Used with permission of the author: Originally published in 2010, this article was written by Willem Vandenberg (Varnadi das), who joined ISKCON in Amsterdam in 1990. He served in the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust in Sweden as a translator and editor and as a manager of one of its sub-complexes. After officially leaving ISKCON in 2010 he went on to further his career as a computer programmer in higher education. He now lives in Texas and enjoys life reading, writing, and traveling the world.

 

 

“So they never worshiped Chandra, and how they can go to the Chandra planet, or Moon planet? Then Krishna is false. Krishna is imperfect. They become perfect. They are defying Krishna’s instruction. They have gone to Moon planet. Then our whole propaganda, Krishna consciousness, becomes bogus. Therefore I always protest.”

– Bhaktivedanta Swami, Sydney, April 1, 1972

 

The authenticity of the Apollo moon landings has been challenged both in general and in the Hare Krishna cult[1] for decades. It is a topic that is hard to discuss in public within this community, because the reactions are usually dogmatic and predictably unpleasant[2] – despite, or perhaps because of, followers’ general lack of knowledge of the topic.

I have not found many other topics that meet with more vicious ridicule and dogmatism than this one. Of course, there are loaded spiritual issues, such as the origin of the soul or the system of disciplic succession[3], but these can be debated ad infinitum on the basis of scripture alone. What is remarkable about the moon landings is that most hoax proof offered by followers of the cult – even in seminars and lectures – either comes from outside the cult dogma and tenets or consists of mere cut-off statements invoking the cult’s founder, à la “Prabhupada said…” Blind following, however, is a dead-end road and, sadly, to anyone who has taken the trouble to delve into the matter a bit deeper, followers who merely parrot so-called hoax proof look double foolish and devoid of critical thinking; not so much because they don’t speak from a level of faith in their own scriptures, but because they use bad science to refute good science in a field they know nothing about. The arguments aren’t scientific, scriptural, or even empiric. Virtually all the so-called proof comes from pseudo-scientific sources and is strangely accepted as conclusive, without any scrutiny.

Needless to say, to dismiss the overwhelming amount of proof for the authenticity of the moon landings that has been available in the public domain for the last 40 years[4] without even remotely looking into any of it, yet whole-heartedly accept almost anything that challenges it purely on face value, shows a hypocritical double standard – something the Hare Krishna cult anyway doesn’t particularly shy away from.

The cult’s founder, Bhaktivedanta Swami, was an avid supporter of anything that indicated that the Apollo moon landings were a hoax. He made any and all scientific discoveries and achievements in this regard subservient and conditional to his own interpretations and misunderstandings of astrology and ancient puranic cosmology — the latter based solely on scant, already existing commentaries on the Bhagavata Purana’s fifth Canto.

Beyond his usual “bubble-scope” (the very narrow view in which the Swami’s personal experiences define the limits of substance and events) and the hoax arguments fed to him by his disciples, his arguments can be summarized as follows:

  1. In puranic cosmology the Moon is further away from Earth than the Sun, requiring a much longer journey than the 4 days it took the Apollo astronauts.

This is based on a lack of understanding of the differences between the cosmologies of the geocentric flat-Earth model of the Puranas and the orbital heliocentric model of modern astronomy. Neither Bhaktivedanta Swami nor his contemporary disciples appear to, at the least, have made a concession that the differences may warrant a mismatch in one-on-one comparison. Instead, the differences enforced the blanket dismissal of the modern understanding and stand-off between the two viewpoints.

  1. The order of the days in the week prove that the Moon is further away from The Earth than the Sun, because Monday comes after Sunday.

How someone so deified can actually argue nonsensically about the distance between objects in space based on the sequence of week day names (and persistently, mind you) is beyond me. In most European countries the week starts on Monday, not Sunday, and there is no worldwide conclusion as to how exactly the names of weekdays have come about or where a week starts to begin with. Ancient Celtic and Germanic cultures linked their weekdays to names of gods. There are theories that indicate that the weekdays are named in relation to the brightness of the planets as visible from the Earth with naked eyes and clear night skies, rather than their distance from the Earth. This, however, is not supported by facts. The days of the week go like Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn (if we take the American system, starting with Sunday). As far as brightness is concerned, the Sun (-26.8) and Moon (-12.7) are followed not by Mars (-2.8), but by Venus (-4.7) and Jupiter (-2.9), in this order. So you’d end up with a week like Sunday, Monday, Friday, Thursday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday… Other theories link the appearance of planets to hours of the day and extrapolate the sequence of weekdays from the planet that occupies the first hour of the day. Again, there is no conclusive correlation between the order of weekday names and the distance of the planets from the Earth.

  1. The Moon is inhabited by higher beings that will not allow human transgression.

This is based on the mention of a story about King Ravana, who sought to build a tower to the heavens so that human mortals could attain it without the required qualifications[5], a story somewhat similar to the story of the Tower of Babel. Each planet, the Moon, the Sun, and all stars have such mystical higher beings as rulers.[6] According to the cult these beings are factual. As a matter of fact, all of humanity on Earth is descended from the ruler of the Sun.[7]

  1. The astronauts did not see the higher beings, so they were never on the Moon.

The expectation here is that these higher beings are visible at all times, whereas the very scriptures cult followers reference in favor of a hoax make it ample clear that these higher beings only appear to human mortals by their own desire, or forced by the strength of extreme austerities that humans are not capable of.

  1. All scientists are cheaters and rascals, hence they must be lying and cheating.

A character assassination technique used by Bhaktivedanta Swami throughout his crusade against modern science and quest for a regression to medieval village life.[8]

  1. The Moon is a star and generates its own light, which is contrary to the findings of the Apollo project.

This is based on a lack of understanding of an Indian astrological term used in naksatranam aham sasi,[9] which the Swami translates as “Of stars I am the Moon” and illuminates as “It appears from this verse that the moon is one of the stars; therefore the stars that twinkle in the sky also reflect the light of the sun. The theory that there are many suns within the universe is not accepted by Vedic literature.” However, a nakshatra refers to one of the 27 sectors along the ecliptic, not a star as defined by modern astronomy. The extrapolation from this misunderstanding, that the Sun is the only light-emanating body in the universe and that every other luminary merely reflects the light of the Sun, is ludicrous, to say the least.

  1. The Moon is the abode of the god of vegetation and therefore must be full of vegetation, which is contrary to the findings of the Apollo project.

An assumption based on the idea that vegetables grow through the influence of the rays of the Moon.[10]

  1. The astronauts must have gone somewhere else, like the puranic hellish planets or the planet Rahu, or, if they indeed went to the Moon, they must have landed in an uninhabited area.

Poor attempts to somewhat justify the success of the Apollo project? After all, Rahu is merely the ascending node of the Moon (not a physical planet) and the hellish planets from the fifth canto of the Bhagavata Purana are allegorical. Moreover, the hellish planets are presided over by, you guessed it, a higher being, and are quite restricted to the dead only.

Throughout the years, Bhaktivedanta Swami’s various conversations, writings, and lectures indicate that his initial pre-Apollo 11 confidence erodes with every subsequent moon landing and other successful space endeavor. His stubbornness, however, doesn’t. Though his arguments change and show more of a concession to the possibility that the Americans may have succeeded, he always maintains a slight distance from a full admission. While the ambivalence becomes more and more palpable, he simultaneously flip-flops with the tide of misinformation fed to him by his ever-gullible disciples.

In the end a picture emerges of a man who is at times adamant that the landings were faked[11], that the moon rocks and landings were fabricated in Arizona[12], and that the Russians were in on the conspiracy[13], yet at other times entertains the possibility that the landings could indeed have happened[14], or that some kind of landing happened elsewhere[15] – just not on the Moon.

Modern astronomy, astrophysics, and aeronautics were obviously well beyond the understanding of the Swami, and often beyond the understanding of his close disciple, too. Yet, these poorly informed, insecure and confused groupies are seen to over and over again trying to deal with this difficult issue in the same way as cult followers do to this very day: with unverified nonsense from unscientific and unreliable sources.[16]

Bill Kaysing’s book We Never Went To The Moon, published in 1974, was taken as seriously as their own scriptures. It truly was one of the first solid sources of pseudo-scientific backup used by followers to justify their moon hoax rhetoric. With the advance of the Information Age many more followed and were readily taken up for the cause. There is William Brian’s Moongate: Suppressed Findings of the U.S. Space Program from 1982, which, in addition to the standard pseudo-scientific arguments regarding stars and fluttering flags, makes the interesting proposal that the Moon is far more massive than NASA claims. Ralph Rene’s 1992 NASA Mooned America is essentially a rehash of Kaysing’s musings with a greater attempt at scientific rigor. Rene is the chief proponent of the claim that passage through the Van Allen belts is unavoidably fatal. Mary Bennet and David Percy’s Dark Moon from 1999 rehashes all these points, discusses what Percy believes to be impossible lighting in Apollo photographs, and then argues about alleged structures on Mars.

In the video market there is Bart Sibrel’s A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Moon, produced in 2001, which purports to expose “behind the scenes” footage that Sibrel claims proves the astronauts knew they were faking it. There is Percy’s What Happened on the Moon? from 2000 – a four-hour exercise in tedium rehashing of his earlier book. James Collier produced Was It Only a Paper Moon? in 1998, in which he argues that the dimensions of the spacecraft did not allow astronauts in space suits to do what they did. Most of these offerings spend, yet again, about 70% rehashing Bill Kaysing, whose arguments have been refuted for decades, and 30% presenting some unique arguments, which have also been refuted for years.

Since virtually all known existing web sites on the Internet that propagate the moon hoax theory draw their material from the above sources, it would serve anyone well to understand a little bit more about the people behind them.

Bill Kaysing, for instance, never worked for NASA and had no direct involvement in the Apollo project. He worked for Rocketdyne, a major aerospace contractor, from 1957 until 1963 (a year before the Apollo project even took shape), and not as an engineer, but as the head cataloger of technical publications – which does not require engineer-level technical expertise. Rocketdyne manufactured only the main engines for the some of the launch vehicles, not the electronics, computers, or structures or much of anything having to do with the spacecraft themselves. A 1949 Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Southern California and a security clearance required of anyone with access to the printed material circulating through Rocketdyne do not amount to space engineering expertise.

Yet, in his book he has no qualms presenting himself as such an expert, introducing some of the classic conspiracy arguments, such as the absence of stars in lunar surface photographs. He also claims that the Apollo 1 fire, and later on the 1985 space shuttle Challenger accident, were staged to silence the participants who were about to expose NASA. Kaysing attempted to sue astronaut Jim Lovell for slander in 1997 when he called his theories “wacky”. The case was thrown out of court in 1999. After making his living mostly from perpetuating the Moon Hoax theory, Kaysing passed away in April of 2005.

Ralph Rene is another oft-quoted, book toting “expert” whose qualifications amount to nothing more than being a “self-taught engineer”. Therefore I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that his book is self-published.

Bart Sibrel is likely one of the most in-your-face personalities of the Moon Hoax scene, and in dire need of web site hits and DVDs purchases. Suffice to say, Sibrel, too, has no scientific or academic qualifications or experience that lend any credibility to his opinions. He’s an “investigative journalist” who makes a living out of making DVDs. Everything he cites, except for a few clips in his video, has been a part of the public record for over forty years, and whatever footage he wants to sell you is available – complete, unedited and without his interpretive voice-over – on the Apollo 11 DVD set from Spacecraft Films. Sibrel has been harassing astronauts in person for years and got punched out by Buzz Aldrin in 2002 after calling him a coward and a liar[17]. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office has declined to file charges.

As a photographer and a paid fellow of the Royal Photography Society, David Percy follows in the footsteps of Moon Hoax proponents lacking credentials. Please note that, despite often being presented as such, he is not an official spokesperson for said society. Percy may be a talented photographer but he is sadly lacking any skill in interpreting images. He’s the one responsible for most of the later shadow and photography theories.

As you can see, these people are in no way reliable authorities in the matter of engineering, astronomy, or astrophysics – let alone space travel and landings on the Moon. They are also no experts on the tenets of the Hare Krishna cult, so it does remain a mystery why these people are treated almost on par with the cult’s sages of yore.

Over the last decade, however, the credibility of these neo-sages has been fading away. With NASA’s online publication of high-resolution images and video footage of the entire Apollo project, confirmation of the moon landings by the Japanese[18], published detail-imagery of the Apollo landing sites[19], and the Chinese Yutu Moon Rover[20], the Hare Krishna cult has wisely kept quiet about the moon landings – though every now and then some unfortunate follower feels the independent need to post a bunch of hoax material from Youtube and/or elsewhere on the Internet as proof that the Swami’s lunacy was justified after all. What these poor, misguided individuals also have in common is their failure to study the arguments and proof that debunks the very material they offer for their hoax support. The absolute best online source for this is the highly recommended website Moon Base Clavius.[21]

The utter lack of input from the management of the cult is also telling. As a matter of fact, despite repeated requests to do so, the Governing Body Commission of the cult has never published a position statement on the matter. You may rightly wonder why, considering that under its supervision dozens of millions of dollars are being spent in one of the most impoverished regions of West-Bengal to build the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium[22], the very purpose of which is not to help the impoverished region, but to create a status symbol for the cult as the pinnacle of true spirituality and to proof to the modern western world that the ancient puranic version of the universe is superior to the current scientific understanding of the universe.[23] You’d expect this confidence to warrant at least a public message to the world, no?

It reminds me of another interesting project that in its own way tries to proof something that any sane person already understands to be sheer folly, namely the Ark Encounter theme park[24] that tries to show with a life-size replica of the biblical ark that the story of Noah is a totally accurate representation of a man gathering a male and female of every animal and keeping them all alive and afloat for a year while god destroys everything with a worldwide flood so he could repopulate the planet from a mountain in Turkey. Well, at least their message is loud and clear…

My message?

Don’t be blind. Don’t ever just accept what you’re told.

Semper questio!

– Willem

 

 


References

SB stands for Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana), the compilation with translation and commentary by Bhaktivedanta Swami.

BG stands for Bhagavad-Gita, the compilation with translation and commentary by Bhaktivedanta Swami.

CC stands for Caitanya-Caritamrta, the compilation with translation and commentary by Bhaktivedanta Swami.

[1] The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), better known as the Hare Krishna movement, was founded by Bhaktivedanta Swami in 1966. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iskcon

[2] See: Srila Prabhupada was not alone to claim the [sic] monlanding was a hoax (http://www.dandavats.com/?p=7481), and The Great Moon Landing Hoax (http://www.dandavats.com/?p=9125)

[3] From Master to Disciple, Willem Vandenberg, 2015

[4] See for example: http://www.apolloarchive.com/, http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/index.html, and https://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/

[5] Other than vague allusions, there are no direct references to scriptures and verses to substantiate the actuality of the story. Regardless, Bhaktivedanta Swami uses it on several occasions to indicate the futility of overcoming qualification requirements by devious means.

[6] SB 4.22.54, purport: “Actually the predominating deities in all the other planets are descendants from the predominating deities of the sun and moon. On this planet earth there are two ksatriya dynasties, and one comes from the predominating deity of the sun and the other from the predominating deity of the moon.”

[7] SB 1.12.19, purport: “The Manu mentioned in this verse as the father of Ikshvaku is the seventh Manu, of the name Vaivasvata Manu, the son of sun-god Vivasvan, to whom Lord Krishna instructed the teachings of Bhagavad-gita prior to His teaching them to Arjuna. Mankind is the descendant of Manu.”

[8] Prabhupada in His Own Words – Scientists and Authority, Willem Vandenberg, 2010

[9] BG 10.21: “Of the Adityas I am Visnu, of lights I am the radiant sun, of the Maruts I am Marici, and among the stars I am the moon.”

[10] SB 8.5.34, purport: “The moonshine is the vital force for all vegetation, and therefore we cannot possibly accept that the Moon is a desert.”

[11] SB 4.22.54, purport: “We are therefore always in doubt about what kind of Moon adventure the modern scientists of this planet earth have undertaken.”
SB 5.24.3, purport: “Of course. their attempts will be failures because no one can enter the Moon or sun so easily.”
SB 6.9.1, purport: “they cannot even go to the Moon”
SB 10.3.27, purport: “We must conclude without a doubt that they have never gone to the Moon.”
EJTOP, Antimaterial Worlds: “As such, man’s attempts to reach the Moon, the sun, or Mars will be completely futile because of the different atmospheres prevailing on those planets.”
BG 2.12, New York, March 9, 1966: “That means they have not reached.”
CC, Madhya-lila 21.1-10, New York, January 3, 1967: “They cannot reach even the Moon planet, what to speak of others.”
Lecture, Boston, May 7, 1968: “But you cannot go with this body — even by sputnik. They are trying. It is not possible.”
Lecture, Seattle, September 30, 1968: “So many scientists of America, Russia, and other countries, they are trying. But they cannot.”

Sri Sri Sad-govamy-astaka, Los Angeles, November 18, 1968: “You cannot go to the Moon planet in that way. It is not possible.”

BG 2.13, Hamburg, September 10, 1969: “Just like we are trying to go to the Moon planet, but we have not been successful.”

Room Conversation, Sydney, April 1, 1972: “They have not gone. We have got our tests.”

SB 5.5.1-8, Stockholm, September 8, 1973: “They see the sun, the Moon. They cannot go there. Cannot go there.”

Morning Walk At Cheviot Hills Golf Course, May 17, 1973, Los Angeles: “First of all make sure whether he had gone there, and then talk of all these things. (laughing) I am not sure they are going there.”

[12] Morning Walk, July 21, 1975, San Francisco: “They say? It is simply cheating. They found this in Arizona, somebody… (laughter) And laboratory work.”
Morning Walk, June 2, 1975, Honolulu: “Paramahamsa: Srila Prabhupada, I think somebody might have told you before, but there was a big scandal right after the Moon shot when they said they went to the Moon and…, that it was all staged in the desert of Arizona, that they… Prabhupada: Yes, that is the fact.”
Room Conversation, July 10, 1976, New York: “Therefore I say they couldn’t go there. Their asset is Arizona, that’s all.”

[13] Morning Walk, Perth, May 18, 1975: “The Russian scientists and the American scientists joined on the platform, ’Don’t expose me, I don’t expose you.’”
Morning Walk, Melbourne, May 21, 1975: “Simply propaganda. They are not going. Now the Russian scientist and American scientist are combined. Because both of them thieves, so one thief is asking, ‘Don’t expose me. I will not expose you, so that our business will go on.’ This is the way.”

[14] SB 7.15.50-51, purport: “even the modern so-called scientists who are going to the Moon are not able to stay there”
CC, Madhya 19.138, purport: “Those who have claimed to have gone to the Moon have not gone there, or else with their imperfect vision they cannot actually perceive the particular type of living entities there.”
NOD, Happiness in Krishna Consciousness: “Though the modern astronauts go to the Moon with the help of spaceships, they undergo many difficulties”
BG 7.1, Los Angeles, December 2, 1968: “Even they go to the Moon planet, they’ll be not very much benefited…”

SB 1.1.2, London, August 16, 1971: “Just like these so-called scientists are going to the Moon planet and coming back — because conditioned.”

Room Conversation, December 11, 1971, New Delhi: “Actually, I do not know whether they have gone, but why they are coming back?”
Room Conversation, Sydney, April 1, 1972: “So they never worshiped Chandra, and how they can go to the Chandra planet, or Moon planet? Then Krishna is false. Krishna is imperfect. They become perfect. They are defying Krishna’s instruction. They have gone to Moon planet. Then our whole propaganda, Krishna consciousness, becomes bogus. Therefore I always protest.”

SB 2.1.5, Los Angeles, August 13, 1972: “Just like in modern days, especially your American scientists, they are going to the Moon planet.”

SB 1.3.22, Los Angeles, September 27, 1972: “So these materialist scientists, they are thinking that they can go anywhere by the force of their so-called scientific advancement. But it has not proved successful till now.”

SB 1.15.21, Los Angeles, December 1, 1973: “They are going to the so-called Moon planet and coming back.”
BG 4.12, Vrindavan, August 4, 1974: “Now they are going, trying to go to the Moon planet. Or they have gone. That is education, scientific education.”
Letter to Tirthanga dasa, September, 1977: “Even it is true that they have landed on the Moon, so what is their accomplishment?”

[15] SB 6.1.6, Bombay, November 6, 1970: “Even though they have reached the Moon planet, it is not a fact that there is no living entity. Accepting they reached the Moon planet, they might have gone to the part where it is desert or barren land, because in each and every planet there is such possibility.”

The Nectar of Devotion, Vrindavana, October 20, 1972: “Yes. He, they have not gone to the proper place. They have gone to the Arabian desert. That’s all.”

Morning Walk, June 2, 1975, Honolulu: “Therefore they could not go. I… First of all I said that they might have gone to the Rahu planet. … No, accidentally they went to Rahu. Maybe. … Yes. They might have gone to that hellish planet. That’s all.”

Morning Walk, Perth, May 18, 1975: “Yes. They might have gone to some hellish planet, where there is only sand, only, and very hot … they might have gone to some such place, not to the Moon planet”

[16] Room Conversation, New Vrindaban, July 2, 1976:Hari-sauri: The Moon does not revolve on its own axis.”
Morning Walk, Melbourne, May 21, 1975:Devotee: The first Moon landing was 1961.”
Morning Walk, Melbourne, May 21, 1975: Madhudvisa: Now they have found that that same dust is here on the earth.”
Room Conversation, June 15, 1976, Detroit: Pusta Krishna: We had one CIA agent. Previously, he was a CIA agent. I was told this story, I don’t know. Anyway, might as well relate it. So they were doing an experiment in the Bahama Islands off Florida. They were all very high intellects. They were developing a certain radio beam to measure the beams which are given off from other planets, thinking that maybe these intelligent beings, they are sending some message out. So they developed this way of sensoring the beams which were coming from the North Star. Anyway, he said — and he was serious, I was told this; he’s in India now, one of our devotees there — he said that when they focused on the North Star and they got the beam back, when they translated it, it came out to be the maha-mantra.

Prabhupada: Hare Krishna.

Pusta Krishna: Yes. And so they went to the Department of Intelligence, (laughter) and they went to the United States Army, because this was an army project, and when the Army got hold of it they said, ‘Oh, you people are all nonsense. Disband this project.’”

[17] See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wptn5RE2I-k

[18] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third-party_evidence_for_Apollo_Moon_landings#SELENE_photographs

[19] See: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/revisited/#.Vo7BBRUrKUk

[20] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yutu_(rover)

[21] See: http://www.clavius.org/

[22] See: http://tovp.org/

[23] It is commonly understood that Bhaktivedanta Swami wanted the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium to look like the US Capitol and Vatican, rather than follow a traditional Indian design, to be in direct competition with these highest symbols of materialism and western religion respectively.

[24] See: https://arkencounter.com/