U.S. Moon Landing Was a Hoax, Half of Russians Believe

Just under half of Russians think the U.S. moon landing in 1969 was a government hoax, a poll has found. In a survey of 1,600 adults in Russia, researchers also found only 31 percent believe American astronauts landed on the moon in the last century.

The moon landing, where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to set foot on the lunar surface, took place during the space race between the U.S. and Russia. Both nations were vastly expanding their space programs, with Russia having become the first country to send a person—cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin—into space eight years earlier.

Soon after the moon landing, the Soviet Union denied it had been in a space race with the U.S., either claiming they had no lunar program or criticizing NASA's efforts. Some politicians in America use the denials from Russia to claim U.S. officials had invented the race to justify the millions invested in advancing the lunar program. It would be decades before the Soviets confirmed they had been attempting a moon landing. In 1989, the New York Times published an article titled "Russians Finally Admit They Lost Race to Moon."

Conspiracies about whether the moon landing was faked emerged in the years that followed the Apollo 11 mission. In 1976, Bill Kaysing self-published a pamphlet called "We Never Went to the Moon: America's Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle" in which he set out claims against the authenticity of the evidence presented. All his points, such as the flag appearing to wave despite the absence of a breeze, have been debunked by scientists.

But the conspiracy stuck. In 1999 a Gallup poll showed that around five percent of Americans believed the moon landing was a hoax. Twenty years later, a survey by C-SPAN and Ipsos showed this figure had remained stable, with 6 percent of people saying they believe the event was staged. The poll showed belief was higher among younger people, compared with over 50s.

In Russia, support for the conspiracy was far higher. In 2018, Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos, was asked whether there are plans to go to the moon. In response, he joked they would go to check if the moon landings were real: "We have set this objective to fly and verify whether they've been there or not."

The latest poll, by the Russia Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM), shows belief in the moon landing hoax theory is now falling. In 2018, 57 percent believed the Apollo 11 landing was faked. People aged 45 and over were most likely to believe it was a hoax.

The VCIOM poll, which looked at belief in conspiracy theories, covered topics including the safety of vaccines, whether the Earth was flat and whether aliens have visited Earth.

On the latter subject, 13 percent said representatives of extraterrestrial civilizations visit our planet but that this is hidden from the public by authorities. Twenty three percent say aliens visit Earth but hide from us. Forty eight percent said aliens either do not exist or do not visit Earth.

moon landing
Buzz Aldrin next to the U.S. flag on the surface of the Moon during the 1969 landing. Half of Russians still believe the landing was faked by the government. NASA/AFP via Getty Images
U.S. Moon Landing Was a Hoax, Half of Russians Believe | Tech & Science