Someone recently asked, “How can I convince my dad that Apollo 11 went to the moon?…He thinks later missions may have gone, but that Apollo 11 was faked just to meet Kennedy’s goal and beat the Reds”.
Simple. The Russians were watching. And listening.
The only way to convincingly fake a transmissions from the moon is to send transmissions from the moon. In addition to the high-capacity S-band transmitter in the CSM, the Apollo Command Module, Service Module, Lunar Module, and S-IVB upper stage each had their own independent omni-directional VHF transmitters which they used to communicate with each other and with ground stations and to support radio range finding.
Could the Soviets track these signals? You betcha.
- A Kentucky HAM radio operator named Larry Baysinger (W4EJA) did just that. On July 20, 1969, he listened in on 35 minutes of VHF chatter between Mike Collins (in orbit) and Neil and Buzz (on the surface), including the president’s “phone call,” all of which arrived in his headset about five seconds before it reached the TV inside the house. Baysinger used a home-brew chicken-wire 8×12 foot corner horn antenna he had built earlier for radio astronomy. This was sensitive enough that his buddy had to continually adjust his aim or the moon’s orbit would carry the transmissions out of focus. The Soviets and other national governments of course had far larger and more accurate antennas, and would have had no trouble telling the CSM in orbit from the landing site, or in decoding the S-band transmissions.
- Apollo 11 communications were independently recorded by the Bochum Observatory in West Germany using a 20 meter dish. The page, A Tribute to Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station, has a link to the Bochum recording (heard in the right stereo channel only, with the Goldstone voice added in the left).
- A compilation of independent astronomical observations of the mission appeared in Sky and Telescope magazine, November 1969, pp. 358–359. These could not have been faked except by placing multiple alternate spacecraft in the announced positions at the announced times—which would rather defeat the purpose.
- Apollo 11 was tracked by the Madrid Apollo Station in Fresnedillas, Spain. Most of the personnel were not with NASA, but Spain’s Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacia. Were they all in on a conspiracy together? I think not.
- The Lick Observatory in San Jose not only tracked Apollo 11 and let throngs of journalists and well wishers see the spacecraft through their telescopes, they were standing by to use the new laser retro-reflector as soon as it was deployed.
- The Table Mountain Observatory in South Africa tracked Apollo 11 and published pictures in “Observations of Apollo 11”, Sky and Telescope, November 1969, pp. 358-359. Here is a 20 minute exposure from that article showing the spacecraft (as a streak) right where NASA said it should be:
- The Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK tracked the mission in both optical and radio frequencies. Jodrell was tracking the Soviet Luna 15 probe at that time and knew when it had failed. They certainly would have known if Apollo 11 had not really landed.
All of which is to say, the moon landing could not have been faked. Not the first landing. Not the last. Not any of the in-between. Will hoax monkeys never learn? Yes Virginia, We Really Did Land On The Moon