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Conspiracy theories surrounding the Apollo program have existed for longer than many of us have been alive and have evolved so much in that time that they’ve essentially formed their own sub-genre of conspiracy theory. They vary wildly in terms of complexity and plausibility, but most of them claim that, for any number of reasons and by any number of means, NASA faked the manned moon landings of the late 1960s and early 1970s. This belief is especially prevalent among Russians, with a poll conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) finding that about 57% of Russians believe NASA faked the manned moon landings, which isn’t exactly surprising.
With the success of the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, which saw Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong become the first men to set foot on the moon, the United States effectively “won” one of the biggest pissing matches of the Cold War: the Space Race. While it’s hard to say the Soviet Union “lost” the Space Race given how many economic, social, and technological benefits it gained from the competition, the United States asserting its technological superiority with the Apollo 11 mission definitely left a bad taste in the mouths of the Soviet people. This taste still lingers in the mouths of many Russians, which is why it’s not surprising to learn that so many of them believe the Americans had to cheat in order to “win” the Space Race.
This topic was actually brought up during a recent conversation between Dmitry Rogozin, the Director General of Russia’s space agency, and Igor Dodon, the President of Moldova. During the conversation, Mr. Rogozin was asked whether or not NASA actually sent men to the moon with the Apollo program, to which he responded that Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, will attempt to verify the authenticity of NASA’s claims during one of its future missions to the moon. It should be noted that his response was accompanied by a smile and a shrug, meaning it may very well have been a joke, but the context of his conversation with President Dodon is far more interesting than the meaning of any of his comments.
The two men were discussing the future of space exploration, a topic which has seen a resurgence of interest in recent years. The end of the Space Race saw interest in space exploration wane significantly; why compete in a competition that’s already over? That isn’t to say that countries stopped caring about space, far from it, but space missions became less about national prestige and more about pure science, which meant it was less interesting to the public and, by extension, the politicians who represented them. However, with rising powers like China and India wanting to demonstrate their technological capabilities to the world and billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos dreaming of their own, private space missions, interest in space exploration has been exploding. There are even claims that we’re entering a new Space Race, only this time there are more competitors and private corporations will play a much larger role.
China, India, Israel, Japan, Germany, Russia, and the United States are all working to land robots on the moon in the future, but only China, Japan, Russia, and the United States are working to land humans on the moon. By the time either China or Japan have actually completed their manned lunar landings, however, Russia should be in the process of building a permanent lunar base and the United States may have already completed its own such base, possibly with the help of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. As for Mars, only China, the European Union, India, Japan, and the United States are working to land robots on the planet, while only the United States is working to land humans there. Elon Musk’s SpaceX, an American company, is also working to send humans to Mars, but Musk is notorious for promising more than he can deliver, so SpaceX’s plans for Mars should be taken with a grain of salt for the time being.
It’s clear that the United States will be far and away the biggest player in the so-called “Space Race 2.0”, with Russia being a distant second and China and Japan following somewhere behind. The other nations are more like participants than actual competitors, but then again, this isn’t exactly a competition. Unlike the first Space Race, this isn’t a pissing match, and all the participants are collaborating with one another in an effort to further our understanding of the universe and potentially lay the foundations for the future of human civilization. While growing tensions around the world may change this in the future, as it stands now, the next Space Race looks to be much more friendly and mutually beneficial than the last one. I’m looking forward to it!
I’m also looking forward to seeing if 57% of Russians in the 2030s will think America faked the Mars landings.
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