Have we actually been to Mars? For a small segment of the population, the answer is no, and they like to tweet at the Mars Curiosity rover claiming it’s all a hoax.
NASA’s Curiosity rover, launched on November 26, 2011, has been exploring Mars since it landed in Mars’ Gale Crater on August 6, 2012.
The rover has sent back data on both itself and its surroundings, allowing researchers to investigate complex systems like how Martian winds contribute to the shape of the landscape.
Despite all this, not everyone believes that Curiosity is actually on Mars. There is a not-insignificant number of people who yell at the Mars Curiosity rover on Twitter, accusing it of perpetuating a hoax.
@MarsCuriosity if theres nothing else on the planet, what is taking the pics? Please quit tweeting fake photos & prove mission not a hoax— Dan (@DanielWBerty) June 27, 2016
Naturally, some folks believe that this is all a coordinated effort by the government to… Honestly, it’s not entirely clear what the goal of the government is here. To fool people? To make them believe we’ve gone to Mars? The most cogent argument might be that the government is siphoning funds from the public to fund missions that aren’t happening, with some amount of NASA’s proposed budget of $19.1 billion disappearing to places unknown. Some also argue that NASA’s current budget is a drop in the ocean compared to what it would actually cost to perform these missions.
Dozens question the validity of even the most minor updates from the rover. Whenever the rover uploads self-portraits that have been stitched together from multiple photos, a common refrain is, “who exactly is taking this photo if you’re on Mars?” The basic premise of the complaints are: if you’re really there, then prove it. Of course, this means that the proof that NASA has already provided isn’t enough. This isn’t new, either; the phenomenon has roots that trace back as far as the agency’s work towards and eventual landing of people on the moon.
“Even if NASA had set out to ‘fake’ the Apollo or any of its other programs,” a 1977 NASA fact sheet titled “DID U.S. ASTRONAUTS REALLY LAND ON THE MOON?” reads, “there is no possibility it could have done so.” The sheet’s since been reissued in 2001, as the conspiracy theories have endured and expanded to encompass basically every mission — like that of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and Curiosity rover. In it, NASA argues that the Apollo missions were operated under intense public scrutiny with media all over. Additionally, Congress had to approve the funds of “approximately $25 billion” to get it done.
The various conspiracy theories aren’t in exact agreement on how NASA continues to pull off its grand illusion, nor are they all the same conspiracy theory in general. Some argue that the NASA testing area for Mars rovers in La Cañada Flintridge, California is actually a production ground for faking photos and videos, while others instead suggest it’s all an elaborate use of Photoshop. The only real consensus seems to be that NASA is, in fact, lying to us all.
Some of the most popular conspiracy theories do have common roots in the idea that the Earth is actually a flat disc in contrast to the common understanding of a spherical model of Earth and other planets like Mars. This also involves Antarctica functioning as a giant ice wall around the edges of the world. While this might sound ludicrous, it’s a serious belief that is held by folks ranging from NBA star Kyrie Irving to rapper B.o.B. to Tila Tequila.
Basically, the flat earth conspiracy theorists argue that the government is using NASA as a propaganda machine to continuously pump out photos, videos, and projects to cover up the fact that the Earth isn’t round. Confronting such conspiracy theorists with evidence typically only results in a dismissal of said evidence. It’s all smoke and mirrors unless they say it isn’t.
Which is why people will continue to tweet nonsense at the Mars Curiosity rover.