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Shadow of a doubt

For World Space Week, the National Space Centre dramatises the debate about whether the Apollo Moon landings ever took place. Sarah Farley reports

Did man really walk on the Moon? The question that still tantalises conspiracy theorists more than 30 years after the (alleged) event is the subject of "The Moon Debate" at the National Space Centre in Leicester. The event is part of Moon Mania, the centre's special topic for World Space Week, which runs from October 4 to 10. Presented as a theatrical performance that's backed by a resource document for teachers, "The Moon Debate" will explore claims that the Apollo Moon landings were a hoax.

The booklet, which explains the issues of "The Moon Debate", was produced by Kevin Yates, a Near Earth Object project officer at the centre. Talking about the persistence of sceptical claims, he says: "These ideas have been presented to a wide audience in recent years through television and the internet. As a result, seeds of doubt have been sown, and it's now not uncommon for children to ask their teachers if the Moon landings really did happen."

The debate deals with questions put forward by the conspiracy theorists, including why there are no stars in the background of the Apollo pictures and why there is no dust on the foot pads of the lunar module. Sceptics also question the appearance of the shadows of the astronauts and their equipment, which seem to point in different directions, and why the American flag appears to flutter when there should be no atmosphere. In support of the reality of the event, there is evidence from rocks, telescopes and the trusty principle of Occam's razor (when there are two or more explanations for an observation, the least complicated explanation is favoured).

Moon Mania links in with the launch of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Small Missions for Advanced Research and Technology-1 (SMART-1). The space probe will be the first sent by Europe to the Moon. It will test miniaturisation technology while exploring the Moon from orbit. It is also the first of ESA's missions to test the advanced technology needed for future scientific planetary missions.

Continuing the Moon theme, there will be presentations for visitors about aspects of lunar space missions, and Moon observing sessions. Two competitions surrounding the ESA SMART-1 mission and a Moon meteorite challenge can also be entered.

For the times and dates of events contact the National Space Centre, Exploration Drive, Leicester LE4 5NS

Telephone: 0870 60 772 23

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