The NASA astronaut, who missed his chance to walk on the Moon after the ill-fated flight of Apollo 13 in 1970, ridiculed Moon landing conspiracies during a talk at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Captain Lovell, 92, appeared at MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2016 to discuss his experiences on Apollo 13 but also took time to honour those who flew into space before and after him. The astronaut has been to space four times, flying on NASA’s Gemini 7, Gemini 12, Apollo 8 and Apollo 13 missions.
Apollo 8 in December 1968 marked a historic moment for NASA – the first human flight to the Moon and back.
Just a year later, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to set foot on an alien world, with third astronaut Michael Collins in lunar orbit.
Captain Lovell said: “One of our jobs on Eight was to look for landing spots, for flat areas – the maure – so that it would it give the people who would attempt the first landing the greatest chance of survival. And 11 was it.
“They landed before the end of the decade, they picked up lunar rocks, they said some unforgettable words, came back safely.
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“And in the initial part there was a great euphoria that we had, one thing, beat the Russians to the Moon because it was in some way a race for prestige more than anything else.
“But believe it or not, there were people in this country and in Europe that did not believe we did it. We faked it in West Texas someplace.”
After a burst of laughter from the audience, Captain Lovell went on to reveal what he and NASA really thought about the conspiracy theories.
He said: “Well, rather than to argue with such people – and I was sued one time because they didn’t think I even flew to the Moon – rather than argue with these people, NASA got ready with Apollo 12.”
Rather than argue with these people, NASA got ready with Apollo 12
Jim Lovell, NASA
NASA’s monumental Apollo programme has been at the heart of conspiracy theory discussions since the 1960s.
Many have claimed the Apollo 11 Moon landing was staged by Hollywood director Stanley Kubrick.
Others have said it is impossible to leave Earth due to a band of radiation around the planet known as the Van Allen belt.
But NASA has been to the Moon and back six times in total and 12 people have walked on the lunar orb’s surface.
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Captain Lovell was on his way to attempt the third lunar landing when an explosion forced NASA to abort the Apollo 13 mission.
A damaged oxygen tank installed in the spacecraft’s Service Module ruptured nearly 60 hours into the flight.
The incident led to a drastic loss of power in the Command Module spacecraft when the Apollo 13 crew was some 200,000 miles from Earth.
Captain Lovell was joined on the flight by astronauts John Swigert and Fred Haise.
Captain Lovell said: “About 30 hours are gone by and everything is fine.
“My two rookies are getting very comfortable, all the zero-g work is going away, stomachs are feeling good and everything.”
Struggling with rapid power loss, dropping oxygen levels and freezing temperatures, the spacecraft was shut down as the astronauts moved to the two-man Lunar Module, now used as a lifeboat.
Apollo 13 was eventually brought back to Earth in one of NASA’s finest hours.
And though Apollo 13 never landed on the Moon, the mission has been dubbed a successful failure for saving its three astronauts from death.
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