Did NASA Really Film a Fake Moon Landing in Case Apollo 11 Failed?

Did NASA Really Film a Fake Moon Landing in Case Apollo 11 Failed?
Did NASA Really Film a Fake Moon Landing in Case Apollo 11 Failed?

Did NASA really film a fake moon landing as a backup plan if the Apollo 11 mission failed? “To the Moon,” a romantic comedy starring Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum that hits theaters July 10, plays around with what the shoot might have looked like.

The “hidden” side of the first step on the Moon… The film “To The Moon”, which is released in theaters on July 10 in France, raises questions as to whether or not NASA had hired a team to film a fake moon landing, “in case” the Apollo 11 mission failed.

The film, starring Channing Tatum and Scarlett Johansson, tells the story of a marketing specialist named Kelly Jones, who is hired by the government to help the American public buy into the mission to “land” a man on the moon during the tumultuous 1960s. She is soon given an even more secret mission: to discreetly stage a fake moon landing in case the Apollo 11 mission fails.

“The inspiration behind this story was to create an original, funny and intelligent film around the question of whether or not the U.S. government could have faked the Apollo 11 moon landing, which remains to this day the most-watched live television event in world history and has since become one of the most-discussed conspiracy theories,” director Greg Berlanti (“Love, Simon,” “You”) tells People magazine. “It plays with the concept of whether or not we faked it.”

According to the National Air and Space Museum, an estimated 650 million people watched on television as Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” the astronaut said. And a big hoax?

“The importance of truth”

“I’ve always been a huge NASA fan and space nut, and [j’ai adoré] “To read something that both celebrated NASA, but also emphasized the importance of truth – especially in this day and age when it seems like everything else is nonsense. A conspiracy story. Where did it come from? Why does truth still matter?” the director says of the script.

As the filming of a fake moon landing goes awry in her movie, Scarlett Johansson’s character says, “I think we should have brought in Kubrick.” A nod to a long-standing conspiracy theory that the 1969 Apollo moon landing was faked, with a fake sequence shot by Stanley Kubrick. The theory that Stanley Kubrick faked the moon landing for NASA comes from a self-published book in 1974.

Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” created such realism that NASA reportedly hired him to film a fake moon landing, designed to make Americans the winners of the space race, even if it meant fooling millions. The theory is that NASA was willing not only to pay him handsomely for his work but also to give him access to Roswell, where he would have had access to the alien artifacts and alien corpses allegedly stored there.

Famous conspiracy theory

The “contingency plan” – which would have involved filming a fake moon landing to be broadcast on national television in the event of the failure of the legitimate Apollo 11 mission – remains to this day one of the greatest American conspiracy theories.

Greg Berlanti told THR that the current proliferation of conspiracy theories was on his mind while filming “To the Moon.” “It’s always a movie about the importance of truth, and people will bring to it what they want,” he said, noting that the topic of trust in government is still worth exploring, despite the fraught nature of our times. The filmmaker said he wanted to make “a very entertaining movie” [qui]I hope, still has something to say on this subject. There is a reason to look at this head on and not hesitate to do something like this now, because it is so politicized.”

Speaking to ComicBook, he noted that despite the central conspiracy plot (to a point, since it’s a rom-com with plenty of comedic sequences…), NASA approached the film with enthusiasm. “I think NASA was very enthusiastic about being involved in this project because they knew that the film was as much about venerating and acknowledging what had been accomplished as it was about showing the public how it could have been faked,” Berlanti explained. “I think if the reason and the theme of the film hadn’t ultimately been the truth, I think they might have had a different perspective.”

Story inspired by reality but fictional

Although “To The Moon” is a film based on the Apollo 11 mission, it deviates from the real story. First, by presenting a marketing specialist ready to do anything to make the American public aware of the lunar mission. Let us recall that in the 1960s, faced with more pressing problems such as the Vietnam War and cooled by the terrible failure of the previous mission which had seen three astronauts die during the ascent of the rocket, the majority of the American public was skeptical about NASA’s project to fly to the Moon.

“To The Moon” strayed from the real story, most notably when Scarlett Johansson’s adwoman set out to make the astronauts more popular than the Beatles by putting their faces on every beverage and cereal box in the country, because in real life, NASA had a strict policy about astronauts appearing in commercials. But the most significant creative liberties “To The Moon” took were the fake moon landing, because there is no evidence that NASA ever filmed such footage.

While the film presents a fictional and decidedly humorous take on space exploration, Berlanti still wanted the set to be as realistic as possible, which meant carefully recreating locations, such as the original shooting gallery. Given that his film is about a possible fake moon landing, he wasn’t sure NASA would greenlight it, but he was pleasantly surprised (and grateful) when he was allowed to shoot on location at Cape Kennedy, Florida.

“Everything was done with great care, from the headsets to the buttons and dials on each computer,” Berlanti told EW. The care taken in the set pays homage to the real-life feat accomplished by the scientists and astronauts. “During the filming, a number of people saw the original launch and they were in tears when they went into the firing room because they felt like they had stepped back in time.”

A fake moon landing that is more real than life

Scarlett Johansson, who stars in the film with Channing Tatum, and Greg Berlanti agree that their favorite moment was filming the fake moon landing. Berlanti wanted every shot to look like it was lifted from the original footage, down to the tiniest grain of sand. NASA even provided the “To the Moon” crew with several Apollo-era technical advisors, all of whom helped steer the film in the right direction by sharing their real-life experiences working for NASA in the 1960s.

The contributions also went beyond oral anecdotes, as Berlanti was also provided with never-before-seen footage from the Apollo missions that helped shape how “To the Moon” would be shot. “They were very hands-on at every level,” the filmmaker praised NASA’s help throughout the shoot. “How we shot, where we were allowed to shoot. I think we shot more footage in and around the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) than anyone else has ever done. It was a great experience and it gave everyone who worked on the film a sense of importance. We hope that translates into the film.”

“When we had to mimic the first stage, I think we analyzed 30 different samples of gravel,” Berlanti said with a laugh. “We wanted to know what the moon would look like on film, what it would look like on a TV set of that time. We kept looking at sample after sample, and we all had to wear masks because of all this fine dust. And we had to walk in these silly shoes, so we wouldn’t ruin the moon soil. We put a lot of thought and time into making sure it looked as real as possible (…) We were shooting the landing choreography on our fake moon set, watching the stuntmen do every move exactly, while listening to Walter Cronkite (an American journalist known for his in-depth coverage of the space program, editor’s note) reporting – it was just incredible,” Johansson recalled. “It was like watching the moon landing live in front of your eyes.”

“To the Moon” is released in French theaters on July 10.

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