The Paris Review

How Stanley Kubrick Staged the Moon Landing

In his new monthly column, Conspiracy, Rich Cohen gets to the bottom of it all. 

2001: A Space Odyssey

Have you ever met a person who’s been on the moon? There are only four of them left. Within a decade or so, the last will be dead and that astonishing feat will pass from living memory into history, which, sooner or later, is always questioned and turned into fable. It will not be exactly like the moment the last conquistador died, but will lean in that direction. The story of the moon landing will become a little harder to believe.

I’ve met three of the twelve men who walked on the moon. They had one important thing in common when I looked into their eyes: they were all bonkers. Buzz Aldrin, who was the second off the ladder during the first landing on July 20, 1969, almost exactly fifty years ago—he must have stared with envy at Neil Armstrong’s crinkly space-suit ass all the way down—has run hot from the moment he returned to earth. When questioned about the reality of the landing—he was asked to swear to it on a Bible—he slugged the questioner. When I sat down with Edgar Mitchell, who made his landing in the winter of 1971, he had that same look in his eyes. I asked about the space program, but he talked only about UFOs. He said he’d been wrapped in a warm consciousness his entire time in space. Many astronauts came back with a belief in alien life.

Maybe it was simply the truth: maybe they had been touched by something. Or maybe the experience of going to the moon—standing and walking and driving that buggy and hitting that weightless golf ball—would make anyone crazy. It’s a radical shift in perspective, to see the earth from the outside, fragile and small, a rock in a sea of nothing. It wasn’t just the astronauts: everyone who saw the images and

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Paris Review

The Paris Review9 min read
On Breakups
Hanif Abdurraqib’s monthly column, Notes on Pop, muses on the relationship between songs and memory. Read more here.  Still from HAIM’s “Want You Back” During my craft talk about poems and sound, I play small parts of songs or music videos. I’m givin
The Paris Review6 min read
What We Deserve
Family photograph courtesy Angie Cruz My mother, Dania, is eleven in this photograph. It was taken in the Dominican Republic in 1965, four years before my father married her and then brought her to New York City, separating her from her family. Her p
The Paris Review5 min read
How to Really Listen to Music
An untrained listener’s guide. During my hour-long commute home from work, when I’m too tired to even listen to podcasts, I listen to music. More often than might be healthy, I listen to Lana Del Rey, as she cycles through her doomy refrains about h