July marks the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11's historic voyage to the moon, and as such, you may have noticed a slight increase in NASA-related moon features around the intrawebs the last few days. First off, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) has just started returning super high-resolution images of the moon, part of NASA's plan to image the entire satellite. The amazing images thus far have been of some of the dark places on the moon, and really cool, if you are a closet NASA nerd into space photography. Of course -- and quite sadly -- when you hear about the moon landings, there seems to be a lot of conspiracy theorists out there who claim the whole thing is a hoax -- Capricorn One, anybody? To help combat that, NASA recently announced that as part of the LROC project, it plans on getting images of the lunar landing sites. Ideally, you will be able to see some of the larger stuff we left behind, parts of landers, etc. Then again, no doubt there will be people who say the images were photoshopped and will continue to believe to not believe. Sigh. If you didn't see it, the always-entertaining show "Mythbusters" did a special late last summer tackling the moon landings -- whether they were hoaxed or not. Adam, Jamie and the team were able to bust most of the hoax myths -- that is, they were able to confirm that we did go to the moon. Also released this past week were the 40-year-old voice recordings from a British control room of an Apollo 11-related incident that seems to have been lost to history a bit. In a last-ditch attempt to steal some of the American glory, the Soviet Union launched the Luna 15 probe, an unmanned spacecraft that had the mission to land on the moon, retrieve some soil and get back to Earth before the American spacecraft. Unfortunately -- for the Soviets -- the probe crashed while landing on the moon and was never heard from again. Or is that what the Soviets want you to believe? The novel Red Moon is a little like Capricorn One in that it sort of gives you an alternate, conspiracy-laden plot, plucked from the potential fringes of reality: That Luna 15 was actually a one-way manned mission by the Soviets, who were so desperate to top the Americans they would do anything, even if it meant sacrificing a cosmonaut's life. The authors note:
The premise of Red Moon — that Luna 15 was a last-ditch manned attempt at beating the United States in the Moon — is not unique to the novel. To our surprise, in our research we discovered the idea figured predominantly in a dark introspective European novel published in the early 1970’s and in a number of amateur efforts. Much to our surprise, after the first promotional release of the novel in 2001, the Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens 2005 novel Freefall made use of the same premise. Clearly, the idea has seized the imagination of many. The question arises: could there really be something to this? Could Luna 15 have been such an attempt? Though it is unlikely the Soviets took such a drastic step, the possibility, though vanishingly small, remains. Approaching it from another direction,we had to ask, given the hardware available at the time, was this really possible?The author's conclude it was indeed possible, but rather unlikely. I'm sure conspiracy theorists may have another view.