Episode 44: Independent Evidence the Apollo Moon Landings Were Real
Recap: Here I talk about and explain four of the most convincing arguments that the Apollo moon landings were real: Ultraviolet photos, lunar rocks, lunar laser ranging, and actual spacecraft photos of the sites from orbit.
There was a Puzzler in Episode 43, but I recorded Episode 44 a day afterwards; the Solution is discussed in Episode 45.
Puzzler: An oft-repeated claim until 2009 was, "Why don't you just point Hubble at the Moon and photograph the landings. Since NASA hasn't, it's proof they aren't there!" First, what kind of fallacy is that? Second, the answer to the question is that optical telescopes from Earth were and are incapable of the resolution needed to photograph any relics from Apollo. But, is the resolution of any other Earth-based telescope or array in any wavelength they detect capable of imaging Apollo? Please show your math!
Q&A: This episode's question comes from Bob S. who asks, in a paraphrased way: "During a nearly new moon, the part that's not lit by the sun is still pretty bright and can be clearly seen to the naked eye. How much of this light would have been visible to the astronauts -- would shadows really have been pitch black as the hoax proponents claim?"
The answer to Bob's question is, "not much."
It's true that you can see earthshine during a nearly new phase of the moon - that's the light that's emitted from the Sun, reflected off Earth, reflected off the Moon, and observed again at Earth.
But, relative to the directly sun-lit portions of the lunar surface, earthshine is miniscule. You can demonstrate this with simple photography. If you go out and try to photograph the moon when it's a thin crescent, you'll properly expose the moon in around 1/30th of a second. To get any detail in the earthshine, you're going to have to expose for something closer to 15-30 seconds or longer.
This difference in time is directly relatable to the difference in brightness with most digital cameras, meaning that earthshine is somewhere around 1000x fainter than the even low-angle sunlight near lunar dawn or dusk.
So yes, this light would be visible to the astronauts, and objects in shadow would have been lit by earthshine if they also were not in a shadow from Earth. However, the amount of light picked up by the cameras and film the astronauts were using with their short exposures from earthshine would not have been detectable.
- Additional Resources
- Apollo ultraviolet photographs: About || Wikipedia Explanation || Wikipedia Analysis
- Retroreflectors || Apollo Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment Results
- Genesis Rock
- Numerous Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photos of the Apollo Landing Sites
- Relevant Posts on my "Exposing PseudoAstronomy" Blog
- Playing Hide-and-Seek with the Apollo Landers
- The Apollo Moon Hoax: Why Haven't Any Pictures Been Taken of the Landing Sites (written prior to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photographs of the sites)
- Announcement Post for This Episode
- Meetups in July!
Claim: If you've listened to this podcast for any length of time, are familiar with some of the more mainstream astronomy conspiracy ideas, or were around in the late '90s and are familiar with FOX television, then you know that one of the more persistent memes out there conspiracy- or hoax-wise is that the NASA Apollo moon landings were faked somehow in some way for some reason. You've also heard me go through many of the main claims on this podcast and debunk them, and there will be more episodes in the future when I go through even more.
This episode, though, is something related to the Apollo landing mythos that you rarely hear during a discussion of the hoax stuff, and that's the independent evidence that NASA DID go to the Moon, as opposed to evidence against the claimed evidence NASA didn't.
So I'm going to take you through four different, hopefully easy-to-understand, ways to demonstrate that we really did go to the Moon. I'm going to do this in the order that I think is most convincing, with the least convincing first. Not necessarily that everyone would rank these in the same order, but some of them - like the first and second - may be more difficult for the average conspiracy theorist on the street to understand.
We're going to start out by revisiting one of the most predominant claims by Apollo hoax proponents, that of there being no photos of the stars in the photographs. For a thorough discussion of this claim, go back to Episode 35. In it, and the upcoming video edition of that episode, I explained the concept of dynamic range and why exposures set for the lunar surface couldn't hope to capture images of the stars.
But, then came Apollo 16. Apollo 16 had a special far-ultraviolet (FUV) camera with it. Why? Because most ultraviolet light gets blocked by Earth's atmosphere, just like a lot of infrared light does. It really was only with the dawn of the space age that UV and IR astronomy could do much of anything useful.
The Apollo missions to the moon had this same benefit, and one of the experiments that the Apollo 16 mission had was to do some FUV photography. And you can obtain some of these photographs today just by going online and searching.
Part of the claim goes that NASA folks didn't put stars in the faked Apollo photographs because it would have been obvious to any astronomer that they were in the wrong place. As I said 8 episodes ago, I'm not sure why they didn't just hire said astronomers to make the star background for them.
But, in the FUV photographs OF THE STARS FROM THE LUNAR SURFACE, the stars and other objects are in exactly the correct place, as later shown by the joint Belgarian/British/Dutch satellite TD-1. *THIS* would have been impossible to do at the time because we didn't know where the FUV sources were in the sky, or what their relative brightnesses were.
So to recap on this one, there are photos of the stars, in far-ultraviolet wavelengths, they show the stars in the correct spots, and that would not have been possible because we didn't know where the FUV sources were in the sky at the time.
Returned Rock Samples
The rocks are my second line of evidence. This takes us back a bit more to Episode 11, where I talked about rock and dust claims. In my discussion refuting some of the hoax claims, I talked about evidence that the rocks could ONLY have been gathered off-Earth. Let's rehash that ...
First, the rocks that we have are definitely not from Earth. Every sample that has been radiometrically dated is older than almost every other Earth rock that we can date. Most rocks from Earth's crust date to 2 billion years or less, with very very few dating to the three and four billion year point. The opposite is the case for the Moon, the youngest dating from around 2 billion years old, most dating from around 3.5 to 4, and the oldest so-called "Genesis Rock" that was collected during Apollo 15 dates to 4.5 billion years ago, we think only 100 million years after the solar system's own formation. So shear age is one of the reasons to know that these rocks aren't from Earth.
Another is that they are ahydrous meaning they contain no water. The moon is incredibly dry. If these had been on Earth open to the environment - any environment on Earth, even a desert - they would incorporate much more water into their structure. They don't.
Which is one of the reasons that we know they weren't collected from Antarctica. Another reason that we know that these lunar rocks were not collected from Antarctica is that none of them have what is called a "fusion crust," but they do all have zap pits. A fusion crust forms on ALL meteorites as they fall through Earth's atmosphere because the outside melts. Zap pits are mini craters that form on any rock exposed to space because of micrometeorite bombardment. All lunar rocks have them. The Apollo samples have them. The Apollo samples DON'T have a fusion crust. I think that's pretty good evidence that they're from the Moon.
As to robotic sample return versus manned, we get into a numbers game. Apollo returned half a ton (~385 kg) of lunar rocks, the largest weighing 10s of pounds, while all Soviet robotic missions returned a total of 0.07% that, or about 270 grams. Present-day tech, the Japanese Hayabusa probe to an asteroid, returned 1500 tiny grains of material.
This is a case where we really did not have the technology then and we definitely don't have it now to have a robot pick up let alone store and return so much extraterrestrial material.
Apollo Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR) Experiments
Until a few years ago, this third method was probably one of the most well known and easiest to explain to people who believed the Apollo landings were faked: The Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR) experiments.
The Apollo astronauts left behind a special kind of mirror array that's called a retroreflector. These are a series of mirrors that have the pretty cool property of always reflecting light exactly back in the direction that it came from. Museums sometimes have these and they're a bit creepy to look at because no matter where you are, you will see yourself reflected back. It's NOT like a normal bathroom mirror.
So the Apollo astronauts left these on the Moon at the Apollo landing sites. This means that if you were to shine a light off of them instead of the lunar surface, you would get a brighter return signal. It's like shining a light off of a dark piece of paper versus off of a mirror that you're standing in front of.
If you have a powerful laser and a powerful telescope, and you shine the laser at any ol' spot on the moon, then around 2.5 seconds later you'll get a very very faint signal back. If you aim at any of the Apollo retroreflectors, your return signal will be several times stronger. The only reason they could be stronger is if they hit something reflective.
Now, it is true that you do need a very powerful laser to do this. The laser used in the season 3 finale of "The Big Bang Theory" probably would not have worked. But, you can go to several different major observatories in the world where this *ongoing* experiment is being done and see the results.
I should also point out that this is not necessarily proof that the Apollo missions were manned. A small subset of the hoax proponents believe that NASA did send craft there, but they were all unmanned. Retroreflectors CAN be deployed by unmanned craft, as the Soviet Lunokhod 1 and 2 both deposited arrays, as well. So this explanation would not work for that particular sub-set of hoax proponents.
The final topic is the photos. Not the photos from the surface. And three years ago, I couldn't use this topic. But, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that has been in lunar orbit for over three years has a narrow-angle camera on it that, in normal orbit, can resolve things as small as 50 centimeters across. That's about a foot and a half for you Americans. And, in August 2011, it dipped down into an orbit that let it image at up to 20 centimeter resolution before going back to its previous orbit.
The Apollo landers, rovers, several of the instruments left behind, and the width of the astronaut and rover footpaths are larger than 50 centimeters.
In other words, we have photographs of all the Apollo landing sites much of the equipment left behind by the astronauts, rover tracks, astronaut boot tracks, and I'll link to them in the show notes. So ... yeah. Not too sure what else to say about this one, even though I have another 4 paragraphs under this claim.
We've imaged the sites, we have photos of them at varying resolution and lighting angle and even found some things in the photos that were unexpected and have led to revisions of the maps created by the astronauts and geologists in the years after the Apollo landings.
And I should note that the earlier Japanese Kaguya mission also provided some photos, though they were of poorer quality and you couldn't really resolve the Apollo features. So people claiming that NASA photoshopped these would also need to say that the Japanese did theirs', as well.
I've never really seen any previous person who asked why photos hadn't been taken of the landing sites respond to these new photos in the past three years that they've been available. I suppose that their response would likely be the normal one for conspiracies, that any evidence against it is actually evidence for it. For example, I can envision a conspiracist saying, "Oh yeah, well it's only NOW that NASA 'conveniently' decided to make photos available because we were getting too loud for them. NASA could easily have just made the photos in a computer, and we can't trust anything from the Not-A-Straight-Answer organization."
Of course, I could be pleasantly surprised and someone who believes that NASA faked this could listen to my podcast, see the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photographs, and change their mind and think, "Wow, we really did go!"
Wrap-Up: And yet, despite all of these, there are still people out there who think it was all a hoax. Literally, while writing this episode, I got an automated e-mail that someone posted a comment to my blog post talking about the infamous "C" rock that hoax people point to and claimed that my analysis was wrong and that NASA faked the landings. They're still out there, folks. Hopefully this podcast will have added to your arsenal.
Provide Your Comments:
Comments to date: 8. Page 1 of 1. Average Rating:
4:14pm on Friday, March 1st, 2013
A new version of the article showing that Apollo photography of the Earth matches weather satellite photography taken at the same time is now up at:
Stuart Boulder, CO, USA
5:45pm on Thursday, February 14th, 2013
Tom, lease see episode 5: http://podcast.sjrdesign.net/shownotes_005.php
Tom Location unknown
2:29pm on Thursday, February 14th, 2013
What you say about the van allen radiation belts?
GoneToPlaid United States
9:58am on Monday, July 16th, 2012
Photographic proof #4:
GoneToPlaid United States
9:45am on Monday, July 16th, 2012
Photographic proof #3:
GoneToPlaid United States
9:21am on Monday, July 16th, 2012
Photographic proof #2:
GoneToPlaid United States
9:15am on Monday, July 16th, 2012
Photographic proof #1:
11:28pm on Saturday, July 14th, 2012
A very good episode although you missed a fifth line of evidence, photographs taken by weather satellites at the time of the Apollo mission.