A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon is a 2001 film written, produced and directed by Nashville-based filmmaker Bart Sibrel. Sibrel is a critic of the Apollo program and proponent of the conspiracy theory that the six Apollo Moon landing missions between 1969 and 1972 were elaborate hoaxes perpetrated by the United States government, including NASA.
Sibrel presents assertions of an alleged hoax, including: supposed photographic anomalies; disasters such as the destruction of Apollo 1 in which crew members Roger B. Chaffee, Gus Grissom and Edward Higgins White died; technical difficulties experienced in the 1950s and 1960s; and the problems of traversing the Van Allen radiation belts. Sibrel proposes that the most condemning evidence is a piece of footage that was inadvertently sent to him by NASA when requesting photographs and video of the Apollo 11 mission. Sibrel believes that the footage shows Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins attempting to create the illusion that they were 130,000 miles (210,000 km) from Earth (or roughly halfway to the Moon) when, he claims, they were only in a low Earth orbit. Sibrel views this clip as "smoking gun" proof that the Moon landings were staged.
The film's name was taken from the title of the book A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon by Bob Ward, a 1969 book of humorous anecdotes by people involved in the space program. The film is narrated by British stage actress Anne Tonelson. Bart Sibrel himself makes no appearance in the film. However, he does appear prominently in the similarly toned 2001 Fox television network special, Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?
Bart Sibrel believes that there were numerous insurmountable scientific and technical problems which made it improbable that men could land on the Moon and return to Earth safely. Further, he believes that certain supposed anomalies and inconsistencies in NASA's records of the landings point to a hoax, and that the Space Race was actually a race to develop armaments. He claims that NASA perpetrated a fraud because of the perception that if the United States could land men on the Moon before the Soviet Union, it would be a major victory in the Cold War, since the Soviets had been the first to achieve a successful space launch (Sputnik 1 in 1957), the first manned space flight (Vostok 1 in 1961), and the first spacewalk (Voskhod 2 in 1965).
The 47-minute film primarily focuses on the Van Allen radiation belt, areas of intense radiation circling the Earth, as a major reason that Sibrel believes it was impossible for a manned spacecraft to land on the Moon.
Jim McDade, writing in The Birmingham News, characterized A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon as "full of falsehoods, innuendo, strident accusations, half-truths, flawed logic and premature conclusions." According to McDade, the "only thing new and weird" in the film is that the claim that video views of Earth were actually filmed through a small hole to give the impression that Apollo 11 was not in low earth orbit. "Bart has misinterpreted things that are immediately obvious to anyone who has extensively read Apollo history and documentation or anyone who has ever been inside an Apollo Command Module or accurate mockup," says McDade.