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How do we know that man went to the Moon? The Herald explains

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EVERY single argument claiming that NASA faked the Moon landings has been discredited. But even today, 50 years later, people discuss conspiracy claims online, on television programmes and around the dinner table.

Herald moon fact: With a powerful amateur telescope, you can see the Apollo landing sites and, if you look at the photos from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, you can spot the remnants of the Apollo missions yourself.

Were the Moon landings faked?

If you find yourself in a debate questioning whether humankind first stepped on the Moon on 20 July 1969, the chances are that you are woefully underprepared. Most people take it as gospel that the US government, NASA, the 12 astronauts in total who have walked on the Moon, and the 400,000 people involved in the Apollo programme would have neither the will nor the way to fake one of humanity’s greatest ever achievements.

But there are those who think the landings were a hoax. They claim the US government faked Apollo 11 and later missions either to deal a crucial blow to the USSR in the Space Race, or to boost NASA funding, or to divert attention away from the Vietnam War. The argument for any of these viewpoints rests on finding evidence that the landings were faked.

And more often than not, people point out peculiarities in specific images or videos to deal the critical blow. If someone uses these oddities as evidence, what do you say? Here are the most common arguments that support this view, and why each of them is wrong.

Evidence of the moon landings include items left there, reflectors installed on the surface, and lunar rocks brought back to Earth.

Photographic evidence

One of the most popular conspiracy arguments is that there are never any stars in Apollo photos. Free from Earth’s light pollution and hazy atmosphere, you would expect to see thousands of stars in all the astronauts’ images. Unfortunately, this argument rests on the photos being snapped during the lunar night. All manned missions to the Moon took place in sunny daytime. This meant starlight lost the battle against the very bright surface of the Moon, too dim to show up in photos.

Another common argument is that the crosshairs that appear in many Apollo images sometimes appear to be behind objects in the photos. If the images were real, this would be impossible, suggesting someone painted them on. But testing here on Earth has shown that the brightly lit objects make the crosshairs appear fainter. When these images are copied or scanned some of this detail is lost completely, giving the effect that the crosshair is behind the object in certain shots.

Others point to an oddity in a photo of a Moon rock taken during the Apollo 16 mission. There appears to be a ‘C’ written on it, like a lettered movie prop. Again, analysing the original photo there is no anomaly – the ‘C’ isn’t there. Most likely it was a piece of hair or thread introduced during copying.

A more subtle argument that the landings were faked is based on various misunderstandings of NASA equipment and lunar physics. A well-known example is the American flag that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin placed on the Moon. It appears to flutter in the wind in some photos. How could this happen when the Moon has no wind?

In fact, it isn’t fluttering at all. A horizontal rod at the top of the pole holds the flag unfurled. This makes it look like the wind is stopping it from hanging down. And there is a fluttering effect because the weak gravity on the Moon is not strong enough to uncrumple the flag. After a little waving while the astronauts planted the flags into the Moon’s surface, they have remained still ever since.

Fried by radiation

Perhaps the most convincing argument that the landings were faked has to do with something called the Van Allen belts. These are two giant doughnut-shaped belts surrounding the Earth. They are made of highly energetic charged particles from the solar wind. Some people believe humans couldn’t have passed through these belts without being exposed to lethal doses of radiation.

This was a genuine concern before the Apollo missions. And it is the reason scientists behind Apollo 11 made sure they protected the astronauts as best they could. They insulated the spacecraft from radiation with an aluminium shell. And they chose a trajectory from the Earth to the Moon which minimised the amount of time spent in the Van Allen belts.

Readings from the nine Apollo missions that reached the Moon showed the astronauts’ average radiation exposure was 0.46 radiation-absorbed dose (rad). This proved NASA was right to shield the astronauts from radiation. Though it’s less than that experienced by some nuclear energy workers, 0.46 rad is around 10 times more than the radiation exposure of medical professionals who routinely work with x-ray and radiotherapy machines.

Proof we walked on the Moon

Of course, until we return to the Moon there will always be anomalies and oddities in the records that can spark new claims that the Moon landings were faked. But it is the sheer size and variety of this record that proves every one of these claims to be false.

From the Apollo Moon missions, there are 8,400 publicly available photos, thousands of hours of video footage, a mountain of scientific data, and full transcripts and audio recordings of all air-to-ground conversations. We even have 382 kilograms of Moon rock that Apollo astronauts brought back to Earth. These rocks have been independently verified as lunar by laboratories around the world, ruling out a US conspiracy.

If this is not enough to convince the most hardened sceptic, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) might sway them. Today, LRO takes high-resolution pictures of the lunar surface from a low orbit. During its mission, it has captured the landing sites and the abandoned descent modules and rovers from the Apollo missions. And its resolution is so good it has picked up the dark squiggly paths that the astronauts’ footprints made. Spacecraft from China, India and Japan have also spotted these landing sites, providing further independent verification of the landings.

A final nail in the coffin of the Moon hoax theories is a simple instrument installed 50 years ago by Apollo 11. During their day on the Moon, Armstrong and Aldrin planted a lunar laser ranging retroreflector array on the surface. It’s still operational today and allows us to reflect lasers off of it and measure the distance to the Moon down to the centimetre. We simply couldn’t do this if we hadn’t visited the Moon.

Community

New health concerns over Withyhedge Landfill site emissions

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LEVELS of a potentially harmful gas emitted by the Withyhedge Landfill Site have been recorded above World Health Organization (WHO) guideline levels, according to a recent report. Public Health Wales (PHW) conducted a health risk assessment on air quality data collected between 1 March and 3 April 2024 in the surrounding area.

The data indicates that during March and April, hydrogen sulphide, a colourless gas with a distinctive “eggy” smell, exceeded the WHO’s odour annoyance guideline. PHW warns that exposure to such odours can cause symptoms like headaches, nausea, dizziness, watery eyes, stuffy nose, irritated throat, cough or wheeze, sleep disturbances, and stress.

PHW stresses the importance of addressing the source of these offsite odours to mitigate potential health impacts on the local community. Despite an enforcement deadline passing last month, residents continue to report gas and odour issues in their homes daily.

“These are common reactions to unpleasant smells, and these effects should usually pass once the odour has dissipated,” PHW stated. “The long-term health risk is low.”

In response to the health risk assessment, PHW advises residents to keep doors and windows closed when the odours are present and seek medical advice if they feel unwell. However, they caution against blocking windows or vents completely, as these are crucial for ventilation and controlling dampness. Once the outdoor smell subsides, opening windows and doors can help eliminate any remaining odours inside.

Work to cap the landfill site has been completed, and PHW has welcomed plans to install static air monitoring equipment around the site to capture more detailed data. Dr. Sarah Jones, a consultant in environmental public health for PHW, acknowledged the stress and anxiety local residents are experiencing due to the odours. She emphasised the importance of resolving the issue swiftly and assured that the health risk assessment would be updated as new data becomes available.

Gaynor Toft, Chair of the Air Quality Group for the Multi-Agency Incident Management team, noted that the risk assessment from PHW is being used to refine and develop the air quality monitoring programme. Suitable locations for static monitoring equipment are being identified to ensure robust data collection for future assessments.

Huwel Manley of Natural Resources Wales (NRW) confirmed that NRW would continue to use its regulatory powers to drive improvements at the site and address the causes of the odour affecting the community. NRW had given RML, the company operating the landfill, until mid-May to undertake several remedial actions to control gas emissions.

The Pembrokeshire Herald has reached out to NRW for a detailed update on the current situation at the site. The community remains hopeful for a swift resolution to these ongoing health and environmental concerns.

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Community

Local projects benefit from Sustainable Development Fund grants

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SEVEN local projects have benefited from over £70,000 of funding through the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund (SDF).

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund supports community-led projects in and around the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park that contribute towards a reduction in carbon and help respond to the climate emergency.

In the latest round of funding, grants were awarded to Southern Roots Organics, Narberth Museum, and the Crymych Arms Community Pub to install Solar PV systems. Additionally, the Narberth and District Community and Sports Association received funding to upgrade their existing Solar PV system and improve the energy efficiency of their squash court lighting. As well as generating new low-carbon electricity and offsetting higher carbon grid electricity consumption, these projects will reduce ongoing electricity costs for these organisations.

Cosheston Community Hall was another beneficiary, receiving support from the Fund to construct a bike shed. This project aims to encourage more people to cycle to the Hall, promoting sustainable travel within the community.

In Marloes, SDF funding has paved the way for the village clock to be retrofitted with low-energy and Dark-Skies-friendly illumination, which will reduce both energy consumption and light pollution in the area.

The VC Gallery also received funding to upgrade to more energy-efficient windows and doors, which will create a warmer community space and contribute to lower carbon emissions.

Jamie Leatham from Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority said: “These grants represent our continued commitment to addressing the Climate Emergency, supporting community-led projects that improve sustainability and reduce carbon emissions.”

“By funding initiatives like Solar PV installations, energy-efficiency upgrades, and sustainable transportation solutions, we are helping our communities to reduce emissions, generate their own low-carbon energy, and raise awareness to promote a greener, more resilient future for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.”

The Sustainable Development Fund consists of money allocated from the Welsh Government Sustainable Landscapes Sustainable Places Fund.

Further information can be found at www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/sustainable-development-fund.

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Teenage town crier rings in a new era for Tenby

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TENBY has ushered in a new era with the appointment of its first female town crier, Erin Morgan. At just 17, Erin is not only making history in the resort town but is also carrying on a family tradition, standing beside her father, Dai Morgan, who serves as the town mayor.

Erin, a student at Pembrokeshire College, is fulfilling a vision long held by the late John ‘Yobbler’ Thomas, one of Tenby’s most esteemed town criers, who believed that a young person should take up the iconic bell.

Erin’s inaugural engagement as town crier was a poignant one, accompanying her father to Tenby’s D-Day procession to Castle Hill. There, she opened the beacon lighting ceremony by reading the official D-Day International Tribute, marking a proud and memorable start to her tenure.

Adding to the occasion, former Yeoman of the Guard Spike Abbott made his debut as Sergeant at Arms, joining the mayoral party for the first time.

Erin’s appointment was confirmed at the recent town council meeting, where she spoke passionately about her love for Tenby and the significance of the town crier role in preserving local traditions.

Erin, who is also a young leader with Tenby Guides, expressed her desire to see greater youth involvement in the town’s activities. She hopes that her position will help foster a stronger sense of community and bring people together through the town council’s initiatives.

(Image: Gareth Davies Photography)

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