Yesterday’s triumphant launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket marked an extraordinary moment in space exploration, propelling an unconventional payload into the cosmos: a striking cherry-red Tesla Roadster occupied by a mannequin dubbed Starman. Outfitted with cameras, this celestial vehicle provided breathtaking vistas of Earth set against the vast expanse of space. However, this awe-inspiring feat failed to sway flat-Earthers, who remain unconvinced.
The Flat Earth Society, staunch advocates of the debunked belief that the Earth is not spherical, disparaged those who endorse the globe theory based on the sight of a car in space, equating it to the old adage “It’s true, I saw it on TV!” Questioning the credibility of privately held companies and deriding reliance on internet visuals, they dismissed the validity of the cosmic spectacle. Their tweet, challenging the authenticity of the event, raised doubts about accepting reports from private entities.
Distrust towards government space agencies, notably NASA, is deeply entrenched in the flat-Earth community. “Never A Straight Answer,” a satirical take on NASA’s acronym, is a common refrain. The attempts by astronauts to capture the Earth’s curvature are routinely dismissed as fraudulent. Now, with Elon Musk’s SpaceX joining the space narrative, flat-Earthers have added them to the list of supposed hoaxers and deceivers, dismissing the imagery of Starman as Photoshopped.
Social media platforms became battlegrounds for heated debates. Flat-Earth supporters dismissed the footage of Starman against a spherical Earth as fabricated, referring challengers to their organization’s Wiki page outlining their belief in a flat Earth with the North Pole at the center and an encircling ice wall resembling Antarctica. Amidst online trolling and bickering, the controversy spiraled on Starman’s live YouTube feed, sparking disputes between flat-Earth proponents and opponents over the authenticity of the footage.
The flat-Earth concept, shrouded in skepticism toward centuries of scientific observations, draws a spectrum of believers, blending genuine conviction with trolling. Despite its count of 555 members, the belief’s actual reach remains elusive, with an estimated 500 attendees at a 2017 flat-Earth conference. Psychologists studying conspiracy beliefs note similarities between flat-Earth adherents and followers of other conspiracies, pointing to a shared attraction to alternative knowledge and a simplified worldview featuring clear adversaries and protagonists.
Motivations behind flat-Earth convictions vary, stemming from religious interpretations, distrust in unseen phenomena, and adherence to the Zetetic method that prioritizes personal sensory experiences. Some proponents cite biblical references to support their views, while others rely on skepticism toward unseen phenomena. According to this school of thought, direct visual confirmation by personally venturing into space is the sole reliable form of validation, a feat far beyond the grasp of most.