Premier Date: August 27, 2008
This episode was based on the urban legend/conspiracy theory which claims that NASA never landed men on the moon, and instead the achievement was intentionally faked for one reason or another.
The Mythbusters built a small-scale replica of the lunar landing site based on the photograph, using reflective sand similar to that found on the Moon, and a single light to represent the Sun. Next, they took a photo which was exactly the same as the NASA photo, including the differing shadows. The Mythbusters explained that the shadows were not parallel because of the way the light falls on the Moon’s natural topography.
To test this myth, the Mythbusters built a large-scale replica of the landing site, allowing them to take a photo which was nearly identical to the original NASA photo. The Mythbusters explained that Armstrong was visible because of ambient light being reflected off of the Moon’s surface.
The Build Team placed a replica of the American flag planted on the moon into a vacuum chamber at the Marshall Space Flight Center. They first tested at normal pressure and manipulated the flag. The momentum moved the flag around but the motion quickly dissipated. In vacuum conditions, manipulating the flag caused it to flap vigorously as if it were being blown by a breeze. This demonstrated that a flag could appear to wave in a vacuum, as the Apollo flag did.
The Build Team first tested whether dry or wet sand made a more distinguishable footprint by stepping in them with an astronaut boot. It was clear that the wet footprint had more detail than the dry footprint. They then placed sand similar in composition to the Moon’s soil in a vacuum chamber and stepped on it with an astronaut boot, which made a clear print. The reason provided for this was that the unique composition of lunar soil allows it to behave differently than terrestrial soil.
Adam donned a replica NASA spacesuit and mimicked the astronauts’ motions while being filmed by a slow motion camera. They also attached Adam to wires in order to mimic the Moon’s lower gravity. While comparing their new footage with the original footage, the Mythbusters noted an initial similarity, but there were several small discrepancies attributable to filming in Earth’s gravity. In order to film in microgravity, the Mythbusters boarded a Reduced Gravity Aircraft and filmed the exact same movements. Adam noted that the movements were more comfortable and more logical in microgravity, and their footage from the plane looked exactly like the original NASA film. The Mythbusters concluded that the moon landing film is authentic.
The Mythbusters went to an observatory equipped with a high powered laser. They first fired at the bare lunar surface but did not detect the laser bouncing back. Then they pointed the laser at a reflector left behind by NASA and received a confirmed bounce.