Debunking Moon Landing Denial with an Arduino and Science

It’s sad that nearly half a century after the achievements of the Apollo program we’re still arguing with a certain subset of people who insist it never happened. Poring through the historical record looking for evidence that proves the missions couldn’t possibly have occurred has become a sad little cottage industry, and debunking the deniers is a distasteful but necessary ongoing effort.

One particularly desperate denier theory holds that fully spacesuited astronauts could never have exited the tiny hatch of the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM). [AstronomyLive] fought back at this tendentious claim in a clever way — with a DIY LIDAR scanner to measure Apollo artifacts in museums. The hardware is straightforward, with a Garmin LIDAR-Lite V3 scanner mounted on a couple of servos to make a quick pan-tilt head. The rig has a decidedly compliant look to it, with the sensor flopping around a bit as the servos move. But for the purpose, it seems perfectly fine.

[AstronomyLive] took the scanner to two separate museum exhibits, one to scan a LEM hatch and one to scan the suit Gene Cernan, the last man to stand on the Moon so far, wore while training for Apollo 17. With the LEM flying from the rafters, the scanner was somewhat stretching its abilities, so the point clouds he captured were a little on the low-res side. But in the end, a virtual Cernan was able to transition through the virtual LEM hatch, as expected.

Sadly, such evidence will only ever be convincing to those who need no convincing; the willfully ignorant will always find ways to justify their position. So let’s just celebrate the achievements of Apollo.

105 thoughts on “Debunking Moon Landing Denial with an Arduino and Science

      1. They raise an interesting question on what do we believe.

        After all, “Did men land on the moon in 1969” is so far detached from someone who was born in 2000 (now 18 years old) life it really doesn’t have much meaning.

        It strikes me as weird that it’s such a common topic of conversation.

        It also interests me that we can shit on someone for their belief re the moon landings but not Jesus.

        1. Quote:”It also interests me that we can shit on someone for their belief re the moon landings but not Jesus.”

          Nonsense!! Try publicly stating your belief in the deity of Jesus on any college campus and people will sh!t all over you like the Frenchmen on King Arthur in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. (near the end of the film) (It is not fun being ostracized, getting your stuff vandalized or stolen or getting physically assaulted because of your perspective) Jesus haters are worst haters out there and they are especially thick on campus.

          In contrast, usually flat-earthers and apollo-deniers are laughed at and pittied but rarely outright attacked for their beliefs.

  1. It’s a waste of time arguing with morons who believe in BS like faked moon landings, astrology, homeopathy, ghosts, psychics, free energy etc, They are too ignorant, closed-minded and irrational to engage in any sensible discussion that might challenge their fragile beliefs.. Just ignore them.

          1. Though it is easy to test the flat-earth theory,
            The apparatus you’ll need is:
            1x Lump of mud,
            1x bulldozer.

            Run over mud with bulldozer, now you have flat-earth!

            Some people like the moon-hoaxers, chemtrailers and flat-earthers (flat-brainers?) seem to think straw-man arguments prove everything ;)

          2. Meh. I mostly just laugh at those people because I am pretty sure that they are so far into the fringe as to be irrelevant. Anti-vaxers and young earth creationists though… those dangerous loons make me want to throw something at whatever screen their videos are playing on! I guess I would put moon landing deniers somewhere in between there.

      1. In a sense they are right. But in reality it’s just usual us-versus-them human mentality.

        Plenty of people will have never even listened to the counter argument. In my mind those are the true morons. People who just believe what you tell them.

        Fine we’re lucky we got to them first (and indoctrinated them) but lord knows what BS they would be believing had someone else got to them first.

    1. Now I’m lost, are you saying, homeopathy, psychics and free energy don’t exist?
      would you like to explain the absorption of “free enegy” that takes place on many beaches and solar pv cells?
      admittedly homeopathy and psychics are up for reasonable debate.

        1. Dude, where do you live? Here in murica the Creationists have a Museum and they built a replica of Noah’s Ark. The problem with ignoring these people is they just go off somewhere else and circle jerk.

        2. When you say creationist you mean people who think the universe is ~6000 years old, right? (sort of packaged along with people who think the whole world was flooded a few thousand years ago.) I reject that perspective, especially since the physical evidence strongly says otherwise and such reports come from the aural tradition portion of the Torah & Bible (Basically the book or Genesis) which are not about historical chronologies or regions of effect. They are about relationships of the entities involved. It is stupid to simultaneously deny the existence of a Creator of the universe and claim to be scientific, considering science needs a solid faith in causality to stand, and the universe must have an original cause that is external to itself. The mystical god of randomness is right out considering it denies causality and consequently science. ( Many “scientists” falsely bow to that fake deity as an explanation of things, but that is not science) Opening ones eyes and mind to nature can teach us much about the Author’s creative style and how the universe works naturally and reading the Bible can teach about the Author as a person and what kind of relationships we are supposed to have. One needs to read both of the Author’s books (both nature and the written Word) to get a complete understanding. That way we are prepared to be effective when working with both things and entities.

      1. You’re thinking of “free” in terms of money, but it’s more about “free” in terms of physics: there is no such a thing as a free lunch in physics, the Sun won’t be spraying us with all of this energy forever without ever running out of it itself.

          1. Science’s biggest problem: what preceded Big Bang, and where did its matter come from?

            Religion’s biggest problem: what preceded God, and who made him?

            Rather similar issues :)

          2. The universe is free to all of us. The Author gives us existance. I could write a universe into existance. Behold!!

            +-+-+-+-+
            A man woke up one morning. He went out for a walk and enjoyed the beauty of the sunrise. As the day went by, he found pleasant things to eat that nourished him. The sunset was even more beautiful than the sunrise that day. The man thought, “Whoever provided all this wonderfulness for me must love me. I wish I knew how to express my gratitude”. As it was getting dark, the man peacefully went back to sleep. It was a good day.
            +-+-+-+-+

            There!! I created a universe with a person in it. I just played god, and the man in the story had a wonderful day because of me, and it was free for him. (I even feel joy for writing it.)

            Other stories that are more complex could be written, especially when multiple characters are introduced which allows for the establishment of evil and consequently heroes. I could even write myself into my own story as the hero. :-)

      1. So this!

        The fact is these degenerates don’t deserve any effort at all to debunk their conspiracy theories. So why was this scanner used at all to disprove this hatch theory?

        There is enough new science around to discuss instead of continually feeding these idiots. For instance, how come the Andromeda galaxy has now only just been determined to be roughly the same size as the milky way!? Not actually 2 to 3 times as big?

    2. Homeopathy is an interesting one, being founded on actual scientific discoveries. The early medical scientists experimented with the dosage of medicines available to them, and found that patient survival rate went up when they lowered the dosage. Some doctors took this as a fundamental property of medicines, and went on to found homeopathy. Other doctors thought that maybe they should not have given those medications to their patients in the first place, and went on to found modern medicine.

    3. My partner is into some of this nonsense, over of her friends had a “scanner” that would determine your “emotional state” and what oils you need… A quick look at the scanner reveiled a pair of electrodes you hold to your skin, I wonder what they are measuring? 🙄

  2. I gave up trying to convince the sloping brows of this world. I was 9 years old when the luna project was on. I remember standing on the back porch with my father in Bellerive, Tasmania, Australia, the moon was close to full and my father pointed to a star moving slowly toward it, he said “ take a look at that, you are witnessing man landing on the moon”. If I remember correctly these conspiracy theories started after a movie came out in the 70’s portraying the fake landing on the moon. I don’t remember the name of the movie but before that there was no conspiracy theory.

    1. The only thing like that I can remember offhand is Capricorn One with Elliot Gould. That was a faked Mars mission. It ended with the only survivor being late for his own funeral (a very British joke).

    1. Impossible , it would impossible to get the right lighting back then that they needed, what they needed to film all that didn’t exist back then nor did they have the budget that would be needed just for the lighting!!!!!

    2. Kubrick is well-known for not wanting to leave England, so much so that he filmed all the location shots for “Full Metal Jacket” on enormous sets in and around London. If he can make England look like Vietnam, he was certainly the man for the job of faking the moon landings.

      Going to Google Earth to look for a lunar landscape in England. BRB.

  3. How to determine a “Moon Landing Denier”:-

    1: Show them pics of Neil Armstrong & James Brolin
    2: Ask which one they think was on the rocket

    Anyone who points at Brolin is conflating the Apollo program with the movie “Capricorn One”.

  4. When countering stupidity with logic, stupidity wins every time. They just ‘know’ and can prove what they know with an endless stream of created ‘facts’. On the other hand, logic runs out of facts. We state out point then stop.

    1. Even when a simple demonstration is possible, they will not be convinced. Years ago I worked at a medium size company that used car batteries in several products. A gentleman who worked with me and a few others in the engineering lab insisted that if you set the batteries on concrete they will discharge overnight. No logic worked with him. So we took 4 batteries, charged them fully, and set two on a pallet, and two on the concrete. We measured the charge daily, and all four self-discharged at a slow rate, all four batteries performed the same way. His response, “Figures don’t lie, but liars can figure.” Basically, He totally rejected the actual results and said that we were lying to him or tricking him in some way.

        1. It is more complex than this. The bottom of a battery in contact with a cold concrete floor will have a temperature differential between the tops and bottoms of the cells. This causes a potential or voltage differential with the cell as well, leading to self-discharge. This phenomenon was known about it the diesel submarine days. Diesel submarines rely on batteries when running underwater. This problem was overcome by having electrolyte recirculation tubes within the batteries.

          1. I have a hard time believing this, do you have a source for that? Im skeptical about the slight temperature differential leading to a significant voltage differential, and I’m skeptical that the voltage differential would lead to higher self discharge. Higher temperature does lead to higher self-discharge, but I’ve never heard anything about temperature differential doing so.

            Further to that, do you have any sources on that specifically being the reason for electrolyte recirculation? I found this patent (https://patents.google.com/patent/US3040116) which describes electrolyte recirculation and mentions nothing of the sort.

          2. That is really interesting. I did not know that. I wish I could ask my father, when he was in the Navy during the Korean war, and his ship was a repair shop for other ships (I don’t remember what that’s called) He told me about the people who rebuilt batteries for submarines and how their clothes always had holes in them from the acid. He’d probably know all about this. He was an electronic tech who repaired all sorts of equipment.

  5. “One particularly desperate denier theory holds that fully space suited astronauts could never have exited the tiny hatch of the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM)”

    This has got to rank up there in the annals of misplaced logic. Even IF filmed on a sound stage, a fully suited astronaut would have to exit the LM. That is basic “Props 101”

    By the way, last year I met Pete File, who was an engineer in charge of LM instrumentation for all manned Apollo flights. I also had an electronics instructor in High school (James Lennox) who operated and maintained data (telemetry) recorders. Neither of them were aware that it was faked.

    1. This is exactly it. So apparently the hoax creators went through so much effort to make the whole thing believable, going so far as to build the largest rocket ever (to successfully fly), yet completely failed on some very simple details. Like, the suit being too big for the LM hatch? lol

    2. Back in the ’60s, my father worked for a company in Huntsville Alabama (Spacecraft) which made modules and components for the Apollo program. If the moon landing were fake, they spent a *lot* of money for these products, and surely much more for other companies. I doubt they would have spent that much money to make it all plausible.

    1. I often think that our brains might be wired so that the idea of “a huge secret plot to…” becomes more plausible to us than a more realistic explanation, when “condition X” exists.

      I guess we never hear about the successful ones. Then, again, with the mistrust and inefficiencies in government today, even assuming total secrecy could be maintained; could a massive plot even be executed? The Internet believes it could!

      Yeah…it’s all crap. Fiction spun by idle, paranoid minds. Except we have proof: look at the end result of the Russian plot to swing our election.

  6. I read somewhere that it would have cost NASA many times more money to fake the Moon landings than it did to actually do it. Possibly as much as 10x the amount!
    Of course, there are always the retro-reflectors left on the Moon for anyone who has doubts but is willing to actually believe real data. They are regularly used to this day to calculate the precise distance between the Earth and the Moon by firing a laser at them and timing the reflection. That’s something you can’t convincingly fake (especially to the scientists that make use of that data).

    1. >Of course, there are always the retro-reflectors left on the Moon for anyone who has doubts
      Unless, there was already something reflective there to begin with. Or much smaller rocket put those there. We didn’t start looking for those reflectors till they where “placed” on the moon.

      Note, I’m not an anti-moon lander. I think we went there, I’m pretty sure the USA would go there again if someone else would go there and kick down the flag. But I also believe in critical thinking, just because something is logical/makes sense does not mean it’s the only explanation. Which I initially thought flat-earth was about, not something serious, just to engage in critical thinking. Guess my fate in humanity is too high.

      1. I’m pretty sure the flat Earth thing actually was about critical thinking to begin with, and I’m sure many of the proponents of it still support it with a humorous invisible nod and wink. I’m equally sure that many of the credulous have been taken in by the lure of a conspiracy theory.

        1. Indeed.

          As I have pointed out to more than one person. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster actually started as a letter ‘poking fun’ at Creationism. Now there are people who actually believe in it and in 100 years time it will be a ‘real’ religion and no one will remember how it started.

      2. Well, there are Photoshopped pictures from the mythical Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter here:
        https://www.space.com/14874-apollo-11-landing-site-moon-photo.html

        But NASA’s Photoshoppers are legendarily skilled, so there’s no reason to believe that those photos are real.
        However, they’re *really* productive. All those faked photos and videos. Mad props to them.

        Of course, there’s a small but finite possibility that those photos *could* be real.

        Naaah. That’s just crazy talk.

    2. I like Buzz Aldrin’s response.

      Though, he’s probably one of the very few people on Earth who could respond in that way without going to jail. And I wouldn’t recommend trying it again.

      1. Naw all you need is a jury. Idiot calls Buzz Aldrin a fake and starts yelling at him. Being an old and confused man Buzz feels threatened and defends himself…
        Or Buzz Aldrin punches an idiot again for good reason:) Not a jury in the US would convict him.

        1. it wasn’t till that guy got in Mr. Aldrins, wifes face, that he got punched. considering there was already a restraining order against the guy for following him around harassing him and his family. The police had already been called and had been told to leave the hotel premises multiple times as well.

    3. When I was a boy, late one afternoon I was sitting on a horse gazing at a waxing half moon. I saw a brief flash of light from the “dark half” of the Moon. This was after (at least) the first Moon landing. I am not sure, but I think I witnessed one of the experiments with one of those reflectors.

  7. As Martin Luther said: “It is obvious that Sun is turning around the Earth. Every idiot can see it.”

    – most people will believe simple theory over a complicated one, as evidenced by mister Luther.

  8. The best answer to the conspiracy theories is quite simple.

    This was the Nixon administration. They couldn’t even keep *watergate* a secret, and somehow they’re supposed to have kept this a secret now through their own *and* through seven subsequent presidencies?

  9. Neat. But to someone who spent a delightful decade on the front lines, LEM is a “tell.” It’s like hearing someone use the term “Darwinism” in anything other than a historical context.

    They changed it to LM before A11 (apparently “excursion” sounded too frivolous to someone.)

    1. Pronouncing El-Em quickly devolves into just saying “Lem” when speaking. Even if the speaker does mean/say LM, it’s easy for a listener to pick up LEM. I think that’s that reason the term LEM (iso LM) has stuck around.

  10. It seems to me that a perfectly good way for a troll to drive a bunch of people up the walls is to claim that the moon landings never happened.

    Empirical evidence suggests that trolls rarely (if ever) believe in anything they say, so what evidence is there that the trolls trolling the trollable in this case are actually as brainless as some of the comments here claim?

    I would think they are merely getting great enjoyment from the contortions the trolled are going through to prove the trolls wrong.

    The solution is, just don’t feed the trolls.

  11. People who suffer from having irrational beliefs of this type are generally highly functional in every other regard and are often quite intelligent. The comments to this post use terms like “critical thinking, never believe, cold hard data, convince, arguing, morons, closed-minded, logic, denier, fringe, and stupidity,” none of which applies. It is no coincidence that commenters also mentioned Flat Earth theory, homeopathy, and free energy.

    What is common to all of these is conspiracy theory. This is not a simple misunderstanding of the facts by the sufferer that can just be explained away. For these ideas to take root, the afflicted first needs to believe that people are out to get them. This is a state of mind and not an inability to reason or learn and this is why proof or reasoning does not work. Researchers have observed that the act of denying a conspiracy theory only reinforces the belief in the believer.

    In the course of explaining something, like how a compound of mercury is not the same as elemental mercury and could be non-toxic, you hear phrases such as “that’s what they want you to believe” or “it’s a cover up” or “that was faked,” then you know you are headed into this territory and you should probably end the conversation there.

    Antron Argaiv’s comments come closest to what is actually happening when he said “I often think that our brains might be wired so that the idea of “a huge secret plot to…” becomes more plausible to us than a more realistic explanation, when “condition X” exists.
    .
    .
    .
    Fiction spun by idle, paranoid minds.”

    For all of you out there that are hording multiple microwave ovens, let’s show a little understanding, ok?

    1. It seems to me that irrational behavior is related to personal emotional experiences where the acceptance of a reasonable idea becomes to painful to do and so it’s opposite is embraced. With that falsity emotionally established, others falsities need to be accepted to further establish it. Let that blossom and you get a full grown flat-earther, apollo-denier, free-energy-crazy, alien-worshiper, bigot, etc. Perhaps emotion is the perfect obstruction to logic and the pursuit of truth. Alas, there are no Vulcans to teach us the art of pure logic. :-)

      Hoarding microwaves is a great thing to do!! They’ve got wonderful magnets in them for levitation!! :-) You can never have too many levitrons. Space aliens will think people with levitrons are their friends and won’t mess with them, right??!! (It is hard get those working, though, but worth the pain and suffering, much less painful than being experimented on by space aliens. :-) )

  12. People believe this for political reasons, you instantly become a member of a society if you say you believe this and social standing in that society is the reward, you might as well try to convince the adherents to cults and religions that they are wrong. Any response at all is a good response to such social groups, it proves to them that they are important.

  13. I find it very amusing the anger and distain a lot of the commenters have towards people who don’t believe they landed on the moon just laugh and smile what’s your problem.

  14. One of the fundamental things here is belief. Believing has some uses/benefits, but several drawbacks. Belief is not so useful for complex, nuanced issues, things that might change.

    When a belief is challenged, the human response is to defend the belief (regardless of the evidence, of reason, etc.)
    Belief tends to be absolute – true/false, black/white, yes/no. Lacks nuance, shading.
    Belief can be bolstered by reason, but there are a number of other things which bolster belief.
    Repetition. Emotion. Authority.

    Rhetoric is a way to hack the brain’s security systems, to get in below any veneer of reason. Employed by crackers and script kiddies such as: preachers, advertisers, politicians, trial lawyers, salespeople, actors, others of that kidney.

    Brain security – science, critical thinking. One of our greatest achievements, but far to rare.

    1. From a personal and corporate perspective, belief is vital. We can’t reconsider every idea at once, lest our minds become so open that our brains fall out. :-) We need to establish some ideas as true and defend them as such while we consider other ideas as candidates for acceptance, rejection, or further consideration. If defending an established true idea becomes too costly, one may consider taking that idea out of the “cabinet of truth” and set it down on the “table of consideration” which is a kind of arena where ideas do battle and the victors are put back in the cabinet and losers are discarded. Over time one likes to hope that the collection of ideas in the cabinet would become reasonable replicas of the truth found out in reality. Anyway that’s my take on understanding of things.

      I agree, the regular healthy rational process is often hacked with catchy rhyming phrases and/or, heaven forbid, MUSIC!! which established ideas in the brain without proper time on the “table of consideration”. ( I love that quote in “The LEGO Movie” ..All this is true, because it rhymes..) I’m automatically suspicious of any idea presented to me as a rhyme, musically, or with big colorful letters. No rappers for me, and I prefer strictly instrumental music or with carefully chosen lyrics. Call me paranoid, but I like to guard my cabinet and keep my table active.

      Community-wise and physically, I pine for the days when people sat out on their porches and often visited each other there. They could comfortably regard each other without the trouble of full admittance which allowed for more openness to one another. They could share a lemon-aide, a cigar, and a few ideas and have a jolly-old-time, normally, and if things get too uncomfortable one could always retreat back to their own home or into their own front door where it’s safe and come out the next day to try again. (Much better than the boob-tubes/computers/smart-phones that ruined everything good in social interaction) A lot of good rational thought and expression occurred on those front porches. Perhaps we need VR front porches where people can visit each other, but I wish we had the real thing, sans the cold and the bugs. :-)

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