Moon rocks debunk conspiracy theories

Moon rocks debunk conspiracy theories

Stephen Kuper

Rocks collected from the moon 50 years ago and analysed by an international team of scientists, including from the Australian National University (ANU), dispel any notion that the lunar landing was faked, an ANU expert has said.

ANU scientist Professor Trevor Ireland, who is a space rock expert, said no conspiracy would have or could have made the moon rocks.

He said, "Any attempt to make moon rocks in a laboratory would be a monumental failure and likely cost more money than it took NASA to get to the moon and back."

Professor Ireland was not part of the team that analysed the first samples of moon rocks in 1969, but several ANU researchers were: Ross Taylor, Bill Compston, Ted Ringwood and John Lovering. Professor Ireland has worked with these first moon rock researchers and on lunar materials, and knows the significance of their work and back stories from this exciting time.

"The lunar soil is like nothing we have seen before on Earth. It is the result of eons of bombardment on the surface of the moon. The rocks have compositions that are unique to the moon," Professor Ireland said. 

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"Everyone knows about Australia's role in relaying live television of the first steps on the moon, but the work that these ANU scientists did is one of the other great Australian stories from the moon landing 50 years ago that people may have never heard before."

Emeritus Professor Ross Taylor, who is 93 and continues to maintain a strong interest in space rocks, said working with the Apollo mission in 1969 was the opportunity of a lifetime.

He recalled working with bulky gloves on samples in sealed boxes, under tight security with armed guards.

"Any error in the analysis would have ruined my reputation. Only moments before one press conference I realised we had made a big mistake and corrected it – just in the nick of time. It was an exhilarating time to be a scientist," Professor Taylor added. 

He recalled narrowly avoiding being quarantined and prevented from working with the lunar rocks when a container was spilt in the Johnson Space Center laboratory.

"I hid in a lavatory to avoid the professional isolation from the rocks I was working on," Professor Taylor said.

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