The moon hoax theory relies on two assumptions:
Many people believe that if the first assumption is true then the second one would also be quite plausible. For now, let's assume that the first assumption is correct and look at the assumption of motive more closely, because if this assumption doesn't hold up then the entire hoax theory fails.
The first question is:
Exactly how important was it for NASA to get to the moon in 1969?
Some people have suggested that NASA stood to gain financially from a successful landing. In fact NASA only had a small part in the budget - the research and development was virtually all outsourced to private companies. NASA themselves had very little to gain.
Most conspiracy theorists concentrate on the deadline angle. President Kennedy had set the goal of landing a man on the moon before the end of the decade. Clearly it would have been something of a disappointment to have failed (let's ignore the fact that the end of the decade was technically the end of 1970, not 1969). But how severe would the blow have been?
Remember that the timeline was a goal, not an imperative. No other country was in the race (Russia had tried but dropped out) and it was obvious that even if America was late getting to the moon, they would be years ahead of anyone else. The deadline may have been relatively important for national pride, but it had no critical importance in any other way.
It goes without saying that being exposed as frauds would have been a significantly worse blow to national pride than getting to the moon late. The question then becomes:
Would the benefit of achieving a landing on schedule (even if it was fake) be worth the risk of being exposed as frauds?
Of course it depends on the chances of being caught. By today's standards it seems like the hoax would have been an extreme risk. It is hard to imagine any rational person deciding that the risk was worth it. However the situation is worse when you see it in terms of the 1960s climate. At the time America had a lot of ambitious plans for the moon. It was widely assumed that the Apollo missions would quickly lead to regular trips and then a permanent base on the moon. Given the general feelings and expectations, the hoax would have seemed less like an extreme risk and more like an utter impossibility.
Deciding to go ahead with the hoax would have been beyond reckless - it would have been an insane decision. There have been examples of insane decisions by politicians in the past - is it possible that the hoax was ordered by an insane administrator? If so, many people from the government, NASA and private enterprise would have had to agree to participate. So the hoax theory requires an insane administrator and a large number of people from various organisations willing to follow insane orders. Even given this highly unlikely scenario, history has shown that those who follow insane orders frequently come forward later showing regret and remorse. Thirty five years after the moon landings, not a single person has done so.
The criminal justice system places great emphasis on motive. This is because human behaviour is based on motivation - people will only do something if there is a motive to do it. No motive - no crime. In order for the moon hoax theory to have any credibility there has to be a clear motive.
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