The TL;DR; answer is that yes we really did it. Sadly however there are people who are quite committed to the idea that it never actually happened and that what we have been presented with is nothing but special effects.
I recall once encountering a Moon landing hoaxer while attending TAM (The Amazing Meeting) in the US. It was 2010 and so at TAM 8 we have Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame speaking at one point. During his talk a chap behind me stands up and proceeds to have a go at Adam regarding Moon landings with his supposedly gotcha question. His query, which was way off topic, was brushed aside and when he tried to have another go, he was told “nope”, and so ended up spending the rest of the day stalking not only Adam Savage, burt also astronomer Phil Plait. I must admit, it takes a special degree of fanaticism to pay to go all the way to Vegas and register for TAM so that he could simply have a go at Phil or Adam. What is clear is that he was truly sincere, but alas he is also sincerely wrong.
Watching, all I really saw was a kid in a suit, and as I saw him wandering the halls later with a camera seeking his prey, he came across as somebody more akin to a cult member seeking to convert or at least to score points in the eyes of others in the same club.
What are the primary Moon Landing Hoax Arguments
• The US government has lied about other things. Of course it has, and will again. However, pointing out that the US government is capable of lying does not prove that it lied about Apollo. Watergate is not evidence of Moongate.
• The absence of stars in photographs. Cameras were set for the proper exposure to photograph well-lit astronauts wearing white suits and the highly reflective Lunar Module, not the faint light of distant stars in dark space. Had the cameras been set to properly capture the light of stars, the astronauts would have been overexposed.
• No blast crater under Lunar Module. In order to land, the Lunar Module’s descent engine was throttled back and shut down prior to contact with the surface of the Moon. If the vehicle’s engine had been engaged at anything near its ten-thousand-pound thrust capability, it could not have landed.
• The flag moved. The American flag that was displayed on a rod extending horizontally from a flagpole did not move because of wind. It moved because of the astronaut’s manipulation of the flagpole during his effort to drive it into lunar soil.
• They lied. Hundreds of thousands of NASA personnel and contractors might have lied and then kept lying about it for all these decades, but I doubt it. Over the years I have interviewed more than twenty Apollo engineers, mission control personnel, and astronauts. Maybe they lied to me about their work and personal memories, but I doubt it. There are too many people telling the same story. Faking a Moon landing would be easy compared to the challenge of getting thousands of conspirators to keep the lie all these years.
• The US lied because it was determined to win a public relations war with the USSR. And the Soviet Union could have won by exposing such a vast American fraud. But the Soviets, also technologically sophisticated in space, knew the landings were real and acknowledged it.
• NASA could have faked it. Maybe NASA could have produced convincing video on a terrestrial sound stage that was good enough to fool non-experts. But why do it so many times? There were nine missions to the Moon, six of which landed. The Apollo 16 and 17 crews each spent three days there. Why? If this was all a daring PR stunt, why increase the risk of discovery with multiple missions? Why make it necessary for so many astronauts and ground personnel to lie and maintain the cover up? If this were a hoax, doesn’t it seem more likely that NASA would have faked one landing, had a big parade, and then promptly shut down the operation?
Incidentally, would you believe that one of the very first organisations to officially take up the claim that it had all been faked was the Flat Earth society back in 1980.
If curious to read more on it all, then the Wikipedia page on the topic goes into a lot more detail.
Now what is fascinating here is that the real issue is not these arguments. If you sat down with a true believer and stepped through each of the arguments, carefully explained the flaws, and outlined why none of these withstand critical analysis, then much to your surprise perhaps, you will discover that nothing changes, they still believe it all was a hoax.
This is a common pattern and is not restricted to just the moon landing beliefs.
If for example you chat to a creationist and go through the arguments, nothing changes, they still believe. Psychics or water dowsers who do truly believe they are gifted and will happily be tested do not change their minds when a tests fail. Instead, they will rationalise and offer reasons for the failure of the test … moon in wrong phase, will not work when skeptics are watching, negative energy, etc…
The underlying assumption often offered is that people who embrace what are clearly daft ideas are stupid, or that they simply lack some information, or have not understood things correctly is all flawed because this is not what is going on. Any attempts to remedy things by carefully explaining the facts or providing additional information will only yield an impressive degree of immunity to such an information exchange, and that perhaps is an important realisation.
So what is going on then?
It is perhaps a mark of our humanity that we are all potentially prone to the embrace of ideas that are wrong. This is perhaps rooted in the observation that humans often operate using an intuitive mode of thinking for many things instead of an analytical mode. Once we embrace an idea we can then become emotionally attached to it, and the longer we retain that attachment, the harder it becomes to let go because we have invested time and resources in it.
You can be fooled, I can be fooled, we can all be fooled, and we then often tend not to let go for emotional reasons
So with that thought in mind, it is best for us all to work at believing as many true things as possible and to be prepared to let go of the things that are simply not true.
We can only really free ourselves by arriving at a realisation, we often can’t be told because we will rationalise away anything that threatens to disrupt, so perhaps the best you can do is to offer socratic questions that people can then potentially use to free themselves.
Buzz Aldrin punches Bart Sibrel after being harassed by him
OK, now for a bit of fun.
Bart Sibrel is a well-known and quite fanatical moon hoax guy who rather famously stalked and harassed Buzz Aldrin. Bart Sibrel followed Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin out of a Hollywood hotel and relentlessly harassed him about whether he actually landed on the moon, and persistently called him a coward and a liar.
At first Buzz simply walked away, but when Mr Sibrel keeps getting back in his face and continuously calls him a coward, a liar, and a thief, Buzz reacted rather famously by punching him. Here is the clip of that encounter …