On 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin took their first steps on the moon, becoming the first people ever to do so. This year marks 50 years of that landmark event.
Ahead of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s mission to the moon, we look at one of the oldest fake news about it.
A particular claim surfaces on social media from time to time, saying that the Apollo astronauts: Aldrin, Armstrong and Michael Collins, had to fill out a customs form when they landed on earth, on 24 July 1969.
The posts also say that they were required to declare moon rock as their cargo. Accompanying the posts is a photo of the form that they were required to file, which bears the signature of all the three astronauts.
This message has been viral since 2000, popping up on social media from time to time.
Coming back from the moon, Apollo astronauts had to go through customs and declare moon rock as cargo. pic.twitter.com/989K5nBtk3— History Lovers Club (@historylvrsclub) April 8, 2018
The Apollo astronauts had to clear customs.— Joe Wright ⚓️ (@realjoewright) July 16, 2019
When they came back.
From the Moon. https://t.co/V2h2iZf3Pc
WHAT'S THE TRUTH BEHIND THIS?
Many people have shared this over the years, believing that the astronauts were actually required to fill in these forms on their return to earth.
However, while this form is authentic, it was meant as a joke. It was made available in 2009, to mark the mission's 40th anniversary and SPACE.com obtained a copy and had it verified by NASA.
"Yes, it's authentic," NASA spokesperson John Yembrick told SPACE.com. "It was a little joke at the time," he added.
According to the SPACE.com report, this move was "humour than fact" because Apollo 11 landed 1,480 km southwest of Hawaii and 21 km from the USS Hornet, a Navy ship sent to recover the crew. It took them two more days to reach Hawaii on 26 July.
Today though, NASA astronauts actually have to go through customs, but only because when headed for the International Space Station, they are required to train in Japan, Canada, Europe and Russia in order to become accustomed to the different systems, modules and tools they will be using while at the space station.
Now, if you think this was interesting to read and you're eager to know more around this topic, here's a roundup of some of the fake news around space, the moon and lunar eclipses.
Fake Claim 1: Two Moons in the Sky?
A claim in 2018 said that there would be two moons in the sky on 27 July, adding that the next time the cosmic event would happen again would be in 36,996.
“On July 27, around midnight, do not forget to raise your head and look into the sky: Mars will be the most brilliant star in the sky. This is because it will have an apparent diameter as big as the Full Moon! It will be possible to observe, with the naked eye, a cosmic phenomenon which will allow the inhabitants of the Earth to behold… two moons!” the claim said.
The article by Science.info.news further said, "Share this information as much as possible with your friends because NO human being alive today will be able to behold this incredible phenomenon a second time."
Many people shared this article as well.
A cosmic event that only happens every 35,000 years: July 27, 2018, the planet Mars will be as big as the Moon https://t.co/daCPKiYX6R— Stefan Hertel (@StefanHertel1) July 26, 2018
I have dreamt of two moons in the sky repeatedly throughout my life especially as a child...and it will now come to pass in my lifetime... no coincidence there... As Neptune is Conjunct my Jupiter in Pisces and Saturn is Conjunct my Fourth... https://t.co/n9F4H9CSmW— AfroGoddess (@Afro_Goddess_) July 26, 2018
Yes, Mars was making its closest approach to Earth in 15 years at the time. But no, the red planet was not supposed to be as big as the moon in the night sky on 27 July, as the hoax article claimed.
However, an AFP fact-check had called out the article as fake.
According to AFP, the hoax article said that "apochromatic altazimutal velocity for which the cyclo-parabolic projection (adjusted Lambert benchmark) is affected by a singular analemmic anomaly modifying the apside line", which is a "fundamentally nonsense sentence."
The reason behind the website having peddled false information could be because it is a "self-acclaimed" parody site, AFP reported.
Fake Claim 2: Sai Baba’s Face in the Moon?
An image of Shirdi Sai Baba’s face embossed on the moon went viral in July 2009, which had villagers across several districts in Karnataka, dashing out of their houses on hoping to spot the unusual phenomenon in the sky.
The message that accompanied the image, later changed to a claim that only the “blessed” would be able to spot Sai Baba’s face on the moon, while those who could not were “cursed”, a report in Bangalore Mirror said.
The WhatsApp forward was widely circulated in Chikkaballapur, Bengaluru Rural and even outskirts of Bengaluru.
The residents of these districts reportedly even took the help of binoculars to help them spot the “rare, divine sight”.
It was quite obviously a photoshopped image.
Fake Claim 3: Are Cosmic Rays Affecting Your Health?
A message about cosmic rays passing close to the earth and causing bodily damage if electronic devices are kept close has been doing the rounds on Facebook and WhatsApp for a few years now.
The warning message which has been attributed to one “Singapore Television news” reads:
“Tonight at 12:30 to 03:30 make sure to turn off the phone, cellular, tablet, etc and put away from your body. Singapore television announced the news. Please tell your family and friends. Cosmic rays will pass close to earth. So please turn off your cell phone. Do not leave your device close to your body, it can cause you terrible damage. Check Google and NASA BBC News. Send this message to all the people who matter to you.”
However, there seems to be very little truth to the claim, according to website Snopes.
The rumour has been around since 2014 and there is no scientific explanation for it, says the website. It further added that these events cause no health risk to humans on earth and the risk of a cell phone (which is already non-existent) will not be aggravated.
Fake Claim 4: Do Lunar Eclipses Affect Pregnant Women?
Should pregnant women avoid looking at the eclipse? We spoke with Dr Anuradha Kapur, head of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, at Max Hospital, Saket. Dr Kapur dismisses all these claims as myths, saying eclipse has no effect on pregnant women.
“It’s a strong belief among pregnant women in India. And I always advice them to meet the doctors. You don’t have to stop eating, and you need to protect yourself from dehydration. If you feel weak, take rest, and don’t fall for such superstitions,” Kapur told Quint FIT.
According to NASA as well, there is no proof that eclipse has any physical impact on humans.
While it is advisable not to step out during solar eclipse, there is no such restriction during lunar eclipse.
And while looking directly at the sun during solar eclipse can lead to retinal damage, there is no such restriction during lunar eclipse.
Fake Claim 5: Cooked Food Goes Bad During Lunar Eclipses?
According to NASA, the rumour that food goes bad during an eclipse is based on the belief that rays emitted during the eclipse are dangerous. But if the rays were that harmful, they would affect not just cooked food but all food.
Dr Ashwini Setya, a senior gastroenterologist with Max Hospital, Saket, told Quint FIT he has never seen any case of food going bad or food poisoning during lunar eclipse. He says that while these beliefs are rooted in religion, there is no scientific proof to back them up.
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