Bill Kaysing; moon hoax theorist (Obviously, great)


Did Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin really step on to the
Moon back in July 1969? Not if Bill Kaysing was to be
believed. Five years after the lunar landings he published
We Never Went to the Moon: America's thirty billion dollar
swindle, a seminal work in the rich and varied history of
wacky American conspiracy theories. Its thesis was that
arguably the greatest technological achievement of the 20th
century was faked - a montage put together on a stage set in
the Nevada desert by a cynical and ruthless US government in
order to distract attention from the unfolding disaster of
Vietnam, and to prove once and for all America's superiority
over the Soviet Union.

Publication came at the perfect moment. The 1970s were a
golden age for conspiracy theories, from the Kennedy
assassination to extra-terrestrials making landfall in New
Mexico. It was when the Watergate scandal exposed the man in
the White House at the time of the moon landings as a
real-life exemplar of the cynical and ruthless, a man who
would stop at nothing in the furtherance of his ends.

Throughout his life Kaysing insisted that one purpose of the
moon-hoax theory was to encourage people not to take
government's word as gospel, and instead live - as he did -
a life free of "Madison Avenue influences". Despite much
derision, the book gained a cult following, and a 1999 poll
showed that 7 per cent of Americans agreed with it.

Having been head of technical publications at Rocketdyne, a
company closely involved in the lunar programme, Kaysing
brought a veneer of credibility to his work. But the doubts
he raised were the classic fodder of conspiracy theories.
Why were there no stars in the TV images purporting to be of
the lunar surface? Why did the implanted US flag appear to
be stiff in the wind, when the Moon had no atmosphere? Sound
answers existed to these questions, but, to conspiracy
theorists, sound answers are anathema. The persistence of
Kaysing's theory infuriated those most directly concerned
with the Apollo missions. "Tear up your manuscript and
pursue a project that has some meaning," the astronaut Jim
Lovell wrote to Kaysing in 1996. "Leave a legacy you can be
proud of, not some trash whose readers will doubt your
sanity." Kaysing sued for defamation, but a judge threw out
the case.

In fact, he had projects aplenty, and leaves a legacy of
which many might be proud. Kaysing was an American original,
"a self-supporting vagabond" (in the words of his daughter
Wendy) who could never long abide the "rat race" of a steady
job. In the early 1960s he left Rocketdyne. He sold his
home, bought a travel trailer and set up as an itinerant
freelance writer, the self-styled "Fastest Pen in the West".

We Never Went to the Moon brought as much infamy as fame.
But several of his books (some co-written with his second
wife, Ruth) were well- reviewed additions to modern
self-help literature. Often they focused on alternative
lifestyles - for instance The Ex-Urbanite's Complete &
Illustrated Easy-Does-It First-Time Farmers' Guide (1971).
At one point, Kaysing launched a newspaper, The Better World
News, which urged readers to treat life as an adventure, to
break free of a materialist society's dictates and do what
they really wanted to do. He wrote about living on
houseboats, and about cheap eating - Eat Well on a Dollar a
Day (1975).

A special concern was the plight of the homeless. Kaysing
co-founded a local church in southern California to help
them, and produced a free booklet, Homes for the Homeless,
which promoted "granny housing" and "micro-housing", cheap
self-sufficient dwellings for those who had none. Late in
his life he ran a sanctuary for abandoned cats called
Flock - "For the Love of Cats and Kittens".

Rupert Cornwell
( From The Independent ~ Published: 07 July 2005 )