Moon Landing Hoax – Part 2

Liam Birchall is an astronomy guide at Sydney Observatory. Below he continues his series on the lunar landing hoax.

Why does the flag wave on the Moon if there is no wind?

Here is a follow up post related to continual rumblings and outbursts by those who see the entire Moon landings in the 60’s and 70’s as a gigantic hoax. You can hear the X-files soundtrack enter at this point…

In the previous post I attempted to address the fact that even though ‘there are no stars visible behind the astronauts’, this fact of their absence could be explained with an appreciation of simple optics.
Here we should turn our attention to the lunar flag. The flag from these earliest images of the Moon’s surface garners special attention or vitriol, depending on your level of passion. Those who love a conspiracy like to identify the errors in the way the flag behaves – it is waving too vigorously according to this view. It could be speculated that someone might have opened the back-lot door mid-take.

Well, the simple fact that the lunar flag does indeed wave in the imagery can be explained by the movement made by the astronaut at its base and that this movement then sends ripples into the fabric. These physical laws are once again directly comparable to those we enjoy on Earth, regardless of whether or not we are operating here or in the airless vacuum of the lunar surface.
Furthermore, according to NASA, the astronauts came prepared. That highly competitive NASA screening process wasn’t conducted needlessly. They knew that this flag planting exercise would carry enormous symbolic importance and should not be dismissed as another trivial task. Whether astronauts are ever given trivial tasks is another question.

Scientist-astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt stands by the American flag during a moonwalk on the Apollo 17 mission.  Image courtesy of NASA.
Scientist-astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt stands by the American flag during a moonwalk on the Apollo 17 mission.
Image courtesy of NASA.

Perhaps they knew that in the future the veracity of their claim would be questioned by keen eyed on-lookers. Equipped with the knowledge that a flag would not fly without its Earth wind they managed to gerrymander a special lunar flag using the best technical minds of their generation. A lunar flag needed to feature a horizontal ‘curtain rod’ arrangement so Earth folks would sense that familiar feeling of triumph and relief in seeing the flag in its full outstretched glory.

The astronauts left a kink in the flag just as one finds in a curtain when it is bunched at the top. This was for realism. Perhaps they did their job too well.

Although it is not possible to see the flag on the Moon using the telescopes here at Sydney Observatory, it is possible to see quite a lot of detail on its surface at this time of January.


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