The Moon Landing Problem (IP from last week)
My father was woken at 6.30 one morning by a banging on his back door.
He quickly dressed, pausing only to straighten his tie in the mirror, and rushed downstairs.
He was expecting to see his neighbour, Alun, but instead was greeted by the sight of four men in astronaut costumes.
“I recognise you don’t I?” my father said to the man at the door.
“Very probably,” the man had replied in a thick American accent, “I’m probably the most famous man on the planet right now.”
“I knew it,” my father said, “you’re Louis Armstrong the jazz singer. I’ve got all your records.”
“No, no, no,” the man said angrily, “why does everyone think I’m Louis Armstrong. Does Louis Armstrong walk around dressed as an astronaut?”
“I’ve no idea,” my father said, “I’ve never met him.”
“I’m not Louis Armstrong,” the man explained, “I’m Neil Armstrong, leader of the first manned mission to the moon, commander of the Apollo 11 space mission, pilot of a rocket that cost more than a fleet of 50 ships.”
“That’s very impressive,” my father said.”
“Not really,” the astronaut had sighed, turning to point at the smoking remains of a crashed space rocket on the far end of the island. “Buzz got a bit excited and pressed one of the buttons he shouldn’t have. This is my crew by the way: Buzz Aldrin and two other guys, I can never remember their names. ”
“Hi I’m Buzz,” said one of the other astronauts, who had spent the past five minutes pressing and re-pressing the back doorbell, which my regular readers will know has never worked, not since it was specially installed to mark the King’s visit to the island in 1907.
“Will you leave that button alone Buzz, haven’t you caused enough trouble already?”
“Sorry,” said Buzz, “I just like pressing buttons.”
“You see what I have to deal with,” Neil Armstrong had said to my father. “I’ve got the whole of the world’s media expecting me to beam back the first ever message from the moon, over 1 billion people have it pencilled in their diaries to watch the moon landing live on national TV, and I have to announce that Buzz has busted the ship.”
“Not necessarily,” my father had said, thinking quickly. “We may need some help, but I think this problem is fixable.”
Soon the entire population of the island was gathered in an emergency meeting to discuss the problem. My father, his neighbour Alun and the four astronauts.
“It’s obvious what we should do Jed,” Alun had said, “we simply fake a moon landing.”
“Ha, ha, that’s impossible buddy”, Louis Armstrong had said, “the moon’s surface has one sixth of the force of gravity on the Earth. There’s simply no way you could fake that sort of movement. And the surface of the moon is unique, there’s no rock on Earth looks anything like it.”
“Nonsense, MoonLike Bay looks just like the surface of the moon, that’s how it got its name. The sand looks just like moon rock.”
“Well, that doesn’t solve the problem of gravity.”
“Actually it does,” my father said, “gravity is a lot weaker there following a dispute between the island and the laws of physics (see The Gravity Problem). It’s almost exactly the same there as it is on the moon.”
Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and the other two who nobody can ever remember, were amazed to find that my father was right. Walking out on MoonLike Bay was indeed just like walking on the surface of the moon, with the astronauts taking giant steps across the bay.
“Pass the camera Jed, this is exactly what the world wants to see.” The camera was linked up to the NASA team in Houston, and through these to TV screens all over the world.
And so it was Alun’s father took the historic footage of Neil and Buzz leaping across MoonLike Bay, planting a flag, gathering rocks, and generally playing around like astronauts stepping onto the moon for the first time would probably play around like. In the sky above a giant sea eagle soared in a grand circle around the bay, as if enthralled by the historic moment being filmed below.
“This moon trick is one giant leap for dishonest media manipulation,” said Neil to my father.
“I’m sorry,” crackled Houston over the radio,” what did you say Neil?”
“Buzz will you stop playing with the switches, I thought the radio was off,” whispered Neil angrily, before raising his voice to reply to Houston. “Erm, I said this is one small step for man and a great leap for mankind,” said Neil.
“Right, thanks for that Neil, that comment has been broadcast live to nearly a billion people around the world. You can tell us what it means later. ”
Neil signalled for Alun to switch off the camera and radio. “We’ve got enough footage, we don’t want to overdo it. How did it look?”
“Very convincing,” my father said, “you’d never guess the whole thing was faked.”
Unnoticed by the rest of the party, Buzz was once again playing with the switches on the radio. Suddenly the eagle swooped down, making a grab at a shiny piece of metal on Neil’s costume.
“The bloody eagle has landed on me,” shouted Neil.
“I’m sorry,” crackled the voice of Heuston, “what did you say Neil?”
“I said the eagle has landed. It’s what we call the ship, the Eagle.”
“We did tell you that the ship was called Apollo 11 Neil. We had a team working on that name for months. Apparently Apollo was the Greek god of space rockets. We ruled out eagle very early on in the discussions.”
Whilst Louis Armstrong and Whitney Heuston were arguing Alun’s father was busy fighting off the eagle with the American flag. My father, meanwhile, had the good sense to keep an eye on Buzz, who was just about to switch the camera on.
“Don’t press that button Buzz. The world are waiting for images of astronauts walking on the surface of the moon. It would be a big disappointment for them to instead see footage of an old man fighting an eagle.”
“It would be a big disappointment for them to instead see footage of a middle aged man fighting an eagle.”
Reluctantly Buzz put the camera down. By this time Alun had finally frightened off the eagle with a well-placed Stars and Stripes in the nether regions.
Returning to my father’s house the six men viewed the footage they had taken.
“It’s very good,” my father said.
“It’s very good,” Alun agreed.
“It’ll never work,” said Buzz. “Look, the flag’s moving, yet there’s no wind on the moon.”
“That’s no problem,” said Alun, “you can just say that the flag only seemed to flutter when you were moving it into position.
“Okay, but there are footprints in the wet sand, yet there’s no moisture on the moon.”
“That’s easy,” said Alun, “we’ll just say that the moon dust has not been weathered like Earth sand and has sharp edges, allowing dust particles to stick together and hold their shape in the vacuum.”
“Wow,” said Neil, “you could make a fortune in American with lies like that. Have you ever thought of running for president?”
Alun decided not to move to America and run for the Presidency. Amazingly he proved correct, only a minority of wise and open-minded people ever saw through the great moon landing conspiracy. Every ten years Buzz and Neil would visit the island for a celebratory drink, which is how I got to meet the great Neil Armstrong.
I thought about the whole moon-landing incident last Tuesday, when I was woken at around 6.00 by a hammering on my back door. Upon opening it I found three Chinese men dressed as astronauts. They pointed to a crashed space rocket in the distance. “We’ve got a bit of a problem,” the first man said.
“It’s okay,” I said, “I know exactly what to do. I don’t suppose you thought to bring any eagle repellent with you?”