr. Musk said, “The lesson I drew is you should try to take the set of actions that are likely to prolong civilization.” Mars colonization, in Mr. Musk’s eyes, will be the key to making humanity a multi-planetary civilization. When I asked Dr. Zubrin about Mr. Musk drawing his inspiration from science fiction, Dr. Zubrin was quick to point out the motto of the oldest space advocacy body in the world, the British Interplanetary Society. Their motto, enshrined on their coat of arms, reads: “from imagination to reality”. Imagination may very well become a new reality for humanity in short order.

Mr. Musk wants to place a million people in a city on Mars by the year 2050. To call such a goal ambitious is an understatement. It may take many decades, perhaps even centuries to make such colonization a reality. Settling in North and South America was a task that took Europeans centuries. But landing on Mars is an undeniably noble goal and the first step towards creating an interstellar civilization, regardless of how long it may take. So it is rather unfortunate to think that there are so many naysayers and critics of human missions to Mars, even within NASA and the European Space Agency!

These naysayers warn that a single human mission to Mars followed by a return to Earth shortly thereafter is simply far too dangerous of a risk to human life due to radiation in space. Dr. Zubrin dismisses such concerns as baseless and alarmist. He is well qualified to do so. With a PhD in Nuclear Engineering, Dr. Zubrin once worked for the Office of Radiation Protection in Washington State. When I asked him to explain the risks, Dr. Zubrin said the following: “Based on the best models that we have and these are very conservative models, it is about a one percent [increased] risk of getting a fatal cancer some time later in your life … It is a much lower risk than tens of millions of people voluntarily assume by smoking because the average American smoker adds a 20 percent risk of fatal cancer to themselves just for whatever pleasure they get out of smoking, as opposed to the joy you would get from being the first human on Mars!” Should such a modest risk really stand in the way of human beings exploring and settling on literal new worlds throughout the universe? To be sure, there will be many other risks and hardships but human beings are resilient creatures.

Humans only set up permanent outposts in Antarctica, Earth’s southernmost continent, within the last half a century despite the fact that human beings had discovered the continent in the 1800s. The dry, frigid tundra of Antarctica with its high elevation and thin air bear a striking resemblance to the surface of Mars. The human settlements on this terrestrial continent are proof that our species can and will inevitably explore and settle in the most extreme environments that our imaginations can conceive. In the early 1900s, at the Earth’s South Pole, British explorer Robert Falcon Scott and his men dragged their supplies across an icy landscape while suffering from scurvy and altitude sickness. Today, the same location is dubbed Amundsen-Scott Station in honor of the first teams of men to reach this remote location. The station has hot showers, a dry sauna, a bar, and a library. A few hundred miles from Amundsen-Scott is Vostok Station where just a few decades ago, its inhabitants saw the coldest temperatures ever recorded on the planet Earth. During the austral winter of 1983, while human beings were alive and well at the base, temperatures plunged to negative 89 degrees Celsius or negative 128 Fahrenheit!

Struggling to imagine what life on a future Mars colony might be like, I found myself reaching out to a woman named Agustina Lusky. Simply visiting a harsh and remote frontier on the Earth as an adult can be an incomparable experience. But Agustina Lusky actually spent a portion of her childhood on such a frontier: a permanent, Argentine outpost known as Esperanza Base on the continent of Antarctica. Her personal account, quoted below, represents the triumph of the human spirit and our resilience to make ourselves at home in distant lands…

"In 1998, my father was given the opportunity to travel with his family to Base Esperanza. He was in charge of the Seismological Station at the base that measured earthquakes. My mom went along as my dad’s assistant to help him with his work. The majority of people there were military. Everyone seemed fairly normal; decent, kind people. I was 10 years old, just one of 12 kids. Only three of them were around my age. We all became friends immediately and that friendship has continued to this day.

There was a small school there. It was the same as going to school anywhere, except of course there were very few students. In my classroom, six of us were divided into three groups because we were different ages. Usually, we walked to school unless there was a bad snowstorm outside. On those days, a special vehicle came to pick us up. If there was a storm, it usually meant that the snow would be way above our heads. If the weather was really bad, class would be cancelled for the day.

My favorite place on the base was called ‘The Casino’ but it wasn’t a REAL casino. Just a place where the 65 people on the base gathered to eat pizza on Saturdays, watch movies, and play games like pool or ping-pong. Birthdays and holidays were also celebrated at the Casino. My friends and I used to play pool there all the time and we got pretty good at it.

When we weren’t playing pool; we went hiking, played in the snow, walked on the frozen sea, watched movies on VHS tapes, and had sleepovers. Sometimes at night, we gathered at the lighthouse to eat snacks and tell scary stories. We were the happiest kids on earth and I think I speak for most us when I say it was the most precious time of our lives. I loved to watch the Adelie and Papua Penguins with their babies. I used to go with my dad to do field work, riding on the back of his snowmobile. The view from the Buenos Aires glacier was breathtaking. We used to snowboard down.

The day we had to leave the base was one of the saddest days of my life. My friends and I cried a lot. Going back to everyday life was very hard. I remember talking on the phone for hours with one of my friends crying and remembering our time there.

It has been 22 years and I still miss Antarctica with all my heart. Sometimes, I can’t help but cry when I look at the old photos from my childhood… If I had the chance, I would go back without even thinking. If there is one person I know who could live on Mars and be happy doing it, it’s my father but this would only be possible if he were there with his family. He used to say that during our stay at Base Esperanza, he had to pinch himself every day because he couldn't believe that his family was by his side.

I personally have always been obsessed with space travel and life on other planets, so I would be happy to go on such a journey. I think that people who would have the chance to go to Mars or some other planet should not be sentimentally bound to the Earth… it would be hard to bear without deteriorating their psyche.”

It has been said that home is where the heart is and the human heart is capable of forging grandiose dreams into a glorious reality. Perhaps no one believes this more strongly than Dr. Zubrin. While he has devoted his career to advocating for a human mission to Mars, he told me Mars is just a direction. It is not a final destination. His book, ‘The Case for Space’ is not science fantasy or science fiction; it’s a literal road map to the stars written by a brilliant engineer and polymath who realizes that those same stars are within humanty’s grasp. The words below are Dr. Zubrin’s prophecy.

500 years from now, there will be cities not only on Mars and elsewhere in the solar system but on hundreds of planets orbiting stars in this region of the galaxy; hundreds of new branches of human civilization, new languages, new literatures, new cultural traditions and political traditions, multitudes of sources for discoveries, inventions, technology… and tales of heroic deeds that will be used to inspire other people to go even further in developing this magnificent interstellar culture. When they look back on this time, they will view it as the beginning of history, just like we could look back on humans leaving Africa as the beginning of human history … So this is something truly magnificent and we’re present at the creation. It’s our honor to be among the creators.”

Dr. Zubrin's prophecy can be realized but we need to take the first step. We need to send human beings to Mars. I can only hope that our current generation can rise to the challenge.

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Destiny in the Stars https://universeuniversity.fireside.fm/articles/destiny-in-space Mon, 04 May 2020 20:30:00 -0700 show@universeuniversity.space 2fa8640f-6f18-4123-a24b-53c59267a994 Human destiny lies in outer space... but we have yet to take the first real step towards that destiny by sending humans to Mars. Humanity’s destiny lies among the stars… if we can merely harness both the courage and motivation to seize that destiny. ‘If’ is the operative word in that sentence. During the current pandemic, it is easy for many of us to become discouraged and lose sight of the glorious future that awaits our entire species. Humans are deeply flawed beings but we are also resilient, intelligent, innovative creatures that have made enormous strides and done great deeds in our fleeting, brief existence on this planet. As nomads, we migrated out of Africa in our prehistory – crossing rivers, mountain ranges, deserts, and oceans – to explore and build settlements on every continent on Earth. That’s no small feat for a group of frail primates. Sending human beings to the planet Mars now must be our decisive priority as a species. While the challenges of making such a journey will be incomparable, the rewards of such an endeavor will be even greater still. The journey is within our grasp technologically and it has been for some time, though we have to take the final step in committing time, effort, and money to achieving it. The first men and women to explore the red planet will behold sights never before seen by human eyes and their descendents in future generations will be just as comfortable on other planets as human beings are on every continent of our planet today.

First, I would like to address why I believe Mars must be the focus of our efforts rather than the moon or any other destination in space. In my writing for the Universe University blog as well as my writing for the podcast itself, I often quote the words of others more experienced or more knowledgeable than myself when illustrating important points. I recently had the privilege of interviewing the brilliant Dr. Robert Zubrin: founder of the Mars Society and author of Mars Direct, which is the most efficient and cost effective plan ever written for landing human beings on Mars and returning them safely to the Earth. When the United States first landed on the moon in 1969, rocket engineer Dr. Wernher von Braun stated that with a strong national effort, American astronauts could walk on Mars by 1981. The price tag of such a project was not appealing to the United States Congress. When President George H.W. Bush brought up the subject of Mars missions again in 1989 during his Space Exploration Initiative, Dr. Zubrin proposed Mars Direct. While many at NASA loved the plan, the organization ultimately failed to adopt it for purely political reasons. I asked former NASA historian Alex Roland about the prospects for manned Mars missions and he said this:

“I’ve been saying that for decades now that it’s surely not going to happen in my lifetime. I think I’m safe to predict that it probably won’t happen within your lifetime either … it’s enormously expensive and complicated to do it.”

I asked Dr. Zubrin why Mars ought to be our focus. Below, is his response:

“There’s two things that make Mars of great interest. One is science. It’s the Rosetta Stone for letting us know the truth about the potential prevalence and diversity of life in the universe. And the other is that Mars is the new frontier where a new branch of human civilization can be born and where humanity can begin transforming itself into a space faring species.”

Later on in our discussion, he revealed that space exploration in general is fundamental not only in searching for life elsewhere but for the discipline of science itself:

“The greatest lab in the universe is the universe. The best place to do astronomy is space. And historically, astronomy has led to the development of physics. The laws of gravity, which led to the discovery of the laws of classical physics, were discovered through astronomy. There’s Newton’s work, which was a product of astronomical research. Much of what we know about electromagnetism came from astronomy. Certainly, General Relativity came from astronomy. The discovery of nuclear fusion came from astronomy. So I think there’s fantastic forces at play in the universe and we will discover them through space based astronomy … Things that seem inconceivable now will become conceivable.”

Our current civilization would indeed be very different and our quality of life greatly diminished if we had no understanding of electromagnetism and basic physics. Even Einstein’s General Relativity, a set of rules that govern how stars and planets behave in outer space, has powerful practical applications. For instance, our Global Positioning System or G.P.S. requires that we recognize and keep track of the time dilation predicted by General Relativity and experienced by our G.P.S. satellites in orbit around the Earth. The new technological and scientific breakthroughs born of space-based astronomy in the coming century are sure to be every bit as valuable as those from previous centuries.

It was Dr. Zubrin who convinced a young entrepreneur named Elon Musk that Mars should be the ultimate focus of Mr. Musk’s ambitions in the space industry. Now, Mr. Musk’s company SpaceX is testing prototypes of the vehicles that may soon take human crews to Mars.

This is why Mr. Musk says that Mars must be humanity’s focus: “Given that this is the first time in 4.5 billion years where it’s been possible for humanity to extend life beyond Earth, it seems like we’d be wise to act while the window was open and not count on the fact that it will be open a long time.

Of course, many critics of space exploration will ask why we would bother to spend such enormous amounts of money traveling to another planet, especially under current circumstances, when there are so many pressing problems right here on Earth? Of course, no one disagrees that human beings should use our ingenuity and intelligence to address our problems on Earth. However, human space exploration will undeniably give us crucial information to solve those very problems!

Dr. Joel S. Levine is a planetary scientist with a career spanning four decades and he has published over 150 scientific journal articles. He concurs with Mr. Musk and Dr. Zubrin that the search for life on Mars is of paramount importance. Dr. Levine says that that it will have profound implications for humanity’s broader understanding of biology, microbiology, combating diseases, and human health. One cannot deny that these topics could be of particularly vital importance during the current pandemic we are facing. Such knowledge might be worth a great price.

Regardless of what the future holds, COVID-19 will one day be a distant memory much like previous pandemics. But what about the ongoing threat posed by climate change to the world’s nations and ecosystems? Surely, understanding and combating climate change must be a higher priority than sending human beings to Mars, right? One tweet in March stated, “Coronavirus is Earth’s vaccine. We’re the virus.” In less than two weeks, it received hundreds of thousands of likes. Indeed, the reduction of human activity on Earth caused by quarantines and social distancing has reduced air pollution all over the world. Human activity within the past century has undeniably disrupted and even destroyed ecosystems around the world. However, is it really fair to suggest that human beings are a literal virus?

This concept is not new. In the 1968 book ‘The Population Bomb’, author Paul Ehrlich predicted that humanity’s growing population would trigger massive, catastrophic starvation worldwide within the course of just a few decades as humanity depleted the planet’s dwindling, finite resources in short order. It was not a dystopian science fiction novel but a sincere prophesy that human population growth would play out like a viral infection on the planet. Ehrlich advocated widespread sterilization of human beings to combat this problem.

We did not sterilize ourselves en masse in 1968 and the Earth’s human population continued to skyrocket. Yet most societies on Earth managed to grow enough food to sustain their increasing populations due at least, in part, to revolutionary scientific advances in agriculture. Those same societies enjoy much higher standards of living now than they did many decades ago. Climatologists today do indeed warn that human activity is drastically altering the climate. Yet they explain these effects are due to humans releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, not due to humans having babies or growing vegetables. Imagine the scientists, engineers, artists, and musicians that would have never been born if humanity had embraced the idea that we were a cancer on the Earth? Appropriately enough, Dr. Robert Zubrin calls such an ideology ‘antihumanism’ and it is the subject of his book ‘Merchants of Despair’. In following this ideology to its logical conclusion, Dr. Zubrin writes, “One does not seek to advance the cause of a cancer.

There are many examples on Earth of animal populations growing quickly and as a result, changing the balance of the ecosystem that they live within. We do not label all these animal populations as cancers or viruses. Why should we label ourselves as such? We express appropriate moral revulsion at the political leaders in human history who saw different races of human beings as viruses or cancers… yet there are some human beings on this planet today who view not one single race as a virus but an entire animal species as such: homo sapiens. Shouldn’t we be equally repulsed by this idea as well?

Of course, the vast majority of environmentalists today do not hold such radical views. Most environmentalists are compassionate human beings that simply want to make the world a better place for humans as well as the other organisms that live on our planet. This is indeed a noble endeavor and humans should never ignore the effect our presence has had on our home planet. On the contrary, we should work to drastically reduce any and all destructive effects we have on our ecosystems and preserve them for future generations. In our present century, there are many examples of human beings doing just this very thing.

Dr. Zubrin pointed out that in 2012, the Native American Haida tribe endeavored to restore their own salmon populations by collaborating with American scientist Russ George. By distributing iron sulfate in the Pacific Ocean, they stimulated a bloom of phytoplankton that, in turn, offered more food for young salmon. By 2014, the salmon population in the region had skyrocketed. New advances in biology and microbiology predicted by Dr. Levine as the byproduct of Martian exploration are sure to offer even greater tools to humanity. The Haida tribe’s decision to increase the salmon population that they relied on for food was a far better solution than sterilizing themselves to ensure that there they would have no future descendants to endanger the lives of salmon.

Climatology is the tool we must use to use to understand and combat climate change. Yet in our present century, climatology has become inseparable from space technology. Our rich understanding of the changes in the Earth’s climate today only exists because of continuing observations and photographs of the Earth taken from outer space. Space technology and infrastructure give us a comprehensive and cohesive view of nearly every corner of the world. Sending astronauts to Mars specifically will yield still greater insights for climatology on Earth.

Dr. Levine has stated Mars exploration is fundamental precisely because it will revolutionize our understanding of climate change. All of the evidence seems to suggest that while Mars is a frigid, sandy desert today; it was almost certainly very warm and wet in its ancient past. Surface features like dry river beds forged by liquid water erosion bear witness to this past. It might be of great importance to determine precisely what factors caused Mars to undergo a climate metamorphosis from a habitable oasis to an icy desert. There are innumerable lessons that could be learned from studying the Martian climate that could transform our understanding of climate change here on Earth.

We cannot and will not reap all the benefits of a human mission to Mars with remotely controlled robots or rovers though. In a presentation in 2017, Dr. Levine pointed out that the robotic rover Opportunity covered 26 miles on Mars in just over a decade. Yet he stated that a small team of human beings in a similar, larger vehicle could cover the same distance in just one day! The work of a handful of dedicated and brave scientists on Mars in a single day might very well yield advances in science that would be the equivalent of a lifetime of work here on Earth.

Charles S. Cockell, a professor of astrobiology, stated that a region on Mars called Terra Sirenum might be of particular interest because of its massive salt deposits. It is likely the remains of an ancient sea that has long since gone dry. Professor Cockell stated that even deep underground on the planet Earth, microbial life in or around salt deposits can thrive even with very little access to nutrients or light. Half jokingly, Professor Cockell has said, “If you send me to Terra Sirenum with a microscope and a shovel, I can tell you in a few hours whether there is life on Mars.

Some critics of human Mars exploration have suggested that human beings returning from a mission to Mars could bring back a deadly pathogen that might cause a devastating pandemic here on Earth. Such a notion has been the plot of countless science fiction stories and films. During our current global pandemic, this seems like a particularly serious concern. Alarmist writings on the issue include a piece from the internet publication Quileute titled, ‘One Small Step for Man… One Giant Leap toward the Annihilation of Mankind’. (Curiously, the author of this piece is a psychologist, not an epidemiologist or microbiologist.) Critics say that the risks are far too grave to allow humans to land on Mars and gather rock samples to bring back to Earth.

These concerns do not stand up under scrutiny though for two reasons. The first is that microbial life on Mars, if it exists, has likely already found its way to Earth! Surprisingly, multiple pieces of both Mars and the Earth’s moon have been discovered on the Earth in the form of meteorites. They were almost certainly ejected from those worlds during asteroid impacts in the distant past. One of these Martian meteorites named ALH 84001 was examined under an electron microscope and found to have strange structures that resembled microscopic bacteria. Since then, there has been vigorous scientific debate about whether these structures are evidence of ancient Martian life or whether they were created by some other natural process.

We know that there are forms of microscopic life on Earth that can survive within the vacuum of space and microbiologists today say that it is entirely plausible for some forms of life to survive transit between planets, hidden inside meteors. This is the basis of panspermia: the hypothesis that life on Earth originated from meteorites carrying life from other planets in our solar system or even from other exoplanets. Is it possible that we are all Martians? Perhaps, though such a conclusion is far from certain. For those concerned about Martian pathogens stowing away on a return journey to Earth, that ship has already sailed. Plenty of material from Mars has already landed on Earth. Those who are incurably paranoid about hypothetical Martian pathogens making their way to Earth can rest easy though. The Apollo astronauts were quarantined for 21 days after returning from the moon because doctors agreed that if they were infected with a pathogen of any kind, they would show symptoms within that time frame. Astronauts returning from Mars will be sealed in their spacecraft or ‘quarantined’ not for days or weeks but for months on end as they travel back to Earth.

Furthermore, the majority of microorganisms on Earth are not harmful to human beings. The microorganisms that do cause illness or death do so because they evolved alongside humans and animals. This is the second reason why we ought not be concerned about a Martian pandemic on Earth. One thing we can say with a high degree of certainty is that there are no terrestrial animals, let alone human beings, living on the surface of Mars. So if life exists on Mars, it certainly has not evolved to live within the bodies of human beings or terrestrial animals.

Other critics charge that human explorers on Mars might accidentally bring microscopic life from the Earth, thus making it impossible to determine whether indigenous Martian life ever existed. The concern is known as ‘forward contamination’. Dr. Zubrin says this argument is also fallacious. We know that microorganisms on Earth, like all life, leave behind ample evidence of their history such as fossils. If microbes have existed on Mars for billions of years, surely we will find fossils and other biomarkers that will offer evidence of their presence prior to humanity’s arrival on the planet.

Finally, the critics make a plea for the hypothetical Martian microbes themselves. Astronomy Professor David Weintraub said the following in 2018: “If life already exists on Mars, then Mars, for now at least, belongs to the Martians. Mars is their planet, and Martian life would be threatened by a human presence there.” If Professor Weintraub’s view is correct, then microbiology itself is immoral and unethical in many respects because human scientists risk posing some threat to the microbial life that they observe. Why search for microbial life at the bottom of the ocean, in caves, near volcanoes, or anywhere on Earth if we risk encroaching on microorganisms and doing them some kind of possible harm? Even if we can gain valuable knowledge that will help alleviate the suffering of human beings or help to restore ecosystems in different parts of the planet Earth, the risk to the microorganisms is just too great! Of course, if you view human beings as a virus or a cancer on the planet Earth; then they will inevitably be a virus or a cancer on any other planet that they explore.

Yet I along with many others do not share such a dim view of humanity. We are deeply flawed creatures but we also have the power to do good; morally and ethically. President John F. Kennedy said, “Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.”

Mr. Musk has stated that he wants to have one million people living on Mars by the year 2050. Such a goal will undeniably be immensely difficult to achieve and in this case, Mr. Musk’s reach may exceed his grasp. The colonization of Mars and the rest of the solar system will likely be a process that will take centuries but our future descendants will be eternally grateful that we took the first step to becoming an interplanetary species. A permanent human outpost of any kind on Mars will be a paradigm shifting accomplishment in human history and it will mark the beginning of humanity’s expansion into the cosmos. Mr. Musk deserves full credit for treating such a goal as the urgent imperative that it is. Historian Arthur Slessinger said that the Apollo 11 moon landing was the most significant achievement of the 20th century. Building an outpost on Mars will be more significant still and may prove to be the most significant achievement in the history of our species. We have to take that first step though. Dr. Zubrin said, “History isn’t a spectator sport. We have to play our part.

Perhaps astronomer Carl Sagan said it best when he uttered the following words:

“Our small planet at this moment, here we face a critical branch point in history … It is well within our power to destroy our civilization and perhaps our species as well. If we capitulate to superstition or greed or stupidity, we can plunge our world into a darkness deeper than the time between the collapse of classical civilizations and the Italian renaissance. But we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth, to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet, to enhance enormously our understanding of the universe and to carry us to the stars.”

This is a far more hopeful, uplifting, and optimistic message for humanity than the notion that we are a cancer on the planet Earth and we must sterilize ourselves to save the planet. Then again, if we aren’t willing to accept our destiny as an interplanetary species and we are truly determined to stagnate on a planet with finite resources, leaving the vault of knowledge that is the universe permanently locked, perhaps we might as well sterilize ourselves and accept a fate of extinction?

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The First Man https://universeuniversity.fireside.fm/articles/the-first-man Wed, 24 Jul 2019 00:00:00 -0700 show@universeuniversity.space 8eec511d-a3b0-47fe-926b-7dca7fc533d0 Who was the first human being in history to realize that landing human beings on the moon would be even theoretically possible? “Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it.”

  • Robert H. Goddard, 1920

Half a century ago today – on July 24, 1969 – the first humans to land on another world returned to the planet Earth safe and sound. For millennia, the idea of such a voyage was mere fantasy. The mission had been boldly proposed by the late President John F. Kennedy only eight years prior. The United States would land a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth. In the end, NASA went even further, landing not one but two men. Space travel, and moon landings specifically, had been written about in science fiction for quite some time before the actual event. Yet it would be Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin who would become immortal in the annals of history for being the first men to land on the moon, turning science fiction into science fact. But who was the first human being in history to realize that landing on the moon would be even theoretically possible? To answer this question, one must take a metaphorical journey back in time and into the minds of the scientists, engineers, and authors who knew it could be done one day.

Even in 1961, at the dawn of the space age, no one could be certain whether such an outlandish journey through space was feasible. Consider just how little the United States knew about outer space in 1961. Three years prior to President Kennedy’s pledge, America’s first satellite had discovered two massive, donut shaped swaths of intense radiation surrounding the Earth. These belts of intense radiation became known as the Van Allen Belts. Very little was known about space travel at the time but scientists were well aware of the dangers of radiation to the human body. Dr. Stanley C. White from NASA conceded that the Van Allen Belts could be very hazardous to astronauts. (Ultimately, by 1969, NASA came up with a course that took astronauts through the thinnest region of the belts, traveling through them at extremely high speeds.) That same American satellite, Explorer One, found temperatures in outer space to be about 250 degrees Fahrenheit in sunlight. Since the moon had virtually no atmosphere, its surface would also be quite hot. In fact, the surface of the moon would likely be even hotter, perhaps over 300 degrees in sunlight. Some astronomers speculated that so much lunar dust covered the surface of the moon that a heavy craft would sink into the soil upon landing, leaving astronauts buried alive. No one could say for sure though since the United States had yet to even land a robot on the moon. Even the Soviet Union, a nation that was years ahead of the United States in rocketry and space flight technology, had not achieved a soft landing with any robotic craft. (In 1961, it would be years before the Soviets even attempted such a feat.)

An American astrophysicist named Thomas Gold speculated that lunar dust had been in a vacuum for so long that if it were exposed to oxygen, it might combust and explode when the astronauts repressurized the cabin of their spacecraft after walking on the moon. Even by 1969, this was still a risk astronauts were well aware of. Finally and perhaps most importantly, in 1961, neither the United States nor the Soviet Union had a rocket anywhere near powerful enough to escape Earth orbit and send human beings to the moon.

The first American astronaut, Alan Shepard, had skimmed the edge of space in a tiny capsule just a few weeks prior to President Kennedy’s pledge. He returned alive and well but it had only been a 15 minute flight. Medical experts on Earth knew nothing about how the human body would fare on longer voyages into outer space. A round trip journey to the moon would involve roughly a week in outer space. It was widely known that Yuri Gagarin, the first human being to venture into space, survived a flight of 108 minutes and completed one orbit around the Earth. Yet the notoriously secretive Soviet government had released no details to the world about the flight and certainly no medical information about how the human body reacted to space travel. Some doctors believed that in microgravity, the human eye might float upwards, no longer needing the support of the bone or muscle around it. They thought the eye might change shape, causing blurred vision or temporary blindness. It is indeed sadly ironic that today, half a century after the first moon landing, there are those who say we cannot yet even attempt a voyage to Mars because we do not know how the human body will fare on such a journey and it is simply too dangerous to attemp it! So little was known about long duration space flight that John Glen, the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962, brought a medical kit with morphine for pain relief and medication to treat symptoms of shock!

Even so, a former Nazi rocket scientist named Wernher Von Braun had thought a voyage to the moon was possible for quite some time. By 1961, Von Braun was working for the United States government to make it a reality. In 1962, Von Braun personally addressed President Kennedy’s moon landing proposal by looking the president in the eye and saying, “By God, we’ll do it!” Yet Von Braun’s dream of landing a man on the moon predated the space age. When he was as young as 18 years old in 1930, Von Braun had been telling people that he personally planned on making a voyage to the moon someday! He had been tinkering with model rockets since his childhood and by age 25, he had hundreds of people working underneath him on experimental, long range missiles. So was Von Braun the first human in history to have the prophetic realization that a voyage to the moon was theoretically possible? The answer is no.

Ironically, when Von Braun’s team surrendered to American troops at the end of World War II, they were baffled that the Americans were so impressed with the technological sophistication of the Nazi V-2 rockets. After all, the rocket engineer that Von Braun and his team admired the most was not of German or even Russian ancestry. Von Braun’s idol was American engineer and inventor Robert H. Goddard, who designed and launched the world’s first liquid fueled rocket in 1926. The rocket that Von Braun would later design to send human beings to the moon was also liquid fueled. As early as 1920; Goddard speculated that a rocket could be launched outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, escape from the Earth’s gravitational pull, and reach the moon. Actually, his real dream was to use rocket technology to send spacecraft to the planet Mars but the moon seemed like a more attainable and modest goal in 1920. In a letter to the Smithsonian that same year, Goddard suggested liquid fueled rockets could be launched to take up-close photographs of the moon and other planets beyond. To return the precious photographs to Earth, Goddard proposed using an ablative heat shield to protect the craft from the intense heat of reentering the Earth’s atmosphere. This was the precise method that was later used to protect astronauts during their return to Earth after the first moon landing.

In 1899, a teenage Goddard climbed a cherry tree and dreamt of the technological possibility of a voyage to Mars. He later said, “As I looked toward the fields at the east, I imagined how wonderful it would be to make some device which had even the possibility of ascending to Mars and how it would look on a small scale, if sent up from the meadow … I was a different boy when I descended the tree from when I ascended.” Just a few years after Goddard’s teenage epiphany, H.G. Wells released a novel about a scientist and a businessman that travel to the moon inside a steel sphere that can be steered in outer space. It was called ‘The First Men in the Moon’.

Some may argue that Goddard was the first human in history to realize that an expedition through outer space to another world was theoretically possible. But others had conceived of such a voyage long before. In 1865, author Jules Verne published ‘From the Earth to the Moon’, which told the story of a massive cannon called the Columbiad which fires a hollow projectile on a voyage to the moon. In the novel, three men ride to the moon inside the projectile, which is launched from the Florida coastline… 104 years after the novel, three men launched on a voyage to the moon inside a spacecraft known as the Columbia from a site on the Florida coastline. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, widely believed to be the father of modern rocketry and astronautics, became fascinated with the idea of space flight only after reading Verne’s seminal novel. Tsiolkovsky later realized that the blast of a massive cannon would likely be lethal for any occupants inside the projectile it fired. Instead, he concluded that chemical rockets would be needed for space travel. In 1880, an evening newspaper mentioned Verne’s story in one of its nightly pieces, referring to the hollow projectile in the narrative as a ‘space ship’. This was the first time in human history that this term was ever used.

Interestingly enough, while rockets became the preferred method of launching space ships, massive cannons have indeed been used to launch objects into outer space! The High Altitude Research Project or H.A.R.P. was a collaboration between the Canadian government and the United States Department of Defense to study the ballistics of objects reentering the Earth’s atmosphere. Beginning in 1961, the project opted to use artillery cannons because American rockets at the time were dangerous, expensive, and unreliable as a means of launching objects to high altitudes. The project succeeded in sending objects to the edge of space, though the objects never achieved orbit. Such massive cannons today are sometimes referred to as ‘Verne guns’. So was Jules Verne the first to conceive of such a voyage? Once again, the answer is no.

The basic physics of space flight, to Earth orbit or beyond, were conceived by the brilliant Sir Isaac Newton and published in the early 1700s. He conceived of a thought experiment where a cannon is fired from on top of a mountain at very high altitude. In reality, such a cannonball would likely follow and arc-like trajectory and fall back to Earth at some distance away from the mountaintop. In Newton’s thought experiment though, if the cannonball were fired at an extremely high speed, it would travel in a circle around the Earth. Today, we call such a flight path an orbit. Using Newtonian physics, Tsiolkovsky calculated escape velocity or the speed at which an object must travel to break free from the gravity of the Earth and travel into an orbit. Long before the first human beings landed on the moon, it was known that Earth’s escape velocity was just over 25,000 miles per hour. This was the same speed achieved by Von Braun’s Saturn V rocket when the first astronauts left Earth orbit to land on the moon.

Yet neither Newton nor Verne were the first to conceive of such a journey. An ancient writer of satire named Lucian actually wrote about a voyage to the moon in the second century C.E. In Lucian’s story, the moon is inhabited by physically beautiful beings that resemble humans. Though it wouldn’t be fair to compare Lucian’s work with that of Jules Verne or H.G. Wells. Lucian’s voyage to the moon cannot be considered science fiction in any true sense of the word, since the main character of the story doesn’t use any scientific process or special technology to make the journey. The imaginative work of fiction is mere fantasy. Perhaps Lucian does deserve credit for being the first human being to conceive of a voyage to the moon as a fantasy? One must wonder though whom the first human being was to perceive a voyage to the moon not as a fantasy but as a real, tangible, feasible goal for future explorers.

To understand that a voyage to the moon is a possibility, one must first understand that the moon is an actual place, a location every bit as real as the Earth. Before the advent of telescopes, religion and philosophy sought to answer humanity's questions about the universe rather than hard science. Thousands of years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that while the Earth might be an imperfect world, the heavens were perfect and unchanging. Aristotle believed that points of light in the sky, known as planets and stars, sat on the surface of crystalline spheres. He thought these spheres within spheres orbited around a spherical Earth. (Perhaps Aristotle should at least receive credit for correctly deducing the shape of the Earth.) He believed the moon was a perfectly smooth, translucent sphere. Aristotle’s conception of the universe was the accepted standard that academics and astronomers embraced until the early 1600s. That was when everything changed. At the time, even the Catholic Church had embraced Aristotle’s basic thesis. The Earth was full of flawed, sinful human beings. The heavens were unblemished, uncorrupted, routine, and unchanging. Such a realm does not seem like a place that human beings could ever feasibly travel within. They seem more like a transcendent, ethereal, spiritual realm where mortal man has no claim.

Then in late 1609, Galileo turned his primitive telescope to the night sky and saw the moon in greater detail than any human being in history ever had before. It was a world of craters, ridges, mountains, and valleys. Many of the moon’s features looked strikingly similar to the mountains and deserts of Earth. Galileo was a skilled artist with a keen eye for the contrast of light and dark colors. Night after night, he crafted detailed drawings of the moon’s surface. Just a few short months later in 1610, he published his writings and drawings in a work called ‘The Starry Messenger’. That same year, Galileo engaged in written correspondence with a mathematician and astronomer named Johannes Kepler. It is worth noting that Kepler would later become famous for explaining planetary motion to the world. Galileo was a devout Catholic who had given his own daughters over to the Catholic Church to serve as nuns while Kepler was a committed Lutheran. Despite their differences, their dialogue appeared both productive and friendly.

It was in this 1610 correspondence that Kepler said the following…

“As soon as somebody demonstrates the art of flying, settlers from our species of man will not be lacking. Who would once have thought that the crossing of the wide ocean was calmer and safer than of the narrow Adriatic Sea, Baltic Sea, or English Channel? Given ships or sails adapted to the breezes of heaven, there will be those who will not shrink from even that vast expanse. Therefore, for the sake of those who, as it were, will presently be on hand to attempt this voyage, let us establish the astronomy, Galileo, you of Jupiter and me of the moon.”

Clearly, both men are aware that the moon and the planets beyond are real places and that it is theoretically possible for human beings to make voyages to visit them. Kepler casually predicts the advent of air travel and aviation as a foundation for future space voyages. Of course, the first men to walk on the moon were the test pilots of experimental aircraft before becoming astronauts. Neil Armstrong flew an aircraft known as the X-15 at such high altitudes that he skimmed the edge of space and earned astronaut wings in the process, long before he ever reached the moon.

The scientific revolutions in Kepler’s time made navigating wooden sailing ships across oceans and between continents a reality that previous generations could never have imagined. So naturally, Kepler thought that mastering flight along with building ships that could ‘sail’ in the vastness of outer space would lead to voyages to the moon. Kepler had no understanding how future spaceships would function but his intuition told him that if science could offer a means to travel across oceans and between continents, it could one day provide the means to travel to the moon. In his written correspondence with Galileo, Kepler is so convinced of such a future that he proposes to Galileo that the two men do the preliminary work necessary to survey these worlds for the future explorers who attempt the voyage! Clearly, such a voyage is not an imaginative author’s fantasy but a brilliant scientist’s prophecy.

It was Kepler who was the first human being in history to realize that landing human beings on the moon would be theoretically possible one day. Indeed, well over three centuries prior to the first moon landing, Kepler believed his own work would help to prepare human beings for the journey. He was right. Goddard, the great American rocket scientist, received national attention for his work in 1920, including his speculation about voyages to the moon. Sadly, most of the attention he received was neither praise nor accolades but criticism and ridicule. Following an attack from the New York Times, he simply told one reporter, “Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it.”

The man who first had the vision to land human beings on the moon was Kepler. The men who accomplished it were Armstrong and Aldrin. Ten other human beings would literally follow in their footsteps in the two and a half years that followed. Perhaps at long last, someday soon, there will be others who will not shrink from that vast expanse… brave explorers who will sail on the breezes of heaven and set foot on other worlds yet again.

PHOTO CAPTION: Galileo's artist rendering of the Earth's moon, as seen from his telescope in 1609.

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Political Roadblocks to a Red Planet https://universeuniversity.fireside.fm/articles/political-roadblocks-to-a-red-planet Fri, 26 Apr 2019 15:00:00 -0700 show@universeuniversity.space 5d8912cc-116e-48f9-974a-33de7a5bf997 Despite countless plans for human Mars exploration throughout our history, it has not yet become a reality. The roadblocks to such a mission are purely political and there are no technological or physical challenges prohibiting such a journey taking place in the near future. “Mapping the trajectory of a spacecraft is a relatively straightforward business, bound only by the laws of physics. Mapping the trajectory of an idea through a political system, on the other hand… can be a dicey business.”
-Robert Zubrin

Both today just as in the recent past, politics and national willpower are the only forces stopping human beings from landing on Mars in the very near future. This might strike some as a controversial assertion, considering many of the alarmist claims that are made about everything from space technology to the dangers of radiation on Mars. Some politicians and some at NASA have suggested that we are not ready to send humans to Mars. They argue that first we must build space stations in Earth orbit, or a space station orbiting around the moon, or a full fledged lunar base… all to serve as some sort of metaphorical ‘stepping stone’ to human Mars exploration. Yet none of these goals need to be met for human beings to land on Mars and explore its surface. Human beings have made realistic, tangible plans over and over again in history to personally visit the red planet and land on its surface… only for those plans to disintegrate or be struck down for purely political reasons. The roadblocks to the red planet are political, not physical or technological.

Technologically speaking, there is good reason to be optimistic about the prospect of landing human beings on Mars. There are few (if any) technological or physical challenges that cannot be overcome. According to aerospace engineer Robert Zubrin, in terms of our capabilities in space, we are much closer to landing human beings on Mars now than we were to landing human beings on the moon in 1961: the same year President Kennedy promised a moon landing by the end of the decade. This assessment makes sense considering that President Kennedy’s 1961 pledge came at a time when America had logged only 15 minutes in outer space in a single suborbital flight. Not a single American astronaut had completed so much as one orbit around the Earth. The Soviet Union had superior space technology and had shared virtually no technological or medical knowledge about the rigors of manned spaceflight. Yet the United States, collectively as a nation, committed to a journey of over one week through deep space some 238,000 miles beyond Earth orbit to land on an unknown celestial body before returning home. The United States did so at a time when no American or Soviet robots, let alone human beings, had ever made such a journey successfully. The first soft landing of a robotic probe on the moon wouldn’t transpire until 1966! In 1961, there were some at NASA who believed that meteor impacts had left behind so much fine grained dust that any large, heavy metal craft landing on its surface would be liable to quickly sink into the dusk like quicksand! In contrast, today we have a wealth of shared experience with human spaceflight, many robotic missions to Mars, three nations sending humans into space, and far more space infrastructure both in the public and private sector around the globe. Yet there are still naysayers that claim landing humans on Mars is just beyond our grasp.

Sending humans to Mars is not a new idea, just like sending human beings to the moon in 1961 was not a new idea. As early as 1920, American rocket scientist Robert H. Goddard calculated it would be (theoretically) possible to use a liquid fueled rocket to send humans to the moon. Although there is evidence that Goddard also believed the same technology could send humans to Mars but advocated for the moon for fear of public ridicule. In 1948, the brilliant rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun crafted detailed plans for a manned mission to Mars. (It was later published as a book called “The Mars Project”) Plans included ships that could be constructed in low earth orbit, the size/design of each ship, and the amount of chemical propellant the vehicle would use to reach Mars. In 1948, Von Braun realized that rocket technology would need to be developed for 15 to 20 years before such a mission could be realized but considered this a plausible goal. Von Braun’s employers within the United States government were more interested in weapons of war in the short term but that all changed when the space race began. Mars missions proposed today still have some striking similarities to Von Braun’s plan from ‘The Mars Project’.

The Soviet Union’s N-1 rocket program was originally designed for manned orbital/flyby missions of Venus and Mars. Only after America’s pledge to land men on the moon was the N-1 repurposed for manned lunar missions. The N-1 rocket would have had more thrust than the Saturn V but the Soviet project was cancelled after the United States beat the Soviets to the moon. The N-1 had its share of failures during its first test flights but this is true of most rockets. Fiery and explosive rocket failures were common in Von Braun’s V-2 rocket in Nazi Germany but that same rocket later successfully killed thousands of English civilians during World War II. There were countless failures with the Soviet R-7 family of rockets as well. Today, the R-7 is one of the most reliable families of rockets on the planet and launches astronauts to the International Space Station. So it serves to reason that, under different political conditions, the N-1 would have eventually flown successfully.

Like the Saturn V, the N-1 would have had the capability to launch massive payloads beyond low Earth orbit. There were even Soviet plans made to use the N-1 to send multiple modules to Mars and to create a Mars train of sorts in which a small nuclear reactor would power a manned rover. Multiple modules on wheels would be connected behind it like trailers, storing supplies, housing living quarters, an airlock, and a laboratory for experiments. For one year, the Soviet cosmonauts planned to drive on planetary road trip, exploring different locations on the Martian surface. Sadly, Soviet leaders lost interest in such missions after America’s lunar landing ended the space race. Many N-1 components were hidden or destroyed to cover up the fact that the program even existed. It was reasoned that future western historians couldn not technically claim that the Soviets lost the race to the moon if there was no evidence that they had even been participating in such a race to begin with!

Project Orion offered a chance to send human beings to Mars via nuclear pulse propulsion with a departure date as early as 1965. Physicists working for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or D.A.R.P.A. and later the United States Air Force labored for years on the design of the spacecraft. Since it would rely on nuclear technology, far more powerful than chemical rockets, the craft could carry a crew of 200 people and large payloads. The chief aerodynamics engineer at Northrop Grumman was brought on the project and David Weiss, a test pilot who had flown virtually every experimental aircraft in the U.S. military, also joined Project Orion. There were even plans to visit Jupiter or Saturn by 1970. But the project was cancelled in 1963 with the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which prohibited nuclear explosions of any kind in outer space. There was no Mars landing in 1965.

NERVA or Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application was pursued by the AEC and NASA throughout the 1960s to serve as a propulsion system for human missions to Mars. It involved using a nuclear reactor to turn liquid hydrogen into a super heated gas for propulsion. It could seriously reduce travel time on such a journey and would be far more efficient than conventional chemical rockets. (Project Rover explored similar technology.)

After the historic Apollo 11 mission launched in July of 1969, acting NASA Administrator Thomas Paine put together a major proposal for a manned mission to Mars. Paine, a former submarine commander in World War II, saw American space capability as similar to that of the British Empire's navy in the 1400s: many new ships, crude but reliable methods of navigation, and infinite potential for exploration and expansion. According to space historian John Logsdon, Paine felt that the Apollo 11 moon landing would be the optimal time to campaign for a Mars mission. He was determined to "hoist the banner and see if anybody would rally to it." In the 1960s, Von Braun had directed his Future Projects Office to look at the hardware that would be needed for such missions. In 1969, Von Braun appeared before a congressional committee and estimated human beings could land astronauts on Mars between 1985 and 1990 with Apollo era levels of funding. But even Von Braun was skeptical it would recieve the political support it needed, claiming that current events such as the Vietnam War had turned the United States from a visionary society into an introspective one.

By 1972, NERVA has seen several highly successful tests in the Nevada desert, proving the nuclear engines worked. The tests were far more successful than many engineers had predicted. NERVA could have been lofted into orbit on the final stage of the already existing Saturn V rocket. The Apollo Applications Program considered Mars missions among a variety of other possibilities to put existing Apollo hardware to use. At the time, it would have certainly been possible to build additional Saturn V rockets for such projects. In the end though, NERVA was terminated because President Nixon wanted to channel resources into creating a reusable space shuttle to transport military payloads, so there was no desire/need for a nuclear rocket engine for Mars missions. (Space stations in Earth orbit were also identified as a short-term goal.) There was no Mars landing between 1985 and 1990. Today NASA has gone back to the future, so to speak. They are returning to funding nuclear rocket engines for potential Mars missions, pledging at least 100,000 dollars to the effort to develop them with a flight test scheduled for 2024. With any luck, perhaps NASA will manage to successfully redevelop technology that was practically ready for use half a century prior.

All past efforts to develop technology for manned Mars missions were abandoned not for insurmountable engineering or technical challenges but for purely political reasons! Money along with national and political will have stopped humans from getting to Mars. At the University of Colorado at Boulder in the 1980s, the “Mars Underground”, an organization comprised largely of graduate students, held a series of conferences promoting human Mars exploration keeping the dream alive.

The Space Exploration Initiative (S.E.I.)

S.E.I. was President George H.W. Bush’s 1989 attempt to offer a more decisive directive to NASA for space exploration but was unnecessarily complex and bureaucratic, involving multiple expansive projects (including a lunar base) spanning not years but decades. The United States Congress also hated its 450 billion dollar price tag.

In 1989 as well as today; there are many factions at NASA competing for money and political support, so some at NASA are unwilling to solely support a manned mission to Mars because it might make their faction’s project obsolete. S.E.I. satisfied different factions but pushed off a manned Mars mission as a much more distant and far-reaching goal. Strangely, some plans for that Mars landing indicated astronauts in the early 2000s might stay on the surface of Mars for only a few weeks before returning to Earth! That’s very different from more recent Mars plans to stay on the surface for up to a year or more! S.E.I. became unpopular and President Bush and others abandoned it.

Mark Albrecht was the Executive Secretary on the National Space Council during S.E.I. and said this: “I think at least three large constituencies have taken hold and own a significant part of NASA and the civil space program. As time goes on, as the years go on, they get bigger and stronger and more entrenched … They have carved up that $17.3 billion, they lobby for it directly and independently, they fiercely protect it, and anybody who wants to change it is going to have to come through them.”

Even today, NASA is distracted by other projects proposed by certain factions that are totally unnecessary to landing human beings on Mars. The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway or LOP-G is a good example of this. This is a proposed project for a space station orbiting the moon and is not at all essential for landing human beings on Mars. But if one were a NASA engineer working on the LOP-G, why would one advocate for a manned Mars mission knowing that it will simply take away funds from the project that you’ve devoted all your time to?

‘Mars Direct’ (Robert Zubrin)

Robert Zubrin could be considered one of the foremost authorities on the subject of manned Mars missions. In 1990, he released one of the simplest and cheapest plans for human Mars exploration that had ever been concieved in the aerospace community.

From 1989 to 1990, Robert Zubrin worked for Martin Marietta, which later became Lockeed Martin. He asked his employers if he and fellow colleagues could work on an alternative proposal for human missions to Mars. This proposal became ‘Mars Direct’, which involved sending an (unmanned) Earth Return Vehicle (E.R.V.) ahead of the actual astronauts to produce methane-oxygen fuel by combining carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere with hydrogen brought along from Earth. (95 percent of the return fuel could be made from the Martian atmosphere.) A small crew of astronauts would arrive a few months later, land on Mars, explore for a year, then return in the E.R.V. Without the help of chemical engineers, Zubrin and his team assembled a small propellant plant that made fuel from only carbon dioxide and hydrogen – demonstrating the idea could work. Separating oxygen from carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere to create breathing oxygen for the E.R.V. was suggested as well.

‘Mars Direct’ would have cost 55 billion dollars: far less than S.E.I. and within NASA’s existing budget at the time. If pursued, landings on Mars would have taken place in the year 2000. Zubrin’s presentations at both the Johnson Space Flight center as well as the Marshall Space Flight Center generated strong support for his plan among members of NASA… but they didn’t satisfy all of the different, entrenched factions at the organization. ‘Mars Semi-Direct’ was suggested by NASA as a compromise: a slight variation on Zubrin’s basic plan with more space hardware, in part, for redundancy.

President Bill Clinton’s administration favored using robotic space probes as a cost effective alternative to human missions and did not advocate for human travel outside of low Earth orbit. ‘Mars Direct’ died off as a consequence. President George W. Bush unveiled plans in 2004 to return astronauts to the moon (Constellation program) with a Mars landing in the early 2030s. In the midst of the Great Recession, President Obama cancelled the Constellation Program when a commission found it could not move forward without serious increases in funding. In a speech, President proclaimed human beings could orbit Mars by the mid-2030s and land there at some undetermined time afterward.

Since 1990; Zubrin has been a militant, aggressive, and charismatic advocate for human Mars exploration. He was also a mentor to a young Elon Musk. After the sale of Paypal, Musk donated 5,000 dollars to Zubrin’s ‘Mars Society’ just to have coffee with Zubrin and hear his ideas. Musk then pledged another 100,000 dollars to Zubrin’s organization ‘The Mars Society’, before serving on the Board of Directors for that organization. Shortly thereafter, Musk left the board to found SpaceX.

Dennis Tito was a veteran of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and in 2001, became the first space tourist to fund his own trip into low earth orbit. Tito proposed ‘Inspiration Mars’ as a plan to send two astronauts on an orbital or flyby mission to Mars using largely existing or near-future technology. Tito suggested launch windows in 2017 and 2021, respectively. He asked for NASA to contribute 700 million dollars to the effort. NASA declined to offer any money. They spent 2.5 billion on the Curiosity rover instead.

SpaceX

At the 2016 meeting of the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico, Elon Musk unveiled a proposal to send astronauts to Mars. The plan called for a massive spacecraft: the Interplanetary Transport System or I.T.S. capable of carrying 500 tons of cargo into outer space. In 2017, at the International Astronautical Congress in Australia, Musk released extensive revisions to this plan. In the coming years, SpaceX plans to phase out their Falcon9 and Falcon Heavy Lift rockets and construct the B.F.R. or Big Falcon Rocket. The B.F.R. will loft the ‘Starship’ carrying 100 people into earth orbit. Then, once in earth orbit, the ‘Starship’ spacecraft will refill its tanks with methane and oxygen and set out for Mars. It will carry about 150 tons of cargo, far less than the I.T.S craft that Musk had mentioned a year prior but still an impressive amount of cargo. If completed, such space vehicles will be more powerful than the Saturn V, relying Raptor engines with liquid methane fuel. If such engines work as planned, they will have the highest chamber pressure of any such engine ever built. Musk says the craft will be made of carbon fiber composites. Yet many aerospace experts say this is a risky proposition, since the environment of space is very taxing and carbon fiber parts are hard to repair on earth… let alone in outer space. If nothing else, his plan to land the first ‘Starship’ on Mars by 2024 seems overly ambitious and ultimately unlikely. Musk planned to send astronauts to orbit the moon in 2018 and such a mission has yet to transpire. As of yet, no private company has sent astronauts into Earth orbit, let alone anywhere else in space. Musk’s 2017 presentations, like his plan to send astronauts to the moon, offered very few details and an ambitous timeline. Musk spoke for less than an hour and took no questions from the audience.

More than 25 years after ‘Mars Direct’, components of that plan serve as crucial pieces of Elon Musk’s plans for Mars. Musk said, “My vision is … a transport system between Earth and Mars that is able to refuel on Mars – that is very important – so you don’t have to carry the return fuel when you go there.” Musk's vision for Mars, in this regard, is hardly original. It recycles the ideas of Zubrin's 1990 ‘Mars Direct’ proposal for an efficient vehicle that refuels on the surface using the martian atmosphere.

In over half a century; the dream of landing human beings on Mars has seen countless detailed plans, enormous sums of money, extensive political battles, and the birth of revolutionary new technology spanning at least two nations as well as the public and private sector. “Mars landing by 1965 - Saturn by 1970”, “Mars landing by 1985”, “Mars landing by 2000”, “Mars landing by 2030”, “orbiting Mars by 2018” and “orbiting Mars in the mid-2030s”. The deadlines came and went, gradually pushed forward further and further… and the goals became more modest and less ambitious. Perhaps, at best, humanity can now look forward to seeing humans orbit Mars by 2040? Or maybe such a goal is just too ambitious? Through it all, politics and a lack of political willpower have been the only major roadblocks to landing human beings on Mars.

Perhaps it is not surprising? Fear of nuclear annihilation, Cold War tensions, and the Cuban Missile Crisis all made the stakes of the space race in the 1960s a national imperative. Winning the space race was seen as a potentially insurmountable technological goal for the United States. But it was not a politically challenging argument for President Kennedy to state that the United States should indeed be concerned with catching up in the space race! The United States made the national decision to land human beings on the moon, set a decisive timeline for less than a decade into the future, and moved forward with bipartisan support stretching over a decade from the Kennedy Administration to the Nixon Administration. There were no political roadblocks in achieving that goal, only technological ones that were swiftly dealt with.

Radiation

When discussing landing human beings on Mars; the dangers of radiation to the human body are often discussed with serious, grim, even alarmist undertones. NASA guidelines for human missions in low Earth orbit state that if a mission increases lifetime risks of cancer later by more than 3 percent, the organization will not permit it. This is a completely arbitrary rule, other foreign space agencies do not abide by this rule, and NASA has no clear guidelines for deep space missions yet. A one year stay on Mars coupled with travel time to and from the planet will likely expose astronauts to 1 sievert (Sv) of radiation, meaning an increased risk of cancer of about 5 percent, only 2 percent above NASA guidelines for low Earth orbit. Any exposure below 3.5 sieverts (Sv) isn’t likely to be anywhere close to fatal for such a crew. Furthermore, radiation does not affect everyone equally or with the same level of severity. Men and women are affected differently by radiation. Older people and younger people are affected differently by radiation. Crew selection should take age/gender into consideration. Water is also a great radiation shield. It simply ads more weight to a spacecraft or habitat, so it has not been used in the past.

Ultimately, why should radiation be the primary roadblock that stops human beings from exploring the surface of Mars in the eyes of NASA? They are already planning to place NASA crews on the LOP-G orbing the moon, exposing them to the radiation of deep space! How could it possibly be argued that landing astronauts on Mars is too risky due to radiation but placing astronauts in orbit around the moon – exposed to equal or greater levels of radiation – is an acceptable risk?

Psychological Challenges

Some questions have been raised about the psychological issues that might arise from being in a cramped, confined spacecraft for such extensive periods of time but several experiments have confirmed that crews on earth can live and work together in a friendly manner in isolated, confined spaces for extended periods of time. American and Russian experiments with crews of varying genders, ethnicities, and nationalities have not met with any disastrous outcomes. In fact, the longest of these Earth based experiments was perhaps the most uneventful: Mars 500. It was a 520 day psychological experiment at the Russian Academy of Sciences where a crew of 6 men were placed in a confined space and forced to live and work together for well over a year. One crew member experienced difficulty sleeping near the very end of the experiment but they all cooperated, solved problems, and celebrated holidays together. Interpersonal conflicts of any kind were almost unheard of. Results of such tests, overall, are extremely positive.

A One Way Trip?

In one discussion about Mars, Apollo era NASA Flight Director Chris Kraft said that returning an astronaut crew to the Earth would be 10 times more costly then leaving them there to establish a permanent colony. If this estimate is correct, a one way trip could drastically reduce costs. This must be considered since the financial cost of such a mission are always a political liability. Lava tubes or buried habitats in the Martian soil could provide necessary shielding from radiation. Zubrin says that a one way Mars journey is something we should, at least, consider. Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin endorsed the idea also when he said, “When you go to Mars, you need to have made the decision that you’re there permanently. The more people we have there, the more it can become a sustaining environment. Except for very rare exceptions, the people who go to Mars shouldn’t be coming back.” History shows that European explorers did not venture to North America with the expectation that they would return home in a few weeks or months. It is also possible that some sort of hybrid mission to Mars could be conceived where astronauts might spend years conducting the first surveys and explorations of the red planet, returning home when space technology has advanced, perhaps in 10 years or 15 years after the initial landing.

The Case for Human Exploration

How much longer will our civilization and our species languish in stagnation, refusing to make an investment in the human exploration of the worlds in our own cosmic backyard? If SpaceX does not become the sole private entity shouldering the burden of manned Mars exploration, a strong national political effort will need to be made, in collaboration with NASA, to make human missions to Mars a reality. Perhaps some international collaboration might be possible? Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson stated, quite correctly, economic or military factors motivated the colonization of North America and other frontiers. Without such factors, the planets are unlikely to be explored or colonized by human beings any time soon. At minimum, to evangelize about the merits of a manned mission to Mars; economic, scientific, and political arguments must be put forth.

Economic: It has been said that the chief export from Mars will not be any natural resource but technological patents. In 1999, Apollo astronaut Jim Lovell wrote an essay titled ‘Why Have a Space Program? Glad You Asked’ where he articulated the countless technological and economic benefits that the space race brought us.

Computers in the late 1950s barely fit inside a room… by the late 1960s, the space age gave birth microprocessors small enough to fit in a spacecraft; the same technology in our laptops and smart phones today. Digital image possessing to enhance photographs of the moon gave way to magnetic resonance imaging or the M.R.I., a staple of modern medicine. The Apollo 1 fire during a routine test led NASA engineers to invent smoke detectors which soon became commonplace in American homes. Satellite dishes, GPS navigation, shock absorbing materials in bicycle and motorcycle helmets, new methods to heat/insulate homes, and cordless power tools were all birthed from the space race. America spent $20 billion dollars on getting to the moon but for every dollar spent, 7 more dollars have been returned to the U.S. economy. One must wonder how many other government expenditures return the same amount of money to our economy? Surely we all must admit that investing in the human exploration of space offered humanity many benefits right here on Earth!

Scientific: The 800 pounds of lunar regolith returned by Apollo astronauts presented planetary scientists with a metaphorical primer with which to understand and observe the geology of the planets and moons of our solar system. This scientific pay dirt offered an astounding wealth of knowledge about the Earth, the Moon, and the solar system itself.

The discovery of microbial life on Mars could present us with a biological primer for our understanding organic life itself. How common is life in the universe? How different is it on other planets? How unique is life on Earth? There are ample sites on Mars to search for it such as Terra Sirenum, an area of massive salt deposits and perhaps the site of an ancient seabed. Astrobiologist Charles Cockell stated “If you send me to Terra Sirenum with a microscope and a shovel… I can tell you in a few hours whether there’s life on Mars.” Finding life elsewhere could be one of the most profoundly impactful events in the history of science and human history in general.

Furthermore, the space race of the 1960s, culminating in the first manned lunar landings, inspired an entire generation in the western world to pursue careers in science and engineering. Such scientists and engineers were badly needed. While the impact of Soviet satellite Sputnik was largely political in 1957, it drew much needed attention to a troubling problem in the United States. Studies at the time showed that the Soviet Union was training two to three times as many scientists and engineers as the United States with each passing year. One might wonder how the course of the previous century might have transpired if this statistic had not changed in the United States. And one can only wonder how a new generation might be inspired by watching human beings take their first steps on another planet… perhaps in the process, unlocking some of the mysteries of life in our universe.

Political: In 1970, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Andrei Sakharov wrote an open letter to the Soviet Union's government calling for democratic reforms in the Soviet Union. He cited the moon landings as evidence for the superiority of democracy itself as a form of government. Many national leaders in the United States today are particularly concerned with Russia and China's more authoritarian models of government, especially in regards to how those governments seek to intervene in the affairs of other nations in their sphere of influence. One must wonder about the political and economic implications of nations such as Russia or China accomplishing a manned mission to Mars before the United States. Perhaps no American politician is concerned with such a scenario right now but remember... European monarchies in the late 1400s also weren't particularly concerned that Spanish ships searching for new trade routes would permanently alter the course of western civilization. In the 1950s, President Eisenhower wasn't initially concerned by the prospect of the Soviet Union launching a satellite before the United States either. Space politics, much like Earth politics, can change in an instant.

“I realize that this is, in some measure, an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us.”
-President John F. Kennedy

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One Giant Leap for Truth https://universeuniversity.fireside.fm/articles/one-giant-leap-for-truth Mon, 05 Nov 2018 21:00:00 -0800 show@universeuniversity.space 48726d02-9246-4f77-839b-d51f266384dc A comprehensive examination of moon landing hoaxes. One Giant Leap for Truth
By Chris Grant

“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”
-Laurence J. Peter

Starting in 1969, astronauts began leaving the planet earth and landing more than 200,000 miles away on the moon… at least according to the United States government. President Kennedy called it the most hazardous, dangerous, and greatest adventure that human beings had ever embarked upon. Even today, nearly half a century later, it could be called the most striking accomplishment in all of human history. Yet not everyone is convinced it actually happened. ‘Engineering and Technology’, a British publication, found 25 percent of their respondents said the U.S. did not land on the moon. A 1999 Gallup poll concluded 6 percent of Americans believed lunar landings were a hoax while 5 percent of Americans said they were undecided. (Other American polls since have placed the number of doubters in the United States as high as 20 percent.)

Is this really so surprising? Americans’ trust in government has declined drastically within the last 50 years and it holds true for trust other institutions like the media. (88 percent of millennials say they only sometimes or never trust the press.) Conspiracy theorists like radio show host Alex Jones seem more mainstream in our politics today than in decades past. Some say we are in the “post-truth” era of American politics. The Rashomon Effect was a term recently coined in 2015 to describe different individuals with starkly contradictory interpretations of the same current event. Our distrust of each other, rival political parties, government, and media all distort our perception of truth.

So is there any way to know whether humans did in fact land on the moon? At a glance, it is easy to see why many have their doubts. Deception at the highest levels has permeated American politics for some time, particularly during the Vietnam War. In 1971, the publishing of the ‘Pentagon Papers’ made it clear President Johnson was lying both to the American people and congress about the war. In 1974, President Nixon resigned in disgrace when it became apparent that he was covering up the infamous Watergate burglary. This was precisely the time frame when Americans supposedly landed on the moon. Can we really trust any of the claims made by these administrations?

Let’s consider the arguments of those who believe lunar landings were a hoax. The evidence for the first moon landing, seen by most Americans, was a grainy black and white TV broadcast. The company that constructed the rocket engines that carried Americans to the moon had one employee who would later claim that the engines didn’t work. His name was Bill Kaysing and he says we never had the technology to go to the moon. The earth is surrounded by massive belts of intense radiation. Yet with minimal shielding, astronauts passed through this radiation with no ill effect and lived to a ripe old age. Radiation destroys film images, yet the stills from the moon look perfect. Some say they look a little too perfect – like they’ve been fabricated in a studio on earth. Just prior to the moon landings, three NASA astronauts also died, on earth, under mysterious circumstances just as one of them expressed a lack of faith in the program. NASA recently admitted the Apollo telemetry data has now mysteriously disappeared! NASA claims that they taped over this telemetry data… though some claim that telemetry data simply never existed in the first place. Now we may never know. Supposedly astronauts brought back moon rocks, occasionally giving them as gifts to foreign nations. But in 2009, at least one of these moon rocks at a museum in Holland turned out to be petrified wood! Many other moon rocks are missing. It seems understandable that some would be skeptical of the ‘official’ story of the moon landings. Is there any real evidence? Should we simply take the United States government at their word? Or are we looking at the biggest and most expensive hoax in human history? Perhaps, at the very least, we should conclude that it’s impossible to know whether we really landed on the moon?

Let us look at these claims one by one. Perhaps the grandfather of moon landing hoax theories is Bill Kaysing, who was the first known proponent of these theories to write about them in detail in the 1970s. Kaysing was hired in the 1950s to work as the senior technical writer for Rocketdyne and worked there until 1963. He had no degree in engineering but maintained that one does not need such a degree to know that the lunar landings were a massive hoax. Rocketdyne designed the engines of the 363 foot tall Saturn V rocket for America’s Apollo moon landing program. Kaysing claimed that the extremely powerful F-1 engines in the first stage of the Saturn V were far too unreliable to have launched astronauts to the moon. Indeed, there is some truth to this. Initially, during Kaysing’s stint at Rocketdyne, combustion instability in these engines was a serious problem. The ‘controlled’ explosion of the liquid fueled rocket wasn’t always so well controlled. Engineers labored for years to get the engines to function properly.

Even so, in July of 1969, over a million people on the Florida coast watched the mighty Saturn V rocket launch Apollo 11 into space. Several successful Saturn V launches followed in subsequent missions. Kaysing claimed that clusters of smaller rocket engines were hidden inside each individual engine bell to give the illusion that the F-1 engines worked… He says the rocket really couldn’t carry three astronauts to the moon. Depending on which hoax theorist one speaks to, the Saturn V either only carried astronauts to earth orbit or it was launched empty and without any astronauts at all. Since each stage of the Saturn V rocket was jettisoned over the Atlantic Ocean when its fuel ran out, Kaysing’s claim was difficult to prove or disprove for many decades.

Then, in 2012, billionaire Jeff Bezos used deep-sea sonar to find and later recover these rocket stages, including the F-1 engines. There were no smaller clusters of tiny rocket engines hidden within the F-1. The deep sea, space artifacts showed that the F-1 engines worked in their entirety and succeeded in launching the Saturn V. This shouldn’t be so surprising. German rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun had perfected liquid fueled rockets that were 45 feet tall while working for Nazi Germany in the 1940s. After he and his fellow engineers surrendered to American forces, he began building progressively larger ballistic missiles, which were of particular interest to his military employers, who wanted to have the capability to launch nuclear weapons thousands of miles. As early as 1920, a rocket scientist named Robert H. Goddard said that it was possible to use a liquid fuel rocket to send spaceships to the moon! One thing is certain at this point: the Saturn V rocket certainly did launch and the F-1 engines worked. Launching any rocket taller than the statue of liberty is quite a feat. Is it really so implausible to think that Von Braun successfully built a Saturn V and that this rocket did its job? Even if the Saturn V was not powerful enough to carry three astronauts to the moon, why not simply send one astronaut to the moon rather than orchestrate an elaborate hoax?

Kaysing and other moon hoax theorists have claimed that the Saturn V rocket wasn’t the only reason humans never made it to the moon. They often mention the Van Allen Belts: huge donut shaped regions around the earth filled with massive amounts of radiation. Some claim that this radiation is far too dangerous for human beings to survive traveling through. Much like Kaysing’s engine claims, there is a kernel of truth here as well. In 1962, James Van Allen (whom the belts are named after) spoke publicly about how the inner Van Allen Belt in particular would be extremely hazardous to astronauts. Dr. Stanley C. White from NASA presented similar findings. Yet the lightweight materials of 1960s spacecraft provided very little protection. Moon hoax theorists claim that, for this reason, astronauts have never left low earth orbit. Thus, they claim astronauts have obviously never been to the moon. Is there any truth to such a claim?

Some hoax theorists recently pointed to a video interview with NASA engineer Kelly Smith. In the video, Smith talks about a recently tested spacecraft called Orion, which may soon return astronauts to the moon. In talking about the Van Allen belts, he says, “Radiation could harm the guidance systems, onboard computers, or other electronics… we must solve these challenges before we send people through this region of space.” Some said this was a curious statement since we supposedly already sent astronauts through this region of space. Moon hoax theorists saw this statement as a tacit admission that we never went to the moon.

In 1969, the atomic bomb and nuclear reactors had existed for over two decades. While the scientists and doctors of the world were still learning about space travel, they knew a great deal about radiation and its negative effects on the human body. Then as well as now, we know that radiation is far more dangerous over long periods of time. So brief exposures to even high levels of radiation can easily be tolerated by the human body. Prolonged exposure to radiation, over time, is far more damaging to humans. Ultimately, the path that the Apollo astronauts took allowed them to bypass most of the inner Van Allen belt while skimming the edge of the outer belt, spending mere hours passing through these high levels of radiation. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA, individuals working around high levels of radiation should not receive more than 50 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation within a single year. A chest x-ray is equal to 0.1 mSv and a mammogram is equal to 0.4 mSv. The Apollo astronauts received an average of about 0.5 mSv in radiation. Outside of the Van Allen belts, a large solar storm – or an eruption of plasma from the sun – could have seriously harmed the astronauts but luckily, such a storm did not occur. If such an eruption had been detected by observatories on earth prior to an Apollo flight, the launch would have been delayed.

Of course, NASA engineer Kelly Smith never admitted to any moon landing hoax and he certainly never claimed the Van Allen Belts were lethal to astronauts. He simply stated that, in testing a new spacecraft, radiation could be harmful to onboard electronics. Since Orion is being built 50 years after the Apollo spacecraft, it will have far more complex computers and on board electronics.

Kaysing and other moon hoax theorists point to the fact that the crew of the first planned Apollo mission, Apollo 1, were very pessimistic about their odds for a successful mission in 1967. Once again, there is a kernel of truth to this claim. Commander Gus Grissom was so frustrated in testing his spacecraft’s communication system on earth that he said, “how are we going to go to the moon if we can’t talk between two or three buildings?” The world was then shocked by news that all three Apollo 1 astronauts died in a fire during a routine test on earth. Years later, Grissom’s own son claimed it was no ‘accident’ and NASA had deliberately murdered his father! This is certainly a strong accusation for Grissom’s own son to make. Kaysing and others claim that the Grissom and his crew were deliberately murdered for fear that they would blow the whistle on NASA and expose the hoax that they were planning. This entire scenario does indeed sound suspicious… until one looks at all the facts.

The Apollo spacecraft was an incredibly complex, three-person vehicle. In late 1966, upon examination, NASA found numerous design flaws and sent it back to the contractor who manufactured it. Even after the flaws were fixed, astronaut Walter Schirra expressed doubts about the craft. Such design problems were not unique to America’s space program though. The Soviet Union’s three-person Soyuz spacecraft originally had over 200 separate design flaws when first created and killed a Soviet cosmonaut returning from its maiden voyage into outer space! Furthermore, Grissom’s son never endorsed any claims about moon landing hoaxes. Rather, his claim was that NASA had a personal grudge against his father for his performance on a much earlier mission and wanted someone else to be the first man on the moon.

Conspiracy theorists’ are essentially claiming that the U.S. government refused to even attempt sending three astronauts to the moon, for fear that they might be harmed in the Van Allen Belts… but was perfectly content to murder all three astronauts for fear that they wouldn’t go along with the hoax. Doesn’t it seem more plausible that an extremely complex, experimental machine simply suffered a catastrophic malfunction due to the ambitious, perhaps unrealistic timetable NASA was working under? After all, the same thing happened in the Soviet Union’s space program!

But even assuming that NASA rockets and spacecraft worked, hoax theorists aren’t the least bit persuaded by photographs from the moon.

Many of their claims about photographs are highly subjective and have logical explanations. They point to a ‘waving’ flag on the airless moon but the flag is clearly moving because an astronaut is grasping the wobbling flagpole and flag frame while planting it in the soil. They point to the fact that the sky on the moon appears black, without any stars. Kaysing claimed this was clear evidence of a hoax saying, “There are too many astronomy buffs… they would have measured the angularity between the stars and the position of the stars behind, let’s say, the earth.”

Apparently, for hoax theorists like Kaysing, placing stars in moon landing photos was just too great of a risk because ‘astronomy buffs’ would have exposed the hoax! Yet somehow an international community of astronomers and nuclear physicists has been strangely silent about astronauts magically traversing ‘deadly’ radiation belts in space and returning alive several times. The truth is that the sky appears black in moon landing photos for the same reason it appears black when photos are taken on earth at night. A light sensitive camera tends to focus on bright objects in the foreground, not dim points of light in the dark background. If anyone doubts this, they need only to take the camera on their smart phone outside this evening and snap pictures of city streets, neighborhoods, houses, or even the night sky. They will find a black, starless sky in most if not all of their images.

Another reason that photos do not persuade hoax theorists is that they contend even if humans could survive the Van Allen Belts’ radiation, photos could not. Prior to the advent of digital photography, many tourists and amateur photographers experienced the disappointment of seeing their vacation photos destroyed by x-ray machines at airports while traveling. The end result is sometimes called non-image forming exposures or simply fog. Film is destroyed or fogged by the x-rays. Theorists ask how film could possibly survive the radiation of space? How is it that moon landing photos look so perfect, as if they were shot in a well lit studio?

American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts had a lot of practice attempting photography in space during the 1960s and learned a great deal. For years prior to their moon missions, astronauts were given tutorials in photography and encouraged to practice. The Hasselblad cameras they were given were partially automated with electric motors inside; meaning much of the astronaut training was simply on how and where to point their cameras. Both America and the international community have standards for film speed and sensitivity to light. America’s standard was ASA and the international standard is ISO. Tourists and amateur photographers typically use 200 to 400 ISO film. Astronauts typically use much lower speeds in ISO, between 60 and 100 ISO, precisely because it is less likely to fog up when exposed to radiation. A 1995 document from NASA reaffirms this stating, “Since faster films have larger grains, they are also more sensitive to radiation.” The report recommended lower ASA film speeds for space flight. The lunar astronauts had their low ISO film for their cameras placed in specially modified aluminum and steel magazines, painted with white or silver thermal paint while on earth. Despite all of these precautions, radiation damage still caused a slight green tint in many photos!

Even so, moon hoax theorists claim that the background in many photos looks false. They compare it to the matte paintings or rear screen projections used by Hollywood special effects artists to create false backgrounds on movie sets decades ago. However, there might be another reason why the background and horizon of the moon look surreal in lunar photographs. NASA geophysicist Paul Lowman stated that the moon’s horizon is quite different from the earth because the moon is much smaller than the earth. He says, “Because the moon is such a small body, the curvature horizon is only two or three miles away from eye level. That sharp line you see in some pictures is the visible horizon.”

Academy Award winning special effects artist Dennis Muren recreated outer space in the original ‘Star Wars’ films and made the computer generated dinosaurs of ‘Jurassic Park’. Yet he was never persuaded by claims that the moon landing was a hoax. Muren said this in an interview on the subject: “A moon landing simulation might have looked pretty real to 99.9 percent of the people. The thing is though, that it wouldn't have looked the way it did. I've always been acutely aware of what's fake and what's real, and the moon landings were definitely real. Look at ‘2001’, ‘Destination Moon’, ‘Capricorn One’ or any other space movie: everybody was wrong. That wasn't the way the moon looked at all. There was an unusual sheen to the images from the moon, in the way that the light reflected in the camera, that is literally out of this world. Nobody could have faked that.”

But as outlandish as Kaysing’s claims are, another claim has emerged that seems even stranger. Filmmaker Jay Weidner has claimed that director Stanley Kubrick, in collaboration with the American government, was responsible for faking the moon the landing. Neither Kubrick, his family, or his coworkers have ever claimed or alluded to Kubrick being involved in a moon landing hoax. (His daughter says she finds it to be an insult to everything her father stood for.) But Weidner believes that Kubrick left clues about the hoax in his film ‘The Shining’. He correctly points out that one of the characters in the film wears an Apollo 11 sweater but he claims there are other clues throughout the film also. Weidner draws our attention to a key plot point in the film: room 237 in the fictional Overlook Hotel. He states that the average distance between the earth and the moon, as listed in textbooks, is 237,000 miles. He points out that the letters on the room key read “ROOM No 237” and that this is an anagram for the words “MOON ROOM”.

There is a problem with both of Weidner’s claims however. The average distance from the earth to the moon is not 237,000 miles… its 238,900 miles. That is the number listed in astronomy texbooks. Film reviewer Rob Ager, a student of Kubrick’s films, claims that Weidener’s theory is absurd. Ager stated, quite correctly, that the ‘anagram’ Weidner mentions on the hotel room key isn’t even a proper anagram at all. In the word “MOON ROOM”, the letter ‘O’ appears four times, yet it appears only three times on the hotel room key in the film. One cannot make the word “MOON ROOM” for the words “ROOM No 237”.

Of all the claims regarding the Apollo moon landings, Weidner’s claims seem to be the most speculative, having the least basis in fact. Yet there are other facts relating to the moon landings that arouse considerably more suspicion. Mysteriously, it seems that the original telemetry data sent back from the moon on the Apollo 11 mission is all missing. This includes the original, black and white slow-scan television transmission. Moon hoax theorists see this as too suspicious to simply be ignored.

Indeed, even NASA admits to the embarrassing reality that this data (once stored on magnetic tape) may never be recovered and was probably taped over. But what data could possibly be so important as to justify taping over a moon landing? The answer might very well be another moon landing! This is the opinion of Dick Nafzger, who coordinated TV operations at numerous tracking stations for the Apollo 11 broadcast. He said, “In 1970 to 1974, we pulled out 40,000 boxes of tapes… five tapes to a box, that is 200,000 of these tapes, that was to support ongoing Apollo missions, to support Apollo-Soyuz, to support Skylab. They were needed in the network.” NASA’s budget had been declining since the late 1960s, later Apollo moon landings were cancelled, and even as the final Apollo missions visited the moon; resources at NASA (including magnetic tape) were stretched thin. Telemetry data from other Apollo moon landings did indeed survive to this day though, including scientific experiments on the Apollo Lunar Landing Surface Experiments Package or ALSEP. So in reality, only some of the telemetry data is missing – likely taped over with telemetry data from other moon landings!

Moon hoax theorists would have us believe that all of the supposed transmissions from the moon were faked, though it isn’t clear how they think this could be achieved. The signals from the astronauts were coming not merely from outer space but specifically, from the earth’s moon. The telemetry data wasn’t merely some secret signal monitored only by NASA in the United States but by stations all around the world. Specifically, for the Apollo 11 television broadcast, NASA had to collaborate with stations on multiple continents. In Australia, the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station received slow-scan footage as well as the Madrid Manned Flight Tracking Site in Spain.

Other sites, not affiliated with NASA, listened in to radio transmissions also. The Lick Observatory in Costa Rica tracked signals from Apollo 11 along with the Table Mountain Observatory in South Africa. The Jodrell Bank Observatory in England not only tracked Apollo 11 but also an unmanned Soviet space probe that was in orbit around the moon at the same time as Apollo 11. It seems unlikely that observatories around the world were collaborating to add credence to an American hoax. Not only did observatories all around the world listen but individuals with radio equipment did too. Individual HAM radio operators around the world did just that. In 1969, HAM radio operator Larry Baysinger listened to VHF conversations between Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins. A close friend of Baysinger’s actually had to adjust the aim of his antenna to keep it pointed at the moon while Baysinger was listening! As the moon orbited the earth, the radio signal would fade away.

Ultimately though, the most indisputable evidence of the Apollo moon landings is not in radio signals or telemetry. It is in the over 800 pounds of lunar rocks and soil that were returned from the surface of the moon. Kaysing explained this saying simply, “They are not real. NASA has a well-developed ceramics laboratory with high temperature ovens. They were manufactured on earth to look like moon rocks.” If Kaysing was correct, then geologists all around the world have been collectively fooled and the moon rocks are probably the most elaborate and most successful aspect of that hoax. Even the Soviet Academy of Sciences examined moon rocks after Apollo astronauts brought them back to earth. Soviet geologists did not express even the slightest skepticism that the rocks had come from the moon! Today, these rocks are stored at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas but each year, 400 lunar rock samples are sent by mail to dozens of different scientists worldwide. It seems rather extreme to think that all of those scientists have been fooled by earth rocks baked in an oven, as Kaysing claims… and that with each passing year, NASA mails more fraudulent moon rocks to different individuals around the world who claim to verify their authenticity.

Moon hoax theorists point to a 2009 story from Holland where a moon rock in a museum was found to be merely a piece of petrified wood from earth. But does finding one fake moon rock prove that all 800 pounds of moon rocks are fake? The reality is that moon rocks are extremely valuable, worth millions of dollars in some cases. In 1998, federal law enforcement officers in the United States undertook a sting operation to go after individuals selling fraudulent moon rocks. Yet even as con artists sell fake lunar material, some have attempted to sell (real) stolen moon rocks on the black market. The 1998 sting operation discovered a moon rock that President Nixon had given to Honduras that had been missing for years. With any rare and valuable commodity, the possibility of theft always exists. Is it really so hard to believe that a moon rock in Holland could have been stolen and replaced with a piece of petrified wood? There are currently 180 moon rocks that were gifted to foreign nations after the Apollo missions have likely been stolen. Despite all this, the Johnson Space Center still has an ample supply that they regularly send out to scientists each year.

According to the geologists who have examined them, real moon rocks have very distinct characteristics and are quite different from earth rocks. Outer space is filled with cosmic rays: charged particles from outside the solar system whizzing around at nearly the speed of light. The moon has no atmosphere and no magnetic field to protect it from these rays, so they constantly bombard moon rocks. Over time, these cosmic rays actually cause nuclear reactions to occur, changing the isotopes inside these rocks. Many minerals on earth, like micas for instance, contain water inside their crystal structure. The moon rocks contain no water inside them. This makes perfect sense, since the moon has almost no water, no oceans, and no atmosphere. Some of the most common minerals on earth have never been found in moon rocks. Three totally new minerals were also discovered on the moon that had never been found on earth at any time prior! Would moon hoax theorists really claim that NASA was not only baking rocks in ceramics ovens but inventing brand new minerals?

Physicist J.R. Keller states that when minerals are heated and begin to melt on Earth, more dense material in the minerals sinks, pulled down by Earth’s gravity. This is called convection. Convection patterns are preserved when the material cools and hardens later on. Keller states, quite correctly, that moon rocks have very peculiar convection patterns. Such patterns in the rock clearly demonstrate that the convection occurred in very low gravity. Randy Korotev from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University gave his opinion on moon hoaxes in a recent interview. He said, “I've studied lunar rocks and soils for 45 years and I couldn't make even a poor imitation of a lunar breccia, lunar soil, or a mare basalt in the lab… Lunar igneous rocks have crystallization ages, determined by techniques involving radioisotopes, that are older than any known Earth rocks. Anyone who figures out how to fake that is worthy of a Nobel Prize.”

In light of all this evidence, some moon hoax theorists claim that lunar rocks are actual, genuine rocks from the earth’s moon. They simply believe that human beings didn’t personally travel to the earth’s moon to collect them. They point to lunar meteorites that have been discovered in Antarctica and elsewhere on earth. They even state, quite correctly, that rocket scientist Werher Von Braun traveled to Antarctica in the 1960s, just before human beings supposedly landed on the moon. It is indeed true that multiple lunar meteorites have been found in Antarctica over the years! Von Braun claimed to be visiting Antarctica to see how scientists and engineers live and work in harsh and remote environments. Hoax theorists assert that Von Braun was there to gather lunar meteorites for a faked moon landing. Though it is unclear why anyone would send a rocket engineer rather than a geologist to search for rare rocks.

There are several problems with this theory about lunar meteorites. The first known lunar meteorite was discovered in 1979, well over a decade after Von Braun visited Antarctica. While others have been found since, lunar meteorites are extremely rare when compared to ordinary meteorites. If one were to gather up all of the lunar meteorites that have been discovered around the world since 1979, they would weigh less than 500 pounds. (Far less than the 800 pounds of material gathered by Apollo astronauts.) Not only that but lunar meteorites couldn’t be passed off as moon rocks gathered by astronauts. The outside of all lunar meteorites have been burned and melted when the meteorites slammed into Earth’s atmosphere. Also, scientists find that their exposure to cosmic rays is quite different as well. If a meteorite from the moon hit the earth millions of years ago, it would cease to be exposed to additional cosmic rays and it would be very different from a moon rock brought back to earth in 1969.

Finally, some moon hoax theorists might concede it is possible lunar rocks and soil were indeed returned to earth from the moon… but that doesn’t necessarily prove that human beings landed on the moon. Perhaps the rocks and soil were collected by robotic probes? After all, the United States and the Soviet Union sent several unmanned probes to the moon in the 1960s.

The reality though is that whether a nation is landing a robot on the moon or a human being, the task is challenging and complex, especially with 1960s technology. The Soviet Union tried and failed to return lunar rocks and soil to Earth multiple times before they had any success at all. In fact, the Soviet Luna 15 probe was in orbit around the moon in 1969 at the same time that the Apollo 11 astronauts were landing on the moon. The goal of Luna 15 was to return a small soil sample to earth but it crashed in the lunar mountains while attempting to land. Finally, in 1970, the Soviet Luna 16 probe returned less than one pound of lunar soil to earth. Suffice it to say that the Soviet Union did not have enough lunar material to mail 400 lunar samples annually to dozens of scientists worldwide, as NASA does.

If Soviet scientists wanted to gather larger samples like the Americans, they would have needed larger spacecraft and larger rockets to loft those craft into outer space. (They would also have to make sure these spacecraft could return themselves to earth.) America had a fully functional Saturn V rocket at a time while the Soviet Union did not have a reliable rocket of similar size. Though they did attempt to build such a rocket with their N-1, the project was later abandoned after America won the space race. America had a lunar lander, built by an aerospace corporation called Northrop Grumman. The vehicle could hold two people and had been tested multiple times in outer space before landing on the moon. With all of the money NASA was spending on space vehicles to transport humans to the moon, it does indeed seem strange to imagine them secretly building large robotic probes to do the same job. Considering the failures of Soviet robotic probes, there is credible thought to suggest that in some ways, it was actually easier to have human beings land spacecraft and gather rocks than to rely on a primitive robot!

Looking at all the evidence, it seems like quite a reach to suggest that no astronaut has ever landed on the moon. Yet skepticism about this historical event still remains half a century later. Believers in moon landing hoaxes see an elaborate web of lies. They say that the Apollo missions were Cold War era propaganda, false narratives designed to demonstrate the superiority of American ingenuity, technology, and engineering. Such individuals believe that the stories of the Apollo missions are pure fiction.

Ironically though, the official story of these missions is actually far more chaotic and far less flattering to the United States of America than many may realize. Professor Laurence J. Peter once famously said, “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.” For conspiracy theorists, moon landings are the elaborate constructs of very smart people who are putting us all on. These geniuses have created fake engineering, fake nuclear physics, fake radio signals from the moon, and fake geology. But the true story of the Apollo missions might be better described as a group of imbeciles who really meant it.

To be clear, neither American political leadership or aerospace engineers were imbeciles in the 1960s. But the individuals who sought to send men to the moon were indeed taking dangerous and perhaps even foolish risks in pursuits they often didn’t full understand. President Kennedy was not an imbecile by any means. Yet his own science advisor claimed that space policy was the area that President Kennedy understood the least. In a 1962 meeting, President Kennedy told NASA administrators, “I’m not that interested in space.” President Kennedy merely used space as a political tool in Cold War politics. This was particularly true after America had been embarrassed by the Soviet Union’s launch of the first satellite and the first human being into space. So it seems likely that President Kennedy didn’t fully understand what a mission to the moon would entail… at least not initially. At that time, among other concerns, there was credible thought to suggest a lunar lander would actually sink into fine grained dust on the lunar surface when it landed!

NASA administrator James Webb had been consulted about the push to land a human being on the moon by the end of the decade. Ultimately, the moon was selected as a target because neither the Soviet Union nor the United States had any rockets or spacecraft that could make the journey and it would take years for either nation to develop them. It was a way to level the playing field in the space race. A 1961 memo from the Kennedy Administration stated that “with a strong effort” the United States could accomplish a moon landing between 1966 and 1967. So, in reality, it took longer to develop the technology to land men on the moon than previously projected!

So how, specifically, did these missions happen? Let us consider the official account of how the events transpired: the ‘official story’ that conspiracy theorists reject. America pulled ahead in the space race with Project Gemini, setting endurance records for time spent in outer space and accomplishing the first docking of two spacecraft in orbit. Perhaps most moon hoax conspiracy theorists accept these facts because Project Gemini never claimed to have gone to the moon. But these accomplishments were necessary to demonstrate that it was even theoretically feasible to go to the moon.

Despite the accomplishments of Project Gemini, Project Apollo was chaotic. The Apollo 1 crew died of smoke inhalation during a routine test on earth. Of course, conspiracy theorists would say they were murdered to prevent them from blowing the whistle on the hoax. But wouldn’t it be easier to murder astronauts in a more mundane way like, for instance, a car crash? One must wonder just why a nation dedicated to perpetrating an elaborate hoax to demonstrate technological superiority would ever claim (falsely) that their own spacecraft was so flawed and so dangerous that it accidentally killed astronauts on earth before they ever traveled into space!

Or perhaps the Apollo 1 fire wasn’t part of a lie, a deliberate murder, or a hoax? Perhaps the American government simply found itself in the unexpected and embarrassing predicament of having to admit that their experimental space vehicle was deeply and fatally flawed… and that over a year would have to be spent redesigning it. Remember, the Soviets found themselves in a similar predicament around the same time.

What about the other hardware used in the Apollo program? Surely if it was all part of a hoax, the United States government would want to announce to the world that everything else worked perfectly, even if they had to redesign their flawed space capsule. The Saturn V rocket, the largest rocket ever built, was far from perfect. In the second unmanned test flight of the Saturn V, two fuel lines ruptured in the rocket and the second stage shut down early… the third stage was also damaged in flight. The resonance and the vibration at the top of the rocket during the test were so intense, it would not have been safe for a crew of astronauts to be on board. Even so, for such a complex rocket with so many stages, the tests impressed NASA. Von Braun went to work fixing those problems.

For the first time ever on Apollo 8 in 1968, astronauts were placed in a capsule atop the Saturn V for a trip to orbit the moon. They did just that. When we look back at the Apollo 8 mission, it seems like a resounding success but it was really a narrow victory in the space race. Apollo Manager George Lowe came up with the idea precisely because there had been several delays with Northrop Grumman building the lunar lander. America might not have had the ability to land on the moon yet but they could still do something drastic to demonstrate that their space program was progressing towards that goal. The American government believed the Soviet Union might soon send a human being to orbit the moon first. After all, they had already sent a Zond spacecraft full of animals through the Van Allen Belts and around the moon. The animals survived the journey back to earth, confirming their life support systems on board worked. Numerous interviews with astronauts and NASA personnel, including Apollo 8 astronauts, said that their chances of a completely successful mission were just 50/50. Saturn Project Manager Sonny Morea said that in the days before the launch, he was very nervous.

But the gamble paid off. The Saturn V rocket, which had already demonstrated its ability to reach space in unmanned test flights, sent astronauts to the moon. Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders said that the cockpit of the spacecraft shook so violently during the launch that he believed something was wrong with the rocket. When the Saturn V’s first stage ran out of fuel, the second stage ignited. After leaving Earth orbit, commander Frank Boreman, a veteran astronaut, became physically ill during the flight with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. Yet he survived his trip around the moon along with the other two astronauts who were with him.

Apollo 9 would go on to test the lunar lander in Earth orbit, proving that the craft could at least function in outer space. The lunar lander undocked from the three-person Apollo capsule and pulled away to a distance of over 100 miles before docking again. Apollo 10 sought to test the lunar lander in orbit around the moon. They successfully undocked the lander and flew it within 47,000 feet of the moon’s surface. The astronauts found that their landing radar had been programmed improperly. This glitch needed to be fixed before any astronauts could land on the moon.

Disaster struck when Apollo 10 astronauts tested the ascent engine of the lunar lander above the moon. The craft began tumbling violently end over end because a guidance switch had accidentally been turned in the wrong direction. Much to NASA’s embarrassment, live network broadcasts heard the two astronauts in the lunar lander shouting profanity as they frantically tried to rectify the situation. Astronaut Tom Stafford managed to stabilize the lunar lander but it was agreed that if the craft had been spinning for just a few seconds longer, they would have crashed on the moon because the vehicle’s spin would not have been recoverable.

As we all know, the space race concluded with the mission of Apollo 11. But the crew landed on the moon and returned safely to earth by only the narrowest of margins. At this point, politicians in America must have been well aware of the risks the astronauts were taking. President Nixon’s speech writer, William Safire, was instructed to write a speech for the president to read in the event that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin died or were stranded on the moon.

As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended towards the surface of the moon, their onboard computer began sending out alarms. With the data from the landing radar and other systems, the computer was overloaded and shut down. As Armstrong took manual control of the craft, looking out the window, he saw a field of massive boulders along with a crater the size of a football field. This presented a daunting problem because they needed a flat, clear area to land their craft. Flying four miles past their intended landing site, they were facing the prospect of crashing on the moon. The Flight Guidance officer said they were flying at an altitude ominously referred to as the “dead man’s curve”, meaning they wouldn’t have enough time to abort their mission before crashing into the surface. With less than 30 seconds of fuel remaining, Armstrong landed his craft and shut off the descent engine. However, the problems didn’t end there.

After the landing, NASA seriously debated whether it would be safe for the astronauts to leave their spacecraft and venture onto the surface of the moon. There was a pressure buildup in one of the fuel lines of the descent engine. Temperatures in shadow on the moon drop to around negative 200 degrees Fahrenheit. In this extreme cold, a chunk of ice was blocking one of the fuel lines. It could have caused a catastrophic explosion. Eventually the problem was resolved and the two astronauts were permitted to walk on the moon. But they encountered another problem when they returned to the lunar lander. The circuit breaker that was needed to arm the main engine had been damaged. It was a crucial piece of equipment that was needed for the astronauts to takeoff from the surface of the moon. In the end, a felt tip pen was stuck into the mechanism and used to activate the switch.

Moon hoax theorists believe this official story is totally false – an entirely fictional narrative constructed by the United States government in order to demonstrate America’s technological superiority during the Cold War. If this was all merely fiction, then it doesn’t seem to be a good narrative to demonstrate technological superiority. How does a spacecraft catching on fire, killing three astronauts demonstrate technological superiority? How does a nervous project manager expressing serious doubts demonstrate technological superiority? How does a lunar lander spinning out of control above the moon while astronauts shout profanity demonstrate technological superiority? How does an onboard guidance computer getting overloaded, malfunctioning, and sending out alarms demonstrate technological superiority? How does a broken circuit breaker, crucial for astronauts to takeoff from the surface of the moon, demonstrate technological superiority? If you believe we never went to the moon, then none of these stories can be true.

But why not write a false narrative where all the spacecraft work flawlessly and there are no dangerous close calls? This is what the Soviet Union did with many of their own missions in space. As impressive as it was that American men landed on the moon; the details of how this transpired reveal that it was chaotic and extremely dangerous… and that American spacecraft, while impressive, were far from perfect. Perhaps moon hoax theorists should consider the possibility that these stories are actually all true.

It is altogether proper and patriotic for citizens to question their government. History shows us that governments have lied to their citizens many times. Skepticism is healthy but skepticism alone cannot always be used to deduce the truth. Blind skepticism, much like blind belief, only serves to conceal truth. All human beings have an obligation to make judgments about the world around us based on all the evidence. In many cases, it is possible to differentiate fact from fiction, to discern the difference between propaganda and history. Ironically, Kaysing stated that one doesn't need to be an engineer to determine whether or not men have landed on the moon... on this point, he was quite right. If one considers all the evidence, the most likely reality is that American astronauts did indeed land on the moon. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. We live in an age where truth is often obscured or distorted. This happens in politics, in media, and on the internet. But truth still exists and if we dig deep enough, we can often find it. Albert Einstein once wrote, “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility…The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle.” Maybe the strangest concession to make today is that the world, the cosmos, and the human exploration of space are indeed comprehensible?

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