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Astronaut Brian O'Leary is not entirely convinced that the Apollo program succeeded.

"Somehow I may have given the impression that Apollo may have been hoaxed," says Dr. O'Leary.

O'Leary was initially skeptical when his astronaut friends who continued in the program and flew the lunar landing missions gave abbreviated answers to his questions. But he is quick to add that they may just have been sick of being asked so many questions upon their return. And he is sick himself of being asked about his position on the Apollo hoax; when contacted in March 2009 to confirm our quotes, O'Leary said this interview was his last public word on the subject.

The producers of Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon? contacted Brian O'Leary for an interview, promising to let him talk about the Cydonia region of Mars -- O'Leary's prominent interest at the time. Even though O'Leary mentioned several times that he thought the Apollo missions were real, the producers used only a few other quotes out of context to suggest that O'Leary had serious doubts. He does not consider that interview to be a fair depiction of his beliefs.

Brian O'Leary once said he thought NASA might have faked some of the photographs. [David Percy]

Dr. O'Leary gave a hypothetical situation in which he says it might be "remotely possible" that NASA would have used studio photography to fill in for film lost or damaged during a mission. But he does not believe this actually happened. The distinction is important: if one is asked hypothetically what situations might force NASA to fake some of the record, that does not amount to endorsing a claim that such action was actually taken.

David Percy says he believes only that the record was falsified, and that astronauts may have in fact landed on the moon. O'Leary's hypothetical scenario is not compatible with Percy's contention, but Percy doesn't tell his readers that. Percy instead contends that surrogate astronauts we never knew about were sent on missions to the moon, and that the Apollo photographs and video we have today are intentional fabrications describing events that never occurred, and that no public record exists of any actual missions.

O'Leary's hypothetical situation merely provides a possible way for NASA to have recovered from the minor embarrassment of having performed a mission but losing or destroying through carelessness the documentation of that event. The motives are dissimilar enough to discount O'Leary's off-hand remark as support for Percy's hypothesis.

Nowadays O'Leary isn't so speculative. He's reasonably convinced the Apollo program landed on the moon as NASA claims. "It was real," he says succinctly. "Apollo happened."

But if an astronaut isn't fully convinced, and he worked right alongside Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, doesn't that mean there's probably something to the conspiracy theory?

Dr. O'Leary considers his working relationship with the more notable astronauts strong evidence that the landings were not hoaxed. "I knew the astronauts and thought they wouldn't lie, even if there were a conspiracy."

O'Leary's prominence in the space program is a two-edged sword for conspiracists. His work as an astronaut certainly places him at the highest level of knowledge. No matter how few people one believes might have known of a conspiracy, it would have been impossible to fool the astronauts who were to have flown the missions. So on the one hand it gives conspiracists a lot of credibility to be able to interview a real live astronaut. But on the other hand it casts serious doubt on the conspiracy theory. O'Leary doesn't have any first hand knowledge of a conspiracy to falsify the lunar landings. And he believes that if there had been one, he would have known about it. If he hadn't, he believes the other astronauts (who would certainly have known) would have told him.

(Quotations taken from a letter from Brian O'Leary, 29 August 2001, and from several letters in March 2009. All material used with his permission.)