In 2005, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, special effects experts better known by the title of their popular Discovery Channel series, "MythBusters", were asked during an interview about the myth they would most like to test provided an unlimited budget.
"Jamie and I have done the research, and figured that the only way to end the debate about the 'myth' of the Apollo moon landing is to go there," Savage replied to Slashdot, a technology news website, about the belief held by some that the United States faked the lunar landings.
Three years later, the Mythbusters are ready to share the results of their 'trip' as they devote their next show, airing on Wednesday, to the moon landing hoax claims.
"We built a hybrid rocket that was fueled by poo and nitrous oxide thought we had enough Teflon tape on the seals but the stink got through anyway. Too bad that the footage got lost in transit to the editors," Hyneman told collectSPACE.com, explaining that their limited budget would not cover the cost of regular rocket fuel.
Of course, he was joking.
"Dude, I sooo wished we could have gone there," Savage admitted.
So, with their feet firmly planted on the Earth (at least for most of the time, but more on that later), Hyneman and Savage, along with fellow Mythbusters Tory Belleci, Kari Byron and Grant Imahara, set out to use science to 'bust' or confirm the truth behind the hoaxers' claims.
Low hanging fruit
Hoax believers have had 40 years to devise reasons why the Apollo moon landings must have been filmed in an Earth-based studio. As special effects experts, Hyneman felt they were well suited for the subject.
First however, they needed to choose which parts of the myth to test.
"We looked at the ones that for some reason or other, seemed most prevalent," Savage explained in an e-mail interview.
"We took the low hanging fruit," Hyneman added. "The key idea was that the footage that proved we were there was a special effect. Adam and I are experienced effects artists, so it was natural for us to dig into it."
"We wanted to tackle the ones that actually take some experimentation to prove," Savage said.
To narrow the field however, the Mythbusters sought the assistance of someone very familiar with debunking the moon hoax myth, or they would have if he had not come calling first.
"I was actually first involved with the Mythbusters early on, when I was contacted by one of their producers asking if I had any astronomical myths for them to bust," shared Dr. Phil Plait, a.k.a. "The Bad Astronomer", in an interview with collectSPACE.com. An astronomer who worked with the Hubble Telescope, Plait created a website, Bad Astronomy, aimed at dispelling astronomy and science based myths, including the moon hoax, which expanded into books and his recent appointment as president of the James Randi Educational Foundation.
"I made some suggestions but sadly they didn't use any of them,? Plait said. ?I guess most of them don't make very good TV."
That early interaction, which was followed by meeting the Mythbusters at conferences, led to Plait establishing a relationship with the show. So he was surprised when a fellow astronomer contacted him about the Mythbusters investigating the moon hoax.
"I hadn't heard anything about [this show] so I fired off an e-mail to Adam Savage and said, 'What gives?' and he e-mailed me back and said, 'Oh oh oh, we're going to ask you about this,'" recalled Plait.
"Over the course of a few days, they were on the phone with me and a lot of other people who knew about, for example, the properties of the lunar surface, to try to figure out not just the best way of debunking the moon hoax but the best aspects of it... so they wanted to know which ones that they had found were the ones that I ran into and what were the best ways to tackle them. It was actually a lot of fun."
Ultimately, Hyneman, Savage and the others settled on three major areas of the hoax: how light interacted with the lunar surface, how the astronauts appeared to move in the low gravity of the Moon and how items behaved in the airless void of space.
Continue reading on collectSPACE.com about how the Mythbusters tested the moon landing hoax claims.
The Mythbusters 'NASA Moon Landing Hoax' episode debuts August 27 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on the Discovery Channel. Check local listings.
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