NASA Johnson Space Center (NASA-JSC)
Astronaut John Young on Moon
Is the Moon really as barren as we're told? The makers of Apollo 18 are not the first to suggest something might be up there.
In 1835, hopes were high that life would eventually be discovered on our satellite. So when a series of six articles claiming precisely that appeared in the New York Sun newspaper some readers were willing to believe it was true. In what has become known as "The Great Moon Hoax" it was announced that the English astronomer Sir John Herschel had made astounding discoveries.
Asserting that the astronomer had examined the Moon through an advanced new telescope, the articles described vast forests and verdant valleys, herds of alien bison, blue unicorns and numerous species of lunar trees. There were beaver-like beings that dwelled in huts, and winged humanoids that Herschel had supposedly named Vespertilio-homo, or "man-bat". The final article claimed discovery of an angelically beautiful species of the man-bats who enjoyed a highly advanced civilisation.
Fast forward 118 years and we find ourselves in the era of flying saucers and the "contactees", who claimed to be in friendly communication with the inhabitants of other worlds. Prominent among these contactees was George Adamski.
On what he said was his second journey through space, aboard a Saturnian scout craft in April 1953, Adamski was shown the Moon on a viewing screen. He described areas of vegetation on the cratered surface, and spotting a small, four-legged, furry creature. During another journey to the Moon, in August 1954, Adamski saw a temperate lunar region complete with forests, lakes, rivers, mountains, and even a city.
Another lucky space tourist was Howard Menger who claimed he was taken to the Moon in September 1956. After landing, he and a number of other (unnamed) Earthlings were supposedly given a tour of the lunar surface aboard a train-like vehicle. Menger described the Moon as desert-like, with warm, dry air and a yellowish sky, and told how the Moon's inhabitants lived in large, dome-shaped buildings.
Space travel for human beings became an officially recognised reality in the 1960s and by the end of that decade Neil Armstrong had stepped onto the Moon's surface. While some still refuse to believe the Moon landings occurred, others maintain that far more happened than is admitted.
They claim that as Armstrong stepped down the ladder of the Eagle lunar module on 20 July 1969 two alien spacecraft hovered nearby, observing. Supposedly, radio hams intercepted the following conversation:
Mission Control: "What's there? Mission control calling Apollo 11."
Apollo 11: "These babies are huge, sir enormous . Oh, God, you wouldn't believe it! I'm telling you there are other spacecraft out there lined up on the far side of the crater edge they're on the Moon watching us."
Other Apollo missions also led to dramatic claims. When the crew of Apollo 12 took a colour camera to the Moon in November 1969, they inadvertently pointed it directly at the Sun, destroying the equipment. Some believe that this "accident" was deliberately staged to prevent the public seeing footage of alien craft and/or beings on the Moon.
The following year, the accident that almost cost the lives of the Apollo 13 crew sparked a rumour that their spacecraft had been attacked by extra-terrestrials who feared it was carrying a nuclear device that could be used against their Moon bases.
In December 1986 Armstrong informed UFO researcher Timothy Good that there "were no objects reported, found, or seen on Apollo 11 or any other Apollo flight other than of natural origin." His denial did little to quash the rumours.
Further claims are based on interpretations of photographs. In the 1990s, United States Army Colonel Philip J. Corso (Retired) claimed that the US Army and Air Force possess numerous photos showing an alien presence on the Moon. Such stories started long before Corso came forward, however.
In 1953, the British astronomer Dr H. P. Wilkins reported seeing what he thought looked like a curved arch or bridge, approximately two miles long and seemingly of artificial construction. While many commentators thought the apparent structure was an illusion, George Adamski explained that the image actually showed a gigantic alien mothership undergoing maintenance on the Moon's surface.
In the mid-1970s, George H. Leonard's book, Someone Else Is On Our Moon, described how the author had studied thousands of photographs and become convinced that huge machines were excavating the lunar surface. Many of these machines were X-shaped, he revealed, and up to 3 miles long. He thought he could also discern huge living domes and towers.
Don Wilson was another who believed he could identify artificial lunar structures in photographs. In his 1975 book, Our Mysterious Spaceship Moon, Leonard also explained why he believed the Moon was partially hollow, and was actually a spaceship piloted by extra-terrestrials.
Despite the best efforts of sceptics to persuade us that apparent photographic anomalies are misinterpretations of patterns of light and shadow, claims of alien structures in Moon photographs continue today.
The Alien-UFO-Research website, for example, has a page claiming that studying images of the Moon can reveal alien bases. Further evidence comes, they say, from personal testimonies such as that of Sergeant Karl Wolfe who claims to have been shown images of a base on the Moon's dark side.
In fact, once you start following the internet links, a surprisingly widespread belief in life on the Moon (and elsewhere) emerges. Should you ever want to take a trip further down this particular rabbit hole, the Enterprise Mission and The Living Moon websites offer interesting starting points.
Of course, the majority believe the Moon to be lifeless, and I recently stumbled across support for this view from a most unlikely source.
For the past few years I have been co-writing a book about a poltergeist that appeared in Battersea, south London, UK, in the mid-1950s. "Donald", as this poltergeist came to be known, learned to communicate through tapping and later through writing, and when a psychical researcher asked him if life similar to ours existed on other planets, Donald replied, "No". He qualified this, however, by stating that "things" up to eight feet tall could be found on Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Mercury, and Pluto, although not on Venus.
Neither, he maintained, was there any life on the Moon - and who am I to argue with a poltergeist?