Apollo Investigation

The Apollo Program through a Prism of Critical Thinking

by Phil Kouts PhD


This paper is a continuation of findings reached by the author over the last ten to twelve years that takes these findings holistically to another level. The results of this investigation confirm major technical and organisational inconsistencies that led to the failure of the Apollo Space Project to withstand scientific scrutiny. The dramatic events involving key historical figures such as President Kennedy and the NASA Administrators of the Apollo era, are examined using newly-published historical records.


Some thirty years after the Apollo triumph, John M. Logsdon, then advisor to the US Vice President, summed up Apollo as “a crisis driven reaction to the politics of the Cold War, not part of a thoughtful scheme for lunar development,” and further: “Precisely because Apollo was so political in character, it did not lead to follow-up lunar activities that could have brought a lunar base into being.” (Lunar Base, 1999, p.61) In fact, it did not lead anywhere.

Shortly after that statement, Dr Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society of the UK, when contemplating the major advancements and existential challenges of humankind (Rees, 2004, p.171), said about Apollo: “And it seemed just a beginning. We imagined follow-up projects: a permanent lunar base, rather like the existing base at the South Pole; or even huge space ‘hotels’ orbiting Earth. Manned expeditions to Mars seemed a natural next step. But none of these has happened.” Indeed, neither further exploration of the Moon nor even any further progress in human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO) has been achieved in the succeeding 50 years...

imageFurther, Bill Anders, the Apollo 8 crew member, recently admitted, “We didn’t go to the Moon to collect rocks. We went to the Moon to stick the flag on the Moon before the Russians did.” (Fox News, 2020) This statement has potentially devalued all scientific achievements and aspirations claimed to have driven the Apollo Project, leaving just a political goal.

Figure 1. Fox News, New Zealand, January 2020 (screenshot Phil Kouts).

Many people are familiar with the iconic moment when Neil Armstrong stepped from the ladder of the LM onto the lunar surface making his infamous declaration, “one small step for man…” (Figure 2)

Fig 2
Figure 2. Neil Armstrong depicted in a painting of 1966 – two and a half years before the event – stepping onto the Moon. This artwork was reprinted in 2019 twice (see Afterword below).

Yet today, the Apollo record is represented by its proponents as a legend of the past, wherein the actual details have become blurred, insignificant and irrelevant. A vivid illustration of an inconsistency is shown in Figure 3 where Armstrong steps onto a patch of desert surface having materialised from nowhere.

Fig 3Figure 3. Video frames from Back to the Moon, 2019, broadcast in New Zealand 17 July 2019. The narrator says, “Neil Armstrong sets foot on the Moon.”

Amazingly, no Lunar Module is seen around. This apparently serves to symbolise the epic characteristics of the Apollo myth, and can also be taken as a metaphor indicating that Apollo discussions are not necessary anymore: Apollo acceptance has morphed into a form of religious belief.

Historical Aspects and Parallels

The Apollo Moon landing account is one of the most extraordinary and most vigorously protected among other major events being questioned by inquisitive minds throughout the world. The two other most significant events, President J.F. Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963 and the tragedy of September 11, 2001, have one common feature – being grim bloody events which have resulted in desperate, unrepairable tragedy. But compared to these, the Moon landings have an entirely opposite distinctive feature: it was a magnificent event and its perception in society is that of a celebration of human aspiration and accomplishment leading to a lasting sense of deep satisfaction.

Apollo is generally recognised as a unique achievement, a major advance in the realm of research and development (R&D) in multiple areas over a relatively short time period. Especially considering that in May 1961, when President Kennedy announced his goal of going to the Moon there was just one orbital flight completed by a Soviet cosmonaut and only one suborbital flight of an American astronaut. Nevertheless, in December 1968, NASA and the US government announced the first flight around the Moon and safe return of the crew back to Earth – Apollo 8. Then, within the next four years, NASA had declared completion of six successful Moon landings. Surprisingly however, no progress in human space exploration beyond LEO over the following 50 years has evolved from this seemingly sound success. Why so?

Regarding the Apollo account, it is more productive to look for inconsistency and omissions instead of observing the evidence broadly presented in Apollo record. “Why is seeking falsification better than confirmation? Because evidence can be found to support any theory at all, whether it is correct or not.” (Chatfield, 2018, p.97) Further, Chatfield asserts that the search for falsification is an important investigative process because even a single counter example can prove that the whole package of reasoning and evidence is false – while no amount of positive instances can ever fully confirm one. (Chatfield, 2018, p.100)

Conquering the South Pole
The Moon landings are often compared to conquering the South Pole earlier in the twentieth century, because the absence of any further trips to the Moon appears to be similar to a South Pole exploration hiatus that lasted from 1911 to 1958,E1 during which time no one reached the South Pole again. Actually, the similarity ends there. That span of forty-seven years (covering two world wars which, to a great extent, diverted resources away from exploration programmes) was entirely different compared to the Cold War period with its demand for domination in space.

Reaching the South Pole was an individual prestige adventure because this conquest, in the way it was done, was primarily an endurance exercise. In fact, research of the Antarctic had continuously evolved, e.g. a number of expeditions in 1928 to 1934 deploying, in particular, an aircraft with a successful flight over the pole in November 1929.E2 By 1940 new equipment had been developed for Antarctic explorations, e.g. a Snow Cruiser vehicle.E3 On the other hand the Apollo program was on an entirely different scale and was potentially related to existential threats. The point is that, within some 50 years travelling to the South Pole became a rather routine operation deploying custom made vehicles. Whereas nowadays, we observe not only a total lack of suitable equipment, techniques and know-how for travelling to and from the Moon and for operating on the lunar surface, totally unresolved challenges remain even when it comes to attempting human space travel beyond LEO.

Yuri Gagarin’s Spaceflight
The success of Apollo is also compared to the success of Yuri Gagarin’s flight in 1961; here, the Apollo proponents adopt a confusing dialogue technique which, when applying critical thinking methodology, can be described as a false inductive argument. (Hanscomb, 2017, p.101) When sceptics question the accomplishments of the Apollo program and its reality – on the whole, the proponents refer to a superficial analogy: that it is also impossible to clearly prove whether Gagarin’s flight actually took place.

The reality is that there is a difference in the overall dynamics of space exploration following Gagarin’s flight, the Soviet space program continued to evolve since then with steadily growing sophistication. In particular, several human flights were accomplished in the 1960s; space stations were developed some 15 years later; and now NASA astronauts can only be delivered to the International Space Station by Russian Soyuz craft. Therefore questioning Gagarin’s flight is pointless since the capability of Russian space technology over more than 60 years is very well proven and verified by the international community.

Further analysis allows us to realise that the elements of the Apollo record do not fit into any consistent pattern of knowledge acquisition and do not assume their conversion into practical technical solutions. In fact, all major claims of the Apollo program remain suspended in an uncertainty which itself generates a growing perception that the official story must therefore be a pure fabrication.

The Military Aspects
The specifics of winning the so-called space race are closely related to military advancements. It is broadly implied that any success in human space exploration is just a derivative of a massive military capability, which is assumed to be a real ‘rocket science' with huge spin-off potentials. In reality, the human aspect of the technology stretches far beyond the terms of delivering a payload to its destination. We humans are vulnerable creatures, operating within a narrow range of tolerances when it comes to certain physical parameters. These include, but are not limited to: environmental temperature, pressure, breathing gases, gravity loads, solar and cosmic radiation, and other environmental conditions. It is the need to satisfy a combination of essential medical factors that makes human space exploration so very problematic.

Yet, on the whole, the Apollo program implied that all the above special requirements were successfully met. However, a big question is why have those capabilities never been independently confirmed and/or repeated in practice. Neither have they laid a foundation for the future progression of the relevant technologies. This very fact is a fundamental inconsistency in the Apollo record.

The motivations of the people who committed this feat of the century were intrinsically progressive since they did it for national pride. A number of individualsE4 demonstrated an utter patriotic commitment to do everything possible to accomplish the task of winning the space race. It is important to note that the race had elements of both prestige and high self-esteem on the one hand, along with an overwhelming fear on the other. These two extremely diverse motivations combined into a powerful drive to achieve success by any means possible as any inability to do so represented an existential threat, and therefore, failure was not an option.

Disclosure of Leading-Edge Information
Another unique feature of the Apollo account is an unprecedented amount of publicly-available records. Lay individuals can read mission and scientific reports, transcripts of communications with the crews, briefing notes, view multiple video and photographic materials housed in image libraries and so forth. Nevertheless, the underlying logic behind this ‘openness’ is still to be understood. It is unusual to expose details of a technical achievement which could have delivered a crucial competitive advantage, when from the start it was purported to be a race for the survival of the fittest.

Instead of a triumphant, if not careless, disclosure of technical information, imagine the reality of hard, relentless R&D work undertaken in highly secure facilities. Such developments require patient, incremental steps of progress sometimes with modest, undeclared results, which nevertheless aid progress through to successful achievements. Genuinely successful R&D leads to real progress of the relevant technology or even to other spin-off achievements which don’t need much publicising because the results speak for themselves, while the account of Apollo is very different from this reality. It is this unnatural evolution that has generated the persistent questioning of the proclaimed achievements. This continual questioning goes unextinguished and inflames the enquiry further and deeper. These penetrating enquiries are certainly not welcomed by the agencies concerned and the burden of proof falls on the challengers.

Public Polls
An authoritative book informed readers that: “In 2009, polls conducted in America, England, and Russia revealed that approximately 25 percent of the people interviewed believed the moon landing never happened.” (Jacobsen, 2011, p.324)

Among the general public, independent thinkers are not in the majority.E5 Given the propensity for the general public to align to the commonly held viewpoint, that figure of 25% should be viewed with alarm by those who wish to uphold the myth of Apollo. Certainly, one can see a growing awareness that the official story has neither credible support nor sensible evolvement. It is being considered totally fake by a growing number of independently thinking people.

Administration and Scheduling
One of my earlier articles showed that the Apollo program before its alleged Moon landings went through dramatic shortcuts in preparatory work. (Aulis, 2015) Indeed, some critical developments and testing stages were skipped in the Americans’ haste to beat the Soviets. Amazingly, a chain of dangerous simplifications and cancellation of the vital tests had led, as we were told, to a successful completion of the whole mission: to reach the Moon, land on its surface, walk about, then depart from it, and safely return to the Earth. The article, in particular, described the reaction of the NASA Administrator, James E. Webb, to a "brave" decision to fly straight to the Moon in 1968 that was taken by a group of top managers in his absence, as total disbelief. (Aulis, 2015)

The following three sections render a further insight into the controversy of that extraordinary situation based on additional historical materials published recently by NASA authorities.

A Moon Program in 1962: To Go or Not To Go?

A close look at the role of James Webb, NASA Administrator from 1961 to 1968, provides a trove of material for critical assessment as to what was happening on the organisational level. There are two definitive episodes involving James Webb which open up a line of critical questioning on how the decisions around Apollo were made. In a recent book apparently dedicated to the anniversary of Apollo 8, unique records of two major events are disclosed:

  • Transcript of Presidential Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, November 21, 1962 (Logsdon, 2018, pp.187-194); and
  • George M. Low’s “Special Notes for August 9, 1968, and Subsequent”, August 19, 1968 (Logsdon, 2018, pp.219-229).E6

The first significant aspect is that at the early stage of the Apollo program, James Webb tried signalling his concerns that the mission may not be successful. Indeed, in the transcript of 1962, a practical discussion with President Kennedy concerning resources required for accomplishment of the mission was in full swing. However, one can see that Jim Webb tried to steer the discussion from the ambitious plan into deeper scientific issues. He tried, surprisingly, to convey a rather discouraging view that ‘the lunar program’ was not necessarily the right way forward:

President Kennedy: “Do you think this program is the top-priority of the Agency?”
James Webb: “No sir, I do not. I think it is one of the top-priority programs, but I think it’s very important to recognise here (…) how you could get out beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and into space and make measurements. Several disciplines that are the very powerful and [sic.] beginning to converge on this area”.
The discussion continues:
James Webb: “…there are real unknowns as to whether (…) you’ll ever make the lunar landing. This is one kind of political vulnerability I’d like to avoid such a flat commitment to. If you say you failed on your number-one priority, this is something to think about.” And he continues further: “…there is a real question. The people that are going to furnish the brainwork, the real brainwork, on which the future space power of this nation for twenty-five or a hundred years are going be to made, have got some doubts about it…”
President Kennedy: “Doubts about what, with this program?”
James Webb: “As to whether the actual landing on the Moon is what you call the highest priority.”

In fact, Webb brought up the broader issue of scientific uncertainty at least three times in this conversation. One can conclude that Jim Webb cautiously conveyed an idea to slow down the proclaimed lunar program and instead commence a systematic investigation of space to identify circumstances of possible flights beyond LEO. Nevertheless, while recognising the importance of science, the President was adamant: “Everything that we do ought to really be tied into getting onto the Moon ahead of the Russians.” Even then, Webb tenaciously continued to suggest for the Agency activity: “Why can’t it be tied to pre-eminence in space… [sic.]”

In my opinion, Jim Webb saw the bigger picture because throughout the 18 months of working on a lunar landing he had realised its insurmountable challenges. Using all means he tried to attract the President’s attention to scientific problems that needed to be solved before a lunar mission could become possible. This looks like an authentic cautioning not to embark onto the ambitious project without sufficient preparation. By redirecting the conversation with the President into deeper scientific issues he demonstrated a sturdy approach and broader vision.

A Crewed Mission to fly around the Moon in 1968

In the same book, John Logsdon quotes George Low’s Special Notes and emphasises the importance of two meetings where the crucial decision to declare Apollo 8 a lunar orbital mission was made; the first one in Huntsville on 9 August and the second in Washington on 14 August, both without Jim Webb. Two items are extremely important here: firstly, the allegedly dominant role of Thomas Paine, the acting administrator in Webb’s absence, who “congratulated the assembled group for not being prisoners of previous plans and indicated that he personally felt that this was the right thing for Apollo…” and this way demonstrated the confidence of a strong leader. George Low also noted that, “Dr. Paine indicated that it had not been too long since we were uncertain as to whether the Apollo 503 mission should ever be made. Now we were proposing an extremely bold mission.”

A third trial mission with the Saturn 5 rocket named Apollo 503, was initially considered as an interim Earth high-orbit trial flight with the Command and Service Module (CSM 103); the flight was deemed necessary before lunar landing missions, but unexpectedly, it became Apollo 8 the lunar orbit mission.

The second important aspect is that in his concluding comments to the quotes from George Low’s Notes, John Logsdon somehow omitted a very important aspect: Webb’s unambiguously negative reaction to the decision to fly Apollo 8 with a crew on board straight to the Moon. (Aulis, 2015) During the second meeting Webb was overseas in Vienna, attending an international conference,E7 and his reaction on the phone was one of fury.

This dramatic aspect is entirely missing in the documents quoted by Logsdon in 2018. Through his delivery and interpretation of documents, it sounds that the bold decision was unanimously made by a competent group of managers whereas regarding Webb’s role Logsdon succinctly concluded: “That decision would not be made by James E. Webb.” However, a thorough collection of interviews with NASA’s top echelon people (Apollo, 1989, p. 322) tells of Webb’s reaction: “Paine recalled: ‘He was horrified’. ‘He was pretty crisp and clear in his disbelief,’ Phillips agreed.E8 ‘If a person’s shock could be transmitted over the telephone, I’d probably have been shot in the head'.”

As one of the key engineers remembers, “Low called him and said he wanted to 'pull off a coup' on Apollo 8.” (Apollo, 1989, p. 321) When all the documents and comments are compared, what would be the most viable conclusion except that on the administrative level, the decision to make Apollo 8 a lunar mission was executed primarily as a coup d’état against J. Webb.

On the other hand, Thomas Paine, following the narration (Apollo, 1989, p. 321) initially was also very sceptical about the capability of the Saturn 5 to launch a lunar mission. The contradiction in the description of events by J. Logsdon in 2018 compared to those in the book of 1989, is stunning and needs explanation and justification. Otherwise it would mean history is being rewritten.

Soon after these dramatic decisions Jim Webb offered his resignation to the President L. Johnson i.e. on 16 September with effect from 7 October 1968. It is clear that Webb resigned categorically disagreeing to make Apollo 8 a lunar flight although we don’t know how exactly he expressed his view that the flight was premature. Still unsettled interpretations of these events are examples of the continuing controversy around such major NASA decisions.

James Webb, a genuine leader who had overseen major challenges in Apollo in 1962 and then completed the hard work on its program advancement for seven years up to the decisions around the manned Apollo 8 launch, now appeared to be completely against it. In response, it seems he was encouraged to resign.

Ironically, Thomas PaineE9 who allegedly had brought Apollo to its fruition with apparent faultless execution of lunar missions 8 to 12 with the happily ended mission 13, has never been regarded by NASA as highly as James Webb, whose memory has recently become honoured with his name given to the newest space telescope. Accordingly, further critical analysis is required to resolve this issue of cognitive dissonance.

To what degree was James Webb unsure about the success of the lunar flight in 1968? What were his specific technical concerns? On the other hand, what was so special about the decision by Thomas Paine that allowed him to accomplish this seemingly impossible mission?

Simply replacing the dubious technical capability with a desperate decision irrespective of how ‘bold’ it was, didn’t lay a solid foundation for the continuing virtually perfect performances. When all relevant aspects are taken into account, I suspect a surprising outcome will emerge.

President Kennedy’s Review of Moon Landing Plans

This is an extension of the enquiry launched in the previous section. The intention here is to highlight the question: when and why did the President change his mind and make a U-turn? He decided to exchange being the winner of the race to space into a philosophical approach with an overall idea of cooperation with an adversary. What exactly prompted the President to propose an international space project to go to the Moon jointly with the USSR?

Fig 4

Figure 4. Historical photograph (Apollo, 1989) with its original caption.

In Appendix 1, the series of quotes from John F. Kennedy’s speeches and documents related to the space race is to help understand the decision-making process and, most importantly, the dramatic change of the United States strategic direction. It is clear that the president firmly held the idea of beating the Russians in the race to the Moon, whatever the cost; this is reflected in his interaction with his subordinates. Kennedy adopted this confident approach between May 1961 until some time after his “We go to the moon…” speech at Rice University in September 1962. This second public speech was full of technical references to specific details of the Saturn rocket, including its F-1 engines, and a colourful description of a re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere with a returning speed of “over 25,000 miles per hour” indicating extreme requirements for the spacecraft.

It is rather unusual to hear about such details from a politician so it would indicate that at that time he really liked the idea, he believed in advancing technology and he was determined that winning the space race was not only workable but achievable. Ironically, he also mentioned “metal alloys, some of which have not been yet invented” involuntarily disclosing one of the key problems with the material for the F-1 engine combustion chamber and nozzle; a problemE10 that was not resolved until after the Apollo program was allegedly completed.

Moreover, as shown in the section above, in November 1962 Kennedy was still adamant the United States would get “onto the Moon ahead of the Russians”. He focused his charismatic leadership on inspiring the nation to achieve a goal that would put the US in first place in space exploration and confirm that his is a nation leading in science and technology. Yet, significant events had occurred before 20 September 1963 when he delivered his famous speech at the General Assembly of the United Nations that had radically changed his view. “Kennedy’s proposal was greeted with dismay by many of those who had been Apollo’s strongest supporters.” (Logsdon, 2018, p.194) Was his address to the international community a total surprise to the influential people in the American establishment? If not, why did Kennedy need then to justify his approach within the three days following his speech? (Letter to Congressman Albert Thomas, Appendix 1)

This dramatic change of Kennedy's view from demands to beat the Soviets in space into a proposal to cooperate with them had occurred in a relatively short period of time, well within a year, somewhere from November 1962 to September 1963. Was his opinion swayed by Webb’s remarks at the Presidential meeting in the White House in November 1962? Can his profoundly constructive June 1963 speech in which he decided ‘to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived – yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace’ (JFK at American University, 1963), shed any light on his thinking about the Moon landing project? Was it an evolution of the President’s vision as he tried to describe the situation in the Letter to A. Thomas or, to the contrary, an abrupt decision in response to some crucial information, unknown to the wider public?

Logsdon concluded that “[t]he idea of U.S.-Soviet cooperation in going to the Moon was very much a Kennedy personal initiative. Momentum behind the cooperative proposal dissipated after Kennedy’s assassination; in addition, the Soviet Union never responded to Kennedy’s September 20 offer.” (Logsdon, 2018, p.196) Can the selected quotes in Appendix 1 shed light onto the whole saga of the space race?

Was this a U-turn perhaps due to certain pacifist attributes of the president? Or was it the capability of the US space technology that was deemed to be lacking and not up to the enormous challenge? Can the fact that there was an alarming report of two NASA experts in September 1963 provide a viable explanation? The report concluded that “lunar landing cannot likely be attained within the decade with acceptable risk and that the first attempt to land men on moon is likely about late 1971.” (Logsdon, 2018, p.197) Again, it is worthwhile to note here that the same account was earlier set out with more dramatic details: “The two engineers added their own personal guess that the odds of getting to the moon before 1970 were one in ten.” (Apollo, 1989, p.153) In response, as one of the engineers recollected, George MuellerE11 came back to them and said that the report had to be destroyed. (Apollo, 1989, p.154) This account ending is omitted in Logsdon’s narration.

Was that report the last straw that undermined all of Kennedy’s enthusiasm for achieving the goal within the decade? Perhaps we will never know if this critically important document was removed from the Apollo record.

The above contemplation is just an attempt to scratch the surface and try to formulate a cognitive dissonance problem that would then require meticulous work with all accessible documents to understand what in fact had happened and influenced the President’s decision. Although it would be fair to note that five years later the President’s change of mind found its mirror reflection in Jim Webb’s decision to resign, as discussed above.

Concluding Thoughts: the Apollo Project deserves further Historical Analysis

Technically, the reliability of the Apollo missions was totally unprecedented, including a single troubled flight that nevertheless had a happy ending. To achieve this incredibly ambitious goal several technical challenges should have been overcome, and by any standard this was the most positively disruptive R&D achievement ever claimed. Taken at face value, it demonstrated an accelerated process of knowledge acquisition and its implementation in areas of both science and technology. Such a revolutionary outcome should have changed the overall pattern of human space exploration. Unfortunately by all accounts it did not – and on the contrary, remains a stand-alone disruptive example of R&D.

This confusing situation has endured for over 50 years and contrasts sharply with multiple advancements in various other areas of science and technology. Over the years, this anomalous event has become more and more isolated, instead of being profoundly influential due to the declared technical achievement as well as the unique R&D methodology deployed. Instead, this successful accomplishment is now interpreted by its advocates as an exceptional one-off phenomenon driven at the time by the existential necessity for US society to win the space race. This outcome has helped to reaffirm the leading position of the United States in the world but the technology that supposedly allowed them to achieve it is in a perplexing limbo.

For years the stagnation that followed has been explained by the lack of real objectives for further advancement. However, the complete lack of further progress and NASA’s sluggish performance in human space exploration have attracted close scrutiny of the Apollo record. Apollo has become a subject of scientific as well as technical scrutiny and, as a result, multiple inconsistencies have been revealed. The official story is now questioned down to the fundamental level. Numerous arguments strongly indicate that the entire Apollo program comprised of staged events.

All the major elements of Apollo have a common distinctive feature: each of them is an ideal example of a subject causing deep cognitive dissonance. Critical thinking identifies disruption of logic which leads to the main conclusion that these elements lack the necessary degree of consistency. Rather, they are entirely inconsistent. A number of distinctive areas remain without any viable explanation – apart from an unavoidable admission that the story was fiction. (See Appendix 2)

On the other hand, the uniqueness of the Apollo story is its delightful reflection in the societal collective mind. The triumphant US victory in the space race has been successfully integrated into the lives of an entire nation and was accepted globally. A systematic repetition of the triumphant statements that fuels perception of undisputed Apollo’s success has developed an unparalleled sense of national self-esteem in American society. Further, it has received acceptance around the globe.

However, “[t]he desire to be right implies competitiveness rather than love of truth, and it will leave us especially vulnerable to the confirmation bias and other ego-defensive biases that serve the self rather than objective knowledge.” (Hanscomb, 2017, p.60) It seems to be impossible to convert this long-lasting collective feeling of delight into a bitter perception of the truth.

Once achieved, victory in the space race confirmed the USA’s leading position in the world. However, the Apollo myth has resulted in having a profoundly harmful effect on the education and norms of thinking and has succeeded in suppressing fair and reasonable dialogue for decades. In reality, the alleged Apollo successes appear to be an obsessive self-serving bias and the Apollo myth is the most prominent delusion of the 20th century – if not of all time.

The Apollo record is a phenomenon where matters of overinflated pride appear to be converted into a form of religious belief. It seems impossible to convince the majority due to human nature entertaining an affirmative delusion stimulated by the unilateral pressure from the mass media with a frustratingly obedient silence from competent scientists and engineers.

Another disappointing feature of the stagnating Apollo myth is that its proponents relentlessly attack the arguers not their arguments, with an indecent form of response known as ad hominem argument. (Hanscomb, 2017, p.232) Instead of answering critical questions in due course of constructive dialogue, Apollo advocates systematically misinterpret what they are told and respectively mislead the public. Accordingly, an army of Apollo advocates work hard to suppress critical thinking and any scepticism addressed to the essence of the Apollo myth.

The dogmatic nature of Apollo indoctrination has negatively influenced millions of people across two generations, not only as a systematic falsehood but also by the very process of how the myth was created, delivered and reiterated. I recommend utilising this massive fraud as a study subject with educational purposes since the Apollo myth supplies an unprecedented variety of data sets for the routine training of students engaged with critical thinking.

The methodology applied here has resulted in an overarching question: what was the true nature of the Apollo program? The organisational inconsistencies elucidate the Apollo Space Project as pure delusional propaganda.


Both National Geographic and Popular Mechanics, the eager proponents of the Apollo story, have simultaneously published the same artwork by Norman Rockwell (Figure 2 above) featured earlier in the January 10, 1967, issue of Look magazine showing "how it might look when Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon. Rockwell, a stickler for accuracy, consulted experts and collaborated with a space artist to create this vision.” (National Geographic, 2019) This picture tells more than a thousand words for those who have thought about the Moon landings. Some expectations appeared to be naturally shared by the experts before the flights; however, Apollo photographs of the landing sites do not corroborate those expectations.

The same painting appeared on the cover page of a special issue of Popular Mechanics (Figure 5 below) with added text: “Man on the Moon by Norman Rockwell painted in 1966”. (Popular Mechanics, 2019) These two simultaneous publications provide a provocative input in a 50-year old discourse as to whether there would be any marking under the Lunar Module. Experts in 1966 had expected to see radial streaks produced by the dislodged dust and rocks as well as a circular area burned by the module’s engine, but there is nothing of this kind on the Apollo imagery.

In summary, these are subtle indications that can be interpreted as NASA’s intent to slowly dismantle the Apollo myth.

Fig 5
Figure 5. Popular Mechanics cover July/August 2019 special issue for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

Phil Kouts

Aulis Online, March 2020



E1. A legendary New Zealander, Edmund Hillary, who conquered Mount Everest in 1953, has reached the South Pole with two associates using Ferguson tractors on 20 January 1958.
E2. A number of expeditions by Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd in 1928 to 1934, deploying various vehicles for exploration of Antarctic including three aircraft in 1928-29; a flight over the Pole was accomplished by Byrd and associates on 28 November 1929.
E3. A large purpose-made vehicle Snow Cruiser for traversing Antarctica was designed and developed through 1938-39 by Thomas Poulter; delivered to Antarctica in 1940 and was planned to be deployed for two South Pole expeditions. The vehicle was abandoned due to problems of moving on the snow. (Fig. 3)

Fig 6Figure 6. The Snow Cruiser vehicle in Antarctica, 1940.

E4. People such as Frank Borman, commander of the Apollo 8 mission, or Chris Kraft, Flight Director for NASA during the Apollo period, (see my MB3 article of 2016).
E5. Albert Einstein: “Small is the number of them that see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts. But it is their strength that will decide whether the human race must relapse into that hopeless condition which a blind multitude appears to-day to regard as the ideal.” from Letter to a Friend of Peace in World as I see it, 1933, translated by Alan Harris. Electronic resource by Open Road Integrated Media 2011, p.99.
E6. During the Apollo 8 decision-making period, George M. Low was head of NASA’s Office of Manned Space Flight.
E7. The United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, which met 14-27 August 1968 in the Hofburg Palace, Vienna, Austria. Delegates from 79 nations took part, and among them were scientists, managers and politicians.

Fig 7
Figure 7. The USSR exhibit in Vienna in connection with the Conference, UN photo.

E8. Major General Samuel Phillips, Director of NASA's Apollo Manned Lunar Landing Program from 1964 to 1969.
E9. T. Pain resigned from NASA on September 15, 1970, in the middle of his successful management of the Apollo program having been the NASA Administrator for less than two years.
E10. I.G. Ivchenkov Evaluation of Saturn V F-1 Engine Characteristics, and S. G. Pokrovsky Was the Apollo 11 Saturn V Seriously Underpowered?
E11. George Mueller, an associate Administrator at NASA, Head of the Office of Manned Space Flight from September 1963.


(Lunar Base, 1999) The Lunar Base Handbook: an Introduction to Lunar Base Design, Development, and Operations Edited by Peter Eckart, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., Crawfordsville, 1999, 830pp.
(Rees, 2003) Martin Rees Our Final Century. Will Civilisation Survive the Twenty-First Century? Arrow Books, London, 2004, 228 pp.
(Back to the Moon, 2019) Apollo: Back to the Moon 1, Impossible Challenge, Executive Producer Sue Davidson, Label News for National Geographic, 2019.
(Hanscomb, 2017) Stuart Hanscomb Critical Thinking: the Basics Routledge, New York, 2017, 252 pp.
(Chatfield, 2018) Tom Chatfield Critical Thinking: Your Guide to Effective Argument, Successful Analysis & Independent Study, SAGE Publications, London, 2018. 314pp.
(Jacobsen, 2011) Annie Jacobsen Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base, Orion Books, London, 2011, 521 pp.
(Aulis, 2015) Phil Kouts Towards A Moon Base: Has anything been learned from Apollo?
(Logsdon, 2018) The Penguin Book of Outer Space Exploration: NASA and the Incredible Story of Human Spaceflight, Edited by John Logsdon, Penguin Books, New York, 2018, 375 pp.
(JFK at American University, 1963) John F. Kennedy, Commencement Address at American University, Washington, D.C., June 10, 1963.
(Apollo, 1989) Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox Apollo: The Race to the Moon, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1989. 506 pp.
(National Geographic, 2019) Feature article: "The Moon and beyond: The Era of Space travel is here," National Geographic, July 2019.
(Popular Mechanics, 2019) Special Issue: "How we got here and how we'll make the next giant leap," Popular Mechanics, July-August 2019.
(Fox News, 2020) Fox News Reporting: Fly me to the Moon, aired in New Zealand by Fox TV on 18 January 2020.

Appendix 1

John F. Kennedy’s speeches and text extracts related to the space race
While these documents can be easily accessed on government archive websites, here for the convenience of narration, they are quoted from (Logsdon, 2018), except one of June 10, 1963.

1961, April 20
Memorandum for Vice President

“In accordance with our conversation I would like for you as Chairman of the Space Council to be in charge of making an overall survey of where we stand in space.
Do we have a chance of beating the Soviets by putting a laboratory in space, or by a trip around the moon, or by a rocket to land on the moon, or by a rocket to go to the moon and back with a man. Is there any other space program which promises dramatic result in which we could win?”

1961, May 25
“Urgent National Needs”, address to a Joint Session of the Congress

“For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last. We take an additional risk by making it in full view of the world, but as shown by the feat of astronaut Shepard, this very risk enhances our stature when we are successful. (…)
I therefore ask the Congress, above and beyond the increases I have earlier requested for space activities, to provide the funds which are needed to meet the following national goals:
First, I believe that 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. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. (…) But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon – if we make this judgement affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.”

1962, September 12
Address at Rice University on the Nation’s Space Effort

“There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the moon? (…)
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
We have felt the ground shake and the air shattered by the testing of a Saturn C-1 booster rocket, many times as powerful as the Atlas which launched John Glenn… (…) We have seen the site where five F-1 rocket engines, each one as powerful as all eights engines of the Saturn combined, will be clustered together to make the advanced Saturn missile… (…)
But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not been yet invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several time more that have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch,(…) on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, reentering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun (…) and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out, then we must be bold…”

1963, June 10
Commencement Address at American University (JFK at American University, 1963)
“Some say that it is useless to speak of world peace or world law or world disarmament – and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitude--as individuals and as a Nation – for our attitude is as essential as theirs.
Let us reexamine our attitude toward the Soviet Union. It is discouraging to think that their leaders may actually believe what their propagandists write.
No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. As Americans, we find communism profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal freedom and dignity. But we can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements – in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture and in acts of courage.
In short, both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as our – and even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest.
So, let us not be blind to our differences – but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved.”

1963, September 20
Address before the 10th General Assembly of the United Nations

“Finally, in a field where the United States and the Soviet Union have a special capacity – in the field of space – there is room for new cooperation, for further joint efforts in the regulation and exploration of space. I include among these possibilities a joint expedition to the moon. Space offers no problems of sovereignty; by resolution of this Assembly, the members of the United Nations have foresworn any claim to territorial rights in outer space or on celestial bodies, and declared that international law and the United Nation Charter will apply. Why, therefore, should man's first flight to the moon be a matter of national competition? Why should the United States and the Soviet Union, in preparing for such expeditions, become involved in immense duplications of research, construction, and expenditure? Surely we should explore whether the scientists and astronauts of our two countries – indeed of all the world - cannot work together in the conquest of space, sending some day in this decade to the moon not the representatives of a single nation, but the representatives of all of our countries.”

1963, September 23
Letter to Representative Albert Thomas

“The American purpose of cooperation in space was stated by the Congress in the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, and reaffirmed in my Inaugural Address in 1961. Our specific interest in cooperation with the Soviet Union, as the other nation with a major present capability in space, was indicated to me by Chairman Khrushchev in Vienna in the middle of 1961, and reaffirmed in my letter to him of March 7, 1962, which was made public at the time.
Our repeated efforts of cooperation with the Soviet Union have so far produced only limited responses and results. We have an agreement to exchange certain information in such limited fields as weather observation and passive communications, and technical discussions of other limited possibilities are going forward. [sic.]
We do not make our space effort with a narrow purpose of national aggrandizement. We make it so that the United States may have a leading and honourable role in mankind’s peaceful conquest of space. It is this great effort which permits us now to offer increased cooperation with no suspicion anywhere that we speak from weakness. And in the same way, our readiness to cooperate with others enlarged the international meaning of our own peaceful American program in space.
So the position of the United States is clear. If cooperation is possible, we mean to cooperate, and we shall do so from a position made strong and solid by our national effort in space. If cooperation is not possible – and as realists we must plan for this contingency too – then the same strong national effort will serve all free men’s interest in space, and protect us also against possible hazards to our national security. So let us press on.”

Appendix 2

Recent interview

In June 2019 I received an invitation to be interviewed regarding the Moon landing story to a relatively well-reputed on-line magazine. Obviously, the intention was the resulting article to be published by the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. The magazine is popular, in particular among NASA employees, so I agreed to participate. It was clear that the purpose was to let readers know there is a group of people with serious questions about NASA in general and the Apollo missions in particular, although there was no intent to turn the story into a debate on whether Apollo 11 was real. In response to the eight substantial questions I provided four pages of answers, and early in July have received a link to the article (Witney, 2019) which unfortunately repeated the well-known simplistic statements usually ascribed to Moon landing sceptics. Not a single argument which I had set out in my response was mentioned. Why did this article, having a genuine intent to acknowledge the presence of an alternative view, actually fail to stand out among many others that are dedicated to discrediting the abundant evidence of the Apollo hoax? The article did not list anything critical that would go beyond a trivial analysis of photos. Doesn’t that substantiate in itself a thought-provoking basis for scepticism?

Nevertheless, I am grateful to the author that in using a couple of sentences from my interview he didn't misquote me:

  • “I see a growing awareness that the official story has neither credible support nor sensible evolvement,” said Dr. Phil Kouts, a researcher who believes Apollo 11 was a hoax. “It is getting seen as a fake by a growing number of independently thinking people.”
  • “I am a free thinker, a truth seeker and operate, if you wish, as an investigative journalist,” said Kouts.

When the celebration was over I have learned that some of the magazine’s readers protested that this article tried to legitimise the Moon hoax theory. For these readers, just to hear that someone has an alternative view was sufficient to come out with incisive resolutions without studying the actual arguments.

Over the five years that my arguments have been available to contest, there has been no direct challenge and/or disproving of my conclusions. Shouldn’t there be a broader public awareness of analytical thinking that truly questions the official story? By giving the interview, I have hoped to see my two major arguments be highlighted somehow along these lines:

There are two distinctive areas remaining without any viable sci/tech explanation – apart from an unavoidable conclusion that the Apollo story was made up.

Firstly, it is the problem of radiation. You don’t need to understand the effects of radiation on the human body but just have a look at the processes: how NASA talks about it, what is available as data, what is convincing and what is questionable. The danger of radiation is well recognized by experts internationally while at the same time an uncertainty about the effects on human health is also admitted – due to the lack of information. But wait, the astronauts who ‘returned from the Moon’ have been incredibly healthy. NASA should celebrate their remarkable health because this would be an important result of the whole program: there is no harmful effect on human health in deep space. However, the reality is that NASA is keeping silent about this, and instead the Constellation Program asked for expert advice on this matter from the National Academy of Sciences (see my MB-1 article 2014) and received the confusing answer that they don’t have any such information either. Further, currently European scientists are preparing an investigation of radiation (see my MB-5 article 2019) during the coming unmanned mission of the Orion spacecraft to be launched next year. To resolve this cognitive dissonance, you have to exclude one fact as false. Either there is no harmful effect on health or Apollo astronauts did not go into deep space yet. The astronauts are very healthy so make your choice…

Secondly, there is the problem of re-entry of spacecraft that return from deep space through the Earth atmosphere. It has recently been recognized by NASA specialists (see my MB-1 article 2014) that they have failed to reproduce the Apollo material for heat-shielding the craft. It is very hard to accept since the fundamental rule of scientific and technical progress dictates that what has been once achieved becomes established as a reliable stepping stone for further advancement. In the case of the NASA’s Moon program it seems that the rule doesn’t work. Moreover, the so-called technique of a ‘direct re-entry’ of Apollo command modules is now seen by NASA experts as not viable and they are desperately working on the adequate shielding of the Orion module as well as on a sophisticated technique of skip re-entry (see my MB-2 article 2015) which is now recognized as the only feasible option to return from the Moon (indeed returning from anywhere beyond LEO requires this skip re-entry procedure.) Further, uncertainty remains as to when and how this technique will be developed. Therefore, to accept the Moon landing story, one has to agree that 50 years ago; NASA had the heat-shield as well as a technique for safe return but then all that has seemingly disappeared into thin air. It is much more logical to admit that Apollo craft have never returned from deep space, which means there were no Apollo missions.

Anyway, thanks to having the opportunity of giving this interview I have started seeing more light at the end of the tunnel. “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.” (Mackay, 1841, p.viii)

Appendix 2 References

(Whitney, 2019) David Whitney, "Believe it or not: Some still think Apollo 11 moon landing was fake." Orlando Sentinel, July 7, 2019. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
(MB-1 article 2014) Phil Kouts, Is There Any Hope for a Moon Base?
(MB-2 article 2015) Phil Kouts, Towards A Moon Base: Has anything been learned from Apollo?
(MB-5 article 2019) Phil Kouts, Debunking the Apollo Myth.
(Mackay, 1841) Charles Mackay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Edition printed in 2013, Harriman House Ltd, Hampshire, UK, 115 pp. Original title: Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions, 1841.

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