The Apollo 11 Crew. Image credit Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
The Apollo 11 Crew. Image credit Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Neil Armstrong. Buzz Aldrin. Michael Collins. You know them as the crew of Apollo 11, which made the first landing on the moon on July 20, 1969. Since then, a few myths have sprung up around Apollo 11, many of them patently untrue stories made up by people who don’t really know what they’re talking about. Here’s a few of the most popular myths about Apollo 11 and its crew.


Myth #1: The Apollo 11 crew saw UFOs!

The so-called "Science Channel" really messed this one up. Image credit Discover Magazine
The so-called “Science Channel” really messed this one up. Image credit Discover Magazine

They did see a few things that they couldn’t identify easily, but nothing really made them think that aliens were watching them the whole way to the Moon and back. One of them was a distant metallic object that seemed to follow the Command Module Columbia, but they logically reasoned that it was one of the panels that had been blasted off when Columbia separated from the upper stage. Naturally, it would follow a trajectory similar to theirs. One documentary in which the Science Channel interviews the Apollo crew and twisted their words to raise the possibility that they saw an alien spacecraft following them was blasted by Buzz Aldrin for misleading audiences. How did they do it? Video editing. They can basically move snippets around to support any theory.

Another story had Neil Armstrong spotting at least one hovering spacecraft as he was about to step out onto the Moon and the resulting footage was later edited out of the official footage. People forget that the first lunar landing was televised live as it happened. If Neil Armstrong really refused to leave the questionable protection of the Lunar Module because of aliens, people would have noticed. Any photographs and videos of the alleged incident can be logically explained by Photoshopping, somebody’s attempt to recreate a theoretical UFO scene, or simply the fact that photography wasn’t as advanced in the 1960s as it is today.

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Myth #2: Neil Armstrong was an atheist!

This one has been propagated by prominent atheists such as Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who filed a lawsuit against NASA over the Apollo 8 crew’s reading from the Book of Genesis during their mission and added a complaint to her suit in an attempt to force NASA to release documents related to Armstrong’s alleged atheism. The complaint was eventually dismissed. When the topic came up in later interviews, Neil Armstrong commented, “I don’t know where Miss O’Hair gets her information … but I am certainly not an atheist.” In fact, Armstrong had simply put, “No religious preference” on his astronaut application. It didn’t mean that he was an atheist. It simply meant that he didn’t prefer one denomination or another at that time.

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Myth #3: Neil Armstrong was a Muslim!

According to proponents of this myth, Armstrong and Aldrin heard a disembodied voice chanting the adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, during their mission. Allegedly, Armstrong realized what it was after the crew returned to Earth and took it as a sign that he should convert to Islam. He received invitations to so many Islam-related events that it became a nuisance and he asked the U.S. State Department to issue this statement:

  1. Former astronaut Neil Armstrong, now in private life, has been the subject of press reports in Egypt, Malaysia, and Indonesia (and perhaps elsewhere) alleging his conversion to Islam during his landing on the Moon in 1969. As a result of such reports, Armstrong has received communications from individuals and religious organizations, and a feeler from at least one government, about his possible participation in Islamic activities.
  2. While stressing his strong desire not to offend anyone or show disrespect for any religion, Armstrong has advised department that reports of his conversion to Islam are inaccurate.
  3. If post receive queries on this matter, Armstrong requests that they politely but firmly inform querying party that he has not converted to Islam and has no current plans or desire to travel overseas to participate in Islamic religious activities.

When requests continued to arrive, Neil Armstrong requested the assistance of the State Department again and they set up a telephone press conference with Cairo, Egypt. With so many Middle Eastern journalists hearing the same thing, it would be theoretically more difficult to put their own spin on the matter. Even so, some people in the Muslim world remained convinced that the State Department was forcing the great American hero to deny his faith.

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You Saw This One Coming, Right?

Myth #4: The Moon Landing Was A Hoax!

This is a favorite with Internet trolls, people who want to harass astronauts and the satire writers on the staff of The Onion. Short of packing them all up in a spacecraft, sending them to the Moon and listening to them scream like little girls the whole way, you’re probably not going to convince them. Here’s some reasons to disbelieve them:

  • The Flag: How did they get the flag to wave on the Moon, where there is no significant atmosphere and, thus, no wind? Simple. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin extended the flag with a stiff wire that became bent during the process, creating a wave.
  • The Van Allen Belts: Moon hoaxers believe that the radiation in the Van Allen Belts is so strong that it would have killed any astronauts passing through them on the way to the Moon. In reality, they aren’t strong enough to harm humans in the few seconds it would have taken to travel through them. Besides, the route taken to the Moon avoided some of the worst zones.
  • Why don’t any stars show up in photos taken on the lunar surface? Firstly, the astronauts were taking pictures in broad daylight, which would have drowned out the light of the stars in photographs. Secondly, they were using the cameras available in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which limited photo enhancements and editing processes that would have allowed the stars to show up.
  • Technology in the 1960s was insufficient to send men to the Moon. Was it really? It is true that they had to develop some of the technology and adapt other existing technologies to do the job. However, the Moon wasn’t out of reach in the 1960s.
  • I see a wire! The Apollo astronauts weren’t exactly able to take along movie cameras. What you see is probably the effects of the low-resolution video they were forced to put up with.
  • Why did we never return to the Moon? Well, as Dr. Wernher von Braun said, the most important element of any space exploration mission is “the will to do it.” Since the 1960s, America’s political will to explore space has gone downhill. Congress has simply seen no reason to fund NASA at sufficient levels for a comprehensive space exploration mission. Some private individuals and organizations are trying to pick up the slack, but both will and funding is always an issue when it comes to exploration.

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The Best Argument Ever!

The next time you call someone a coward and a liar, be ready to duck.

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