WHITTINGTON: How NASA turned Steph Curry’s Moon Landing Denial Into PR Gold

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Mark Whittington Contributor
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When Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry denied that the moon landing ever took place, NASA could have been forgiven if it had ignored him. Much of what comes out of the mouths of celebrities, be they athletes, actors, or musicians, tends to be drivel. However, someone in the new media-savvy NASA correctly determined that the space agency had been handed an opportunity. NASA duly invited Curry to visit the Johnson Spaceflight Center to see some moon rocks and talk to astronauts and scientists about the moon landing and see that it had indeed taken place.

The conspiracy theory that the moon landing was faked in a TV studio is one of the most curious and easily disproven ones that are out there. The Mythbusters performed the definitive takedown of the idea in one of their classic episodes. Filmmaker S.G. Collins noted in a YouTube video that the technology did not exist to fake the moon landings in the 1960s.

The Steph Curry gaffe became viral, with media outlets such as ESPN covering it as well as NASA’s response. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine likely knew his agency had struck PR gold when TMZ ambushed him in a hotel where he was staying and interviewed him. Needless to say, neither ESPN nor TMZ are in the habit of covering the space program.

Bridenstine slyly suggested that Curry had to be joking when he suggested that the moon landing was faked. However, while most polls show that about six or seven percent of Americans believe in the moon landing conspiracy theory, roughly 25 percent of 18 to 25 year-old people doubt that man ever walked on the moon. Something clearly is lacking in the American education system when so many millennials believe such a thing.

In any case, perhaps taking a hint from Bridenstine, Curry is now claiming that he was indeed only joking when he suggested that the moon landing was faked. That walk back did not stop the Sacramento Kings from trolling Curry during a recent game by showing moon landing video before the opening tip off.

The next time Golden State is in Houston to play the Rockets, Curry would be well advised to take NASA up on its offer and tour JSC. The visit will certainly be turned into a media event, with television cameras lovingly recording every minute. At the end, Curry could hold a press conference in which he could praise the great work NASA is doing, mentioning the current effort to send astronauts back to the moon.

Celebrities may often be silly, but the cold, hard fact is that a lot of people, especially young people, look up to them. Actor Tom Hanks, whose enthusiasm for space was revealed after he starred in the hit film “Apollo 13,” likely did more for NASA than decades of work from the space agency’s public affairs department. Steph Curry could perform the same service in his own way.

A greater coup than getting Curry before the TV cameras at the Johnson Spaceflight Center would be to get Buzz Aldrin to be his official escort. Aldrin, as history records, was the second man to walk on the moon, minutes after Neil Armstrong. Aldrin was also involved in an altercation in 2002 with moon landing conspiracy theory nut Bart Sibrel. Sibrel ambushed the then 72 year-old former astronaut and demanded that he swear on a Bible that he had in fact walked on the moon. When Sibrel persisted in poking and pawing him, Aldrin hit the younger man in the jaw. Police declined to press charges. Aldrin’s encounter with Curry would, presumably, be a gentler occasion than the one that took place 16 years ago.

Mark Whittington (@MarkWhittington) is the author of Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon? and The Moon, Mars and Beyond. He also operates his own blog, Curmudgeons Corner. 

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.