NASA left a man on the Moon? An archive video sparked controversy online

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
The debate about whether people have been on the Moon is still ongoing. Source: Getty/OBOZ.UA

There are many conspiracy theories that have been around for a long time. However, they eventually either fade into nothing or are marginalized because too many facts show them to be absurd. However, there is a theory (no, not about a flat Earth) that is simply immortal: its supporters claim that humanity has never been to the Moon. A recent archive video made its adherents say, "I told you so!"

The excitement arose around a video that showed a NASA lunar module launching from the lunar surface, "leaving" a human operator on the satellite. This, according to conspiracy theorists, proved that the entire Moon landing was staged.

The archive video appeared in late January 2024 on X (formerly known as Twitter). It showed the Apollo 17 astronauts launching from the lunar surface on December 14, 1972. Users were surprised that the takeoff of the spacecraft was filmed from the outside, not from an onboard camera and that the footage was not static.

Therefore, the conspiracy theorists raised a quite (admittedly) logical question of "who was left on the Moon to film this", suggesting that only a human cameraman who was on the Moon could have filmed it.

Apollo 17 takeoff from the Moon

As Snopes explains, the conspiracy theorists have been wrong again. The shooting on the Moon was carried out thanks to a camera system known as the Ground-Commanded Television Assembly (GCTA). It was installed on a lunar rover parked at a certain distance from the lunar module. The cameras themselves were controlled by operators on Earth.

At the same time, in a sense, they had to work blindly, since there is a delay between when the signal is sent by the operator on Earth and when it is received by the device on the Moon.

It is known that the "operator" on Earth was a NASA dispatcher named Edward Fendell, who in a 2000 interview explained in detail how the operation was carried out.

"The picture you see was taken without looking at it at all. There was no review and no action with this picture... I actually sent the first team three seconds before the start. Every command was scripted, and all I did was look at my watch and send the commands," Fendell said.

The video of Apollo 17's launch from the Moon made Fendell quite popular with the media, which gave him the nickname "Captain Video."

The production and operation of the GCTA was a significant achievement that included scientific advances in radio transmission systems, camera technology, and image conversion. NASA contracted with the electronics company RCA to create a color video system that could be installed on a bench or lunar rover and controlled remotely from Earth. GCTA was first used on Apollo 15.

However, neither the 15th nor the 16th mission managed to make a successful video of the spacecraft takeoff.

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