Factual error: The whole conspiracy is doomed from the start! They show a Lunar Module on the set representing Mars; the astronauts were supposed to use this to 'land' on the Martian surface. This is insane. The Lunar Excursion Module cannot operate in an atmosphere; it would burn up on entry. It has no heat shield - the engine nozzle and landing legs would have to poke through it if it had. Exterior protrusions like antennae and steering engines would burn off during descent through the Martian atmosphere. While Mars' atmosphere is thin, it is still more than sufficient to burn up a Lander designed this way. All three recent Mars Landers, Spirit, Opportunity, and Phoenix, had heat shields and parachutes to facilitate safe re-entry. This is not a radical redesign of the LEM; it simply cannot be the shape it is if it is to work in an atmosphere. Any schoolkid would know that, and the world's media would not be fooled for a second.
Factual error: If one person (at NASA) was able to calculate the distance between the returning Mars capsule and Earth based on their radio signals, then everyone with basic radio receiving equipment would be able to. The Russians routinely track American spacecraft and publish details of their trajectory in Pravda, and amateur astronomers throughout the world do so, too. This all comes from triangulation of their radio signals. There is no way that NASA could hide this simple fact from their worldwide audience.
Plot hole: The "death" of the three astronauts and the requirement to then fake the whole scenario of the failed mission was obviously unplanned - it came about because of an unexpected computer glitch which reported that they had burned up on reentry, causing a mad scramble to cover up the fake mission and kill the astronauts. Obviously it was planned to have the astronauts "return" to Earth as heroes after their supposed trip to Mars, maintaining their deception (under threat if necessary) for the rest of their lives. One problem. Every scientist on earth would be champing at the bit to get their hands on a sample of Martian rock. Samples would be worth billions, worth far more than Moon rocks are worth today. How was NASA going to explain they didn't have any? They could not possibly fake the rocks - Martian soil and rocks would have a number of identifiable characteristics that a smart first year college student could identify. NASA have painted themselves into a corner and that is not something they would have failed to realise well in advance.
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