Last Page: Moonstruck

You can’t believe everything you think.

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I went to a party a while ago. In the course of otherwise reasonable conversation, one of the guests said, "Oh, everybody knows the moon landings were faked."

I started laughing at what I assumed was sarcasm—maybe a riff on NASA's recent announcement that it had lost some high-quality videotape of the first one. Then I saw from the expression on his face that he was serious. And a number of other guests were nodding in agreement.

Both my parents are scientists—analytical chemistry and molecular biology. I have a physicist uncle, and I am a chemist. The notion of faked moon landings was an affront to the family crest.

"Excuse me?" I said.

"The pictures are all perfect," he said.

"Because there is no air," I replied. "Which means no dust, so that distant objects on the moon still appear crisp."

"But they're perfectly focused."

"The published ones are perfectly focused, sure. Nobody wants to see the astronaut's thumb."

His eyes narrowed. "The flag is flapping. How is that possible when there's no wind?"

"It's not flapping," I said. "It's unfurling. Well, not unfurling, but that's the point—it was folded during the flight, and it didn't unfold fully even after they hung from the flagpole."

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