The following article was published in August 1997 in Media
Bypass. The author, James M. Collier, died in 1998.
Mr. Collier's text appears in colored roman
type. My comments appear indented in white italics
intermingled with the text to which they refer. Where I intrude upon
Mr. Collier's paragraphing, "[...]" appears.
In 1994, Victoria House Press in New York received a manuscript
titled "A Funny Thing Happened On Our Way to the Moon." Its author,
Ralph Rene, a brilliant lay physicist [...]
Much has been made of Ralph Rene's supposed brilliance. However, he
is variously described as a self-taught engineer or self-taught
physicist. Should one trust a self-taught doctor?
[...] who had studied Bill Kaysing's thesis (see July issue) that NASA
faked seven Apollo moon shots, wanted it published.
Since I had written the investigative report "Votescam: The
Stealing of America," (Victoria House Press) they asked me to
investigate Rene and his manuscript to determine the credibility of
both. "I read Kaysing's book 'We Never Went to the Moon'", Rene told
me, "and although it was compelling, it lacked technical details, a
grounding in physics that would convince scientists, beyond a doubt,
that America never went to the moon."
Unfortunately no one with the appropriate training and credentials has
endorsed Ralph Rene, and several have gone on record calling him a
charlatan, a crackpot, a lunatic, and worse.
Rene was positive that NASA had pulled off the hoax of the
century. "NASA didn't have the technical problems solved by l969 when
they launched the first moon shot," he insisted, "but I believe they
couldn't admit it or they'd lose thirty billion dollars in
This contention is based mostly on some 20,000 defects or quality
control issues logged against the combined spacecraft. Not being a
practicing engineer, Rene apparently misunderstands the graded nature
and severity of such items. He also apparently wishes to convey the
notion that a system is not supposed to be considered safe until all
pending issues are resolved.
I read Rene's manuscript and although I understood basic physics,
I couldn't immediately assure the publisher that Rene's assertions
were scientifically accurate. Least of all, I couldn't assure them
that we didn't go to the moon. I needed time.
Mr. Collier never gets round to answering whether he was able to
confirm Rene's scientific assertions.
So what began as simple research turned into months at the New
York Public Library, the Library of Congress in Washington and the
United States Archives. Surprisingly, precious little had been written
about the Apollo missions except standard "puff" pieces in the New
York Times and the Washington Post.
Then my research turned to Grumman Aircraft in Beth Page, New
York. Grumman built the Lunar Module (LM), that unwieldy looking craft
that never flew on Earth but supposedly landed safely on the moon six
times. I asked for blueprints detailing the scientific thought behind
its design. Did it run by computer? If so, who built the computer?
What made Grumman engineers think it could fly?
Grumman told me that all the paperwork was destroyed. I was
stunned. The LM historical paperwork was destroyed!? Why!? They had no
In fact Grumman does have answers. Most people are surprised to learn
that the design documentation for the lunar module amounts to a
boxcar's worth for each individual spacecraft. Aerospace
engineering is not like building a house, where a mere roll of
blueprints and good carpentry skills suffice. Each individual part
must be meticulously documented, inspected, and signed off at each
stage of its lifetime: from initial conception to detailed design to
manufacturing to installation. This represents an enormous amount of
[...] I turned to Boeing Aircraft in Seattle. They built the Lunar
Rover, the little car that NASA claims traversed the moon on Apollo
missions15-16-17. NASA claims it was transported to the moon in a
five-foot high by six-foot wide, triangular corner section of the
LM. (The LM's bottom section was basically a tic-tac-toe design with
nine sections. Five sections were squares with the four corners being
Grumman is an aerospace engineering firm, not a museum. It did
not wish to house the hundred thousand cubic feet or so of design
documentation at its expense. As an aircraft manufacturer, Grumman is
already required by aviation regulations to store the documentation
for each commercial aircraft it builds. If the government does not
require the manufacturer to retain the documentation, there is little
incentive to do so voluntarily.
Only cursory material was retained for historical reference, and a
few detailed items were saved by private citizens who picked them off
Grumman's trash heap. But it's no great surprise to anyone who works
in aerospace that the detailed documentation was destroyed.
But my research indicated that the Rover was at least six feet too
long to fit into that corner compartment, thus making it impossible to
ever get to the moon. [...]
The Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) did not go inside the triangular
section of the lunar module descent stage, as Mr. Collier suggests.
He apparently misunderstood the Boeing engineers, or else never asked
them some crucial questions. The triangular sections of the LM
descent stage are where the landing gear is attached. The LRV rides
bolted to the side of the rectangular section of the descent stage.
It's not contained in anything.
[...] Next was the National Air and Space Museum in
Washington and the Johnson Space Center in Houston where I video taped
an actual LM. Here research indicated that the crew compartment and
hatches were too small for the astronauts to actually enter and
exit. After taking the video footage I challenged NASA to prove that
two six-foot astronauts, in ballooned-out pressure suits (4-psi in a
vacuum) could either get in or get out of a LM.
The cramped quarters of the lunar module is a feature well documented
in several books about the Apollo program. There was a protocol for
moving inside the spacecraft, and for "egressing" one at a time.
Mr. Collier doesn't seem to appreciate that. He's not entirely in the
dark, though. Neil Armstrong actually broke off a switch in his
Apollo 11 lunar module by moving carelessly in his space suit. There
was no margin for error. But it could be done.
Trying to understand how the moon acquired a ten-foot layer of top
soil without wind, rain or water to erode the volcanic-crystalline
surface, I spoke to a geologist at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology in Boston.
And? Mr. Collier reports the adverse findings in detail, but he fails
to report where his concerns were adequately addressed. The lunar
surface is far older than the earth's surface (in most places).
Millions of years' worth of meteoroidal bombardment have churned up the
moon's surface. And there are moonquakes too. We tend to think of
the moon as a solid object, but most planets and planetoids are
fluid. Imagine putting a faint layer of plaster on the surface of a
balloon and then flexing the balloon. The hard layer of plaster will
crumble. And consider also that most of the meteors that fall on the
moon are actually microscopic themselves. It accumulates "dust" the
same way your furniture at home does.
Much of my time was spent just trying to mentally picture the
physics of light and shadows, jet propulsion and solar radiation,
because most of what NASA was claiming about the moon shots - and what
was supposedly discovered on the moon - appeared to be diametrically
opposed to present text book physics.
It's often difficult to apply conventional physics to new environments
where some principles hold (say for certain gravity and atmospheric
situations) and some don't. That's why instead of applying a layman's
knowledge of physics to a situation, it's best to get the opinions of
those who practice physics for a living and who can provide a better
grasp of the principles from a more intuitive standpoint.
Anyway, I was knee-deep in all this research, when Rene became
impatient and decided to self-publish his book. He changed the title
to "NASA Mooned America". I, however, had been hooked. But now there
wasn't a book to research. I was left hanging, questions plaguing my
mind. Questions that neither Kaysing nor Rene entertained.
Their research had led me into a scientific wonderland, filled
with possibilities. What was I going to do? I had been thrown out of a
great movie and I'd never know how it ended. I decided to continue the
research. I proposed a book to the publisher titled "Was it Only a
Paper Moon?" and I promised it by 1998.
I started with the technical problems NASA faced in outer
space. In fact, I discovered there are two separate zones out there,
an inner space and an outer space, and that fact eventually became
very significant in my research.
It appears that humans are most likely operating in inner space
(the space lab) but outer space, beyond the Van Allen radiation belt,
the magnetosphere, 560 miles up, may be too deadly to enter due to
solar radiation. If that data proves to be true, Earthmen could not
have gone to the moon and returned without some signs of radiation
poisoning, cell damage and DNA alteration, and most likely, death from
Although the astronauts as a group don't seem less healthy than their
earthbound colleagues, we have no way of knowing whether the health
problems they have or might contract are due to space travel or just
The Van Allen belts pose a radiation problem only if the exposure
time is considerable. Ralph Rene doesn't seem to understand the
physics of radiation exposure, the difference between types of
radiation, and the duration of Apollo astronaut exposure. And so he
misleads his readers into thinking the exposure was much greater than
it actually was.
In fact there are literally hundreds of communications satellites
happily operating outside the Van Allen belts, and they were
engineered using the same data that NASA used for planning the Apollo
missions. If NASA's data were wrong, these satellites should all be
failing unexpectedly. Since they aren't we believe the NASA data is
The first concern I faced when I started to write the book was my
own public credibility. After all, I was the person who told the
country (Votescam) that their votes were being rigged by a cartel of
powerful elite, including the owners of major media in America.
Now I found myself investigating the possibility that we didn't go
to the moon. "You've got to be nuts," said my friends. "First you told
them the vote is rigged and now you question whether we went to the
moon!? They'll hang you in Times Square!"
So I decided to test the waters with several talk-radio shows in
the Midwest. [...]
Talk-show participants are not usually a good sample of the general
population, nor are they especially level-headed people. Talk shows
thrive on controversy, and often intentionally amplify the
controversial aspects of a discussion.
[...] Most of the callers said they never believed we went to
the moon in the first place. Others protested that I was doing the
station and myself a disservice for even bringing up the subject. They
argued that I shouldn't malign "those great American heroes, the
astronauts." What could I say to these people? I wanted to explain
that I not only sympathized with their point of view, but that at one
time I had shared it.
It wasn't easy being the Cassandra of the airwaves, telling people
what they definitely didn't want to hear. Half of me wanted to be
proven wrong, but the other half had both hands on the tail of
something that sure looked like a duck and quacked like a duck. The
last time that happened, the duck turned out to be an expose of
computer vote rigging in the United States. As an investigative
reporter, I just couldn't let go of that damn duck.
One enraged listener said that the eagle-feather and hammer that
astronauts simultaneously dropped on the moon, was an experiment
proving there was no atmosphere on the moon's surface. That person was
definitely angry, convinced that I didn't understand basic physics.
I explained that the experiment wasn't done to prove the absence of
atmosphere, but to prove that an eagle feather and a hammer would both
fall at the same rate of speed because the moon has gravity (1/6th a
strong as Earth's).
"On Earth," I said, "they would both fall at 32-feet per second-per
The caller actually started to holler. "No, no, an eagle feather
will float down on Earth and the hammer will fall faster. On the moon
there is no air so they both fall at the same speed!"
I told him to get an eagle feather and try it. It's Galileo's law:
no matter what the weight of any two objects is, they will both fall
at the exactly same speed. [...]
Unfortunately the caller is right and Mr. Collier is wrong. Galileo's
law is popularly stated as that two objects, regardless of mass, will
fall at the same rate. But that is not the physical principle.
Galileo showed that the acceleration due to gravity is the same
regardless of mass. All things being equal, an eagle feather and a
hammer and a humpback whale will all fall at the same rate in the same
[...] In the final analysis, I had tested the
waters by doing radio and found that although they were hot, they
wouldn't burn me alive. There were still scores of calls from
listeners who encouraged me to continue the investigation.
The caller correctly characterized the expected observation, and
that's because -- Galileo notwithstanding -- all things are not equal.
Gravity is not the only force acting upon an object falling in earth's
gravity. Because the earth also has an atmosphere, things falling
through it incur resistance -- a force which opposes gravity. The
strength of that force depends solely on the shape of the falling
But here's the key concept. The acceleration upward imparted by
the atmospheric resistance to a falling object is computed by dividing
the force of resistance by the mass of the falling object. The
feather has a very small mass compared to the hammer, so the
resistance of the air has a much greater effect upon it than upon the
But on the moon you can ignore the effects of atmospheric
resistance, and so Galileo's observation on gravity is the only factor
If Mr. Collier were correct in predicting that an eagle feather
and a hammer will fall at the same speed on earth, citing Galileo's
principle as his proof, he will have to contend with the notion of a
parachute. A skydiver would be killed if he hit the ground going as
fast as he does with his parachute closed. When he opens his
parachute, he slows down dramatically to a safe speed. His mass
hasn't changed; he's always had his parachute with him, just in a
different shape. Gravity hasn't changed. But his parachute has made
him more susceptible to the aerodynamic effects of air resistance, and
this greatly affects the speed at which he falls.
While Mr. Collier may have been correct in stating that the intent
of the experiment was to demonstrate Galileo's principle, the caller
is correct in predicting the outcome were that experiment carried out
on earth. Galileo's experiment wouldn't have worked on earth with
those two particular objects. But on the moon it worked perfectly,
precisely due to the absence of the confounding effects of earth's
Mr. Collier's browbeating of an intelligent and correct caller
leads me to two conclusions: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing,
and perhaps Mr. Collier should have listened a little more carefully
to the audience he was using to test his credibility.
Then, a funny thing happened on my way to writing that book. I was
trying to use words to describe the strange visual phenomena that I
saw in NASA photos and videos. Those provocative images are the first
evidence that people investigating NASA use to draw you into the
fray. "You won't believe this NASA picture," they say, and the
tantalizing hunt for clues is forever on.
It was then I realized you had to see it to believe it. Those NASA
pictures were supposedly taken on the moon's surface, but the lighting
from the only available sources, the sun and reflected Earth-light,
seems all wrong. It is too soft, appearing more like a Disney studio
photo; soft pastels and diffused light.
How could there be diffused light on the moon?
For the same reason there can be diffuse light from the
moon. The lunar surface reflects light, and if it can reflect light
all the way to earth then it can certainly reflect light a few feet to
an astronaut's space suit or to the shaded side of he lunar module.
Earth's atmosphere takes light and bends it, spreading it around
objects. Light reflects off air molecules and lights up the dark sides
of objects. It is atmosphere, bending the sun's light, that makes the
sky appear to be blue. However, on the moon there is no prism of
atmosphere to diffuse or bend light so the sky is totally black. On
the moon, the sun's light should be blinding. In fact, the astronauts
wear gold tinted face plates on their helmets to cut down 95-percent
of the light from the sun. The dark side of objects in NASA photos
should be pitch black [...],
The sun was indeed blinding. The astronauts commented on it. And the
shadows were indeed dark, but not so dark as to impede vision.
[...] while the lit side should be hellishly
bright. Yet, all NASA photos from the moon are softly lit, and they
appear to be taken in Earth's atmosphere.
Because atmospheric diffusion is the most salient cause of diffuse
lighting on earth, Mr. Collier seems to believe it's the only cause.
But if you've ever been out in the desert -- and especially taken
photographs there -- you can see the effects of the glare of the sun
off the sand.
On the moon you lose the atmospheric diffusion, but the diffuse
reflection from the lunar surface does not go away. That reflection
becomes the primary source of indirect lighting. Mr. Collier's
conclusion that shadows should be pitch black is based on an
incomplete understanding of how lighting works.
It's a matter of opinion whether they are softly lit. Where reflected
light from the lunar surface is a primary light source -- such as when
Aldrin is climbing down the lunar module's ladder -- we should
actually expect soft lighting. Soft lighting is achieved in
photography by using large area light sources. Perched at the top of
the ladder, Aldrin was surrounded by an entire landscape of brightly
lit lunar surface, even though the area immediately surrounding him
was in a puddle of shadow. That would certainly produce soft lighting
effects. He was not in direct sunlight.
But notice how Mr. Collier jumps to the conclusion. He observes
the soft lighting. And since he's convinced himself above that only
atmospheric diffusion could produce soft lighting, he concludes that
the photographs must have been produced on earth.
Why? If NASA film footage was actually taken on the moon, then it
would be a tremendous scientific story. One would expect new physics
books trumpeting an incredibly new physical reality: atmosphere has
nothing to do with diffusing light! Therefore, and forever thereafter,
a new scientific principle would be taught in schools: where there is
no atmosphere, light will react exactly the same as light in
atmosphere. What was wrong in the world of science?
Why were the scientists silent about such an important discovery?
Why was the major media mute on the subject?
Journalistic melodrama aside, it's interesting to note how Mr. Collier
has gone from a simple theory of illumination all the way to the point
of lambasting mainstream physics.
His contention that this represents a "new physical reality" is
absurd. This is what logicians call a fallacy of inverse
implication. We know that atmosphere diffuses light. Therefore the
presence of atmosphere would imply the diffusion of light. However,
does that mean the absence of atmosphere should imply the absence of
diffusion? Only if atmosphere were the only possible cause of diffuse
lighting. It is not. So there is no "new reality" to trumpet. In
the absence of atmosphere we are able to see other causes of light
diffusion -- in this case, diffuse reflection.
This is a good example of how many conspiracists think. When the
observations recorded in film and video fail to match the
conspiracist's expectation, it is seen as an earth-shattering
anomalous condition that (in their estimation) fairly begs for
resolution. In fact, we often find that the conspiracists'
expectations are incomplete or incorrect. But few conspiracists will
go back and defend those expectations.
Mr. Collier chooses to marvel at the apparent density of science
and the media, when in fact he should be using that information to
refine his expectations. Maybe there's a reason why people haven't
noticed the "anomaly." Maybe it's what really ought to be expected.
I called Kodak, in Rochester, NY, the company that supplied the
film for the Hasselblad cameras the astronauts used on the moon. "At
what temperature does film melt?" I asked.
"One hundred and fifty degrees."
But NASA video and film prove the astronauts to be on the moon's
surface when the sun was at high noon; the temperature was +250
F. degrees. "The film, in the uncooled cameras would melt," Kodak
said. So the duck was quacking.
NASA film and video, in fact, show that the astronauts are on the
moon's surface in early morning, when the sun is just beginning to
warm the surface.
Mr. Collier seems to be among the large group of people who
misunderstand what "surface temperature" means when applied to the
moon. On earth, when we say the outside temperature is 80 degrees, we
mean the temperature of the air. The surface temperature may in fact
be as high as 150 degrees. I'm sure Mr. Collier tried to walk
barefoot across a hot sandy beach and was given an object lesson in
The surface temperature of the moon can indeed reach 250 degrees,
but that's the temperature of lunar surface material heated by direct
sunlight. There is no such thing as air temperature on the moon. So
if you can keep the photographic film out of direct sunlight, you can
keep it cool.
It's not true that the cameras weren't cooled. They weren't
actively cooled by any mechanism intended for that purpose, but
cooling something on the moon is a simple matter of keeping it out of
the sun, or of putting reflective material on it so that most of the
sun's rays are reflected away. The cameras had thermometers on them
so that the astronauts could keep tabs on the internal temperature of
When I realized that everything I was trying to describe with
words was strongly visual, I decided to commit the research to a video
tape instead of a book. "Was it Only a Paper Moon" video was released
in Spring 1997. It contains a 90-minute unbroken chain of
circumstantial evidence that, if not refuted by NASA, proves we could
not have gone to the moon. I feel this evidence demands Congressional
I think the only thing congressional hearings would demonstrate is
that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Mr. Collier educates
himself only to the point of understanding some of the relevant
principles. And he doesn't seem impressed that the answers to his
questions lie in the principles he doesn't yet understand.