bart sibrel's top fifteen
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This is a review of the top fifteen reasons Bart Sibrel believes support his contention that the lunar landings were falsified.

"Tricky Dick" Richard Nixon was president at the time. He was the king of cover-up, secret tapes, and scandal. Think about all of his potential antics that were not discovered.

Fig. 1 -Richard M. Nixon, 37th President of the United States. (The White House)
While Richard Nixon was the president during the first successful landing in July 1969, he was not the president when most of the work was being done. In fact, Nixon himself didn't much care for the Apollo program or the space program in general. He considered the U.S. space program to be the brainchild of his arch-enemies John F. Kennedy and Kennedy's successor Lyndon Johnson. He interpreted the success and public acclaim of the space program as approval for the outgoing Democratic leadership.

Nixon was inaugurated as the 37th U.S. president on January 20, 1969. Apollo 8, the first mission to venture through the Van Allen belts Sibrel says are so deadly, was launched on December 21, 1968, a month before Nixon took power. But the designs for the spacecraft and the plans for the mission were finalized long before this time, during Johnson's presidency. Sibrel is going after the wrong president.

Nixon, it could be argued, was not very good at cover-up: he got caught. People who are very good at deception don't get caught. The famous Watergate scandal is nothing more than a simple burglary of the type perpetrated on a daily basis by relatively unskilled people in the U.S. Nixon couldn't pull it off or keep it secret. In any case Sibrel has evidently chosen Nixon because of his proven record of concealment and shady dealings, not because Nixon was in a historical position to have had much of an affect on Apollo.

A successful manned mission to the moon offered a wonderful, pride-boosting distraction for the near revolt of the citizens of America over 50,000 deaths in the Vietnam War.

True, but not a reason for a hoax. After all, a successful Apollo mission might have achieved these same goals. There was no need to fake Apollo just to improve morale. Although the landings themselves took place after the 1968 Tet Offensive, which turned the tide of the war against the U.S., the plans for the landing were drawn up beginning in 1961, when the war wasn't as great a cause for social concern. To characterize the Apollo program as a reactionary response to the failing war in Vietnam is to put the cart before the horse.

The people who criticized the Vietnam War (and, according to Sibrel, needed cheering up) also criticized the moon landings. The people who supported the troops overseas (and didn't need cheering up) supported the moon landings.

The Soviets had a five-to-one superiority to the U.S. in manned hours in space. They were the first in achieving the following seven important milestones:
1. First manmade satellite in orbit.
2. First man in space.
3. First man to orbit the earth.
4. First woman in space.
5. The first crew of three astronauts onboard one spacecraft.
6. The first spacewalk.
7. The first of two orbiting spacecraft rendezvousing.
This put America at a perceived military disadvantage in missile technology during the very height of the Cold War.

See here. The ability to set records does not necessarily equate to technological supremacy.

Neil Armstrong, the first man to supposedly walk on the moon, refuses to give interviews to anyone on the subject. "Ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no lies." Collins also refuses to be interviewed. Aldrin, who granted an interview, threatened to sue us if we showed it to anyone.

It is not true that the Apollo astronauts refuse to give interviews to anybody. They typically refuse to give interviews to conspiracy theorists. Most of the Apollo astronauts know who Bart Sibrel is and how he makes his living, and most avoid him whenever possible. This is why Mr. Sibrel has had to resort to "ambush" and other deceptive tactics such as posing as a crew from Discovery Channel in order to get on-camera comments from astronauts.

Collins has written several best-selling books on his experiences as an astronaut, and has lectured extensively. He is one of the more entertaining astronauts. But he understandably does not consent to interviews from conspiracists.

Despite his age and poor health, Aldrin still makes many personal and television appearances. He very much likes talking about his experiences. But he does not like being called a liar in public, which is what he knew Sibrel planned to do. Whether Aldrin would have had the legal right to sue is debatable. But his sentiment is certainly understandable.

Armstrong gives interviews, but prefers not to appear on camera. He's shy. Everyone who knew him as an obscure test pilot testifies that he preferred keeping to himself. The statement in quotes, "Ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no lies," is not a quote from Armstrong; it's a statement by Sibrel fishing for a less obvious reason why Armstrong refuses to talk to him. For Sibrel to place his own comments in quotes like that, implying that Armstrong said it, is very misleading.

He gives press conferences. He spoke one-on-one on camera with Patrick Moore, host of the BBC program The Sky At Night, in 1970. He hosted an American television documentary called Man On the Moon. And he has been interviewed extensively for the online Apollo Lunar Surface Journal. Clearly Armstrong is not hiding from "difficult" questions.

We understand Sibrel's feelings toward Armstrong. Armstrong is likely the reason Sibrel was fired from his job as a cameraman for a Nashville, Tenn., television station. After Sibrel trespassed on Armstrong's property trying to confront him with his hoax allegations, Armstrong called the police instead. We suspect, but cannot prove, that Sibrel has an axe to grind.

Newly retouched photographs correct errors from previously released version. Why would they be updating thirty-year-old pictures if they really went to the moon?

Fig. 2 -Detail of a photograph in which a "C" appears to be written on a rock. (NASA: AS16-107-17446)
Mr. Sibrel is speaking of the infamous C-rock photo (Fig. 2). He has absolutely no evidence that the photo has been recently retouched. That's simply his interpretation of the fact that two different versions of the photo exist: with and without the mark.

The peculiar C-shaped mark on the rock has been conclusively traced to its source: a fiber contaminant on a particular print of this photo. The original transparency does not contain the mark. The masters do not contain the mark. The prints (save one) do not contain the mark. The mark exists on one print, and one print only.

It is unfortunate that this one print was digitized and as a result became the one most widely circulated. But Sibrel's contention that this photo was retouched to remove supposed evidence of prop markings is completely unfounded. Sibrel is trying to make the observation fit his predetermined conclusion. There is plenty of evidence of other fibrous contamination on the prints. You simply cannot handle and store tens of thousands of photographs without getting specks of dust on a few of them. The effort to clean them when dirty is evidence of preserving the record intact, not evidence of falsifying it.

Rediscovered lost footage shows the American flag blowing in the wind. The wind was probably caused by intense air conditioning used to cool the astronauts in their lightened, uncirculated space suits. The cooling systems in the backpacks would have been removed to lighten the load not designed for earth's six times heavier gravity, otherwise they might have fallen over.

Sibrel makes a big deal about having discovered "rare footage" and "uncirculated photographs". Everything he cites except for a few clips in his video has been a part of the public record for thirty years. He's trying to impress us with his ability to point and click through NASA web sites. If he were really so resourceful we'd expect him to have discovered the other prints of the C-rock photo -- the ones that have been around for thirty years and don't have the "C" on them.

The astronauts trained with a PLSS (backpack) mockup that simulated what the real PLSS would weigh on the moon. And when they worked with this equipment, a separate van-sized cooling unit was required to provide them with fresh, cool air. The mockup backpacks did not function. They did not contain any actual cooling units, as the real ones would. The real cooling units would only work in a perfect vacuum. Yes, the real backpacks were quite heavy, and also quite useless on earth.

The fluttering flag argument is an old one. Sibrel's "lost footage" isn't any different from the footage we've been seeing since 1969 -- the flag doesn't "blow in the wind", it moves in response to the astronauts' manipulation of the staff.

Enlarged photographs underneath the lunar lander's 10,000 pound thrust engine showing the soil completely undisturbed. During ground tests there was grave concern for the vehicle falling into the hole the engine created as it descended. An oversight that they would have to keep for all subsequent moon missions. They attributed it to the effect of no atmosphere (except for the flag blowing in the wind!)

As a matter of fact the photos most certainly do not show "undisturbed" soil. Up close we can see that directly under the nozzle the soil has been blasted away to reveal the underlying hardpack. Photographs taken from a distance and from orbit show the more subtle effect of the exhaust plume -- a lightening of the soil.

The lunar module was never tested on earth. It couldn't have been. Its engine was too weak to lift the spacecraft against earth gravity, and elements of the lunar module's structure could not support themselves under a full flight load in earth gravity. The only way to test the LM on earth would be to test a heavily modified version of it, which would not be a useful test.

Before anything had landed on the moon there was some concern that the engine would dig a large hole, but this is when scientists believed the moon might be covered by a very thick layer of fluffy dust. But after the Surveyor spacecraft had made several successful landings and proved the solidity of the lunar surface there was no special concern for the Apollo spacecraft.

A complete discussion of this topic is here.

Sibrel's "rare, uncirculated photos" have been available since the 1970s. His "exclusive" film footage is available (unedited) from various sources.

Rare, uncirculated photographs, allegedly from the moon's surface, show scenes supposedly lit solely by sunlight. Yet they contain shadows that do not run parallel with each other, indicating supplemental artificial light. Sunlight would cast shadows that would never intersect.

Again, the photos in question are not rare. Nor are they uncirculated. They've been available from NASA and from the Lunar and Planetary Institute since the early 1970s, and online in digital form beginning in the mid 1980s.

Sibrel's examples of "impossible" shadows have been easily reproduced by photographers taking pictures of sun-cast shadows. The laws of perspective provide that lines which are truly parallel need not always appear parallel in photographs.

The moon is 250,000 miles away. The space shuttle has never gone more than 400 miles from the Earth. Except for Apollo astronauts, no humans even claim to have gone beyond low-earth orbit. When the space shuttle astronauts did get to an altitude of 400 miles, the radiation of the Van Allen belts forced them to a lower altitude. The Van Allen radiation belts exist because the Earth's magnetic field traps the solar wind.

The Van Allen belts are discussed here. Sibrel isn't comfortable discussing the details of Van Allen radiation, but that doesn't stop us. And as a matter of fact, Geminis 10 and 11 entered the Van Allen belts long before Apollo.

If it's raining outside you dress warmly and take an umbrella, otherwise you dress conveniently. The space shuttle is designed for low earth orbit. The Apollo command module was designed to pass through the Van Allen belts. It is a matter of intent. Now it's important to remember that the Apollo spacecraft went through the Van Allen belts. That's a single brief exposure -- and one on the way back. Orbiting within the Van Allen belts exposes the occupants continuously to radiation. Even if the radiation is less intense, it's still more dangerous to have a small continuous dose than to have a single large dose.

Mr. Sibrel neglects to mention what he told the audience of Coast To Coast AM with George Noory on Jan. 6, 2003 when first making this claim. See here for details: Mr. Sibrel has unwittingly admitted that Apollo astronauts likely did pass through the Van Allen belts!

Further, Mr. Sibrel's film A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon says the Van Allen belts start at 1,000 miles, not 400 miles. Which is it?

The top portion of the lunar module which landed on the moon supposedly popped up off the moon with two astronauts aboard, entered lunar orbit 60 miles up, and docked with the command module in lunar orbit. To look at its design and think such could have actually occurred is absolutely ludicrous. The fuel tanks were nowhere near one-sixth the size of those on the space shuttle as one would expect to achieve lunar orbit.

To put it mildly, this argument is ignorant in the extreme. Except to call it an argument would be a compliment. It's mostly Mr. Sibrel horse-laughing.

First, Mr. Sibrel is a video cameraman by profession. His opinion of what makes a spaceworthy vehicle is irrelevant unless he can show where he took night courses in aeronautical engineering. Qualified engineers don't have a problem accepting the lunar module as a probable device. In fact, NASA and Grumman both publish very detailed specifications on the lunar module to allow anyone with the technical expertise to verify its operation.

To argue that the lunar module should have needed one-sixth the fuel of the space shuttle is to completely misunderstand how fuel requirements for space vehicles work.

First, the lunar module and the space shuttle use entirely different kinds of fuel. The shuttle's fuel is cryogenic -- gas compressed into a liquid form to take up less space. (The mass remains the same, however.) The lunar module's fuel is naturally a liquid at room temperature. For example, the helium tank at the party store looks like it contains only a few gallons. But it will fill up several thousand ballons amounting to a huge volume. Cryogenic rocket fuel is compressed even more densely than party helium.

Second, the space shuttle weighs more. The orbiter alone in earth gravity weighs approximately 200,000 lbs (91,000 kg). The lunar module ascent stage -- with astronauts -- weighs only about 2,000 lbs (910 kg) in lunar gravity. That's a hundred-fold difference in weight. (Not in mass, however.) Lifting the massive space shuttle out of Earth's gravity requires considerably more fuel than lifting the less massive lunar module out of lesser gravity; Sibrel has accounted for only one of the factors and assumed that the same amount of fuel is required to get to any orbit.

Third, there isn't a such a simple relationship between the fuel requirement and payload mass. Let's say you have a payload with a mass of 1,000 kg. You add 10 kilograms to it. That means you have to supply the rocket with more fuel to get that heavier payload to a given altitude. But wait! The fuel you just added is more mass in the vehicle that has to be lifted to orbit. So you have to add more fuel to lift the fuel you added to lift the heavier payload. So it's not true that adding 10% to the payload simply requires 10% more fuel. Adding 10 kg of mass to the payload can easily require 200 kg or more in additional fuel.

Fourth, the earth has an atmosphere. The space shuttle has to push upward through that atmosphere, which requires extra force to overcome the atmospheric drag. And that drag is considerable: it increases according to the square of the velocity. That force has to come from extra fuel. If there's no atmospheric drag, there's no need to provide fuel to overcome it.

The atmosphere also provides an additional impediment. In order to orbit the earth, you have to get outside the atmosphere. Theoretically you could orbit the earth at an altitude of 60 miles (96 km), but there's still air there, and at the speed you would need to travel at to maintain orbit, the atmospheric drag would be enough to slow you down very quickly. So the space shuttle must orbit at altitudes nearing 150 miles (240 km) where the air is thin enough to be negligible for a few weeks. But the moon has no air. You can orbit the moon at a much lower altitude -- just high enough to clear the mountains. Lower altitude means less fuel.

The surface of the moon is a vacuum. The landing module would have been heated to 250 degrees F on the light side where they landed. There is no way they could have rejected the heat for as long as 72 hours as they claim on some Apollo missions. How long do you think you could keep your car cool on a hot day running off battery power?

This is suspiciously like Ralph Rene's estimate. Either way, it reveals a mind-boggling ignorance of thermodynamics.

Objects in the sun will definitely heat up, and without an atmosphere to help draw away the heat, the typical object will heat up more in a vacuum -- on its sunny side.

Any object placed in the sun will be half lit and half shaded. Unless the object is very small -- say a quarter-inch (half a centimeter) in size -- the temperature won't be the same all over its surface, or even inside of it. The sunny side will be much hotter than the shady side. This is easy to determine even on earth. Thus to say that the "landing module" would reach one temperature all over is amusingly naive.

Since Mr. Sibrel doesn't tell us how he arrived at his figure, we can't tell whether his claim is defensible or not. But if he's cribbing from Rene, as we suspect, then we can find lots of fault with it.

Rene just guesses at the all-important values for emissivity and absorptivity. In a naive interpretation of Kirchhoff's Law, he uses the same number for both and assumes this totally fabricated (by his own admission) number is the same for all the materials used in the LM.

The other extremely important factor in radiant heat transfer is the angle with which light strikes the surface. Light that strikes perpendicular transmits maximum energy, which light that strikes at a sharp angle transmits very little. Rene doesn't even talk about this in his computation. In practice, radiant heat transfer analysis is done by creating a geometric model in a computer and iterating the heat transfer to account for these angles and interreflection. This was actually done in the 1960s for the lunar module. Rene simply solves one equation once and believes this is a suitable estimate.

And so, apparently, does Mr. Sibrel. In fact, anyone with any understanding of heat transfer just shakes his head in amazement at the incredibly wrong pseudoscience behind this argument.

Take a look at the lunar module which supposedly flew from lunar orbit to the surface of the moon. It is a cylindrical shape with a high center of gravity and one big thrust engine at the bottom. Upon just looking at this design, to think it would not immediately pinwheel and and crash, as the lunar module trainer did three weeks prior on earth, is absurd.

Again Mr. Sibrel, the video cameraman, professes to be able to judge the stability and spaceworthiness of a vehicle simply by looking at pictures of it.

As we discuss here, the lunar module is actually a very inherently stable design. Mr. Sibrel's opinion is based on uninformed inspection. An analysis according to basic principles of physics confirms the stability of the craft.

Mr. Sibrel gives no argument to support his assertion that the lunar module had a high center of gravity. In fact, in both the ascent and descent stages, the fuel tanks (the heaviest parts) are as low as possible in the chassis. This is a great improvement over cylindrical rocket boosters whose shape is dictated by aerodynamics.

Similarly there is no support for his argument of "one big thrust" engine at the bottom. Which is to say, there is certainly one main engine in both the ascent and descent stages, but in neither case is it simply attached to the bottom. In both the ascent and descent stages it is actually raised as high as possible in the structure. The descent motor is actually up inside the descent stage. And it could be gimbaled.

As a matter of physical analysis, the lunar module design is considerably more stable than a typical booster even today. Mr. Sibrel's assertion otherwise is wishful thinking.

As we note here, the LLRV piloted by Neil Armstrong crashed in May 1968, not "three weeks" before the lunar landing in July 1969. It crashed not because it was unstable, but because it broke.

After the Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin gave a press conference. When asked whether they remembered seeing any stars from the surface of the moon, Collins, who was supposedly in the command module the whole time, gave a wrong answer to a question he should not have been answering. The relevant portion of the clip is in my documentary; viewing it with an understanding of the circumstances makes it clear they were were lying about having traveled to the moon. I'm saying Collins blew it right then and there and I honestly cannot understand why there is even further discussion on the whole topic. Furthermore, if you obtain a written transcript of the press conference you'll see that the comment is erroneously attributed to Aldrin. Honest mistake or cover-up?

Here is the relevant part of the transcript:

QUERY: I have two brief questions that I would like to ask, if I may. When you were carrying out that incredible Moon walk, did you find that the surface was equally firm everywhere or were there harder and softer spots that you could detect? And secondly, when you looked up at the sky, could you actually see the stars in the solar corona in spite of the glare?

ALDRIN: The first part of your question, the surface did vary in its thickness of penetration somewhere in flat regions. [...]

ARMSTRONG: We were never able to see stars from the lunar surface or on the daylight side of the Moon by eye without looking through the optics [i.e., the lunar module's navigation telescope]. I don't recall during the period of time that we were photographing the solar corona what stars we could see.

ALDRIN [actually Collins]: I don't remember seeing any.

(The First Lunar Landing As Told By The Astronauts: Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins in a Post-flight Press Conference, NASA EP-73, 1989 pt. VI)

Fig. 3 - One of several photographs of the solar corona taken by Michael Collins and other Apollo 11 astronauts while en route to the moon. (NASA: AS11-42-6179)

Collins' response is a followup to Armstrong's reference to solar corona photography (Fig. 3) which had been taken from the command module during the translunar coast, in which all three astronauts participated. (Apollo 11 Preliminary Science Report NASA SP-214, 1969, p. 39). The reporter's question is a bit confusing since the solar corona cannot be seen from the lunar surface except when the earth eclipses the sun. Or, of course, from a spaceship positioned such that the earth is between the spaceship and the sun. Apollo 11's course provided just such an opportunity. It appears Neil Armstrong interpreted the reporter's phrase "solar corona" to refer to this data.

In 1967 three astronauts were burned alive on the launch pad. The upshot of the congressional inquiry was that the entire Apollo program was in shambles and it was a miracle no one was killed sooner. All of the problems were supposedly fixed by 1969, just two years later. How could they have made such a large improvement in "quality control" in such a short period of time?"

"Entire Apollo program in shambles" is quite an exaggeration. The Thompson commission (NASA) and the Senate and House committees did not investigate the whole program. They concentrated on problems with the Apollo command module. However, all agree that the program was proceeding an at unsafe speed.

The Apollo 1 fire occurred during a test. Investigators found that while NASA had taken adequate precautions against fire for the actual flight, they had not paid enough attention to the test conditions, which were quite hazardous. They made assumptions that were not defensible in hindsight. So many of the corrections were simply changes in test procedure. The flight procedures were still safe.

When Apollo flights resumed, they were in the next-generation of spacecraft that were already under construction at the time of the fire and which had already incorporated improvements. Revisions that were suggested by the review committees (simplified doors, safer oxygen atmosphere, etc.) were added to these designs.

NASA told its contractors to move all the fire-related corrections to the top of the priority list. No extraneous work would be done until the design changes were implemented to make the spacecraft safe from fire.

Mr. Sibrel doesn't have any special training or understanding of spacecraft design and construction, so his opinion that two years is not long enough to correct Apollo 1's problems is not especially valuable. This is perhaps why he must exaggerate the scope and gravity of the findings of the various investigative boards. He must make the problems seem very serious and widespread so that the short recovery period is suspicious.

All Apollo missions stayed in low earth orbit for the duration of the trip. WE uncovered some mislabelled., unedited, behind the scenes footage from NASA that shows the crew of Apollo 11 staging a shot of being half-way to the moon. This clip, shown in our documentary, proves they did not leave low-earth orbit. You won't see this anywhere else!

Mr. Sibrel has no actual evidence that the Apollo spacecraft stayed in low earth orbit the whole time, nor can he explain how it was able to go for two weeks without being spotted in the night sky. It would have been the brightest object in the sky next to the moon and Venus. And it would have been moving so fast that it would have transited the night sky in about three minutes. Bright, fast-moving objects in the sky attract attention. Mr. Sibrel argue that billions of people over six missions lasting more than a week each failed to see it.

What Mr. Sibrel supplies is footage of the astronauts practicing for an upcoming telecast. Because television was added at the last minute, they hadn't had time to practice much with the equipment. So they were experimenting with different camera positions and exposure settings. Someone on the ground recorded it. Mr. Sibrel notes several observations which he can't explain in terms of his expectations, therefore he concludes the astronauts "must" have been faking it. That's it. That's his "smoking gun."

And it's not true that you can only see the footage by ordering Mr. Sibrel's video. It is available -- unedited and without Mr. Sibrel's "interpretive" voice-over -- on the Apollo 11 DVD set from Spacecraft Films. Mr. Sibrel allows you to see only bits and pieces of this evidence which he considers so important.

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