In Event of Moon Disaster

“We hope that our work will spark critical awareness among the public. We want them to be alert to what is possible with today’s technology, to explore their own susceptibility, and to be ready to question what they see and hear as we enter a future fraught with challenges over the question of truth.”

Francesca Panetta, Project Co-Lead and XR Creative Director, MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality


“Our goal was to use the most advanced artificial intelligence techniques available today to create the most believable result possible—and then point to it and say, ‘This is fake; here’s how we did it; and here’s why we did it.’”

Halsey Burgund, Project Co-Lead and Fellow, MIT Open Documentary Lab




In July 1969, much of the world celebrated the “giant leap for mankind”— the successful moon landing. Fifty years later, nothing is quite so straightforward. In Event of Moon Disaster reimagines this seminal event to illustrate the possibilities of deep-fake technologies.

What if the Apollo 11 mission had gone wrong and the astronauts had not been able to return home? A contingency speech for this possibility was prepared, but never delivered by President Richard Nixon—until now. This immersive installation invites an audience into this alternative history and asks everyone to consider how new technologies can bend, redirect, and obfuscate the truth.





Project leads:
Francesca Panetta, Project Co-Lead and XR Creative Director, Center for Advanced Virtuality, MIT
Halsey Burgund, Project Co-Lead and Fellow, Open Documentary Lab, MIT

Key collaborators: Pakinam Amer, JJ Otto, Vanessa Vera, Lewis D. Wheeler, Betsy Willett
Production: Professor D. Fox Harrell, Director of the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality
Co-production: Jeff DelViscio, Magnus Bjerg (both former MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellows)
Editing: Francesca Panetta, Jeff DelViscio

Launched: The physical installation opened in November 2019 in Amsterdam.

On view: Visit to experience the complete 7-minute deepfake film, available to the public for free. Alongside the film are a number of interactive tools, quizzes, and learning resources to develop understanding of deepfakes: how they’re made, their potential uses and misuses, and how to combat them.



More information

In Event of Moon Disaster Film

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)

MIT News: MIT Art Installation Aims to Empower a More Discerning Public

MIT KSJ: Three KSJ Alumni Share the Story Behind a Viral Moon Landing Deepfake

Creating a discerning public around deepfakes and misinformation through art