In some way, there was a real Apollo 18 during the year 1975. Named ASTP (Apollo-Soyuz Test Project), the mission was the first docking of spacecrafts built by different nations. The American crew included one of the seven Mercury program astronauts, Deke Slayton (the one who had never flown) and the Russian one Alexey Leonov, who was the first man to "walk in space."
The prologue text at the beginning of the movie states that the documented footage of the secret Apollo 18 mission was uploaded to the website "www.lunartruth.com". If you type that address into your browser, it redirects you to "apollo18movie.net", which is the movie's official website.
(at around 52 mins) As Cdr. Walker's mental condition worsens, he mutters "Fate has ordained the men who went to the Moon to explore in peace remain on the Moon to rest in peace." This line paraphrases the beginning of a contingency speech, drafted by speech writer William Safire in a memo entitled "In Event of Moon Disaster," which was intended to be delivered by President Richard Nixon in the event that the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the lunar surface without hope of rescue.
(at around 18 mins) After the first resting period the astronauts are listening to 'Cheap Day Return' by British rock band Jethro Tull. Tull's third album 'Benefit' contains the track 'For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me', a song which refers to Apollo 11's command module pilot Michael Collins. In the song vocalist Ian Anderson sings about the feelings of the command module pilot, being left alone above while others get to walk on the moon, something which is also referred to during the movie.
The actual Apollo 18 lunar mission flight crew would have been the Apollo 15 backup crew: Richard Gordon (Commander), Vance DeVoe Brand (Command Module Pilot), and Harrison Schmitt (Lunar Module Pilot). Because of his expertise in geology, Schmitt was moved to Apollo 17 after Apollo 18, 19, and 20 were canceled.
The closing audio clip consists of excerpts from President Richard Nixon's speech in Honolulu on April 18, 1970, as he presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the crew of Apollo 13; his reading of the medal citation was edited to remove him saying "13" both times that he refers to Apollo.
The release date was moved several times, from March 4, 2011 to April 22, 2011, then an almost entire year to January 6, 2012, then it was advanced to August 26, 2011 and finally was released on September 2, 2011.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Many more scenes were filmed for Captain Anderson (Warren Christie)'s death, in which he alternately suffocates to death aboard the Russian lander, gets infected by rock creatures, is attacked by a large creature entering the lander, and where his ship crashes.
An earlier version of the movie had giant moon rock monsters in it. Although they do not feature explicitly in the final cut, some brief glimpses of much larger rock spider creatures can be seen as the lunar rover carrying Captain Anderson (Warren Christie) and Lieutenant Walker (Lloyd Owen) flips over; and just before Walker is killed, a large shadow approaches him, and his body is quickly dragged away afterwards, suggesting a much larger creature.
at around 1h 14 mins) At the end of the movie the cover story is that one of the astronauts died in a training mission over Tallahassee, Florida. In fact, astronaut Clifton Williams was killed in a plane crash near Tallahassee while flying a T-38 jet trainer in 1967 (this movie takes place in 1974).
In the postscript cover story for Walker's death, he is said to have died in an F-14 airplane crash. In real life, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat fighter plane of the US Navy underwent Full Scale Development flight tests between 1970 and 1972, and several test planes did in fact crash. This makes Walker's cover story very plausible.