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Background: I am 40 years old, and in my entire life the only face to face eyewitness event that I can remember where humans actually observed an attempt to fly into outer space, the craft exploded and showered its fiery remains - including 5 dead astronauts - down over the Earth as soon as it reached the atmosphere. I have seen no other real eyewitness evidence.

As an Australian, I also live really far away from any launch or landing sites, with all of them too far to be directly observable even through a powerful telescope. I have never witnessed any space exploration endeavors in person and all I have available to me is accounts by other people that I have never met in real life and videos on the Internet or recordings and interviews on the television or radio stations.

Question: How could I go about finding proof of mankind ever reaching outer space first hand, with astronauts doing moonwalks, spacewalks, whatnot when all of it seems unreal, happening somewhere else and never directly touching the grounds of my own country, which happens to be a whole continent of the planet Earth that I live on, while only having indirect and anecdotal evidence of it? I would take a word from any of you that have been a direct eyewitness to human space exploration, but preferably ask of you for any idea how I could prove that by holding something in my own hands that could only exist if that was true, or by doing my own direct observations, be an eyewitness myself and have proof beyond reasonable doubt?

Is there any direct evidence of human space exploration that nobody on our planet could dismiss as circumstantial?

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    $\begingroup$ In view of the responses by @ekerner , it's become clear that this is not so much about the space program, but about believing in anything for which one doesn't have first-hand evidence. I.e. this is a philosophical question and belongs more in philosophy.stackexchange.com than here. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Oct 19 '13 at 8:06
  • $\begingroup$ The topic began when my children asked me what I know about men traveling in space. And now I am trying to learn how I will teach my children - and myself - where we are at with space travel, without embellishment or exaggeration. When your young children look up at the stars with wonder and, while trying to fathom what seems like the impossible an unbelievable, ask you how the heck man could possible travel in space, you will see clearly that the philosophical side of the discussion goes hand in hand with the question. $\endgroup$ – ekerner Oct 20 '13 at 13:05
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    $\begingroup$ In fact, the philosophy of science begins to pose epistemology questions from the very beginnings of physics, e.g. electricity and atomic theory. Have you ever seen "face to face" electrons crowded on the surface of a charged conductor? Atoms?.. Heck, having that level of skepticism one should have troubles accepting even the fact that the Earth is round. $\endgroup$ – ulidtko Oct 21 '13 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ Do you have $50,000,000 lying around? Because you can buy a ticket and GO to space yourself if you want. The Russians will be happy to let you tag along if you pay for the rocket!! $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Oct 17 '14 at 21:10
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    $\begingroup$ @corsiKa actually, the price tag may be up to two orders of magnitude less in the nearest future (several years). I can't quote exactly, but certain civil aerospace companies offer civilian suborbital flights for $200-250 thousand. That's just a quarter of one million dollars. $\endgroup$ – ulidtko Dec 15 '14 at 11:38
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Yes, humans definitely have been to outer space.

The easiest proof I can think of immediately is this video of commander Chris Hadfield demonstrating wringing of a wet towel on the ISS.

Or this one — it contains more than 200 seconds long uncut shot of a̶b̶s̶e̶n̶t̶ micro-gravity. It also shows vast interiors of the ISS, which are technically challenging to simulate in a "vomit comet", due to theirs volume and structure.


Update: it isn't impossible to see astronauts spacewalking near the ISS from the ground, given enough time, skill, and equipment. It has been done before.

However, you can still claim that the photographs could've been edited and/or made up. In this case, you'll have to repeat the observations yourself.


Update2: I can even add the following praise of modern communication technology (and publicity of the space program). You can talk live with astronauts inhabiting the ISS! With enough perseverance, you can even ask them to provide whatever proofs you'd find satisfactory. Just have enough patience and don't forget to take your son to the chat.

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  • $\begingroup$ The low orbit of ISS is very close to Earth, Pluto is very far away in the outer solar system. But space with a lot of galaxies is huge. The Voyager probes are leaving our solar system, but nothing man made has ever left our own galaxy the milky way. Outer space may be far galaxies, but not our own solar system. Humans have been on the Moon very close to Earth. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Jun 29 '18 at 10:55
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The problem here is that your standard of proof is ridiculous. By the same token, you'd have to doubt the existence of Moscow because you've never met anyone from that city.

the only face to face eyewitness event that I can remember where humans actually observed an attempt to fly into outer space...

Then your memory must not be very good. There have been hundreds of manned launches that have been witnessed by millions of people. The Apollo and early Shuttle launches had massive audiences that were able to see the spacecraft launch, and reach an altitude of dozens of km in a few minutes. For launches to higher inclinations, the Shuttle was visible all the way up the US East Coast.

These days, a few thousand dollars will buy you a VIP visit to Baikonur where you can witness a launch yourself.

What you're saying basically is "I'd rather believe all of the millions of photos and thousands of hours of video are hoaxes and that millions of people are involved in a vast conspiracy to lie about every manned space program."

Back in the days of the Space Race, the US and USSR would not have hesitated to expose any attempt by the other to lie about sending men to space.

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  • $\begingroup$ To doubt - or at least not vest full belief in - the existence of Moscow without first hand evidence would be considered by psychiatrists to be completely sane. To believe that Jesus killed a tree with a word 2000 years ago with no proof is considered by psychiatrists to be insane. The fact is that its very easy to lie and people do lie. For example: There is a planet named trinifalse in the ultifar quadrant, and if you dont believe that planet trinifalse exists then it must, because I am from there ;) $\endgroup$ – ekerner Oct 19 '13 at 0:14
  • $\begingroup$ However I do find very useful your reference to the launches with audiences of people. That is undeniable. If an audience of people testify that they saw me come from trinifalse, then I likely come from trinifalse. $\endgroup$ – ekerner Oct 19 '13 at 0:18
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    $\begingroup$ Sure, people lie. But to lie successfully for decades is very difficult. Eventually the liar will slip up. The chances of this increase with the number of people involved in the lie, and the number of people involved in the space program are huge. Consider some of the most successful black programs in history: Bletchley Park, the SR-71. Their secrecy depended on several thousand people, not millions, and yet their secrecy was broken in less than 20 years. Are you familiar with Occam's razor? We have piles of evidence of the space program being real and none of it being a lie. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Oct 19 '13 at 7:44
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    $\begingroup$ @ekerner you may need to understand that people on this site get so very little inspiration to answer your question. Likewise, the question score reflects the level of gratitude and trust which the [space exploration] community attains for someone claiming himself to have extraterrestrial origins. You may get warmer response on the sceptics SE site or maybe philosophy's one. $\endgroup$ – ulidtko Oct 22 '13 at 16:35
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    $\begingroup$ Hi again @ekerner! I'm not convinced that each one of those visits indicates direct interest to what your question inquires. Similarly to the Streisand effect, I speculate, people might just be curious about the strangely weird character who've asked such a question. Or, some might wonder what the community reaction to that was. Don't forget the network effects, where texts are being sent saying roughly "LOL look at this guy <link>". Anyhow, this ad populum argument you make looks invalid to me; and I don't quite get what you're trying to prove. $\endgroup$ – ulidtko Aug 14 '17 at 17:25
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When the amount of evidence, circumstantial or direct, for a given proposition vastly outweighs evidence against that proposition, most reasonable people are willing to accept the proposition as true. This does occasionally lead to having to change your mind about a proposition when new evidence comes along; this is how the scientific method works.

In the specific case of space travel, consider this: Germany launched some big rockets during WWII, and some big rockets landed in England, and we have good circumstantial evidence that those were the same rockets, and some back-of-the-envelope calculations regarding energy from chemical reactions, volume of fuel, mass of rocket, models of aerodynamic drag, etc. all agree that, yes, a rocket using that design and that fuel can go that far.

After WWII, other countries (like the USA and USSR) then built bigger and better rockets, that could go further, and all of those seemed to perform more or less according to our models as well, and we improved our models to better align with our observations.

Eventually the USSR built Vostok 1: a pod big enough to hold Yuri Gagarin, on top of a rocket big enough to, according to our calculations, throw that pod high enough that the atmosphere is thin enough that we call it "outer space". Lots of people saw the rocket take off, and later, far away, a pod fell out of the sky and Yuri Gagarin landed, nearby, by parachute. One interesting thing here is that the USSR lied about that at the time and said he landed with the pod, so already this story is kind of fishy and you wouldn't be completely crazy to have doubts about this.

But since then, there have been over 300 crewed spaceflights, on rockets that we know quite a bit about, that clearly have taken off at point A and had parts reappear later at point B, with photographs and video of people getting into them at one end, photos and video of the beginning of the flight, and photos and video of very similar-looking people getting out of them at the other end, across more than half a century. More than 550 individuals have claimed to have flown in space; as far as I know, none have ever recanted the claim and said "it was a hoax"—and I'd ignore one or two voices out of 550 who claimed hoax anyway, given the evidence in favor.

That's a lot of circumstantial evidence.

At this point, even the most skeptical humans generally believe that the burden of proof is on those who doubt that human spaceflight happened. It seems, at this point, vastly easier to actually put people into space than to orchestrate a conspiracy of this scale.

If you want me to doubt the fact of crewed spaceflight, you have to explain to me where those rockets went, where the crew boarding them went, who the people were who exited similar-looking capsules hundreds and thousands of miles away, and most importantly, why we'd bother with such a scheme.

Most of this applies to anyone doubting the moon landings, as well. The ratio of evidence may be slightly less extreme, but there's still a wealth of evidence in favor of them. A Saturn V rocket produces about 18km/s of delta-V; where was it going if not to the moon?

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you Russell. Very nice paper in many ways. It seems you have primarily addressed your distaste for my lack of knowledge and evidence on the topic, rather than the actual question. However in doing so you have almost answered the question... Your comment "with photographs and live video" references the answer, and if you could provide said "photographs and live video", or at least sources and citations, then you will have the question answered. Now I wish to try offer you some peace: Would I be correct as a software developer to be upset if you don't trust computers? Thx, Eugene. $\endgroup$ – ekerner May 4 '14 at 4:27
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    $\begingroup$ I'm a software developer and I have no idea what you mean by "trust computers"; I trust computers like I trust dynamite, chainsaws, and tigers. It's not my job to provide you with the evidence you want, but if I felt like it was I'd start poking around in NASA's public historical web site. I'm quite certain they have plenty of evidence that isn't digitized and readily available, in addition. nasa.gov/missions/past/index.html#.U2XgjF7BV74 $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove May 4 '14 at 6:39
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    $\begingroup$ Well you have a sense of humor. I trust computers as much as I trust programmers. Nice link! Thx, e $\endgroup$ – ekerner May 5 '14 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ re why we'd bother: Money. Oodles of it gets put into space research ever since the first fakers. Kazillions. Certainly worth shooting space junk up, and dropping portions of similar looking space junk down. For the amount of money spent on space research I myself could orchestrate the same. Put on a show for the crowds. The original industry startup was several false productions which made loads of money, why do you think it ever changed? When ppl get onto a good lurch they tend to keep it going. You think the original producers took a career change and became scientists? Sounds unlikely. $\endgroup$ – ekerner Aug 13 '17 at 1:57

protected by Undo Nov 2 '13 at 16:08

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