20 Myths and Facts About the Moon Landing

Apparently some people think it was all a Stanley Kubrick film? Talk about a masterpiece!

Published Feb. 29, 2024

376713 12: (FILE PHOTO) Astronaut Neil Armstrong smiles inside the Lunar Module July 20, 1969. The 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing mission is celebrated July 20, 1999. (Photo by NASA/Newsmakers)
 (NASA/Newsmakers/Hulton Archive/ Getty Images)
Image courtesy of NASA/Newsmakers/Hulton Archive/ Getty Images

The Apollo 11 moon landing went down in history as a pinnacle of scientific and technological achievement, but that doesn't stop people from thinking it was fake. Decades after Neil Armstrong's historic small step for man and giant leap for mankind, myths continue to revolve around the moon landing. Conspiracy theories have an alluring pull on the public and continue to intertwine with historical truths.

From allegations of Stanley Kubrick's involvement in an elaborate hoax to claims of cryptic statements made by astronauts, we're going to dive into five of the most well-known myths surrounding the moon landing. We'll separate fact from fiction by taking a look at the cold, hard evidence.

Stanley Kubrick Admitted to Helping NASA Fake the Moon Landing

Director Stanely Kubrick is well known for critically acclaimed films like "2001: A Space Odyssey." However, in 2015, a YouTube video suggested he had a role in an even more well-known project. In the video, a man claiming to be Kubrick said he helped NASA fake the Apollo moon landings, calling it his "masterpiece."

The interview is part of T. Patrick Murray’s film "Shooting Stanley Kubrick." Although entertaining, the video is simply fake. The man being interviewed doesn't look or sound like Kubrick and is referred to as "Tom" in unedited versions.

A Chinese Lunar Rover Found No Evidence of American Moon Landings

On Jan. 4, 2019, the World News Daily Report published a satirical article falsely claiming that Chinese officials doubted the authenticity of American moon landings. The piece, playing on conspiracy theories, suggested that more than 2,000 Chinese Communist Party officials signed a petition seeking explanations from the U.S. government.

The article cited alleged findings from the Chang'e 4 probe, asserting it found no evidence of American moon landings. However, WNDR's disclaimer notes that the site's content is "satirical" and "fictional" in nature. The claims in the article were the actual hoax.

Neil Armstrong Said "Good Luck, Mr. Gorsky" as He Stepped onto the Moon

In 1995, a humorous story circulated, claiming that during the first manned moon landing, Neil Armstrong said, "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky," as a reference to an inappropriate encounter between his neighbors. Oof. Can you imagine?

However, it's important to note that NASA transcripts proved this claim false, as Armstrong never said anything of the sort. 

It likely started because of a joke by comedian Buddy Hackett, aimed to humanize the astronaut. Despite its debunking, variations of the story persisted, and during a space shuttle mission in 2002, chief repairman John Grunsfeld echoed it, saying, "Good luck, Mr. Hubble." How witty!

Buzz Aldrin Admitted He Never Went to the Moon

This one was a little hard to picture. In July 2018, footage surfaced allegedly showing Buzz Aldrin admitting to a child that he never went to the moon. What a dream crusher.

Usually, to tell if something is fake, we look for deceptive edits or altered audio. In this case, however, all we had to do was listen to the actual question and answer.

The child asked why nobody had been to the moon recently. Granted, Aldrin replied in a way that was confusing (especially for an 8-year-old) and the video cut off the actual answer, which was, simply: money. 

Astronauts Removed Their Helmets on the Moon

It's common knowledge that you can't breathe in space. But conspiracy theorists have used a photo of a group of astronauts allegedly not wearing their helmets on the surface of the moon to try to prove that the moon landing was faked. While the photo is real, it was not taken on the moon.

The photograph showed the crew of Apollo 16 during a training exercise at the Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 6, 1972. It wasn't until about two months later, on April 21, 1972, that these astronauts touched down on the moon's surface. Naturally, on that occasion, they wore their helmets.

Ron Howard Said the 1969 Moon Landing was Fake

On March 26, 2016, a YouTube video by "RussianVids" claimed the 1969 moon landing was a hoax, citing a scene from the TV series “Arrested Development.” In the clip, Ron Howard discusses a faked moon landing in 1969 on a sound stage.

The conspiracy theory believes that while this is a show, Howard mixes truth with lies to sway public opinion. Howard was a weird choice to put at the middle of this conspiracy considering he is a space enthusiast who directed Apollo 13 and a moon mission documentary.

There is an Outtake of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

The moon landing hoax theory, suggesting the Apollo missions were staged on Earth, popped up in 1969 amid distrust in the government and technological advancements. A website called "Moontruth" presented a video supposedly recreating the 1965 moon landing, later revealed as a parody in 2002.

Humorous inconsistencies, like a line flub mirroring Neil Armstrong's and a reference to a 1990s joke, exposed the fake. The site's disclaimer confirmed its fictional nature, acknowledging it was shot in a London studio, created by director Adam Stewart in 2002 as a spoof based on conspiracy theories surrounding the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Native Americans Gave NASA a Message to Take to the Moon

In 1966, during Apollo mission preparations, NASA personnel allegedly encountered Navajo locals near Tuba City. Mistaken for "Lunar creatures," the Navajo asked to send a message to the moon. After multiple refusals to translate, someone finally revealed the message: "Watch out for these guys. They come to take your land."

While funny, it's totally false. It originates from a 1969 Johnny Carson Tonight Show monologue.

Nixon Already Had a Picture of Apollo 11 on His Wall Before It Happened

In February 2024, a conspiracy theory surfaced suggesting a photo of President Nixon on the phone with Apollo 11 astronauts had a moon landing picture in the background, implying a hoax. Videos from the White House Historical Association and the BBC reveal Nixon in the Oval Office during the call, with a moon photo visible but not a moon landing photo.

The image, called "Earthrise," was taken during Apollo 8, launched in 1968, predating Apollo 11. So, while the picture is real, the conspiracy theory has simply mislabeled it.

A Ceiling Can Be Seen in Photographs from the Apollo 11 Mission

In July 2022, a rumor circulated that suggested the Apollo 11 moon landing was faked due to a visible ceiling in a photo of astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. The claim said it was found in a moon landing book but omitted crucial context.

NASA clarified the image was from a pre-mission simulation in April 1969, showing Armstrong and Aldrin practicing lunar activities in spacesuits. The misunderstanding arose from misinterpretation, as the photo was never presented as taken on the moon, supporting the fact that astronauts practiced before the historic lunar landing.

Buzz Aldrin Took Communion on the Moon

This one is actually true! During the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, astronaut Buzz Aldrin privately observed Communion on the moon between landing and Neil Armstrong's first steps. Aldrin, a Christian, made a public statement, read from the Gospel of John, and took Communion, describing it in various publications.

While some claim NASA kept it secret due to atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair's lawsuit, news accounts mentioned it during the mission. Aldrin's lunar Communion was later dramatized in a 1998 HBO series. The handwritten card with the Bible verse was auctioned in 2007, marking a historic moment of faith amid scientific achievements on the moon.

Neil Armstrong Flubbed His First Words on the Moon

Talk about a major mishap. Neil Armstrong's historic moon landing quote, "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind," was marred by a missing "a." The omission altered the intended meaning, but Armstrong's words became iconic. NASA claimed the “a” just couldn’t be heard over the recording because of static. Armstrong insisted for years that the "a” was included.

Despite attempts to find a "signature" for the missing word, debates persist. Armstrong acknowledged the blunder later on, saying, "Damn, I really did it. I blew the first words on the moon." The significance of his achievement overshadowed the linguistic slip-up.

Wikileaks Released Footage Proving the Moon Landing was Faked

A recurrent video circulating online, supposedly leaked from Wikileaks, falsely claims the 1969 moon landing was faked. The footage is not genuine and originates from a behind-the-scenes look at the satirical 1970s film "Capricorn One," not NASA's moon landing. There is no credible evidence supporting this conspiracy theory.

Although skepticism about the moon landing existed from the start, mainstream influence grew after "Capricorn One" in 1978. Wikileaks has not released any footage questioning the moon landing's authenticity, and such claims persist as unfounded conspiracy theories.

Fellow Astronaut Michael Collins Told Neil Armstrong to Scream and Cut His Mic on the Moon

After astronaut Michael Collins' death, a meme surfaced claiming he suggested Neil Armstrong joke about an alien encounter during Apollo 11's lunar landing. The earliest source found was the 1998 HBO miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon."

The joke says that while Neil Armstrong thought about what his first words on the moon would be, Collins suggested that he scream ‘Oh my god, what is that thing’ then scream and cut his mic. Snopes later confirmed screenwriter Graham Yost invented the line for dramatic effect in the HBO series, debunking its attributed origin to Collins during Apollo 11 preparations. Funny? Yes. True? Nope!

The Great Wall of China Can Be Seen from the Moon

The belief that China's Great Wall is visible from the moon with the naked eye is a persistent myth. This notion, rooted in Richard Halliburton's 1938 writings, lacked evidence. Astronauts, like Jay Apt and Alan Bean, debunked it, noting it's barely discernable from low Earth orbit (180 miles) and invisible from the moon (237,000 miles).

This Picture Shows Neil Armstrong’s Family Watching Him Lift Off to the Moon

On May 10, 2023, a post shared an authentic photo of Neil Armstrong's wife and sons watching the Apollo 11 launch in 1969. The image, captured by "LIFE Magazine" photographer Vernon Merritt III, appeared in a retrospective and the July 25, 1969, edition.

Armstrong, along with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, successfully landed on the moon on July 20. The liftoff aimed to achieve President Kennedy's 1961 goal. The photo's legitimacy is confirmed, originating from a credible source. What a beautiful moment of time captured. Could you imagine watching a family member go to space? 

This Photo Shows Software Engineer with the Code She Wrote

The viral photo claims software engineer Margaret Hamilton, key to NASA's Apollo program, stands by hand-written code for the lunar landing piled as high as she is. The image is genuine, featured on NASA and Smithsonian sites.

Hamilton, leading MIT's Software Engineering Division, played a crucial role in Apollo's success. The 1969 picture at MIT showcases software listings she oversaw. Known as the "Rope Mother," Hamilton managed code documentation for the Apollo 11 Lunar Module. Her contributions ensured the mission's success on July 20, 1969, with Armstrong and Aldrin's historic moonwalk. 

Neil Armstrong’s Boots Don’t Match His Footprints on the Moon

We all know the famous photograph of the footprint on the moon. However, Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit became the new basis for the faked moon landing conspiracy in 2016 when Phil Plait took a spacesuit photo during Smithsonian preservation.

It was said that the spacesuit boots did not match the tread of the footprint. This is true, but it’s because the lunar footprint belonged to Aldrin, not Armstrong. Aldrin snapped it for scientific study, matching his own boot tread. So, this obviously didn’t prove a hoax because Armstrong’s footprints were different.

Baseball Pitcher G. Perry Fulfilled a Prophecy Minutes After the Moon Landing

This one we threw in just for fun because it's a legend

In 1968, Giants manager Alvin Dark supposedly joked, “They’ll put a man on the moon before he hits a home run,” referencing his pitcher, G. Perry. On July 20, 1969, a few hours after the moon landing, Perry hit his first and only home run.

As legends go, a few different versions of this story exist, but Perry himself attributed the quip to Dark. The only problem is Dark was no longer with the Giants in 1968. Despite Perry's account and the coincidental timing, the lack of records and vague recollections make it challenging to verify this legend's authenticity.

Buzz Aldrin’s Mother’s Maiden Name is ‘Moon’

Talk about fate! Buzz Aldrin, one of the first to walk on the moon, was born to Marion Gladys Moon. Aldrin often mentions this cosmic coincidence in autobiographical books like "Reaching for the Moon" (2005) and "Return to Earth" (1973).

Reflecting on his mother's maiden name, he humorously suggested it might have influenced his astronaut selection and noted the proximity of the moon to his childhood home. Aldrin playfully speculated destiny's role, sharing the intriguing fact during interviews and on Twitter. This cosmic alignment adds a whimsical touch to the astronaut's lunar legacy.

Shannon Sanford is a freelance writer assigned to come up with fun content from Snopes' archives.