A hot new conspiracy theory has dropped — and this one is a faked-Moon-landing-level doozy.
This particular deranged rumor suggests that the International Space Station, which has been orbiting the Earth for well over two decades, is actually an underwater Hollywood soundstage.
Social media users have been flooding comments sections, including ones on Futurism's own Facebook page, suggesting NASA set up a massive rig to fake the orbital outpost.
"Must have been a great swim," one user commented on a recent Futurism post about a crew of tourists visiting the station.
"What a great dive," another user wrote.
Clips being passed around online purport to show the damning evidence: "air bubbles" being released by astronauts during spacewalks, or hidden wires or harnesses being worn by crew members as they float around the station.
The rest, they claim, is just greenscreen and CGI trickery.
A quick search for the terms "air bubbles" and "space" on TikTok brings up a whole host of videos, some with tens of thousands of views, suggesting that NASA was conspiring to fake astronaut footage in a pool.
A lot of these videos also make use of the hashtag "flatearth," suggesting there's considerable overlap with the persistent and idiotic conspiracy theory that the Earth is flat, not round.
Understandably, NASA wants nothing to do with these theories.
"At no time have props, green screen, wires or simulated underwater facilities substituted for actual real-time operation on the space station," Sandra Jones, a Houston-based spokesperson, told the Associated Press last month.
"None of it remotely has merit," Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told the AP, adding that to "suggest it’s faked is just silly and ignorant."
YouTuber Dave McKeegan recently debunked the astronaut footage theorists have offered up as proof that the ISS isn't actually in space in a thorough takedown. Spoiler alert: the harnesses and wires are a figment of their imagination and can easily be explained by video compression, noisy video feeds, and artifacts.
Experts are also pointing out that these "air bubbles" are likely dust or ice particles that free themselves from the astronauts during spacewalks.
"Bubbles of gas moving through a fluid do not follow a perfectly straight line as they rise to the surface," Joshua Colwell, a planetary scientist at the University of Central Florida, told the AP.
Yet these purported bubbles "fan from a common point of origin, and they move at a constant speed and in perfectly straight lines," Colwell added.
Then there's the matter of why NASA would be doing all of this in the first place. And if space travel was faked, wouldn't they make it a little more exciting, instead of filled with boring protocols and downtime?
It's difficult to wrap one's head around the belief that the space agency, which spends about $3.1 billion a year on the space station program, would bother creating an elaborate — and uninspired-looking — soundstage.
To actually believe such a thing would require not only suspending one's belief in recorded footage — but in one's very own eyes as well.
You don't even need a telescope to spot the space station from the ground, as it circles the Earth 16 times every 24 hours, though a pair of binoculars could prove helpful. The station is the third brightest object in the sky after the Moon and Venus, thanks to its massive size, reflective quality, and proximity to the ground.
Some have argued that this kind of skepticism has deep roots in the wider crisis of trust in the government, which in the US was exacerbated by events like the Pentagon Papers or the Kennedy assassination.
With the advent of social media, these theories have found a solid new foothold online, allowing them to reach new audiences. Combine that with algorithms that have perfected new ways of accelerating their spread, it's easy to see why they persist to this day — even if that reality is frustrating.
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