More Options

Conspiracy Theorist Claims NASA Picnic Photos Were Faked


J. Goodbody

Skeptical Briefs Volume 22.1, Spring 2012

Citing irregularities in photographs posted on the About Us page on the official NASA website, Northern Virginia resident Brian Williams is calling the space agency’s employee and family picnic, allegedly held this last summer, a complete hoax.

“It never happened,” says the retired high school math teacher and self-described physicist, who has been following NASA for years.

Concerns have been raised over pictures showing NASA’s annual employee picnic where the Exploration Systems Division claims to have battled the Space Operations Division for the Mission Directorate softball championship. According to Williams, NASA faked these pictures “just liked they faked the moon landing.”

“We can’t have our government lie to us about what NASA is up to, or what they claim to be doing,” Williams says as he points out irregularities in the photos. He claims they have been airbrushed. “It ain’t been softball, I’ll tell you that,” he says. “These pictures have been doctored.”

As he scans the photos strewn across his kitchen table and tacked to the walls, Williams selects a few and proceeds to explain the evidence—evidence, he says, that proves NASA has been pulling the wool over the eyes of the American public for decades. Williams points to the shadows of the people in line at the BBQ fixins table as inconsistent with a single light source such as the sun. He believes that another picture of NASA employees playing softball is the smoking gun.

“Look here at the length of the shadows on the ground. It’s the middle of the summer, when the sun is at its highest . . . im­possible,” he argues.

Why would NASA do this? Why would they spend so much time and effort to fabricate such an event? Williams admits he gets asked that question a lot and explains that NASA has been unable to safely conduct an organization-wide picnic for decades.

“Sure they’ve had some small outings here and there but whenever they take on something big, the complexity of the event is simply too overwhelming,” he says.

Many believe Williams has a point. The year before, two mid-level managers and a flight engineer got struck by lightening just as the picnic started. The year before that, the entire Aeronautics Research directorate came down with the stomach flu just days before the outing. “There are just too many coincidences!” Williams said.

“NASA has been so desperate to pull off a big event—like the family day the Treasury Department was planning that year—that they were prepared to take an extreme risk and fake a monumental cookout and softball game.”

Some people have suggested that NASA had much to gain from a successful event. For the last two years, Administrator Charles F. Bolden has been competing with Depart­ment of Transportation’s Ray LaHood for the highly sought-after JFK fields near the reflecting pool on the National Mall. Show­ing that NASA could pull off such an outing would have played well with Wash­ington, DC, Parks and Recreation.

Williams cites more photographic evidence that NASA’s summer BBQ was a hoax. “You see this lady right here?” he says as he points to a picture of Communi­cations Planning Director Rachel Sampson handing out drinks to players. “Her hair is perfect and it’s July . . . she ain’t even sweating.” Williams then runs a video showing Roger Flay, the deputy director of the Advanced Capabilities Division, fielding a pop fly. “There’s no way this is real. Look at his speed, his vertical leap. You mean to tell me this 200-pound man in his sixties has that type of agility?” asks Williams, who believes that special effects and increasing the film speed must have been used to fake the action on the field. “If you look closely you can see the wires used to lift this man.”

A NASA spokesperson has responded by noting that they hold this picnic and softball game nearly every year and that any claims of a cover-up are not to be taken seriously. Williams claims that NASA’s official re­sponse is exactly what you would expect them to say if they were hiding something. He wraps up the interview with this observation: “[There’s a] sound stage; definitely a sound stage. You got your lighting, industrial fans to simulate the wind, and rigging, lots of rigging.”

J. Goodbody

J. Goodbody frequently has thoughts in his head that make him smile. Were they expressed at the moment they poof into existence without some form of structured outlet such as satire, these same thoughts would cause significant distress among his friends, family, and coworkers. This is why he writes for The Chicago Dope, a satirical online newspaper in which this article first appeared.