Moon landing conspiracy theories in popular culture

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The notion that the Apollo Moon landings were hoaxes perpetrated by NASA and other agencies has appeared many times in popular culture. Not all references to Moon landing conspiracy theories are in support of them, but the ideas expressed in them have become a popular meme to reference, both in humor and sincerity.

Precursors in other media[edit]

In 1956 James E. Gunn wrote a science fiction story entitled "Cave of Night" in which the United States Air Force fakes the first manned American spaceflight. When lack of funds precludes a survivable manned mission, the mission is faked to spur funding for a real space program. The Air Force launches the craft carrying a transmitter relaying prerecorded messages from the pilot. The Air Force later claims that the astronaut died in orbit, and that his body will remain in orbit until the craft disintegrates in the atmosphere. The conspiracy is nearly exposed by a radio reporter who sees the astronaut on Earth after his supposed "death," but he is forced to destroy his evidence by the government. "Cave of Night" was adapted for radio and broadcast as an episode of the popular program X Minus One on February 1, 1956, a full five years before Yuri Gagarin's first manned spaceflight.[1]

In print[edit]

  • Former President Bill Clinton in his 2004 autobiography, My Life, states: "Just a month before, Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong had left their colleague, Michael Collins, aboard spaceship Columbia and walked on the moon...The old carpenter asked me if I really believed it happened. I said sure, I saw it on television. He disagreed; he said that he didn't believe it for a minute, that 'them television fellers' could make things look real that weren't. Back then, I thought he was a crank. During my eight years in Washington, I saw some things on TV that made me wonder if he wasn't ahead of his time."[2]
  • Norman Mailer in 1969 wrote: "Besides - the event [Apollo 11 moonwalk] is obdurate on the surface and a mystery beneath. It’s not at all easy to comprehend. Like an adolescent married before he can vote, and trying to react the congratulations "You’re a married man", a remark which has no reality to the brand-new groom, so America and the world were in a round of congratulations - we had landed a man on the moon. The event was so removed, however, so unreal, that no objective correlative existed to prove it had not been an event staged in a television studio—the greatest con of the century—and indeed a good mind, product of the iniquities, treacheries, gold, passions, invention, deception, and rich worldly stink of the Renaissance could hardly deny that the event if bogus was as great a creation in mass hoodwinking, deception, and legerdemain as the true ascent was in discipline and technology. Indeed, conceive of the genius of such a conspiracy. It would take criminals and confidence men mightier, more trustworthy and more resourceful than anything in this century or the ones before. Merely to conceive of such men was the surest way to know the event was not staged. Yes, the century was a giant and a cretin. Man had become a Herculean embodiment of the Vision, but the brain on the top of the head was as small as a transistorized fist, and the chambers of the heart had shrunk to the dry hard seeds of some hybrid future."[3]

In film[edit]

  • In the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, a brief scene depicts the action taking place in a Moon setting where astronauts are being trained.[4] Agent 007 steals what appears to be a Moon buggy from the model set, and drives it off to escape from an enemy compound. This scene may have helped to spread the idea of the Moon landings being a hoax. However, model sets like the one in the film had been used prior to the Moon landing in order to simulate conditions.[5]
  • The 1978 film Capricorn One portrayed a fictional NASA attempt to fake a landing on the planet Mars, in a plot inspired by Apollo hoax theories.[6]
  • In 2002, William Karel released a spoof documentary film, Dark Side of the Moon, 'exposing' how Stanley Kubrick was recruited to fake the Moon landings, and featured interviews with, among others, Kubrick's widow and a number of American statesmen including Henry Kissinger and Donald Rumsfeld.[7] It was an elaborate joke: interviews and other footage were presented out of context and in some cases completely staged, with actors playing interviewees who had never existed—and named, in many cases, after characters from Kubrick's films; this was one of many clues included to reveal the joke to the alert viewer.[8]
  • In the 2009 film Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder, Fry reads Richard Nixon's mind and learns that the president staged the Moon landing, but it took place on the planet Venus.[9]
  • The 2012 documentary Room 237 featured film analysis by fans of Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film The Shining, connecting Kubrick's film with the Apollo 11 Moon landing and other major events.[10] (See 2012 video by Michael Wysmierski below.)
  • In the 2014 film Interstellar, the US Government deliberately promotes Moon landing conspiracy theories to discredit NASA and encourage people to seek Earth-based solutions to an ongoing global famine; this is an example of a post-truth society.
  • In the 2015 comedy film Moonwalkers, a CIA agent tries to hire Stanley Kubrick for the Apollo 11 Moon landing scene.[11]
  • The 2016 film Operation Avalanche is about CIA agents who, when they find NASA is incapable of meeting the 1969 deadline for the Apollo 11 Moon landing, simulate the landing with a film crew.[12]

On television[edit]

  • The August 27, 2008, MythBusters episode "NASA Moon Landing" tested and debunked some common claims made by Moon landing conspiracy theorists.[15]
  • On the SyFy show Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files lead investigator Ben Hansen and his team investigate on whether or not the Moon landing could have been faked. They claimed this proved it could have been faked but they all believe that it happened for real.[16]
  • In the Friends episode "The One With Rachel's Other Sister," Joey needs a lie and Phoebe suggest man walking on the Moon, replying, "you can see the strings people!"[17]
  • During an episode of QI, the panel discussed the Moon landing, and the various conspiracies surrounding it. All of them agreed that the landing did take place, although Alan Davies admitted he used to believe some of the photographs were faked, until he worked with Sir Patrick Moore who angrily pointed out how much work he had put into mapping out the Moon for NASA. According to Alan, Moore also said that if he met Alan again, he would be sick in his eye. Host Stephen Fry summed up by saying that "for every ill-conceived argument that the Moon landings were a hoax, there's a perfectly logical explanation to put our minds at rest."[18]
  • On a 2009 episode of Mock the Week, one of the questions was about the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing. Frankie Boyle then went into a short but furious rant about how it couldn't have happened, citing NASA's technical failures over the years as proof that they were incapable of such a thing. Hugh Dennis jokingly suggested that the "faked moon landing" Boyle was actually thinking of was "the one with Wallace & Gromit."[19]
  • In the Arrested Development episode "The B. Team", Ron Howard tells Michael Bluth that he and his brother hid in the rafters and saw that NASA faked the Apollo 11 landing on the set of Gentle Ben, but that NASA actually did land on the moon in 1971 (which would be either Apollo 14 or 15).
  • In the Elementary episode "The Red Team," Sherlock Holmes interrogates a suspect who along with the victim, believed Neil Armstrong didn't walk on the Moon.[20]
  • The X-Files episode "My Struggle III" features the Cigarette Smoking Man supervising the filming of a faked Apollo 11 landing in 1969.

Other references[edit]

  • British weekly sci-fi comic 2000 AD published a story claiming the Apollo landings were faked to mask the existence of an advanced space program that had been active since 1950 - a deliberate reversal of the usual hoax argument.[21]
  • Former Major League Baseball player Carl Everett has said in interviews with The Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy that he doubts the validity of the Moon landings. Shaughnessy would go on to nickname Everett "Jurassic Carl" due to Everett's assertion that dinosaurs never existed.[22][23]
  • The Onion spoofed the theory in an article reporting that Neil Armstrong had become convinced that the Moon landing was a hoax.[24] The joke article was mistakenly reported by a Bangladeshi newspaper, The Daily Manab Zamin, as news.[25]
  • Comedian and commentator Joe Rogan has been open on his podcasts and interviews that he questions the Moon landing.[26]
  • Actress Whoopi Goldberg seriously asked on The View, "Why is the flag rippling? There’s no air."[27]
  • On Real Time with Bill Maher, rapper Mos Def stated that he did not believe that man landed on the Moon.[28]
  • In a 2009 interview, Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood questioned the technology of the 1960s, why man hasn't landed on the Moon again, and mentioned the shadow discrepancies as well as the radiation belts.[29]
  • The music video for Rammstein's 2004 song "Amerika" shows the band in Apollo-era spacesuits on the Moon. At the end of the video, it is revealed that the band have actually been on a fake Moon set in a studio.[30] A documentary on the making of the video was also produced.[31][32]
  • A 2012 video by Michael Wysmierski, The Shining Code 2.0, puts forth the argument that Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film The Shining was made as a coded confession of his role in faking the Apollo 11 landing.[33][34] A cited "code" includes the child character Danny Torrance wearing an Apollo 11 sweater; another the repeated typing of "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" by the Jack Torrance character, the "All" referring to Apollo 11.
  • The 2013 music video for the song "On Top of the World" by Imagine Dragons portrays Stanley Kubrick filming the Apollo 11 landing.[35][36]
  • In an April 2013 interview by We Are Change, comedian Russell Peters stated that he wasn't "a big believer in the Moon landing."[37]
  • The founder and followers of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (better known as the Hare Krishna movement) famously believe that the Moon landings must have been faked for reasons ranging from the Moon being further away from the Earth than the Sun to the notion that the god of vegetation resides on the Moon and would never allow a landing.[38]


  1. ^ Gunn, James E. (Writer) (February 1, 1956). "Cave of Night". X Minus One. Episode 36. NBC. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
  2. ^ Clinton, Bill (2004). My Life (1st ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-375-41457-2.
  3. ^ Mailer, Norman (1970). Of a Fire on the Moon (1st ed.). Boston: Little, Brown and Company. p. 130. ISBN 0-316-54411-6. OCLC 101602.
  4. ^ "Diamonds are Forever Moon Buggy". 007 Magazine OnLine. 007 Magazine. 2006. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
  5. ^ Kaysing, Bill (2002) [First published 1976]. We Never Went to the Moon: America's Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle. Pomeroy, WA: Health Research Books. p. 62. OCLC 52390067.
  6. ^ Bancroft, Colette (September 29, 2002). "Lunar lunacy". St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg, FL: Times Publishing Company. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
  7. ^ William Karel (Director) (2002). Opération lune [Dark Side of the Moon] (Mocumentary) (in French and English). Paris: Arte France / Point du Jour International. OCLC 57723359. First airdate: October 16, 2002.
  8. ^ "Dark Side of the Moon". Point du Jour International. Paris. Archived from the original on March 31, 2004. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
  9. ^ Peter Avanzino (Director); Claudia Katz (Producer); Lee Supercinski (Producer). Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder (DVD video). 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. OCLC 302418954.
  10. ^ McKenzie, Steven (October 24, 2012). "The Shining theories explored in spooky new documentary". BBC News. London: BBC. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
  11. ^ "Moonwalkers". IMDB. 2015.
  12. ^ Debruge, Peter (2016-01-29). "Sundance Film Review: 'Operation Avalanche'". Variety. Retrieved 2016-05-15.
  13. ^ "Roswell That Ends Well". Futurama. Season 3. Episode 19. December 9, 2001. Fox Broadcasting Company.
  14. ^ "Into The Wild Green Yonder". Futurama. July 7, 2018. Fox Broadcasting Company.
  15. ^ "Mythbusters: Episode Guide (2008)". Discovery Channel. Archived from the original on March 7, 2010. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
  16. ^ "Lunar Landing Hoax/Tropical Intruder". Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files. Season 1. Episode 11. December 2, 2010. SyFy.
  17. ^ "The One With Rachel's Other Sister". Friends. Season 9. Episode 8. November 21, 2002. NBC.
  18. ^ "Hoaxes". QI. Series H. Episode 3. October 1, 2010. BBC One. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
  19. ^ "07x03". Mock the Week. Series 7. Episode 3. July 23, 2009. BBC Two. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
  20. ^ "The Red Team". Elementary. Season 1. Episode 13. January 31, 2013. CBS.
  21. ^ 2000ad, Prog 990 - "The Dream Factory"
  22. ^ "Best base behavior". The Boston Phoenix. Boston, MA: Phoenix Media/Communications Group. 2000. Archived from the original on February 18, 2012. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  23. ^ Verducci, Tom (June 19, 2000). "Mighty Mouth". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  24. ^ "Conspiracy Theorist Convinces Neil Armstrong Moon Landing Was Faked". The Onion. Onion, Inc. August 31, 2009. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
  25. ^ "Spoof moon landing story dupes Bangladeshi newspapers". Google News. Google, Inc. Agence France-Presse. September 3, 2009. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
  26. ^ "MOON TALKS Joe Rogan, Phil Plait Penn Jillette Part 1" on YouTube
  27. ^ Hepola, Sarah (July 20, 2009). "Whoopi Goldberg: Was the moon landing a hoax?". Salon. Salon Media Group. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  28. ^ "Mos Def on 9-11, Iraq, Terrorism, Katrina & Elections" on YouTube
  29. ^ Gurney, Matt (September 23, 2010). "Margaret Atwood's 'just wondering' about that silly moon landing hoax – UPDATED". National Post. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Postmedia Network. Archived from the original on June 20, 2013. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  30. ^ "Rammstein - Amerika" on YouTube
  31. ^ "Rammstein Making of Amerika (part 1)" on YouTube
  32. ^ "Rammstein Making of Amerika (part 2)" on YouTube
  33. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (March 29, 2012). "Watch: Already Visited 'Room 237'? Dive Deep Into The Apollo 11 Theory With Doc 'The Shining Code 2.0'". IndieWire. Washington, D.C.: SnagFilms. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  34. ^ "The Shining Code 2.0 (complete film)" on YouTube
  35. ^ Montgomery, James (November 13, 2013). "Imagine Dragons Reveal 'Subliminal' Secrets Of New 'On Top Of The World' Video". MTV News. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  36. ^ Imagine Dragons - On Top Of The World (Official Music Video) on YouTube
  37. ^ "Russell Peters on 9/11 & Bilderberg" on YouTube
  38. ^ Vandenberg, Willem (December 22, 2010). "Regression and Debasement of Science - on the Apollo Moon Landings". Archived from the original on April 17, 2015. Retrieved April 16, 2015.