The Moon Landing and Human Messiness




“One of my students said right to my face, cheerfully, that he hates America.. Then, he even said he thinks that the moon landing was a hoax,” I told one of my colleagues while we chatting over çay. “Isn’t that weird? It’s like required doctrine for these communist-inspired kids to believe that America faked the moon landing.”

“Actually, I agree with that,” the colleague responded. “Yeah, most probably the moon landing didn’t happen.”

The gears in my head screeched to a halt.

Like the time another guy here insisted to me that, no, actually, cigarettes are healthy and in fact marijuana is addictive, I was faced with a direct contradiction of a belief I had never seriously questioned before. Of course, I had heard plenty of Turkish people and others deny the moon landing–in Turkey, conspiracy-theorizing is a national sport second only to futbol–but hearing it from this individual still took me off guard and derailed my train of thought.

“Oh, um…really? Why?”

“Yeah, I mean, why not?” He laid out the typical line–if NASA could send a rocket to the moon in the 60s, why couldn’t it do it again with more advanced technology; and the US at the time had strong political incentives to dissimulate such a thing. Not only did his nonchalance surprise me–I believe that the truth always wins out in the end, and to so casually assume that the true story has been dissimulated for half a century seems a depressing thought–but taken off guard, and not familiar with the specific evidence against moon-landing conspiracy theories (never having had to defend it before) I shrugged and changed the topic.

In fact, there is plenty of good evidence to show for the moon landing, most of which, like the average person out there, I don’t understand. For me, personally, the most convincing arguments in support of the moon landing are in the quotidian details and various kinds of human messiness surrounding the affair. For instance, the astronauts of Apollo 11 couldn’t afford life insurance, so they signed thousands of “astronaut covers”–postmarked envelopes with their signatures–to act as an insurance policy for their families in the event they did not return from their landmark journey. Then there’s the Fallen Astronaut statuette and plaque placed on the surface of the moon in honor of passed-away cosmonauts. Notably, a controversy occurred when the sculptor attempted to commodify the piece and, in the opinion of other astronauts, demean its solemnity. It’s such a perfectly human situation–who could make something like that up?

Certainly, someone or some group of masterminds could have prefabricated the moon landing hoax to that level of prosaic detail, even predicting the ways in which avarice and fear and bravery could play out in this context…but most people aren’t storytellers, and politicians, who presumably fabricated the moon landing, certainly aren’t. As my high school art teacher taught me, the human brain is not attuned to produce true, natural randomness–it takes the skill of an artist to replicate the spontaneous, unpredictable messiness of nature and life. Or as we say more colloquially, “You just can’t make that shit up.” Convincing human messiness either comes out of great art, or out of real life, and I’m sure I know which one is more likely in the case of the moon landing.

PS: Futurist Ray Kurzweil reported about a private company that is preparing to fly astronauts to Mars in 2023 and establish a permanent colony there. Amazing times we live in that this is even conceivable.

Photos: Signed astronaut covers, which nowadays can be worth as much as $30,000.


One thought on “The Moon Landing and Human Messiness

  1. UM January 28, 2013 / 6:13 am

    I love Wikipedia.


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