History, recent, Science / Tech

Abandon in Place: The Price of the First Steps to the Moon

The sun pours down on a sweaty Florida morning. The deserted, circular concrete slab just steps from the Atlantic Ocean is wider than an American football field. Today, it hosts two visitors: Someone with a very intimate connection to this place, who has agreed to serve as my tour guide. And me. That’s it. Somehow, this space seems to expand in all directions, across the wetlands to the immediate west and out to sea to the east. And then vertically all around. Up, up, up. To forever.

Dominating the space is the looming, four-post, 25-foot-high pedestal in the center of the slab. It supports a platform with a wide, circular opening to the sky. A few other items are strewn about amid blowing sand and random scrub vegetation. Two heavy, angled metal structures, neglected and alone across the slab at the edge, resemble skateboard ramps. These turn out to be rocket exhaust flame deflectors. Nearby are the two launch pads on which the moon rockets once stood. But this morning, except for the occasional squawk of the floating gulls above, Cape Canaveral Air Station’s Launch Complex 34 is completely silent. For a few years in the 1960s, it was the most advanced rocket launch facility on the planet. Today it is deserted and rusting.

Missile Row at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Nov. 13, 1964

My companion this morning knows a lot about this place. The tall launch service structure is long gone, as are the hundreds of people who worked at LC-34, and on all the successful launches here. In 1967, two-and-a-half years before the first moon landing, three astronauts died here, and then the whole country had to stop and decide what to do next. The tour guide’s father was absolutely going to go to the moon one day. Because on the last day of his life, spent right here, more than 200 feet in the air on top of a rocket that stood on that pedestal, my companion’s father and his crew mates were trained and ready to fly away on the first steps to the moon.

*     *     *

Astronaut on lunar (moon) landing mission.

Between July 20, 1969, and December 14, 1972, 12 Americans walked on the moon. Describing the remarkable and inspiring and fascinating how is usually the focus of books and documentaries. The hardware side: A spacecraft to fly to the moon and back in. A second vehicle, which would fly down to the moon and land. Add to these, hundreds of innovative challenges met and insights revealed and necessities invented and perfected and refined. In a hurry. Large and small. Starting with the small miracle of a guidance computer which could navigate throughout the trip. NASA also had to learn how to locate and then find another spacecraft, a process called rendezvous. Then the two spacecraft had to be able to link and fly together. Several astronauts flailed about on several spacewalks before NASA finally figured out that challenge. And the moon venture would require an entirely new generation of rockets. These were flown unmanned, at first. Finally, the 363-foot moon rocket was ready for humans. Two missions of three-man crews flew to the moon, on perfectly executed but quite risky orbiting and near-landing practice missions. (Of course, every mission was “risky.”) Then two of the three Apollo 11 crew members ventured the final few thousand feet, landed, planted the American flag, collected some rocks, had a call with the President of the United States, and were watched by 600 million people.

The why is often misunderstood. The vigorous young president inaugurated in January 1961 decided the country needed a new, high-tech narrative. John Kennedy would provide it. And that’s the reason. Full stop. Everything else is detail.

President John F. Kennedy in his historic message to a joint session of the Congress, on May 25, 1961 declared, “…I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

The new president used the rhetoric of the Cold War—the communists might weaponize space!—to look bold and modern and decisive. Especially after the Bay of Pigs disaster. We will beat the Soviets to the moon. We will control space, or so went the argument, and forever protect it from the Evil Empire. Which was, in fact, truly evil.

America ate it up. So did the rest of the free world. The accomplishment certainly did stand alone, outside of its justification, flimsy or otherwise. Nevertheless, few bothered to ask: Was there to be some sort of award ceremony or official presentation that would confer on the first nation to the moon some capability to destroy its rival by raining warheads from space? Or some protection from same? The loser nation was apparently expected to surrender its warheads-raining capability honorably. Sort of a silver medal at the Moon Olympics.

The tone was set in 1957. The Soviet launch that year of the first satellite—an oversized basketball-shaped globe that could send back audio beeps and do nothing else—freaked out much of America, the political establishment, and the media. The new president needed to show his administration was tough enough to reply. The problem: In private, the new president freely admitted that he didn’t really care much about space. Recorded meetings in the White House have him saying precisely that. After making a couple of passionate speeches imploring the country to join his quest to go to the moon by the end of the decade, Kennedy worried and ranted to his advisors about how much it would all cost. His Cold War cold feet even led him to speak publicly about the feasibility of joint moon missions with the Soviets. All of this because even the new president himself found such a task too difficult to manage. But the president changed his mind. He was convinced by what he saw of the project’s massive new hardware and its powerful capability. He even took a trip to a then very busy pad 34. Witnesses said Kennedy’s near-giddy reaction to a Saturn engine test-firing dispelled any doubts he still entertained about what would become the largest successful rocket in history.

Pad 34 in the early 1960s, later the site of a tragic accident.

Then, three years after beating the Soviets to the moon, America simply stopped returning. The Lyndon Johnson administration set the Apollo program funding reduction in motion, even before the first moon landing. His successor, Richard Nixon, was wary of space. NASA knew the project was likely doomed. Ultimately, several planned missions ended up canceled. Nevertheless, NASA continued to innovate in its final missions through 1972. The later moon missions became increasingly complex and ambitious. The landings became more precise. The equipment improved. Surface experiments and activities became more complex. The astronauts roamed further and stayed longer. They actually drove a damn car on the surface of the moon.

When it was over, what did mankind gain and realize and learn? A lot, it turns out. About space flight itself, of course. About the nature of the moon and its history. And about the Earth, surprisingly, and its fragility and value. Apollo itself inspired hundreds of spin-offs in medicine, water quality, imaging, communications, entertainment, transportation, agriculture, household products, cameras, vacuum-sealed food. The seismic shock absorbers on California’s Bay Bridge and on London’s Millennium Bridge were created by the same company that built similar devices for the Saturn V. And many others. Including material used in firefighter protection developed by NASA because of the fire on pad 34.

*     *     *

The more famous launch pads, 39A and B, used for the moon missions, are just up the road from LC-34. SpaceX renovated 39A. In the era of pad 34, launches were viewed from a concrete blockhouse a mere 900 feet from the rocket. The power of the enormous Saturn V forced sane humans to watch from fully three miles away.

“I feel peaceful when I am here,” the LC-34 tour guide tells me. We wander. On that Friday afternoon in 1967, it all happened so quickly. The rocket was locked down on the pedestal. The tall, orange service structure surrounded it. The first three-man crew was tucked into their new spacecraft. It would be shut tight, pressurized with 100 percent oxygen, and disconnected from all but internal power, for a series of tests run on what was an untested, new machine. Their mission, set to launch in February 1967, would be to fly this new vehicle in Earth orbit and make sure it worked. But, for weeks, the project was beset by problems. That afternoon was no different.

Interior of NASA’s Apollo 1 space capsule following the fire that killed three astronauts. Jan. 27, 1967

The test was being monitored from the blockhouse. The audio reveals continual frustration among the astronauts because of communications problems. Then, suddenly, chaos. Shouting and screaming. “We’ve got a bad fire!” “We’re burning up!” Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee perished in the conflagration, sparked by some unknown wiring short, and fed by the pure oxygen. Death came from smoke inhalation, as the fire did quickly burn itself out. The hatch design made a quick escape impossible.

The country was appalled. Mostly by the shoddy work on the spacecraft from the contractor. But also by NASA’s incomprehensible management failings. Two years of improvements to the design followed major investigations, first by NASA itself, then by a furious Congress. These investigations found that, even if this first spacecraft had managed to leave the ground, it was most likely doomed for various other reasons. The program would never be the same. The new spacecraft was better, more reliable, and safer. The hatch was re-designed. The oxygen mix was altered. In interview after interview, those who were there and those who ran NASA at the time agree: NASA would not have reached the moon without that brand-new spacecraft. And there would have been no brand-new spacecraft without the fire.

*     *     *

Amid a host of activities in Washington this month to mark the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, an image the height of the Saturn V has been projected on the side of the Washington Monument after dark. All amid music and video and cheering and awe.

The lift-off of the 363-feet tall Apollo/Saturn V space vehicle, for the Apollo 4 space mission, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, 1967.

It is remarkable that the Apollo history remains such a powerful tale to so many people. Social media groups proliferate about Apollo and NASA and even various individual pieces of the story. The vehicle that landed on the moon, called the lunar module, has its own Facebook group. And there are new books and documentaries everywhere. The big news for space geeks is that the “consoles” from the Apollo mission control center in Houston have been remodeled and re-installed. Not to be re-used. But to be looked at and sat in front of and photographed by visitors to what has become a museum. They look exactly as they did during the Apollo missions. Chasing the Moon, by noted documentary director Roger Stone, ran on The American Experience series over three nights earlier this month. It will likely be remembered as the greatest moon landing documentary, and perhaps the last with the participation of various controllers and astronauts of the era. (Though wild-man astronaut Buzz Aldrin, a PhD who walked on the moon as part of Apollo 11 and once punched out a moon-landing conspiracy theorist, is still wearing shirts that say “Get Your Ass To Mars.”)

NASA has always claimed that 400,000 people contributed to the moon landing. I was a child in the 1960s, and I embraced Apollo as the adventure of all time. The Aeroquip Corporation was based in my blue-collar hometown of Jackson, Michigan, and I remember it most as a sponsor of local softball and bowling teams. Parents of several of my friends worked at the plant. As best as I can recall, it manufactured mostly auto parts back then. But apparently it would occasionally branch out and is first in this alphabetical list of major subcontractors of Boeing for the Saturn V. The product listed is “couplings, pneumatic, and hydraulic hoses.” Ask me if I feel a little proud of my hometown. Go ahead.

I stroll around the looming rocket stand on LC-34. The father of my very kind tour guide on this day is eulogized on a plaque here, alongside his two fellow astronaut crew mates, who were ready and eager to fly away from this spot, on what would have been Apollo 1, a major first-step-mission to the moon. Printed on the side of the pedestal structure are the words “ABANDON IN PLACE.” A metaphor for the whole endeavor. When viewed from directly under the circular pedestal, the sky seems bluer, and you are floating. Stare up. The sky is forever.


Craig Colgan is a Washington, D.C. writer. You can follow him on Twitter @CraigColgan


  1. Apollo, and the Soviet programs that prompted it, were unique in the annals of human history.

    They were, in effect, a war being fought without conflict.

    Eventually, the technical advances that came out of Apollo would have happened. But… it would have taken far longer. Apollo, very much like WW2, was a cornucopia of technical advances, that we benefit from today. During WW2, aviation technology skyrocketed… we went from fabric covered wings to pressurized airliners, in five years. And the motivation was essentially the same as the space programs, only it was to enable destruction instead of exploration.

    Some of the initial building blocks of this internet we use today, were accelerated in development to meet the need to communicate data from 240,000 miles away, and distribute it worldwide. Without that, no one was going to the moon… and survive the journey to return home.

    Computers had to be miniaturized to operate the spacecraft. The Apollo guidance computer, anemic by today’s standards, was an amazing accomplishment for its day, doing the work of what once took up an entire room… accelerated in development to meet the need. Without that, the large scale integrated circuit, and the personal computer would not have happened for at least another decade or two.

    In retrospect, it was also an amazingly clean conflict: the direct butcher’s bill was three Americans and five Soviets.

    What a pity all conflicts can’t be carried out in an equally productive and interesting manner.

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  1. Farris says

    Mr. Coglan thank you for remembering astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee. There are/were 3 different schools in Huntsville, Alabama that also bear/bore their names. I grew up in Satellite Beach, FL during that time and the astronauts were heroes to us all. I can remember going to school and there was a graph of a Soviet rocket and American rocket inching up the wall toward an illustrated moon. It always perturbed me that the Soviet rocket had a slight lead. My dad brought home to me all the Apollo mission patches. I also remember praying and being sick with worry for the astronauts of Apollo 13. It was an exciting time. People would not believe how desolate Brevard County FL was in those days.

    • Sam’s Dad says

      When I moved to Brevard County the Melbourne Square mall was orange groves and 192 was a 2 Lane Rd.

      • Farris says

        Wickham Road was not paved. Dd you ever fish off of Mathers Bridge?

  2. Klaus C. says

    It was a fine achievement, but looking back, the accompanying Space Age vision of the future, which was very much inculcated in the schoolchildren of the day, now seems a rather strange fantasy.

    I was ten years old when Apollo 11 landed and fully expected this to be the first in an ever-expanding mission to explore and colonise the solar system, with holiday visits to other planets being commonplace for ordinary citizens within my own lifetime.

    It now seems ridiculous but this is the sort of future we kids were promised in the picture books, the documentaries and magazine articles, reinforced by the sci-fi shows on TV. For an imaginative child it was an absorbing and optimistic view of our own future, and we didn’t have to worry about the cost of it all or even the purpose. Exploring space was adventurous and interesting and that seemed reason enough.

    Children of the time certainly weren’t deliberately misled. Many of the adults churning out the Space Age culture were also quite naive about the actual costs and complexities of manned space exploration, which became increasingly clear once the moon race ended. With no urgency fuelling the programme, and with projects like the space shuttle demonstrating that “cheap space travel” was a pipedream, the Space Age faded away quite rapidly.

    Of course the exploration of the solar system did continue, but with unmanned probes and rovers instead of astronauts, at far less cost and with the emphasis quite rightly on science rather than science fiction.

    • Alan Gore says

      After a long hiatus, space programs are flourishing again today. The reason is that private enterprise has become involved.

      This has little to do with “socialism” or any sort of generic “government incompetence.” Then and now, NASA had more intellectual expertise on board than any other governmental operation. And if you don’t believe that the Democratic Party once built huge and magnificent works of infrastructure, ask your grandfather to describe the Mew Deal.

      But every governmental program is subject to politics. Astronauts are all aware of the personal risk they face on every mission, but the political risk of deaths in space is too high for any of today’s politicians to face. And could a government build Hoover Dam today? We would still be quarreling over permits a century from now.

      The big challenges of the future are going to require all the technological hubris that China and Silicon Valley can produce. Only private enterprise, “responsible” to nothing and no one, will be able to get the job done.

      • Steve Gregg says

        The New Deal was not a magnificent work of infrastructure but rather a huge government mistake which prolonged the Great Depression for years. Apollo 11 is an example of government at its best, the New Deal government at its worst.

        • Nakatomi Plaza says

          Steve, that New Deal theory of yours has been debunked over and over again by now. It’s just right-wing revisionism, and it’s profoundly dishonest. The New Deal propelled America into the most successful and egalitarian period in our history, though WWII obviously complicates the equation. Deal with it.

          • Grant says

            It’s left wing propaganda that the new deal did any such thing. Was it all bad? No but much of what Hoover and Roosevelt did was economic idiocy that never did revive the country’s economy.
            There were certainly worthwhile infrastructure projects but that’s a separate issue.

      • Denny Sinnoh says

        You mean that Roosevelt actually consulted the legendary Pokémon?

    • Caligula says

      “holiday visits to other planets being commonplace for ordinary citizens within my own lifetime.”

      The techno-optimism behind this came from the history of aviation: 32 years from Wright Bros. to DC3, and another 24 years from DC3 to 707. The assumption was that space transportation technology would advance at a similar pace. And if no one quite new how to provide space transportation that was both low-cost and low-risk, well, in 1903 the Wright Bros. didn’t know how to build anything like a DC3.

      It didn’t turn out that way (not even close), but I doubt that was clear in 1969

      • Bob says

        To advance space launch technology we must build, fly, and sometimes crash, launch vehicles.

        The Apollo program did not give us space flight. It gave us some space flight technogies. It proved we could mount expeditions into the void.

        A healthy technology is much like a healthy economy or ecology. It requires real diversity, with many people trying many different things, some of which fail spectacularly. Recall the films of the early days of aviation.

        We are finally on the cusp of real space flight. We will have fewer particular projects because the energies involved make the technology too expensive to build in a bicycle shop, but it’s not nearly as expensive as a crash project and campaign of the Cold War. Note that Scaled Composites built an X-15 equivalent and a carrier aircraft for roughly twice the value of the X-Prize, around $20 Million.

    • Surface Reflection says

      No, the Space Age did not fade away at all. It got instilled into humanity very soul and you can see it even today. We want to go, we dream about it, we wish for it, we talk about it.
      And we lament it hasnt happened yet.

      The dream is still there. What do you think is pushing Elon on, for example?

      It did not fade away.

  3. Rick G. says

    The term ‘hero’ is thrown around so often these days..

    Those who piloted test aircraft, high altitude balloons, and ultimately sat atop gigantic rockets are true heroes. They pushed the limits of science, engineering, technology, and sheer bravery. Ditto to those of the Soviet Union.

    I don’t think any of us earthbound beings can appreciate the immense risks these brave people took.

  4. Declan says

    That was a lovely piece of writing. Thanks.

  5. Melancholic Software Engineer says

    Born in ’58 the Apollo project was a fascinating constant through my early childhood; it very likely influenced my love for technology. Looking at those pictures now with highly focused people doing together something so much larger than themselves can still move me. Apollo was so nice because the world saw this and was in awe had respect for the people doing it, it must have inspired many people like me to work with technology. Even though the projects I worked on are not in the league of Apollo, I still recognize that collaborative effort and the pure focus on the goal.

    I ended up in software, a place where technology and widespread collaboration meet. and still love it every day. I just looked at the Apollo 11 code on Github, written in assembly. Assembly is extremely low level but at the same time surprisingly well defined; there are no layers between you and the hardware. A younger software engineer might be disgusted because it violates every rule we have in place today. But is is also somehow extremely simple in comparison. It was simple because it only did the bare essential.

    Modern software has become highly complex because we not only want infinitely more than the bare essential, we also want it to be readable for uninitiated, it should not cost too much, must be written in a short time, and it should log so extensively that whenever there is a problem we can diagnose it from our armchairs. Each of these items are very important but somehow along the way the whole became a tangled mess; too often projects have become too complex for their own good. The Apollo code worked so well because it could focus on one domain, there were huge restrictions, and the developers knew that the cost of bugs was someone’s death.

    Apollo was an awe inspiring project. However, I doubt Apollo could be repeated today. Maybe if we run in a huge emergency that allows us to focus on the bare essentials again. Like a comet hitting the earth, climate change turning into a real crisis, or, God forbid, another war.

    That pure focus is missing nowadays because we live in a (western) world where we can actually afford to care about the most minute details. In 1930 they build the Empire State building in less than two years, the new World Trade Center took 16 years. I guess the reasons that today we want to exclude any risc and many more people need to have a say. However, secretly I sometimes long for the simplicity of that bygone world that could focus on the goal and did the impossible.

    • Matthew B says

      @Melancholic. I agree….I’ve often thought the same thing. Can you imagine how long Apollo would take to accomplish today?

      • S Snell says

        A project on the scale of Apollo would be impossible now in the US. It’s effectiveness would be gutted by endless check-the-box political considerations and inclusiveness doctrines. We once did great things, but those days are no more.

  6. Whitey Moon says

    The technological spin-offs argument is flat-out wrong. Almost all, if not all, of those spin-offs would have occurred anyway without a manned-mission to the moon by way of rocket science projects with purely military applications.

    The Apollo missions were a boondoggle, period, and it’s frustrating that nobody wants to admit this purely because space stuff gives them such a hard-on. I’m about as far from a racial justice activist as you can get, but the “Whitey On The Moon” song by Gil Scott-Heron actually pretty much nailed it.

    • Geary Johansen says

      @ Whitey Moon

      Some engineering breakthroughs occur because of intellectual curiosity, but most happen because of intentionally designing solutions to specific and unusual requirements. The real capacity to monetise innovation comes from the ability to apply a solution you’ve just invented, into other domains, ideally by saving your customer labour costs. This, in turn, allows humans to make more goods with fewer people, and extend the realm and scope of abundance further outwards.

      The thing that all governments get wrong is that they prioritise the welfare of their citizens above this essential process. This is because government tends to forget that money raised by tax and spent on services always causes a net reduction in living standards of citizens, and should only ever be utilised to commission or provide essential services that the market would not otherwise supply, or to supply basic needs to the most needy. The way to ensure the health, wealth and happiness of your citizens is to generate the opportunities that naturally arise by creating conditions under which the key ingredients of the market can thrive- incentives, private property and the distributed knowledge process of the market.

      There are some areas where you want public options, if for no better reason than to provide baseline cost and quality provisions that the private sector can excel against. There are even some unique areas where centralised planning actually works better, such as with localised rail hubs. Privatised health tends to suffer from unusual externalities, and usually tends to achieve better prices when it is part of a two tier system and has the ‘collective bargaining power’ of a much larger purchasing pool, such as in Switzerland. But if you look at education, then the creation of the Department of Education actually lowered performance and drastically raised prices, mostly because it let the ideologues of the progressive education system loose in the henhouse.

      But there are a few specific areas in which government can become an objective setter, and commission visions for the use of productive labour, which would not otherwise exist within a market system. One of these is pure science, the process of discovery, purely for discoveries sake. Another is a space program. Now, it is possible to argue that all knowledge or possibility exists, before it is discovered. But what really matters is who gets there first. Because if you get there first, then you get to create the industry that exploits the new science or discovery (unless you’re British and happen to be historically crap at monetising innovation). It’s one those rare instances like infrastructure, where government expenditure does not necessarily reduce the wealth of its citizens, because the spending is an investment in innovation.

    • Geofiz says


      Geary is absolutely correct. That fact that you are posting this is a direct result of the Apollo program. Although the integrated circuit was invented by TI in 1959 it was largely a curiosity until MIT engineers began do to design computers for the space program. At one point this program at MIT accounted for 30% of the total world demand for IC’s The technological developments they made eventually led to the PC.

      As an undergrad. I got a chance to work on some of the moon rocks (1973). The scientific advances we made in understanding the geology of the moon were incredible.

      You take all of the technology gee-gaws in your house for granted. You turn on your TV and get 3,000 stations. Your phone has far more computing power than the mainframes I learned to code on. You use a GPS insteads of paper maps. Without the scientific advances spurred by the space program none of those would exist.

      • Geary Johansen says

        @ Geofiz

        One of my former bosses was the son of an American expat living in the UK (something we had in common). His father worked for NASA and he told me about how the buildings used by NASA had their own internal micro-climate- it could rain indoors, because of the height of the buildings. Not sure whether he worked there during the Saturn or Jupiter period, but very cool nonetheless.

        • Geofiz says

          In late 1985 I applied for a Mission Specialist Astronaut position with NASA. I have a Ph.D. in geology and at that time was a very active pilot so I figured I had a good chance. Out of over 4000 that applied, I was told I made the top 200. They sent me another, thicker, application form and thick forms for my references to fill out. I was told that they were going to winnow the list to 100 applicants, bring them down to Houston for interviews and select 17 Pilot and Mission Specialist Astronauts from that pool.

          Then the Challenger crashed!

          No astronauts were hired in 1986. I reapplied in 1987 and the only astronaut hired was a black female physician. I never reapplied after that and the space program went on without me. But it is fun to speculate how my career would have evolved had the Challenger not crashed and I actually made the cut.

          • Nakatomi Plaza says

            That’s awesome, Geofiz. I never realized the selection process was do democratic and transparent.

          • Geary Johansen says

            @ Geofiz

            The path not trodden- how cool that you were almost an astronaut. At least you won’t have to look back and regret not having tried.

          • Geofiz says

            @NP and Geary

            Thank you for your comments. NP I do not know how things are done today but as I recall back in the 1980’s anyone with a B.S. or higher in STEM could apply to become an MIssion Specialist astronaut. You simply mailed a request to NASA for an application form. Obviously, the Pilot-Astronauts were all military.

  7. Charlie says

    Precision engineering, accuracy, standardisation of parts and project management on a vast scale needed to place people on the Moon and enable them to return to Earth safely. It is getting people back to Earth alive is difficult; placing corpses on the Moon is considerably easier.

    If one looks at the evolution of the Industrial Revolution it was the ability to precisely measure, cut, forge and the standardisation of parts which enabled the massive expansion. While the Industrial Revolution was largely comprising craft industries making parts which lacked uniform size it could never have taken off. Wilkinson’s development of precision cutting enable the pistons and chambers of Watts and Boulton steam engines to be constructed without leaking steam. Whitworth standardisation of threads enables Ford mass production possible. It is fortunate for those who flew that Gil Scott-Heron neither designed or made aircraft.

  8. thwack says

    Nobody landed and walked on the moon in 1969; you all must all be Baby Boomers? After 10 years of my own study and research I was ready to accept the fact “they” faked it.

    That was ten years ago.

    In the meantime the most interesting thing Ive noticed is that with the exception of baby boomers, most people don’t freak out when presented with evidence suggesting it was faked; especially Millennials.

    I guess its not really a lie if you tell people something they want to believe?

  9. Grant says

    I’m sure you must my now realize, thwack, that RLO photographed all six sights

  10. thwack says

    “I’m sure you must my now realize, thwack, that RLO photographed all six sights”

    Being familiar with leaked KH-11 photos in the 1980s (from the 1970s); I was very disappointed in the poor quality and low resolution of the RLO photos, and ultimately came to consider them further proof the missions were faked.

    Telling a Boomer the “moon landings” were faked is like telling a person they were raped by their father as a child.

    Even if its true; they would still rather not know; and will sometimes attack you for revealing the information to them.

  11. thwack says

    Another “tell” that the Apollo “moon landings” were faked is the so called “phone call from president Nixon.” If you are like me you probably assumed it was a conversation, or dialogue between two parties?

    But it wasn’t.

    It was more like two separate statements made “walkie talkie” style; but the key is, you can’t actually see the astronauts as they are talking because it occurs as they are helmeted and suited standing on the “moon.”

    They could have taken the call from inside the lunar module; but I suspect the reason they chose not to was because faking 1/6th gravity is far more difficult inside a small cabin?

    In addition to the possibility the astronauts balked at lying that baldly with their faces exposed?

    Finally, in the future when the truth comes out and people get angry that they were lied to, there will be no grave site of the first man to walk on the moon to desecrate and cover in graffiti; because Neil Armstrong had himself buried at sea.

    (His wife divorced him too)

  12. Grant says

    The telephone call is hardly a tell. Besides the fact that such an ambitious conspiracy is impossible to pull off, there is overwhelming physical evidence of the moon landings. Just the action of the lunar soil in the video is impossible to fake in 1969.
    I don’t understand your willingness to ignore these facts.
    But I guess it’d fine if you choose to believe it. Don’t really care, it’s simply puzzling.

  13. thwack says

    “I don’t understand your willingness to ignore these facts.”

    Yeah, I guess you’re right.

    If Russian hackers could subvert our democracy by stealing the presidential election from Hillary Clinton; then I guess anything is possible?

    • Grant says

      The Russians sought to mess with the election but their efforts were inconsequential. Everyday Americans on Facebook had an enormous impact on all social media that dwarfed any Russian meddling. Clinton lost the election because she was a poor candidate.

  14. thwack says

    As part of my research I found the Apollo “moon landings” formed a major schism among White Supremacists/ racists. Alt Right… groups; with a split down the middle between those viewing it as the ultimate White accomplishment as thus proof of White supremacy; and those calling it just another Jewish Swindle on par with 911 and the 2008 financial crisis…

    But one thing they all agreed on was that NASA is TODAY a “Jewish Operation”, a swindle, a fraud, “theater” if you will to fleece the goyim…

    But when I asked the White supremacists who believed the moon landings occurred; “when did NASA become a Jewish Operation?”

    None of them offered an answer; and to this day, I still haven’t been able to get not even a guess from one of them?

    Further in my research I found nonwhite people in general, and black Americans in particular, to be far more likely to believe the moon landings were faked than white people.

    In other words, Black people are among the few Baby Boomers willing to openly claim the moon landings were faked. I suspect Movies like “Hidden Figures” were “Hollywoods” attempt to get some of the black boomers back on the Apollo plantation?

    But it may be too late to “put the shit back in the horse?”

    • Grant says


      Well the race or background of the people who made it happen is irrelevant. Yes there are lots if Jewish folks represented in all the sciences. Remember it was a former NAZI who led the way to the moon, and a myriad of all kinds of people who made it happen.
      The truth is that enough money (4 billion) was thrown at this mission, and there were a while lot of motivated, intelligent Americans who dreamt of a moon landing and they threw their hearts and minds into the project. Indeed people gave up their lives for the dream. It was a singularly amazing accomplishment for the time.

  15. Bandy says

    Too bad there was absolutely nothing on the moon for people to go back to. I can imagine if there were some very pretty and absolutely out-of-this-world vistas there, there could have been continual flights to explore them. Maybe even tourists flights on a regular basis! That would surely have generated many more technological advancements for efficient and elegant space flights. As it is, I doubt there will ever be any manned flights anymore. Not to the moon, and certainly not to Mars!

  16. thwack says

    Many people are unaware there was a protest march the day before lift off?

    “On the eve of the Apollo 11 launch, hundreds of demonstrators arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to make just that point. Members of the Poor People’s Campaign, the same group that had marched on Washington in 1968 led by Martin Luther King, Jr., arrived with a pair of mule-drawn carts. Their leader, Ralph Abernathy, asked to meet with NASA administrator Thomas Paine, who agreed to talk to him on July 15, the day before launch.”


    In addition, 1969 was the height of combat operations in Vietnam; 200 U.S KIA a week.

    In 2003 I went to a family reunion and a guy who I remembered dating my sister back then said the reason he broke up with her was because he had just turned 18 and he had already decided he was gonna dodge the draft; and since my dad was an officer in the army with two tours in Vietnam, there was no way a marriage with my sister could ever work.

    He told me about how he had to drive by the airport in Houston to get to work every morning and how he often saw the flag draped caskets lined up after being unloaded from the C 130s for delivery to the various funeral homes in Houston…

    My sister eventually married some retread loser with a daughter from a previous marriage.

  17. Denny Sinnoh says

    thwack = Bad writing, and not at all interesting.

  18. thwack says

    Denny Sinnoh = boomer concernfag with no opinion of his own, so he attacks a person who has one.

    Not only uninteresting; but very annoying too.

  19. Russell Seitz says

    12 years after Sputnik kicked the Cold War into high gear, I photographed the Apollo 11 launch for Conde’ Nastr. I’ve since shot explosive volcanic eruptions but the 1969 event was like nothing so much as 9-11 run backwards.

    Only louder..

    The political dark side of NASA’s thundering technological triumph has parallels in the aftermath of 9-11 as well . The focused idealism seen in the months following each event gave way to both millenarian dreams and dystopic fantasies, and a plenum of unjustified claims.

    In the moon launch’s case, sucessfuly outspending the USSR led to NASA’s evolution into an expansive bureaucracy more devoted to defending its turf than expanding man’s physical presence in the solar system.

    In the 1950s many science fiction writers predicted men would walk on the moon, , but none imagined that after a half dozen lunar voyages, the moon would be bandoned for two generations

    It’s as though Columbus returned from the New World only to counsel Spain to stop wasting time and treasure on sailing ships, and focus on galley slaves to open the New World to trade.

    That is essentially what happened five centuries later, as NASA doubled down on the ill fated Space Shuttle even as an explosion of entrepreneurial creativity led those with the Right Stuff to quit Cape Canaveral for Silicon Valley, and turn manned space flight into a competitive pastimes for billionaires too rich to bother with the America’s Cup.

  20. thwack says

    “In the moon launch’s case, sucessfuly outspending the USSR led to NASA’s evolution into an expansive bureaucracy more devoted to defending its turf than expanding man’s physical presence in the solar system.”

    Well, maybe thats all it was ever supposed to be?

    That, and a looting operation like the rest of the MIC?

    Don’t hate the player; hate the game.

  21. thwack says

    “Too bad there was absolutely nothing on the moon for people to go back to. I can imagine if there were some very pretty and absolutely out-of-this-world vistas there, there could have been continual flights to explore them.”


    they could have picked a crater or two and cover them with a layer of plastic, and then lunar soil, and had the start of a moon base of some kind. As it stands now, the I$$ will de-orbit and burn up sometime around 2030, then we gotta start all over.

    The fact we have nothing permanent to show for all these “moon landings” is another reason I suspect they were all faked.

  22. Alan Appel says

    Why is this footprint picture almost always presented upside down?

  23. Hey thwack, where did you get your name?

    Was it from the sound your face made when Buzz Aldrin’s fist connected with it?

  24. Pingback: Apollo 11: die TV-Bilder, die (fast) niemand sah | Skyweek Zwei Punkt Null

  25. thwack says

    “The Russians sought to mess with the election but their efforts were inconsequential. Everyday Americans on Facebook had an enormous impact on all social media that dwarfed any Russian meddling. Clinton lost the election because she was a poor candidate.” –Grant

    Grant, thats a nice cope; but Trump won by appealing to white people’s “inner racist.” The subsequent Russian “tampering” narrative they are now pushing so hard is the response from their embarrassment that it worked.

  26. thwack says

    “Was it from the sound your face made when Buzz Aldrin’s fist connected with it?”

    I consider Aldrin’s response to be further proof that they faked the mission.

    If you have a 9 inch penis; would you punch a man who puts a mic in your face and claims you don’t?

    Aldrins over reaction was triggered by something?

  27. thwack says

    BTW, just so you all understand that Im an equal opportunity skeptic; I think the official version of the events of 9-11 are just as doubtful as the Apollo “moon landings” (remember how Bush refused to be interrogated separately from Cheney?)



    its possible Barack Obama was NOT born in the United States; and that he is a practicing homosexual.

    just sayin

  28. Geofiz says

    I can’t believe that I am wasting electrons responding to a guy with a tinfoil hat. But, for the rest of the readers, anyone who believes the moon landings were faked does not know much about rocks.
    Simply put, it is impossible to fake rocks. Rocks on the earth developed on a planet with water, oxygen, and an atmosphere. Moon rocks did not. As such, moon rocks have unique characteristics that are easily discerned by any competent geoscientist. These rocks have been studied by thousands of scientists worldwide, including me as an undergraduate, In fact, there are three minerals (Tranquillityite, Armalcolite and Pyroxferroite) that are so rare on earth that they were first discovered on the moon.

    My limited experience with moon rocks was courtesy of my optical mineralogy professor who happened to be studying them. One of the most common ways to study mineralogy and petrology is to mount very thin slices of a rock onto a slide and examine them with polarizing microscope. As you rotate the slide different minerals react differently to the polarized light. This allows us to identify the minerals within a specific rock. When I looked at the moon rocks, I noticed that the pyroxenes (a group of minerals) were weird. They did not fit any of the well-known pyroxene minerals. When I questioned the professor about this he laughed and then confessed to the class that we were looking at moon rocks. Everyone, of course, thought that as way cool. I later found out that moon rocks have much greater concentrations of chromium than terrestrial rocks and that was likely screwing up my identification.

    There a many other differences as well. Moon rocks have very low concentration of alkali elements (ex. potassium, rubidium and cesium) In fact concentration of these minerals are 10 to 100 times lower in lunar rock relative to terrestrial rocks. Iron only occurs as pure metal or in the ferrous state. On earth iron occurs in both the ferrous and ferric states. Sulfide minerals are very rare and hydrous minerals such as mica and biotite are absent. Elements such as copper, zinc, arsenic, selenium, silver, mercury, and lead which are often found in sulfide minerals occur in very low abundances in lunar rocks. thorium/potassium and thorium/samarium ratios are very different for lunar rocks relative to terrestrial rocks. Lunar rocks and soil contain gases (hydrogen, helium, nitrogen, neon, argon, krypton, and xenon) derived from the solar wind with isotope ratios different than Earth forms of the same gases. They contain crystal damage from cosmic rays, whereas on earth the atmosphere greatly diminishes the effect of cosmic rays and the solar wind. Lunar igneous rocks have crystallization ages, determined by techniques involving radioisotopes, that are older than any known Earth rocks, with the exception of a single terrestrial example. Many lunar rocks display evidence for a suite of unanticipated and complicated effects associated with large and small meteorite impacts, including specific mineral types associated with meteoric impact.
    I have attached a good summary of comparisons lunar vs. terrestrial rocks below for anyone who is interested.

    I have posted this because some of readers may find it interesting. I do not expect our troll in the tinfoil hat to believe any of this. I am Jewish. Apparently, we not only control Hollywood, but NASA as well. Who knew (LOL)!


  29. thwack says

    I am Jewish. Apparently, we not only control Hollywood, but NASA as well. Who knew (LOL)!

    Calm down Francis, Im only quoting the White supremacists.

    Im a Black male myself, and part of the reason I took up this inquiry is due to its racial aspect which I find very interesting; and on an intuitive level, suspect it may be the thread that unravels the entire “sweater?”

    BTW, Stevie Wonder can easily find the same rocks you reference scattered all over Antartica; and for the record, Im only saying HUMAN BEINGS did NOT orbit, land, and/or walk on the moon.


    (and no, Im not going to engage in name calling with you because I don’t want your boyfriend to beat me up)


  30. Geofiz says

    Too bad you didn’t major in geology. Black geoscientists are in very high demand. If you majored in geology you would know that when a rock is broken off from the moon, flies 240,000 miles through space, is exposed to very high temperatures by the frictional heating of the atmosphere and slams into the earth at very high speed, it acquires properties that are quite different from other rocks, terrestrial or otherwise. That is why any geology undergrad can easily identify meteorites and why they are not confused with terrestrial rocks in Antarctica or those brought back from the moon

  31. thwack says

    Then why do these same people claim to have found rocks from Mars in Antartica?

    “is we is? or is we isnn?”

    • Geofiz says

      I am not exactly sure what you are getting at here, but I will assume the question is sincere. All meteorites have characteristics that clearly indicate that they are meteorites. However, they also have additional characteristics unique to their origin.

      We have extensively studied rocks from the moon and have detailed information about their elemental and isotopic composition. We also have detailed information about the elemental and isotopic composition of Martian rocks collected by the Mars probes. Some meteorites show elemental and isotopic compositions similar to the strata on the surface of Mars. These vary significantly from meteorites which came from the moon and those which came from deeper space. Based on these similarities and differences we have determined that these meteorites originated from Mars. We use the same logic in determining that certain meteorites originated from the moon.

      Imagine you have a raw steak and a piece of raw chicken. You cook both. Both look different then they looked like when they were raw . But you can still tell the difference between the piece of chicken and the steak.

      This was a good question so I assume that you are a reasonably bright guy.You really need to get off the web conspiracy sites and read some science books.

  32. thwack says

    uh oh?

    have I been banned?

    Did someone whine to the mods?

  33. thwack says

    Guess not

    (thats the SOP despite all the chatter about “muh free speech…”

  34. Surface Reflection says

    Hah! Epic answer from Buzz.

    The greatest achievement of the Moon Landing and Apollo program was that it changed the paradigm about how humanity sees our planet and ourselves.

    Seeing Earth from afar for the first time changed us permanently.

    And that very well might have been one of the most important influences that prevent the cold war from becoming hot. That new sense of us humans all being here on the little blue ball.

    In the world as it is now and as it seem to be turning, we need the next paradigm change. That is the biggest and most valuable reason we need to get to Mars and stay there. That will show us again how worthy and valuable Earth is and how lucky we are to have its thick atmosphere and the climate and actually make us work more to protect it and balance it back.

    The technology improvements and inventions that will follow are secondary to that, as they were in the case of the Apollo. Valuable too, but not the most-most important. The backup plan is also good.

    Knowing, waking up every day KNOWING that PEOPLE are living, struggling and surviving on a different world is the most important value we will get from it.

    We will learn incredible things from our attempts to change Mars. And in turn it will change us for the better too.

    That is the greatest value Mars will give us.

  35. thwack says

    The level of techno narcissism from the Apollophiles on this thread is appalling. We are not going to invent our way around the seven deadly sins.

    If anything, technology will only weaponize them.

  36. Apollo_Glory says

    Evidently, feeding thwack increments the sale of tinfoil and the US GDP 0.000001%.

  37. thwack says

    You people probably believe Christine Blasey Ford; and the fake nooz story that won’t die about Russian Hackers stealing the election from Hillary Clintoon?

  38. thwack says

    If you are a photographer with pre digital camera experience; you might find Marcus Allen’s analysis interesting. Unfortunately, his original presentation that focused strictly on Apollo 11 seems to be missing?

    But this one is still pretty good


    As a professional photographer, Marcus Allen noted that the 211 photos from Apollo 11 looked mysteriously like ad copy from a commercial photo shoot?

    The pictures were perfectly centered and lit. All relevant artifacts were clear and prominent (like the U.S flag…)

    In other words, no astronaut, in a space suit, with no viewfinder… could have taken such perfect photos.

    I encourage all Apollophiles to go take a look at all 211 Apollo 11 photos and then ask your self; “does this look like a commercial studio photo shoot?”

    Because, remember, they didn’t take 5 photos of every shot. They admit they took 211 photos in chronological order and not a one is over exposed, blurry, out of focus… and they supposedly took these perfect photos while entombed in bulky space suits with the cameras mounted on their chests?


    It smell like bacon in this muhfugga;

    what I look like; a sucker to you nigga?

    fuck you rookie”

    • CLA says


      Yes, you do sound like a conspiracy sucker.

  39. thwack says

    A few questions:

    Did Aldrin and Armstrong weigh their moon rocks before/after they were loaded into the lunar module?

    This is an important question because without an accurate calculation of the mass of the vehicle, how did they determine the thrust necessary to achieve the correct orbit and rendezvous with the command module orbiting 60 miles up at 4000 MPH?

    Did they just guess?

    Also, since the LM lacked seats, did they just sit on the floor when they blasted off from the moon? That sounds both dangerous and weird?
    Hypergolic propellants are extremely toxic. We are told the lunar module used hypergolic propellants for both its main engines and its reaction thrusters. If this is true, doesn’t that mean both the LM and the landing site were highly contaminated with these poisonous toxic chemicals?

    If Armstrong and Aldrin really did exit the LM and walk around, wouldn’t they become contaminated with these toxins, and carry them via their suits back into the LM?

    For example, here is how they deal with hypergolic propellants EVERY TIME the space shuttle would land:

    “After landing, the vehicle stayed on the runway for several hours for the orbiter to cool. Teams at the front and rear of the orbiter tested for presence of hydrogen, hydrazine, monomethylhydrazine, nitrogen tetroxide and ammonia (fuels and by-products of the reaction control system and the orbiter’s three APUs). If hydrogen was detected, an emergency would be declared, the orbiter powered down and teams would evacuate the area. A convoy of 25 specially designed vehicles and 150 trained engineers and technicians approached the orbiter. Purge and vent lines were attached to remove toxic gases from fuel lines and the cargo bay about 45–60 minutes after landing. A flight surgeon boarded the orbiter for initial medical checks of the crew before disembarking. Once the crew left the orbiter, responsibility for the vehicle was handed from the Johnson Space Center back to the Kennedy Space Center.[86]”

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