The following letter comes to you on Space Day and can also be found in the book, Letters of Note: Space, alongside correspondence from Buzz Aldrin, Yuri Gagarin, Ann Druyan, Stanley Kubrick, Alexander Graham Bell, Neil DeGrasse Tyson & many others.
In October of 2005, a social studies teacher at an Ohio high school wrote to Neil Armstrong with some questions. This was thirty-six years after Armstrong had become the first human to step onto the Moon, his incredible achievement filmed and beamed, live, into the homes of hundreds of millions of people around the world. Alas, despite the broadcast, a surprising number of conspiracy theorists—Mr Whitman included—have for many years debated the Moon landing, positing that the footage was in fact filmed in a studio much closer to home, and that the crew of Apollo 11 failed to get close to the lunar surface. A number of these sceptics wrote to the Apollo astronauts, but rarely did they receive a response. Mr Whitman, however, was lucky.
Your letter expressing doubts based on the skeptics and conspiracy theorists mystifies me.
They would have you believe that the United States Government perpetrated a gigantic fraud on its citizenry. That the 400,000 Americans who worked on an unclassified program are all complicit in the deception, and none broke ranks and admitted their deceit.
If you believe that, why would you contact me, clearly one of those 400,000 liars?
I trust that you, as a teacher, are an educated person. You will know how to contact knowledgeable people who could not have been party to the scam.
The skeptics claims that the Apollo flights did not go to the moon. You could contact the experts from other countries who tracked the flights on radar (Jodrell Bank in England or even the Russian Academicians).
You should contact the Astronomers at Lick Observatory who bounced their laser beam off the Lunar Ranging Reflector minutes after I installed it. Or, if you don't find them persuasive, you could contact the astronomers at the Pic du Midi observatory in France. They can tell you about all the other astronomers in other countries who are still making measurements from these same mirrors—and you can contact them.
Or you could get on the net and find the researchers in university laboratories around the world who are studying the lunar samples returned on Apollo, some of which have never been found on earth.
But you shouldn't be asking me, because I am clearly suspect and not believable.
Letter from Neil Armstrong to James Whitman (2005) from Neil A. Armstrong Papers, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries, Used with permission.
This newsletter is a one-person operation that depends upon the generosity of its readers, so please consider becoming a paying subscriber for a few pounds per month. In return, you’ll receive and get access to occasional audio recordings from the likes of Jude Law, Alan Cumming, Olivia Colman, Stephen Fry, Toby Jones, and others. Thanks!