To get one thing straight from the beginning: What I don`t want to do in this post is to discuss different Moon hoax theories, and the “evidence” for them (e.g. Fig. 1), as well as the arguments that were laid out to counter these Moon hoax claims. There are enough websites and videos out there already dealing with that matter. For those who are interested in that, this video might be a good one to start with.
What I want to do is the following gedankenexperiment: If the Moon landings were faked, were do the samples come from?
What do I mean by samples?
According to the Lunar Sourcebook (HEIKEN et al., 1991) the six Apollo missions that landed successful on the Moon brought back 2196 samples, which by 1989 were split up into 78,000 subsamples. This splitting allows NASA, apart from doing there one research on the samples, to send subsamples to researchers all over the world and let them study the samples. That means the rocks were and are intensely studied. How intense? Well if you want to get an idea about that you can browse a bit through the Lunar Sample Compendium. There you find summed up the relevant information gathered over the years on each sample. Of course not all samples are studied to the same extent. You`ll find samples like the impact melt 14310, which has a two and a half site reference list alone, or samples like 14425, which has “only” nine references. As it is a glass sphere – 0.8 cm in diameter – that is still quite impressive. All in all, there is a lot of information available about the samples.
I guess, on this basis I can assume everyone agrees that these samples exist?
“No, because the bastards at NASA faked all the research on the samples and all the people who supposedly worked on the samples all over the world are part of the cover-up of the Moon hoax!”
Please. Do yourself a favour. Take a long walk in the park to get some air.
Okay, back to the topic. If we accept the existence of the Apollo samples the interesting question arising is:
Where are they from?
Well there are two answers to that question:
1.) They are from the Moon.
2.) They are not.
On the first option: Under the assumption for our gedankenexperiment that the Moon landings were a hoax, how do we get the samples to Earth?
Well, unmanned return missions would be an option, didn`t the USSR did that?
Yes they did. With their Luna missions. They had three robot landers (Luna 16, 20 and 24) who combined returned 321 g of samples, obtained by a single drill per robot (HEIKEN et al., 1991). 321 g, that’s a decent amount and it`s nice to have samples from other locations than the Apollo landing sites. But the Apollo sample set contains 381.7 kg! That means you would need more than 1000 Luna-like landers to return that amount. But more importantly, the Apollo sample set mostly contains solid rocks while the Luna landers brought back drill cores from the lunar regolith. The regolith is the fine grained stuff the Astronauts put their footprints in, and it is created by the constant meteorite bombardment of the Moon’s surface. Robots to collect the Apollo-kind of samples need to be more Curiosity-like (see Fig. 2) than Luna-like (see Fig. 3).
“Ahhh, but NASA had the Curiosity technology all the time. They just revealed it now!!”
Didn`t you want to take a walk in the park?
Another option to get actual rocks from the Moon, without going there yourself, is to let them be delivered to you by Space-DHL, which gets you a package of meteorites. The problem is, they don`t deliver into your mailbox three workdays after you ordered.
They just deliver to Earth.
And they don’t send you the nice red shoes that would go so well with the dress you just bought and your favourite jewellery. No, they sent you black socks, of which you already have ten pairs in the drawer.
What do I mean by that?
Well, meteorites of any kind, and thus those coming from the Moon, can fall to Earth at any time, but you never know when. And you need quite a big impact on the Moon to launch them into space in the first place. Guess what: You never know when that happens either. And they fall anywhere. That means in 70% of cases they just fall into an ocean and drown. And on the other 30% you need to hit an area where you can distinguish a meteorite from all the Earth rocks. Deserts are good. Forrest are not. And then you need someone to find them.
And even if you find one, in the most cases you get the Moons black socks: Feldspathic highland material. Most of the Moon’s surface is made of the feldspathic highlands, which are probably ancient lunar crust crystallized from a magma ocean, and they are all much alike. Don`t get me wrong, all of them are important (as are black socks). But the Apollo sample set contains a huge diversity of rocks, ranging from the feldspathic highland rocks, regolith samples, over impact melts and breccias to mare basalts and volcanic glass spherules. This is mainly because the Apollo missions were targeting the lunar mare and highlands on the near side of the Moon, which are in most cases somehow connected to the rather small Procellarum KREEP Terrain (What is that? Have a look here). So the Apollo missions sampled an area that is less likely to be sampled by random meteorite/asteroid impacts on the Moon’s surface. Still there is the possibility to get lunar meteorite from the broad area where the Apollo missions landed and THEY could have just chosen those ones. This raises the question:
Would there be enough material for THEM to make up the Apollo sample set from lunar meteorites?
No. The Catalogue of Meteorites (GRADY et al., 2000) lists 18 identified lunar meteorites as of December of 1999. Today (23 of August 2013) Wikipedia states there are 164 known specimens. Compare that with the 2196 samples of the Apollo collection. If that is not enough to convince you, account for the fact that you can`t use a lot of the meteorites because they are from no place anywhere near the landing sites and it becomes obvious that THEY had not enough lunar material in the late 60`s and early 70`s to make up a fake sample collection even if THEY wanted to.
That leaves only one option where our gedankenexperiment makes its last heroic stand:
What if the samples are not from the Moon?
Well then, where would they be from?
The only place left would be Earth!
And yes, lunar rocks are in some respect remarkably similar to terrestrial rocks. The major minerals in lunar rocks are plagioclase, pyroxene and olivine. Stuff that you can find on Earth on every corner (well, not literally). Also all other minerals found on the Moon can be found on Earth. Although, there were times when some of the minerals found in the Apollo samples hadn`t been found on Earth yet. Tranquillityite (sic!), which was found 1975 in one of the Apollo 11 samples, kept this status the longest, until 2012, when it was discovered in Western Australia as well (RASMUSSEN et al., 2012).
However, that the minerals found on the Moon are the same as found on Earth is not surprising. As the formation of minerals from a certain mix of chemicals follows the same crystallization pattern no matter where you are in the universe, you’ll get the same minerals on Earth, the Moon, Mars, Vulcan, Tatooine or Magrathea (Fig. 4).
What really shows the strong relationship between lunar and terrestrial rocks are different isotopic systems (e.g. oxygen isotopes, tungsten isotopes) which let the rocks look like they are from the same source. Indeed they…
“Aha, there is the …”
Wait for it.
Indeed they now are believed to come from the same reservoir. This reservoir is actual two reservoirs in the form of two planets (the proto-Earth and the proto-Moon called Theia) which collided in a giant impact. You`ve probably heard of that theory before. At least for me it feels like every second scientific documentary nowadays has it in it. If you have no clue what I`m talking about, here is a nice video that explains the giant impact theory.
“Ha, that theory was just made up by the scientist to hide the fact that the samples are actually from Earth!!!”
No, there are other things that show us that these rocks can`t be from Earth.
One thing is that we can measure the products of million years of radiation bombardment in outer space where there is no atmosphere. But I guess THEY could have faked that by putting the samples in a reactor. But it would be very hard to do it right, if not impossible.
But there is a more important fact: On the Moon, there is no weathering through wind and water like on Earth. That means the rocks there can remain “fresh” for a very very long time. And that’s exactly the kind of rocks we have in the Apollo sample set. Most of the samples are older than 3.8 billion years. But they show no sign of weathering. We don`t have those kind of rocks on Earth. And no, you can`t make those samples (at least not with current technology). If you don`t believe me, ask Boromir (Figure 5).
So all in all, there is no possibility to get those rocks from the Earth. What do we learn from that? That our assumption the Moon landings were a hoax must be wrong. Okay we kind of knew that before. Well I hope you learned a little bit about different lunar rock sources and lunar rocks themself while you were thinking you read about the evil Moon hoax.
“I accuse you of being part of the cover-up!!!!”
You won’t give up, do you?
Okay, I tell you the truth.
After the Roswell UFO was repaired the US sent it up to the Moon on a mission for the Vatican to erase all evidence left there by the alien known to us as “Jesus” when he left Earth. The two pilots brought back the Moon rocks. The landings were later faked with things looking like advanced Earth technology to not reveal the existence of the UFO. After the missions the pilots started to grow and get hairy. After several years they fled their containment in Area 51. One is believed to hide in North America where he is occasionally spotted as Big Foot while the other one is probably in the Himalaya and people there refer to him as the Yeti.
Okay. Now where are my sunglasses? Ah yes, here.
If you please would look right at Figure 6.
Grady, M. M., Graham, A. L., and Natural History Museum (London England), 2000. Catalogue of meteorites : with special reference to those represented in the collection of the Natural History Museum, London. Cambridge University Press, New York.
Heiken, G. H., Vaniman, D. T., and French, B. M., 1991. Lunar Sourcebook. Apollo The International Magazine Of Art And Antiques.
Rasmussen, B., Fletcher, I. R., Gregory, C. J., Muhling, J. R., and Suvorova, A. A., 2012. Tranquillityite: The last lunar mineral comes down to Earth. Geology 40, 83-86.