Of Moon Landings, False Rabbit Trails, and Approaching Epistemic Oblivion

“I don’t know who to trust.”

“I know what you mean, Blair. Trust’s a tough thing to come by these days. Tell you what. Why don’t you just trust in the Lord.”

Blair and MacReady, John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)

We’ve arrived at the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. July 20, 1969.

Apollo 11 left Earth on July 16. The capsule entered lunar orbit on July 19. The next day — or night, in my time zone — the lunar landing module, nicknamed the Eagle, separated and descended to the moon’s surface. After conducting all preliminaries, Neil Armstrong stepped out and down onto the surface of the moon. His famous words made history despite being slightly garbled by his microphone. “That’s one small step for a man,” is what he says he intended to say, “one giant leap for mankind.”

He was joined by his fellow astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. The two took photographs, conducted scientific tests, gathered samples, planted a U.S. flag. The next day, the Eagle made its way back to the command module where Michael Collins had been monitoring. Apollo left lunar orbit and returned the three men safely to Earth. They splashed down on July 24.

They’d left behind a plaque whose words may resonate even more loudly. They certainly should:

“Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon – July 1969 A.D – We came in peace for all mankind.”

Except that on Earth there is no peace, and I have acquaintances who believe the whole thing was faked. They don’t believe Americans landed there, or that Neil Armstrong’s “One small step…” was ever more than theater.

One such person asked me last year, “When was the last time the U.S. government told the truth about anything? Why should this be any different?”

He has a point. And given that I’m not a scientist, physician, or engineer, I don’t have an answer for every claim he and a few others have made. I don’t have a front-pocket explanation for how astronauts rode fragile-looking space capsules through the Van Allen Belts not once but 14 times (there were seven moonshots, after all).

Nor do I have a watertight explanation why we stopped going, and why no one else followed our lead….

[To read the rest, go here….]

About Steven Yates

I have a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Georgia and teach Critical Thinking (mostly in English) at Universidad Nacionale Andrés Bello in Santiago, Chile. I moved here in 2012 from South Carolina. My most recent book is entitled Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons for the Decline of the American Republic (2011). I am the author of an earlier book, around two dozen articles & reviews, & still more articles on commentary sites on the Web. I live in Santiago with my wife Gisela & two spoiled cats, Bo & Princesa.
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