On July 20, 1969, history was made when Apollo 11 became the first spaceflight to land humans on the moon. It was the culmination of centuries of staring up at the moon wondering what was up there, and a breakthrough new step on our path to the stars, and as people all around the world watched as Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle and Armstrong became the very first person to step on the moon. It remains a landmark achievement for our kind, a stepping stone to the stars and a testament to our desire to explore and reach out over the next horizon, but the Apollo moon landing has long been orbited by various conspiracies, and one of those is that Buzz Aldrin saw UFOs up there and that this information was suppressed.
The story has its beginning with a curious transmission that occurred between Aldrin and mission command in Houston on the third day of the mission as they hurtled toward the moon. In the radio exchange, Aldrin asks, “Do you have any idea where the S-IVB is with respect to us?” which is referring to the third stage of the Saturn V rocket that was jettisoned earlier in the flight. Mission control then responds, “Apollo 11, Houston. The S-IVB is about 6,000 nautical miles from you now. Over.” Aldrin then pauses for around 12 seconds, after which he simply says “Okay. Thank you” and ends the transmission This seemingly innocuous exchange would then be made more mysterious when Aldrin later admitted that they had seen an unidentified shiny white object that seemed to be matching their speed, and UFO conspiracy theorists jumped all over this, taking it to mean that he was admitting to seeing aliens from outer space. Aldrin to his credit tried to squash the spreading rumors by clarifying that although he wasn’t sure exactly what it had been, it had probably been one of four discarded panels that had come off his own spacecraft from the separation of the spacecraft from the upper stage and were reflecting light. He would clearly say that it was not aliens, saying:
It was not an alien. On Apollo 11 in route to the Moon, I observed a light out the window that appeared to be moving alongside us. There were many explanations of what that could be, other than another spacecraft from another country or another world – it was either the rocket we had separated from, or the 4 panels that moved away when we extracted the lander from the rocket and we were nose to nose with the two spacecraft. So in the close vicinity, moving away, were 4 panels. And I feel absolutely convinced that we were looking at the sun reflected off of one of these panels. Which one? I don't know. So technically, the definition could be ‘unidentified.’
The crew decided to move on and mention it later in mission debrief, Aldrin added. However, while engineers and scientists can be reasonably confident what was seen was one of the panels, to an engineer/scientist, it is still technically 'unidentified,” still technically a “UFO” and so the UFO crowd ran with it. On top of this, according to conspiracy theorists, well, NASA would want us to think it was a panel, wouldn’t they? The idea was that Aldrin was being told what to say, and that the 12 second pause in the original recording of the radio exchange somehow proved that Aldrin was utterly perplexed by whatever it was he was seeing, and that it could not have been something as mundane as a panel. David Morrison, an American astronomer and senior scientist at the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California has further tried to put these rumors to rest by saying:
I just talked to Buzz Aldrin on the phone, and he notes that the quotations were taken out of context and did not convey the intended meaning. After the Apollo 11 crew verified that the objects they were seeing was not the SIVB upper stage, which was about 6000 miles away at that time, they concluded that they were probably seeing one of the panels from the separation of the spacecraft from the upper stage. These panels were not tracked from Earth and were likely much closer to the Apollo spacecraft. They chose not to discuss this on the open communications channel since they were concerned that their comments might be misinterpreted (as they are being now). Apparently all of this discussion about the panels was cut from the broadcast interview, thus giving the impression that they had seen a UFO.
Nevertheless, the rumor would not die, with much chatter about how Aldrin had seen aliens on the moon, and this wild conspiracy got further fueled in 2018 with a spectacular headline stating that not only had Aldrin in fact seen an alien spacecraft, but that he had passed a lie detector test proving it. Wait, what? The report appeared in an issue of The Daily Star, which stated that secret technology developed by the “Institute of BioAcoustic Biology and Sound Health” had been used on the astronauts’ acounts on strange sightings in space using a technique for what they claim can tell when people are lying through the frequencies of their voice. In the case of listening to Aldrin talk about his experiences, they said their equipment gave them strong evidence under “laboratory conditions” that, despite him denying it was aliens, his voice frequency says that he was “completely convinced” that he had seen an alien spacecraft. The report would claim:
Aldrin believes what he is saying emotionally but has doubts intellectually. His ego, on a highly spiritual level, is solidly involved. He has a firm belief in what he saw but logical awareness that he cannot explain what he saw; therefore he thinks he should be doubted. His gut level emotions and system of integrity is well grounded with the exception that he has some issues around people asking too much of him and expecting him to take care of things for them. For the benefit of the people, he wants his statements about his seeing a UFO to be believed.
It sounds pretty amazing, and the news went absolutely viral, appearing in various news publications and all over the Internet. After all, this was a seasoned, respected astronaut who had been found by a lie detector to have actually seen aliens! Golly Gee! However, the story was very sensationalized, twisted facts, was misleading in its presentation, and is based on a good amount of nonsense. Where to begin with what is wrong with it? Well, first and foremost, The Daily Star is a trashy tabloid, not exactly known for its integrity and high-quality commitment to facts and good journalism, so that should already put up a red flag. Also interesting is that it wasn’t a lie detector test in the official, traditional sense, and it was not done live with Aldrin himself. What happened is that the fancy-sounding Institute of BioAcoustic Biology and Sound Health used decades-old recordings of Aldrin talking about what he had seen, which had then been "computer analyzed" using some ill-defined “top secret technology” that can somehow tell if a person is lying through the use of bioacoustics, although it is never explained how. It sounds like it could possibly be legit on the surface, until you realize that A) BioAcoustic Biology and Sound Health is a for-profit company selling pseudoscientific cures for various health issues, B) while bioacoustics is a real thing, it involves what sounds animals make, how they make them and when they make them, and has nothing to do with lie detectors, and C) they also claim they can not only detect lies with their technology but also “reverse diseases and traumas previously thought to be incurable, to reveal the secrets of our true nature, to enhance our lives, to predict what may be our fate through the frequencies of our voice.” Doesn’t really sound so legit anymore, does it?
There are other problems with the claims as well. For one, the report claims that “Aldrin, Al Worden, Edgar Mitchell and Gordon Cooper all took part in the study,” but unless their technology can also pick up voices from beyond this is impossible because both Mitchell and Cooper are dead. They may have used recordings of their voices, but it is misleading to say that they “took part” in the program. There’s also the fact that even real lie detectors are questionable in their accuracy, so it would be a pretty magical process indeed if they could use their technological wizardry to come to this conclusion with absolute certainty. In the meantime, Aldrin has constantly and repeatedly denied having seen aliens. What seems far more likely is that this is a story that sort of got a bit out of control, propelled by sensational headlines and unfounded speculation. It seems more like a lesson in how a UFO conspiracy legend is birthed more than anything else, but believe it or not the Buzz Aldrin UFO thing is still discussed to this day, the discussion on whether he saw aliens up there or just a panel from his own spacecraft somewhat marring a stunning milestone in history.