“Transformers: The Dark of the Moon” begins with a fascinating alternate history of the Apollo program to tie it in with the war between two groups of giant robots from outer space for the Earth with the humans caught in between.
Essentially, the crash of an alien space ship is detected on the lunar surface. This spurs President John Kennedy to call for a moon landing on the site of the space ship crash before the Russians can get there. Years later, the crew of Apollo 11 land near the site and, during a communications blackout, they visit the crash site. To further buttress the story line, the actual Buzz Aldrin is seen conversing with one of the giant robot characters in the present day.
Unfortunately the screenwriter failed to take several facts and almost certain developments based on known facts in constructing this scenario.
First, a space craft the size of the ship described in the movie would have raised an immense dust plume in the one sixth gravity of the moon that would have likely been detected by just about every telescope on Earth. The plume would have persisted likely for some hours. This actually occurred when a NASA probe was deliberately crashed into a crater at the lunar south pole, creating a dust and ice plume that helped to confirm the existence of frozen water in dark craters on the moon.
Second, there was no transmission gap that would have allowed the Apollo11 astronauts to visit the crash site clandestinely. The entire space walk was broadcast live on Earth television.
Third, Apollo 11 did not and on the “far side” or as the movie mistakenly calls it “dark side” of the moon. There is no dark side of the moon. The moon’s orbit exposes both sides of that body to sunlight as it moves around the Earth.
Finally, no American government would abandon an alien space ship on the lunar surface, with all the technological marvels it is likely to contain. The Apollo program would have concentrated on building a base at the crash site so that the ship wreck could be studied. The entire history of the Apollo program and indeed the latter half of the 20th century would have changed in ways that are unimaginable.
Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.
Sources: ‘Transformers 3: The Dark of the Moon’: Giant Robots Destroy Chicago, Mark R. Whittington, Associated Content, July 2, 2011
Apollo Program (1963-1972), NASA