There’s this watch shop on West 57th that’s basically an episode of Hoarders.
But instead of countless cats and irreplaceable newspaper clippings, its tunnels feature meticulously disorganized vintage timepieces. While shuffling through one such tunnel last month, an Omega Speedmaster caught my eye. The owner told me “the Speedmaster was the first watch on the moon.” Pretty cool, but not today…thanks.
A week later the film For All Mankind popped up in my Hulu queue. Narrated by astronauts, it’s a documentary compiled from NASA footage from the Apollo program. It starts with JFK “choosing to go to the moon” and then follows the astronauts suiting up, blasting off, playing zero-gravity grabass, dune-buggying along crater walls, and perfecting their golf swing on the lunar links. The footage is gorgeous, and the camaraderie is the stuff of legend.
Thing is, I’m pretty sure it’s all fucking fake.
Naturally I turned to YouTube to further investigate this space charade.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon is a poorly written and oddly narrated film asserting the moon landing as a hoax. Not unlike every other conspiracy theory website, film, banner, and pamphlet, the film is a visual nightmare. Their choice in fonts is enough to make anyone call bullshit on their theory. There’s a considerable amount of soapboxing about how the money spent on the space program could have ended world hunger. But when they stick to the fucking point they present a pretty persuasive argument.
Look, it sounds like some wacko nonsense, but if you don’t have even a hint of skepticism you’re willfully naive. Consider for a minute how little had been invented in ’69. The first moon landing happened four years before Ethernet was invented and a full 10 years before cell phones showed up. In fact, communication satellites had only been around for less than a decade at the time of the launch, and all they could really do was send out a “Merry Christmas” tape from the president. Cool. I’m no rocket scientist, but computers talking to each other seem like a big prerequisite for this type of project.
Now think about it as propaganda. The country was at war, both cold and bloody, and the opposing team was kicking our ass in all things space-related. The Soviets had beaten us to every milestone, from Sputnik to steampunk darling Luna 2. The space race, a subject America’s recently assassinated playboy president was super hot on, was the perfect distraction from all the political, economic, and race madness happening here and abroad. There was no way that Nixon was going to leave the decade without a moon landing, and he definitely wasn’t going to let the Russians beat us to the punch. So they rounded up some handsome, charismatic space cowboys and sent ’em skyward—oh yeah, they film the whole damn thing.
Beyond science and politics, we could also look to the weird lighting issues, lack of a blast zone, the absence of stars, the radiation belts, or Old Glory blowing in the wind to convince us it was all a hoax. But common sense is enough to sway my opinion. How can you honestly believe that a country that didn’t even have floppy disks yet was able to send men to the moon without incident on their first try? Get outta here with that shit.
For me, Neil Armstrong will forever be the Lance Armstrong of the space race. Regardless, I still want that Omega Speedmaster.