Was Apollo 11 landing staged? Rumors about US mission resurface in China

The rumors began to circulate online after the successful launch of China’s Chang’e 6 unmanned space probe.
By Dong Zhe for Asia Fact Check Lab
2024.06.21
Taipei, Taiwan
Was Apollo 11 landing staged? Rumors about US mission resurface in China
Photo: RFA

In the wake of the successful launch of China’s Chang’e 6 unmanned space probe on May 3, a new wave of rumors questioning the credibility of the U.S. Apollo manned lunar landings has swept Chinese social media.

Conspiracy theories about the Apollo moon missions have persisted since the late 1960s, and Chinese social media users in 2024 are the latest skeptics to spread them. 

Below, AFCL debunks five of the most widespread rumors that have emerged since the launch of Chang’e 6.

Did Chang’e chief architect hint that the Apollo landing was staged? 

Chang’e 6 chief architect Pei Zhaoyu was invited to be a guest analyst onto a special program aired by China’s state-run broadcaster CCTV on May 3, 2024.

At the one-hour and 40-minute mark of the program, Pei can be heard saying: “[it] had not found the Apollo basin.”

Apollo’s basin is a large crater near the southern pole on the far side of the moon that was discovered during the space age and later named in honor of the Apollo missions. Pei’s remark was later misinterpreted by Chinese online users as Pei challenging the veracity of the Apollo moon landings by stating that Chang’e 6 had not found any trace of the original Apollo 11 spacecraft in the basin. 

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Chinese netizens misconstrued a statement from Chang’e chief architect to mean that the U.S. lunar landing was staged. (Screenshot/Weibo)

But the claim is false. The original context of Pei’s statement makes clear that he is responding to a question about the position on the moon’s surface where Chang’e 6 would land. 

Furthermore, it was never intended that Chang’e 6 would land in the Apollo basin. Pei states at around the 24-minute and five-second mark into the program that Chang’e 6 would land near the Aitken basin on the the far side of the moon’s south pole, far away from the Apollo basin on the moon’s northern half.

Did U.S. astronauts admit that the landing was a hoax? 

Online users on the Weibo social media platform said that the Apollo 11 landing had never happened, citing a remark by crew member Buzz Aldrin During an interview: “Because we didn’t go there.”

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Weibo netizens claim that a video shows astronaut Buzz Aldrin admitting the lunar landings never took place. In reality, Aldrin was saying that no missions to the moon have taken place since 1972.  (Screenshot/Weibo) 

But Aldrin was responding to questions about why no manned missions to the moon has occurred since 1972.

But a closer look at the interview shows that Aldrin was in fact saying that no manned mission had gone to the moon since 1972, not that the original Apollo missions had never visited the moon. 

A similar claim was previously debunked by a fact-check organization Snopes.

Did a White House spokesperson say that the U.S. and China visited different moons?

A claim emerged in Chinese-language social media posts that White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre stated that the U.S. and China landed on two “different moons.” Those posts included a photo of her. 

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Netizens claimed that White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said the U.S. and China landed on two “different moons.”  (Screenshots/ X and Tiktok)

But keyword searches found no credible reports to back the claim.

Reverse image searches of the photo shared in the posts show that it was in fact taken by Reuters at a White House press conference on November 18, 2022, has nothing to do with the claim. 

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Photos of Karine accompanying the claims were lifted from a 2022 press briefing. (Screenshots/ Reuters and X)

Did the U.S. send fake lunar rocks to the Netherlands?

Several users of the Douyin social media platform claimed that the U.S. sent fake lunar rocks to the Netherlands, and that this was evidence that the moon landing was staged. 

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Several netizens on Douyin suspicious of the moon landings claimed that the U.S. sent fake lunar rocks to Holland.  (Screenshot / Douyin) 

The claim is partly false. The U.S. did send some fake lunar rocks to  the Netherlands, but it does not show that the lunar landing was staged. 

In August 2009, reports surfaced that a lunar rock on display at the Dutch national museum in Amsterdam was, in fact, an ancient piece of petrified wood. These reports have since been confirmed as true.

The museum acquired the object in 1988, allegedly brought back by the crew of Apollo 11 following the first moon mission in 1969 and gifted to the Netherlands later that year.

While the American broadcaster NBC reported that the U.S. Embassy in the Netherlands was investigating the matter, no information on any follow-up investigations has been found.

Thousands of undisputed samples of lunar rocks were collected by the six Apollo manned missions, many of which were later sent as gifts and are now on display in various countries, including China.

Have all of NASA’s records concerning the Apollo 11 mission been lost?

Some Weibo users claimed that all of NASA’s official documentation about the Apollo 11 mission had been lost, inferring that the disappearance of the information was a sign that the lunar landing had been staged. 

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Netizens claimed that all official information about the lunar missions had been lost. (Screenshot / Weibo) 

But this claim is false. NASA’s official website contains both a general overview of the program as well as detailed information about the launch and subsequent activities of the lunar module. 

In addition, for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, NASA engineer Ben Feist collected images and audio from the Apollo 11 mission, and created a website so that the public could experience the moon landing process at that time.

This public information has been supplemented by images and audio collected by NASA engineer Ben Feist and uploaded on a separate website.

Translated by Shen Ke. Edited by Shen Ke and Taejun Kang.

Asia Fact Check Lab (AFCL) was established to counter disinformation in today’s complex media environment. We publish fact-checks, media-watches and in-depth reports that aim to sharpen and deepen our readers’ understanding of current affairs and public issues. If you like our content, you can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and X.

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