Can’t Take the Moon Away from Us

The flag smartly snapping in the strong lunar winds is an American flag. Take that, Russians!

Say what you will about American history, mock, debunk, deny, revise and rewrite any part of it but don’t touch the glory of the landing on the moon. Can’t take the Moon away from us!

Nevertheless, the Russians are trying to do just that:

“Russia suggests America has NEVER landed on the moon and calls for ‘an investigation into what really happened.’Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Russian government’s Investigative Committee, says he wants an inquiry after the video from 1969 and a piece of lunar rock, which was brought back to earth, went missing.”
Says it’s vital to find out what happened to original footage from 1969.”

They are referring to the fact that Nasa admitted six years ago that the footage no longer existed after accidentally being erased. In 2009 NASA said that it probably erased its only high resolution images of the first moonwalk to make room for electronic data from a satellite. The piece of lunar rock appears to have been misplaced as well.

Nevertheless, underneath all this Russian nitpicking there is nothing but long-simmering envy because they never made it to the Moon.

Popular Mechanics coincidentally just came out with a very good explanation as to why the Russians, surprisingly, never achieved a lunar landing. The article points out that Russia (then the Soviet Union) “were the first to put a satellite into orbit, the first to send a man into space, and the first to send a spacecraft around the moon, taking pictures of the far side.” Furthermore, “years later, the US acquired several of the [Russian] closed-cycle engines, and discovered that the Soviets had advanced the technology further than anyone thought possible.” 

So, they were well ahead of us, but we still beat them to the Moon, and to this day neither they nor any other astronauts managed to duplicate our feat. What prevented the Russians from achieving success? Popular Mechanics explains it in terms accessible to the layman, without too many technical details. For the more sophisticated readers I have added details in square brackets:

“… the answer is a combination of political intrigue … a Soviet political structure of constant infighting and backstabbing, and … different research groups simultaneously developing competing rocket designs instead of working together. At one point there were thirty different designs, all vying for the Kremlin’s approval.” [Ed. Note: The same conditions applied to the astronauts. Working under stress, in work environments riven by intrigues and back stabbing leads to the weakening of the immune system. The Russians realized that astronauts with such compromised immune systems could never survive the irradiation from the Van Allen radiation belt, so they did not even attempt such missions.]

A Spanish professor specializing in the history of science who modestly prefers to remain anonymous had another interesting explanation of the Russian failure, which he shared with me in a private communication:

“Archivos desclasificados de la ex- Unión Soviética revelan la verdadera causa de por qué perdió con USA la carrera por llegar primero a la luna. Según la información contendida en estos archivos, a principios de los sesenta el Kremlin decidió volcar el 90% de su presupuesto para la investigación científica y el desarrollo tecnológico en el programa  de estaciones orbitales, con lo cual la industria cinematográfica sovietica se vio seriamente disminuida en sus recursos. Por tal motivo los estudios de cine la URSS se vieron imposibilitados de recrear el paisaje lunar necesario para poder filmar el alunizaje soviético tal como lo hizo la industria de Hollywood.”

[Translation: Declassified archives of the ex-Soviet Union reveal the real cause of the loss in the race with the US to reach the Moon. According to the contents of these archives, at the beginning of the 60s the Kremlin decided to cut 90% of the budget for scientific research and technological development in the field of orbital stations (spatial exploration), which left the film industry seriously underfunded. For this reason the Soviet film studios found themselves unable to create the lunar landscapes necessary to film the Soviet lunar landing as the Hollywood industry did.]

Denying our lunar landing is but another conspiracy theory. It is important to remember that any conspiracy theory is a sliding slope leading to another, and another, each more reprehensible that the previous one. Stay vigilant!

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