Nearly 50 years ago, in July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. Author and researcher James Donovan joined George Knapp in the first half to discuss the dangers, challenges, and sheer determination that defined the Apollo 11 mission, one of the great technological achievements of the world, and a triumph of American ingenuity. A number of test pilots died in the earlier missions of NASA, including in the Apollo 1 fire in 1967, and there was uncertainty about what the rigors of being in space would do to the astronauts, he recounted. German scientists like Wernher von Braun were key to NASA's space program, Donovan added.
There was competition between Armstrong and Aldrin as to who would be the first to step foot on the moon, but one Cornell physicist didn't think either would be able to as he believed the lunar surface had dozens and dozens of feet of dust. Donovan puts no stock in the conspiracy theory that the moon landing was faked, noting that more than 400,000 people were involved in the project, and it would have been more expensive to fake the mission than actually do it. When the Apollo 11 astronauts returned, they were kept in quarantine for almost three weeks over fears they might have brought back strange germs from the moon. Regarding a possible UFO sighting on the mission when Aldrin reported seeing something glistening in the distance, Donovan relayed NASA's position that what he saw was part of the rocket earlier jettisoned.
In the latter half, journalist Robert McLuhan took a critical look at the influence of James 'The Amazing' Randi and other debunkers in shaping scientific opinion about such things as telepathy and psychics. Known for his One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, a cash prize Randi allegedly would give out for anyone who could convince him they had psychic powers, he had a specific debunking agenda, and could not be relied upon to be an impartial judge, McLuhan suggested. Legitimate scientific researchers, he added, have investigated PSI phenomena and found them to be both measurable, and genuinely anomalous.
In the case of Uri Geller, because he was considered an entertainer, skeptics assumed he was using trickery rather than psychic abilities. When Geller was tested by Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ at SRI in the 1970s, he was placed in an isolation chamber and was able to successfully identify remote viewing targets. But Randi declared that Geller made correct identifications by cheating-- looking throw a hole in the chamber to see the visual targets. This is an example, said McLuhan, of Randi bending the truth or just making stuff up to align with his agenda. McLuhan, who serves as the editor for the comprehensive PSI Encyclopedia project, also talked about such things as mediumship, poltergeists, and OBEs, and argued that consciousness is integrally involved in such phenomena.