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Russia has tried to spark real life Star Wars by claiming the Americans never landed on the Moon.
Dmitry Rogozin, former head of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, said he did not believe US astronaut Neil Armstrong made 'one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind' in 1969.
He claimed he had spent the past 10 years studying Armstrong's historic Apollo 11 mission but had found no "documentary evidence" of the Americans winning the space race.
Rogozin, 59, Russia's former deputy Prime Minister, also dismissed five subsequent lunar landings in which American astronauts also walked on the Moon.
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In a post on social media website Telegram Rogozin said he did not believe any of them had made it.
He said: “It was not clear to me how the United States, at that level of technological development of the 60s of the last century, did what they still cannot do now?”
He said he had asked Russia's space agency to provide him with "documentary evidence of the Americans' stay on the Moon".
But he said all he received was a book containing anecdotal evidence from a Soviet cosmonaut who had been told by NASA astronaut pals they had made a successful landing.
Rogozin said he had failed to find any data that convinced him Apollo 11 touched down.
He was removed from a four-year stint as director general of Roscosmos last year to take part in Russian president Vladimir Putin's Ukraine invasion.
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Previously he has threatened to crash the International Space Station – within which Russian and American astronauts continue to work side-by-side – into the US.
And he warned SpaceX chief Elon Musk that he would be held accountable for providing Ukrainian forces links to his Starlink internet constellation of satellites.
Musk later tweeted: “If I die under mysterious circumstances, it's been nice knowin ya.”
Six months ago, Rogozin was reportedly wounded in a bomb attack on a restaurant in Russian-held Ukraine after a whistleblower leaked information about where he was dining.
He denied his Moon trip skepticism was an attempt to stir up more trouble between Washington and Moscow and insisted he was merely searching for the truth.
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“I did not undermine or aggravate anything,” he said.
“But only by virtue of my nature I tried to get to the bottom of the details and establish, at least for myself, the true state of affairs in the issue of exploration of the Moon by our competitors.”
According to Brit tech news website The Register Rogozin appeared "unaware of the retroflectors Apollo 11 left on the Moon and the many successful attempts to shine an Earth-based laser off the devices".
“It's not like the reflective devices walked to the Moon,” it said.
“Not to mention massive Soviet intelligence systems that would have called out such a fraud at the height of the Cold War.”
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America's space race victory has long irked its Russian rivals.
The Soviet Union actually reached the Moon first when its unmanned Luna-2 craft performed a "hard landing" – aka crashed – on the surface on September 14 1959.
As it shattered into pieces it showered the Moon with Soviet emblems and ribbons.
A month later Luna-3, which also had no crew, sent back the first image from the surface to the Soviets.
But America quickly caught up and surpassed its rival when Apollo 11 touched down on the planet on June 2 1966.
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Armstrong and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin deposited scientific equipment on the planet, unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion and planted a US flag on the surface before successfully returning to Earth.
A Soviet bid to beat them by blasting off on a manned mission 17 days earlier is believed to have failed when its N1 rocket blew up on take-off.
Armstrong and Aldrin remain two of only 12 astronauts in history to set foot on the Moon – all of whom were on US missions.
The last was in 1972 after which much space exploration was shelved as too expensive.
But NASA's Artemis III mission is set to put astronauts back on the Moon in 2025.
Last April President Putin pledged to resume Russia’s lunar program though intelligence experts suspect the cost of the Ukraine war will scupper his plans.
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- Vladimir Putin
- Star Wars
- United States
- Moon landing
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