Was it a Hoax? No Way!

July 20, 2009 (MTV) - An astronaut in a giant white suit stands next to an American flag on the moon’s surface: one of America’s -- and MTV's -- most iconic images. Photos and footage of Neil Armstrong’s first walk on the moon 40 years ago changed the way people all around the world looked at space. It also sparked a heated debate over whether the moon landing was staged or not, one that continues to leak through in pop culture even today.

It didn’t take long after the 1969 landing for doubters to start stepping out. In fact, a public opinion poll conducted by the Gallup organization once showed that more than 6% of Americans believed the landing to be an elaborate government hoax.

Part of that disbelief was of course fueled by a general feeling that something as amazing as a man walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. There were also rumors that the whole thing was filmed on a Hollywood set. These factors led to a memorable scene in the James Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever” in which Agent 007 drives a moon buggy off a model set where something that looks suspiciously like the moon landing is being filmed.

Though brief and in many ways informed by pre-existing suspicions, it is believed that this scene contributed to the Apollo moon hoax theory that continued to flourish. The conspiracy inspired the 1978 release of “Capricorn One,” a Peter Hyams film about a hoax Mars landing segment that ends with the lie being publicly exposed.

In the past decade, the moon conspiracy theory has made a marked comeback in American pop culture. The Robin Williams comedy “RV” claimed the title vehicle was parked in the camp where NASA faked the moon landing. In “National Treasure: The Book of Secrets,” the answer to the Apollo hoax was allegedly answered inside the Book of Secrets (now only Nicholas Cage knows the truth). Even “Looney Tunes: Back in Action,” that long lost Brendan Fraser comedy from 2003, got in on the action when Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck find a tape labeled “Moon Landing Dress Rehearsal” in Area 51.

Of course, there are also countless television references to the hoax. Comedians can’t get enough of the conspiracy: Sacha Baron Cohen, David Letterman and Stephen Colbert (in a running gag on his "Stephen Colbert Show") have made references to the alleged fake moon landing on their shows. Programs from “Friends” and “Newsradio” to “Family Guy” and “King of the Hill” also have made similarly joking references.

There's really no question anymore, not in any serious way. Man has been to the moon, and has returned with amazing photographs showing sights that few will ever get to see in person. Still, the debate whether Neil Armstrong did or did not actually land on the moon rages on among a select few. Does it really matter anymore? No. Do people still care? As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, it's clear that there's only one answer: absolutely.

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