Debunking moon landing myths on 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing

It’s been 50 years since the first moon landing. And while the groundbreaking event is considered to be one of the most monumental moments in history, it’s also nearly synonymous as the conspiracy theories that surround it.

On the 20 July 1969, the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle landed on the moon. About 650 million people watched as American astronaut commander Neil Armstrong was the first to step foot on it. The historic moment captured the imaginations of many, including those who suspected the phenomenon was all a hoax, staged in a film studio.

Here are a number of moon landing conspiracy theories and questions that have floated around for the past 50 years.

The absence of stars in the galaxy sky

Buzz Aldrin stands near a scientific experiment on the lunar surface. (Photo by NASA/Newsmakers)

Some claim that the most incriminating evidence that the moon landing was a hoax is that there are no stars in any photos taken by the Apollo crew.

The reason why this isn’t a plausible theory relates to how cameras capture light. The moon’s surface reflects sunlight so the glare would have made the stars challenging to see. Since the photographers were focused on snapping the astronauts executing this important moment, using a fast exposure setting, it would have limited the background light from the stars.

"They were taking pictures at 1/150th or 1/250th of a second," Astronomer Phil Plait told National Geographic. "In that amount of time, stars just don't show up."

Fluttering flag despite lack of wind

Some sceptics question the iconic moment in the first moon landing when Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin erected the American flag into its surface. The flag in the photo appears to be fluttering in the wind, despite there being no air on the moon.

Buzz Aldrin poses next to the U.S. flag July 20, 1969 on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. (Photo by NASA/Liaison)

While the flag looks like it is flapping about, it wasn’t moving at all. When the astronauts stuck the pole in the ground, they rotated it back and forth, causing the flag to ripple. Then it stayed in that shape.

Footprints on the moon?

Some people wonder about how the astronauts’ footprints would last on the moon, despite there being no human activity on it since the 70s. One scientist explains that the moon is “geologically dead”, in that it lacks atmosphere.

An Apollo 11 astronaut's footprint in the lunar soil. (Photo by NASA/Newsmakers)

Unlike the earth, the moon doesn’t experience weathering and erosion from elements like wind or water. So a footprint will remain intact for decades because there’s nothing like earthquakes, volcanoes, wind or rain to wipe it out.