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The moon landings actually happened, and there's plenty of contemporaneous evidence of it. But what if the United States government wanted to fake a moon landing now?

We have the technology to create pretty convincing images of a moon landing. But is it enough?

My question is this: given the tools we have to uncover and spread information, how could a major government in the present day stage a new moon landing comparable to the Apollo 11 mission?

For the purpose of this question, assume the following:

  • This is present-day Earth, except you can swap out relevant political leaders if you'd like.
    • But don't assume that they'll be in office when the hoax is completed.
  • Pick any government you want as long as they can afford and execute this hoax, and can convince the world it was real.
  • All previous lunar missions (manned or otherwise) happened as officially reported, and the results and observations taken from them are accurate.
  • If the hoax is exposed with sufficient evidence by a major news outlet at any time before "launch" or within fifty years afterward, it is considered a failure.
  • The government you choose announces plans for a real moon landing, and will at some point announce a formal "launch" date.
  • The identity of the purported astronauts is public knowledge, and they're in on it.
  • The hoax should not cost more than a real trip to the moon.
  • There will be an international television broadcast of the landing. It doesn't need to be live, but the general public (including the media outlets delivering it) has to believe that it is.
  • The "launch" must occur no later than July 20th, 2035.
  • The hoax must not actually involve sending people to the moon. You can send objects or animals there if you have to.
  • The more people or organizations who are in on the hoax, the more likely it will fail.
  • The "mission" will be a quick visit to the moon, similar to the Apollo 11. You are not trying to convince people that you've colonized the moon.
  • The hoax, once begun, will only be canceled if it's exposed.
  • The hoax is of a successful lunar mission; the majority of the general public (regardless of country) must believe that all of the "astronauts" went to the moon and safely returned.
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    $\begingroup$ "The hoax should not cost more than a real trip to the moon." "You can send objects or animals [but not people] [to the moon] if you have to." These are somewhat contradictory. Only by sending inanimate objects are you likely to be able to reduce the cost by any significant amount, since that does away with all life support requirements. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Apr 17 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ The Apollo missions left retroreflectors on the moon; a hoax in a world where Apollo happened would likely need to do something similar in order to establish some sort of credibility, which more or less requires at least a soft landing, though not necessarily return capability. An old question of mine, What is the marginal cost of landing on the Moon? on Space Exploration, may well be of interest. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Apr 17 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ Mitchell and Webb considered this scenario. The conclusion that the best way to do a fake moon landing involved landing on the moon first. youtube.com/watch?v=P6MOnehCOUw $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Apr 17 at 19:47
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    $\begingroup$ "If the hoax is exposed by a major news outlet at any time before launch or within fifty years afterward, it is considered a failure." Some major news outlets will give air time to all kinds of conspiracy theorists. I don't think a real manned moon mission could avoid being "exposed" as a hoax in at least some major news outlets; having it actually be a hoax would do nothing to prevent that. $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Apr 17 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ Lets be honest, if we landed on the Moon today; 50% of the US population, representing whichever party didn't control the Presidency would probably think that a moon landing was faked. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Apr 18 at 0:44

15 Answers 15

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Stanley Kubrick supposedly filmed the Apollo moon landings for NASA.

In this reality, it would be impossible to successfully fake a moon landing at anytime. The moon landings happened. They were real with real competitors watching every move. A little back history will explain my point of why they could never be faked.

As you may remember, the United States and the Soviet Union were in a space race to see who could make the greatest accomplishments outside the Earth's atmosphere. The Soviet Union and their Cosmonaut program scored many firsts: first man in space, first woman, first robot to operate on another world. Both countries were carefully monitoring the communications of the other and a slew of other countries along with amateur radio operators were monitoring as well. Not only could each side monitor every move, they could detect where in space the communications originated. You could put a transmitter on a mountain in Colorado and pretend to broadcast from the moon, but the signal can be tracked. So you have to put a transmitter on the moon to successfully pull off the hoax.

Beyond that, both the US and the Soviet Union cooperated to make sure they did not interfere with radio communications. They knew the broadcast frequencies and they knew the technology used to send the signals.

On September 12, 1962, John F Kennedy threw the gauntlet down to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade with his, "We choose to go to the Moon" speech. After that, the race to the moon was officially on. The Soviet Union had a head start with their N1 rocket, but ran into technical issues with the rocket and with the unexpected death of Sergei Korolev, the chief designer of their space program. In-fighting and politics mired the Soviet moon shot hopes. In the US, we lucked out because the Saturn rocket was already in development and we had a solid design for a liquid rocket engine, the Rocketdyne F1.

When it was obvious to the Soviet Union that the Apollo Space Program was going to get a man on the moon first, they sent a probe to the moon to collect soil samples and return before Apollo 11 could do the same thing. It was the only one of two ways to score a victory from the race to the moon. Unfortunately, Luna 15 crashed into the moon on July 21, 1969. Apollo 11 touched down safely on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

The last way the Soviet Union could score a coup was to prove the moon landing program was faked. They monitored communications, they knew the US touched down safely, they privately viewed live the same news feeds as the rest of the world.

If the Soviet Union could have proven the moon landings were faked, it would have been the greatest publicity coup in the history of mankind. The US would have been exposed as liars and their prestige forever tarnished.

The only people that believe the moon landings were faked are nimble-minded people who are incapable of admitting mankind did something extraordinary.

If you want to fake a moon landing in your world, you need to somehow disable amateur radio and competing governments from having an impact on your story. You would need to put a transmitter on the moon for signal origination. You would have to have a monster budget and hide the fact that you're faking a project that would require tens of billions in budgetary expenditures just to send the transmitter, let alone fake everything else and somehow convince 400,000 people required to support the project, the support of over 20,000 industrial firms and universities. At that point, you might as well send a man to the moon.

Good luck with your faking. Buzz Aldrin mocks your idea.

Buzz Aldrin mocks you

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Apr 18 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ "At that point, you might as well send a man to the moon." - This is the key here. Faking a moon landing is so hard, it's actually easier to make a real one. $\endgroup$ – Gimelist Apr 19 at 3:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Gimelist Not under the flat-earth assumption, which frequently comes with the faked moon landing theory. $\endgroup$ – Therac Apr 19 at 6:29
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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget the plethora of telescopes not controlled by the conspiracy that should be able to make out the spacecraft as it is en route. $\endgroup$ – Dayton Williams Apr 19 at 8:01
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    $\begingroup$ say you have a typo: nimble-minded (simple-minded) $\endgroup$ – Fattie Apr 19 at 13:25
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You can't.

I'll try for a shorter answer than my peers'.

Anyone can send a probe to the Moon if they've got the money and the motivation. In fact, China sent a couple ones in the last 12 years. A private organization from Israel also sent one in February this year. Google has prizes for people who do stuff like this. Japan has an orbiter there which actually took pictures of one of the Apollo mission sites.

If you're going to do a Moon landing, people will challenge you to disclose the coordinates so that they can verify it. If you just say "oh, we landed on the far side, it's hard to get a good view so don't bother", then everyone will assume you are lying, even if you did manage to go there.

If, however, you provide coordinates, you'd better be there and leave a trail. Otherwise, it won't take 90 days for a probe to fly over the place and send back photographic evidence that the site is untouched.

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    $\begingroup$ It's no harder to see landers on the far side of the moon, since the pictures would be taken by satellites in lunar orbit. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Apr 18 at 5:25
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    $\begingroup$ This does not attempt to answer the question, so why are people upvoting it? $\endgroup$ – Innovine Apr 18 at 7:26
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    $\begingroup$ “You can’t” is just as valid an answer as all the others that said the same thing in more words. $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Apr 18 at 7:36
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    $\begingroup$ @innovine how is a frame challenge not a valid answer? $\endgroup$ – Renan Apr 18 at 9:54
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    $\begingroup$ @WGroleau The question is even tagged with reality-check which states: "Asks if a given concept is realistic in a given context. Answers should say yes or no, with supporting info.[...]". So the answer should actually be a Yes or No answer. $\endgroup$ – Dan Apr 18 at 14:14
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Quite a lot of people say it can't be faked. Mostly they're right.

But ...

I believe that with present-day technology one could fake an unmanned moon landing being manned. Send a robot up, bring it back, have it transmit prerecorded audio and video to pretend there are people on it.

This might be done in a high-stakes political or commercial situation if the program decides at the last moment that their life support system might fail, but propulsion and guidance should work.

  • Record audio and video, possibly in snippets for various branches. "Landed right on location." "Landed east of the site." "Landed west of the site." ...
  • Build a two-legged robot that can make footprints and collect samples.
  • Put a camera on the robot to give on-site pictures and CGI it into the background of your moonwalk in almost-realtime.
  • Use something like steganography to hide remote-control data in your routine telemetry.

As you can see, this wouldn't be possible in the 1960s. It can be done in the 2030s. The price would be similar to a real moon mission.

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    $\begingroup$ You don't even need an event the robot would have to jury-rig. All you need is a conversation where there's no canned response ready. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Apr 18 at 6:21
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    $\begingroup$ +1. A humanoid robot in a space suit won't look too different from an actual human in a space suit, perfect for photo shoots. Some messages can be pre programmed, and some could be AI generated, some AIs are indistinguishable from people in text-based communication (look at Loebner Prize competitions). Just add a convincing enough speech option (siri, google assistant are all pretty good, so it's possible). This is especially true in a formal context like a moon mission where a lack of jokes or sarcasm won't stand out as odd. $\endgroup$ – Alexandre Aubrey Apr 18 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Falco, that depends on who does it. A Chinese or Indian moon landing in the next decade would be impressive but not surprising. A commercial one by Virgin Galactic or SpaceX would be slightly more surprising. But a moon landing by Iran or North Korea would really shake things up, so actors like this would have the motive to fake it. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Apr 18 at 15:19
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    $\begingroup$ @KeithMorrison, the OP asked for detection-proof fakes. Hence my suggestion to have a robot leave footprints. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Apr 18 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Fattie, a robot making human footprints is much easier than a humanoid robot. It might even be mounted on an overhead gantry so it does not have to balance. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Apr 19 at 16:03
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This can't be done

Too many telescopes having too much resolution. Too much thermal tracking. Too much radio telemetry.

Everybody would watch the launch. Many would watch the capsule's progress toward the moon. Most telescopes would loose it quickly, but some could watch it longer. Thermal tracking could watch it further still and simple radio telemetry would track it all the way to the moon.

It's theoretically possible to send them, oh, a third of the way way there, let them sit for three days, then bring them home, having never been to the moon, but what would be the point? It would be easier to simply go to the moon.

But I believe it would be impossible to not verify the astronauts were well outside high orbit.

You could fool an individual. You might fool a university. I doubt you could foot SETI. You can't fool the 1st-world nations of our planet.

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    $\begingroup$ What you could do is send a robot / empty capsule and then just lie about having had 3 people in there. You could fake these few videos, send prerecorded signals back from the spaceship etc. that would work. But that's it. And imo that wouldn't be a real fake $\endgroup$ – Hobbamok Apr 18 at 11:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Hobbamok If you are going to the Moon to make science with no context of the cold war, etc. So yes, the actual technology used for Mars probes can be used in the Moon for a fraction of the costs but we are still unable to achieve the same results Apollo did. One human can still do the work of dozens of those little probes, even considering all the trouble in keeping them alive in space for one week. $\endgroup$ – jean Apr 18 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Innovine, I believe you've missed my point. Rocket launches are difficult to miss, and when everyone in Florida starts scratching their heads and asking, "what launch?" it doesn't take long to figure out what happened. Do all 300M citizens of the U.S. pull out telescopes to watch launches? Heavens, no. But neither is the number 0. All those militaries across the world watching for missile heat plumes. All those astronomers keeping an eye on things. You're thinking about the average construction worker - not the hundreds of thousands of people world-wide who would be very hard to fool. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 19 at 4:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Innovine North Korea is one of the most watched countries on the planet.... $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 19 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Innovine: like I commented on your answer, saying "hey, I just got back from the moon, sorry I didn't tell anyone I was going" is a huge red flag in this era where publicity and social media are king. It's totally implausible that anyone with the resources to send people to the moon would have chosen to keep it secret for any legitimate reason. $\endgroup$ – Peter Cordes Apr 19 at 17:51
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Honestly this seems harder than actually landing on the moon so to do it I would get as close to an actual moon landing as possible. I'd use China to take advantage of the authoritarian structure making secrets easier to keep. Build a real rocket and build some real looking lander style equipment and put it on the rocket and launch it to the moon. But with no astronauts.

Have the rocket land on the dark side of the moon (to prevent as many people seeing it as possible) and take a quick video on the moon in which while the doors are opening the rocket explodes. The exploding rocket (which if possible should have space suits and possibly even corpses in them) will hopefully cover the evidence and prevent you having to have actors pretend to have reached the moon. Have a quick fake video which seems to show success and then have it cut out and blame camera equipment failures. You want as little footage as possible as the more of it there is the more likely the faking will be uncovered. Then after a day or two have part of your rocket launch back towards earth and crash into the ocean. Then have your fake astronauts be found in a fake floating lander near where the rocket sank. Claim there were mechanical issues in reentry and the crew have suffered various injuries and head trauma to help explain if they get questions wrong or tell the truth.

The follow up is where you want to misdirect people. Act suspicious, and point the blame for the cameras and re-entry problems at all kinds of people. Arrest some of the engineers involved and accuse them of sabotage or corruption. Try to make it look like you are covering up high level embezzlement rather than the actual truth. Also get a bunch of internet trolls to make terrible and racist arguments claiming you faked the moon landing and if possible make it look like they are sponsored by the US or Russia to discredit people that figure out the truth.

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    $\begingroup$ Fails the last requirement: ‘...the general public must believe that all of the "astronauts" went to the moon and safely returned.’ $\endgroup$ – Mike Scott Apr 17 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ I like the way you describe the distraction in the end, but for the actual faking part, I am somewhat doubtful that any little amount of footage could be faked well enough, even with the technology that we have today. I feel like you would have the whole internet against you, trying to debunk any video, and I'd tend to believe they would come up with something you have not considered in your fake, especially if the footage does not meet the expectations. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Hirsch Apr 17 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ I'd place real astronauts in the capsule when I "recover it". For the US these recoveries were usually made in the ocean by a designated military vessel, meaning that you trade 20-200 military personnel (take some with hushed up warcrimes, they'll stay quiet) and 3 astronauts which can tell an awesome story. Steal real moon dust from somewhere (the US hast a couple of kilos, but 50 gram should be enough ("small storage space" etc.) and you're set. IMO more convincing and less likely to fuel conspiracy theorists than to have all witnesses (which never existed) evaporate $\endgroup$ – Hobbamok Apr 18 at 13:07
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    $\begingroup$ Did you mean the far side? Or literally the dark side (in shadow, not sunlight)? Landing in shadow doesn't stop observers with infrared telescopes from seeing a rocket exhaust plume and maybe taking a guess at the mass of your lander based on that + some visible design parameters of your rocket nozzles. $\endgroup$ – Peter Cordes Apr 19 at 17:41
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The biggest issue is the number of people involved: given the number, the secret would be blown in no more than three years.

Now, technically it's plausible it could be done now. CGI could be used for the things that would be impossible to fake on Earth, like the lower gravity. The other parts are engineering. But...

  1. ...you'd need to send an actual ship and an actual lander to the moon. They wouldn't have people on them; you'd use them to transmit a combination of pre-recorded audiovidual sent with the unmanned ship and audiovisual transmitted from the conspiracy headquarters to the ship to be broadcast back. An actual lander would be needed because the Doppler data contained in its signal could be used to verify its motion (this was actually done by radio astronomers in the real moon landings as an exercise). So you'd need to not only conduct a real landing, you'd need to conduct a real return launch and lunar rendez-vous. And...

  2. ...there are images now of the real Apollo landing sites from lunar orbiters. Easy enough to fake those for your lunar satellites, but somewhat difficult to do so for those of other nations. What happens when the Indians or the Chinese have a satellite that just for giggles takes a look at the landing site but doesn't find a trace of any activity around the alleged landing site?

So, in short, can't be done. Not practically.

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    $\begingroup$ Sorry to be morbid, but can't those involved in the host just be executed? $\endgroup$ – axsvl77 Apr 17 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ One would suspect the sudden death of tens of thousands of people associated with a lunar landing program would be a tad noticeable. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Apr 18 at 3:06
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    $\begingroup$ You would think wrong. There's the people building the equipment who have to know can't carry people to the moon (if it could, why don't you just send people to the moon?), so you're talking hundreds to thousands right there. There's the hundreds who work at the launch facility who would, or could, discover there were no astronauts aboard, even if by accident, so you need to provide for them as well. The hundreds to thousands required to set up the infrastructure for faking it. Hundreds of visual artists to do the actual faking. (1/2) $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Apr 18 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ (2/2) Then there are the assorted scientists and engineers you'd have to subvert because they might stumble on it by accident. And their administrative staff. And the freaking janitors. There's a reason why the estimate is that it would take a minimum of 410,000 people to have faked Apollo, because basically all of NASA would have to have been in on it in order to prevent any leaks from getting out. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Apr 18 at 6:18
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You are missing the obvious approach. This is how faking something is done in 2019.

Step 1: You make a cheap fake moon landing with poor quality faked footage, no spacecraft, nothing sent to the moon. Don't worry about obvious errors, implausibility or the total lack of anything being actually visible on the moon, or any signals coming from the moon, or that no spacecraft capable of going to the moon has been built. Because these will be dealt with in step 2.

Step 2: you launch a huge social media campaign stating that the landing was genuine. You pay people to make posts about how great the landings were. Any website or news organization that can be persuaded (or paid) to join in, do it. Flood the internet with news that the landings happened. Anyone who disagrees (people with telescopes who can't see anything, people with radios who say there are no signals, universities, astronomers, engineers etc) are simply branded as liars, biased, unpatriotic, or (ha ha) conspiracy theorists.

Pretty soon it will be accepted as true that the moon landings happened, at least by enough people for your purposes. Don't believe me? Look around.

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    $\begingroup$ + 1 for interesting lateral thinking but this only works if you control the media and you stay in power for 50 years. Fox News could probably persuade people who watch nothing else, and maybe the Chinese or Russians could convince most of their citizens, so long as most of them didn't care enough to really look. Otherwise you've got to tie it to something that people really want to believe, and that limits you to people who are already committed to that thing. (e.g. the Scientologists could persuade their members, but no one else). $\endgroup$ – Robin Bennett Apr 18 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ Orwell might back me. And we are building worlds, not working with real life. $\endgroup$ – DJClayworth Apr 18 at 18:38
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    $\begingroup$ They've done their best with things like climate change, but fortunately a majority of the population won't buy into the lies. You can string along your "alternate reality" for a long time, but achieving critical mass will be difficult, unless you have enough of a long-term game plan that you can start influencing (or nixing) education to the point that in a couple of generations people will start believing everything you tell them... $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Apr 18 at 20:00
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You just need to corrupt and control a lot of the media, and run a serious disinformation campaign to fight against your political enemies who try to reveal the hoax. These tools exist already. There are only a few places which can actively verify a landing, or the absence of one, so control them and the rest will follow along. Media manipulation and propaganda are established industrial practices and shouldn't be too hard. There'll always be a few people unconvinced and shouting "hoax" but they'll be ignored by the masses as long as the reputable media sources support the official narrative.

You don't need signals from the moon. Claim your lander uses pencil thin high bandwidth laser communication that no one can intercept. Who has the technology to prove or disprove this ?

Launch something into earth orbit. Discredit the few sources who could track it. Do the rest in a tv studio. Surround the pre-launch with secrecy. China and Russia would have little problem with this.

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    $\begingroup$ This is pretty much the only way I can see this working. Gaslight the world on an epic scale. Allow no dissenters. Kill, discredit or coerce those who question The Landing. Control all media to give only the approved message. We have always been at war with Eurasia. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 18 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ Most of the major players already have the media manipulation skills to attempt this kind of thing. $\endgroup$ – Innovine Apr 18 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ Pencil-thin laser comms will make the story weak. Also, there are not just a "few sources" that can track spacecraft; any amateur astronom can do it. They won't be able to track the vessel to the moon, but they will be able to track trajectories and verify that they lead to the moon (or not). $\endgroup$ – toolforger Apr 19 at 7:41
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    $\begingroup$ Going back to the moon is something you'd expect any space program to take pride in. It would be extremely suspicious and attract a lot of extra scrutiny (to the landing site and everything) if NASA (or literally anyone) just suddenly announced "oh, we went to the moon last week, sorry we forgot to tell anyone in advance we were planning it. I guess we need new PR people." That sounds like a load of crap, and like someone trying to sell you on a faked moon landing. Even announcing an in-progress mission is suspicious; people would look for a motivation for not announcing the planned launch. $\endgroup$ – Peter Cordes Apr 19 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ @PeterCordes a really good example of this problem is the U.S. military's X-37B space plane, which had three top-secret missions and yet its coming and going were noticed, reported, and now speculation abounds about what the program was doing. It's hard to keep secret things people can see. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 19 at 20:33
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Step 1: Convince at least tens of millions of people (probably more), to all be part of your conspiracy. This will include scientists, astronomers and engineers at every significant research and academic institution in every country on the whole planet. Don't forget to seek out and include most independent radio amateurs and amateur astronomers into your scheme.

Step 2: Hope that from all those millions of people, no one (except maybe a handful of oddballs) will tattle.

Step 3: Hope that among those millions of people from thousands of different institutions from more than a hundred different countries, some of which have strong competition or even ideological and political hostilities among each other, no two groups will ever have any conflict in the future between each other, that might lead them to expose the scheme out of spite.

If you manage that, the rest will be easy.

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    $\begingroup$ And hope that none of those people recorded any sort of evidence that could be used to discredit you in the future. $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Apr 18 at 20:02
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One of the way I can think of is faking the actual people landing on moon, not landing on moon. I mean make some problems like government announce they will send people to moon and was actually trying but for some reason it seems sending people will be too hazardous and they will surely die. Government wants to hide the failure by sending robots which mimics human walking pattern inside moon landing probe.

The astronauts who are saing to have landing moon should be very capable and might have actually went in the probe if not the hazardous condition. You can play on their guilt that even they are highly capable and accomplished so much on their own, the greatest thing they are known for is the fake moon landing. You can even have one of them trying to tell the truth but is haunted by government.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site , please take the tour and read up in our help centre about how we work: How to Answer. I like your thinking. +1 $\endgroup$ – 011358 smell Apr 18 at 5:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Agrajag thanks :) . I will read them up. $\endgroup$ – TigerCoder Apr 18 at 5:18
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You could fake the moon landing by having the nations with the actual tech to land on the moon help. If they have active drones on the moon, they could claim to have verified the evidence of your landings, or even produce evidence.

It would be even easier to have the nation helping you go to the moon and disguise their moon project as your moon project. (I am saying even easier, because it require significantly less passionate scientists to lie about scientific evidence).

So in summary you need every nation with the technology to monitor such a space mission to lie for you (and the employees to keep their mouth shut) or a nation with the technology and money to do so to pretend it's your doing. I hope someone owes you a big favor.

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Rovers and CGI

By using developments in robotics and computer generated imagery, we may be able to easily fake a moon landing.

The Rover

Rather than sending humans, you could instead send a specialised rover (more on that later) on an unmanned flight.

By using a rover instead of a human crew, you would be able to drastically reduce costs. This is because you can make the rocket smaller and lighter as you do not need a place for the crew, life support or anything else which you would need for a manned flight. You also do not need to worry about having a lander which can then return back to earth, you simply need to drop off the rover and go.

As an aside, you could also have the rocket be much faster as you do not need to worry about the effects of G-force on the pilots as there are none. Or you could have it go significantly slower in order to save on fuel costs, perhaps just having a rocket that got out of the atmosphere and ejected the rover towards the moon’s trajectory.

Regarding the rover itself, in order to have a fake moon landing, it would need to leave ‘evidence’ people were there. You could do this by having an extending arm which leaves boot prints, the arm would reach out a good distance away from the rover and press into the ground to leave an impression on it. If you leave a lot of these impressions in a pattern, you can create fake foot prints. Just make sure to give your astronauts’ suits rectangular shoes.

If anyone asked about the arm, you could just say it is meant for pushing debris, testing the strength of the ground or helping the rover if it was flipped over (all of which may be true, but we know the ulterior motive behind its design).

Editing the Footage

The rover should also have a camera built into it. Preferably it can record videos and send them back to earth but simply taking pictures could also work.

With the pictures or video footage you obtained from the moon, you could digitally render astronauts into the video or photoshop them into some of the pictures, preferably both so you have more ‘evidence’.

If needed, you could record actors on earth in body suits against a green screen and create your animations based on their movements, obviously accounting for the moon’ gravity.

You may want to edit in a clock in the corner with the date and time which corresponds to the time the video is scheduled to go live.

With the video recorded and edited, you could then broadcast it as ‘live’ footage from the moon.

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It would be impossible to actually fake a moon landing.

However, what you could do is create and spread a conspiracy theory saying that there actually was a moon landing, and the government wants to hide it. You can heat up the theory by leaking documents that suggest a moon landing, having the president tweet about the establishment hiding the moon truth, and even organizing witch hunts against moon truthers. You won't convince everyone, though, but with enough effort some 10-20% of your population are going to believe there was a moon landing.

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Use Alternative Technology

So far each of the answers have focused on the fact that traveling too the moon by rocket is something that is easily traceable by other entities ESPECIALLY when they are made aware of the event beforehand.

Since the OP did not specify a specific motivation as to WHY they want to fake a real moon landing I am taking some liberties in establishing that narrative myself.

So what I'd like to propose is the following: Your political entity is trying to convince the rest of the world that they are in possession of some amazing technology that is literally decades if not centuries ahead of their opponents.

This plan relies heavily on the fact that this power gap, should it be real, serve as such a huge weapon of intimidation it could be used as a deterrent to stop others from messing with them OR completely demoralize an opponent and make them scramble to avoid any and all conflicts with you.

My suggested alternative technology: TELEPORTATION In this elaborate scheme our selected political entity is trying to convince the world that they indeed teleported an astronaut to the moon for a short period of time using some magical device that nobody is permitted to study.

In the end what this will amount to is a VERY elaborate and expensive magic trick that IF executed properly could be quite convincing and a whole lot cheaper than an actual moon landing and provide a lot more political leverage than doing things that have been demonstrably been done before.

So here is the plan that I propose:

Step 1 Create two identical very high tech looking space suits that have stealth properties that make them hard to identify using simple imagery.

Step 2 Build a humanoid animatron that can safely operate in space for about a year.

Step 3 Leading up to the yet unannounced moon landing send smaller, cheaper satellites to the moon at regular intervals. Over time we want to ship parts of both the suit and the animatron to the moon by dropping it onto the moon surface when foreign satellites are not monitoring.

Step 4 Once all parts are safely on the moon send signals to the animatron to assemble itself while remaining hidden. The earlier used satellites will serve as relays to reach the dark side of the moon.

Step 5 Announce your outlandish idea to the world, become the laughing stock on comedy shows in the walk up to the event, notice how slowly some skeptics might actually start believing this is real after thorough theatrics to influence public perception on your science prowess.

Step 6 Now have your astronaut enter the device while weaing one of the identical suits (this makes him indistinguishable from our animatoron friend).

Step 7 send commands to the moon bot to reveal itself while at the same time blasting the ether with gibberish data to confuse skeptics who are observing.

Step 8 After foreign satellites pass orbit where the bot is visible to them, have the bot self destruct or hide itself on the surface (because of the stealth properties it's hard to spot)

Step 9 Now have your astronaut re-emerge with a prior harvested moon stone and your illusion is complete.

Result Skeptics will have undeniably REAL footage of a man that was on the moon without a rocket ever going near there and your astronaut even brought back moon rock! Skeptics will scramble to try and disprove this technology but in the mean time other political entities would rather err on the side of caution. (Having a Nuke teleported into their office suddenly seems like a plausible and real threat)

Discovery Time Frame Given enough time skeptics might be able to locate the fake body double but this would take HUGE amounts of time to actually pull off. Let's not forget they probably have Terabytes of fake signals that they are trying to decode causing them to lose a lot of precious time.

EDIT:

In reaction to comments such as: "This is impossible..." or "This breaks current laws of physics.."

The folding of space is a current scientific problem that obeys all laws of physics and scientists are working on figuring out how to do it ourselves as we speak.

Wormholes are a prominent example of how 'teleportation' can actually be done.

Sources:

Company actually working on this tech

Wikipedia explaining how this conforms to current physics laws

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  • $\begingroup$ I do not understand the reason for the downvote on the question. I'd love to improve the quality of this answer if it is deemed unfitting or low-quality. I'm unfortunately not a mind reader so input is welcomed. $\endgroup$ – MSB Apr 18 at 8:50
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    $\begingroup$ I was thinking the same thing. teleport to mars and back. have the teleporter explode in an 'accident' afterwards. $\endgroup$ – Ewan Apr 18 at 11:00
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    $\begingroup$ So now you've shifted the conspiracy from covering up a fake moon landing to covering up the fake invention of teleportation. The latter is far more outlandish - how do you plan to convince people that you have a teleporter? This is an extraordinary, physics-as-we-know-it-defying claim, which is going to require extraordinary evidence to believe. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Apr 18 at 13:43
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    $\begingroup$ @NuclearWang not to mention the expectation that you use your shiny new teleporter to perform other feats of rapid transit. Nukes do not require constant visible proof to maintain belief in their existence, but teleporters do. If you have a teleporter, even if it's horrendously expensive, you'll still have to use it multiple times to prove its existence. Which you can't really do if your teleporter is fake. $\endgroup$ – Martin Carney Apr 18 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ Let it be China, make the "teleport" tests on ground for 10m, 10km, 1000km (military program, some real technology, just few "magicans" to fake results), then go for moon. "Teleport" needs "Target nagivation trigonometry" so the landing site need like 3-5 markers of bigtower PC+special dish antena to precisely put "landing module" on moon ground (not above or under). The module can be even inflatible maketa on moon, later hidden in one of spotter site. For targeting city with bomb you can drop it to air, so the "navigators" can be smuggled much far (~100 km to get 100m precision) $\endgroup$ – gilhad Apr 19 at 10:55
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Lots of answers say it can't be done. I mostly agree with them. Let's see what it would take:

  • You have to produce the fake imagery etc. This requries that you fake images AND make it impossible to detect the fake later. This has to be the best that Industrial Light & Magic or equivalent can produce. This also requires that image processing technology development stop for 50 years. Having a nuclear war right after the purported landing -- something that knocked us back to blacksmith level tech might work for this.

  • You have to send something to the moon, it has to make a soft landing. It has to take off, and make a soft landing back on Earth. This requires a significant rocketry team. The something has to at least have a radio relay so that faux transmissions from the landing team appear to come from the moon.

  • You have to have at least 3 earth side stations -- one in view of the moon at all times -- to transmit the signal that is to be returned. This is likely best done with a tightly columnated infrared or ultraviolet laser, to prevent detection of the outbound signal. If your comm technique isn't cloud proof, you need enough ground stations that you are guaranteed a working link.

  • You have to maintain operational secrecy within the rocketry team so that they don't leak that there isn't a person in the craft. This could best be done if you have an island base, and Manhattan Project level security around it.

  • You have to fake the plans and blueprints that are good enough to be plausible for 50 years.

  • You have to issue plausible purchase orders for material. Some can be "crafted material used on site" but any reasonable program will buy as much off the shelf hardware as possible.

  • The team that creates your fake has to be controlled for 50 years after. Given how much smaller operations such as black ops by the CIA have leaked, I think the only way to successfully do this is to kill off the entire team.

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protected by L.Dutch Apr 19 at 5:23

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