This is for us to draft the answer to the question drafted in the related question What shall our canonical question and answer regarding moon hoax conspiracy theories be?. That question is phrased thus (if it is refined I'll update it here):

How do we know the Apollo Moon landings are real?

Since about 1976, conspiracy theories denying the Moon landing and claiming it was all faked have garnered a lot of attention and a large number of believers. As a website devoted to answering questions about space exploration, we receive questions about this idea regularly. We can expect that to continue, given the scale of the argument.

In order to spare the energy of this community by addressing this issue once and for all, can we summarize the numerous reasons why we know the six Apollo missions did indeed land on the Moon and return 18 astronauts to Earth?

One answer under that question has assembled resources for answering this question, and related questions about other assorted space-related conspiracy theories. Here are the ones related to the Moon landing hoax theory, addition:

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    $\begingroup$ I've modified the question a bit. Phrases like "a large number of believers" might be construed as to lend credibility ("other people are doing it too..."). $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Jun 29 '18 at 7:06

As belief in conspiracy theories is associated with the rejection of science, it is likely that this answer will be rejected by many at the outset. If you doubt the reliability of science, perhaps you should check out this NPR article. Please note that it is an opinion piece. The author Alva Noë is a professor of philosophy at UC Berkeley, not a journalist. Use your own reasoning to honestly consider his words.

If it is not the scientific method itself that you distrust, but the "scientific establishment", then you should consider the way science works. All papers are subject to review, all results are expected to be repeatable and independently verified. Individuals can and have created independent groups to ensure the integrity of their work. If there is not a significant group of scientists with expertise in a particular domain that reject a conclusion from that domain, then it would be prudent to provisionally accept that conclusion.

How, indeed, can we believe that anything we did not personally witness, did in fact happen?

That's a trick question...critical thinkers don't have to "believe" anything. As paleoanthropologist Dr. Briana Pobiner (quoted here by Adam Blankenbicker) replied when asked "You believe in evolution, right?" -

"I don't believe in evolution - I accept the evidence for evolution."

The believing isn’t what makes evolution true or not, it’s that there is evidence that supports it.

One of the obstacles to belief in any space enterprise is belief in a flat earth. Those who believe in a flat earth are aware of the idea of orbits and of images returned from space of the globe. Because of this, they assert that NASA must have faked the moon landing, as they reason the whole space enterprise must be a conspiracy to begin with.

However, since we accept science, it is easy to dismiss the possibility of a flat earth. First of all, for the dedicated and resourceful, it is possible to fly around the Earth without stopping. This may be prohibitive for the average reader, but as we discussed above, we don't have to personally witness something to accept the evidence for it. If you're interested in the evidence for a round earth, Moriel Schottlender provides a good summary on her site SmarterThanThat.

There are many reasons we know the Apollo missions landed on the Moon and returned. Here is a list summarizing the main ones:

1. The science of space rocketry is sound.

For the layman, a common area of confusion is how rockets work in space with nothing to push against. However, the scientific principle for why this works has been understood for a long time (Newton's third law). For more information see:

Some have heard that there was scientific skepticism prior to the launch of Sputnik, but this was rooted not in doubt of Newton's laws but in concerns of the financial viability of the enterprise:

How widespread was the notion that space travel was impossible prior to the successful launch of Sputnik 1? - History Stack Exchange

2. It is clear that humans have been to space.

The International Space Station can be viewed by amateurs from the ground. With dedication, astronauts can even be spotted on spacewalks:

How would one go about proving humans have really been to outer space? - Space Exploration Stack Exchange

That said, some are willing to believe we can go to space today, but doubt the possibility of what was accomplished in the Apollo era. That leads us to...

3. There is a wealth of third-party evidence for the Apollo Moon landings.

The Soviet Union, Japan, China, and India have all, independently of NASA, verified the Moon landings. Wikipedia has a convenient collection of this third-party evidence. The Wikipedia article is well-sourced, and thus acts as a repository of information that has been gathered from places such as JAXA's website, an Indian academic journal of research, and Xinhua News Agency. It is beyond belief that there could be a conspiracy this vast to maintain a fake moon landing story. There could not even be a reasonable collective motivation. China aspires to land a manned expedition on the Moon, and they would love to one day have the opportunity to claim that they were truly the first; yet even China affirms the account of the Apollo expeditions.


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