Science Questions

Can we see remnants of the moon landing with telescopes and prove it happened?

Mon, 5th Sep 2016

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Prasad asked:

Hello Chris:

Congratulations on fifteenth anniversary of Naked Scientists!


I have an unanswered question lingering for a long time!


We all have heard of controversies and conspiracies around the moon landing back in 1969. There are so many theories which suggest it never happened because of the scientific factors around the angle of the pictures shared, position of sun, unexplained shadow and so on.


I have been asking this question myself for a long time. We know that when the crew landed on the Moon they left behind few things like landing gear. Unless they are totally covered by the sand and dust storms, we should be able see them again. With the availability of all those high powered cameras and satellites flying around the earth, and even Hubble telescope in our orbit, why can't we take a picture of those debris and close the controversy for good?!


Hope you can answer this in your next episode.




Prasad S


Prasad S




Kat put this question to David Rothery:Apollo_16_1972

Kat - This is a big one. You know, people say, ďDid it really happen? What can we see?Ē

David - Well of course, it happened. You can't see it from the Earth. There are some very nice pictures you can find on the internet if you go to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter website. But thatís NASA so they're obviously part of the conspiracy.

Kat - Clearly.

David - But seriously, from lunar orbit, you can see footprints and vehicle tracks, and the spacecraft landing sections on the surface. The Chinese claim to have seen some of the Apollo landing materials on the surface, and the Indians with their Chandrayaan 1 Orbiter saw the disturbed soil but didnít have sufficient spatial resolution to actually see the hardware. But nobody said it didnít actually happened. The Soviets at that time werenít saying the Americans are cheating. Everybody in the business agrees the lunar landings happened but you can't see it from the surface of the Earth. The moon is a quarter of a million miles away. Itís too far away. You can see the space station orbiting past but that's thousands of times closer.

Kat - And is like shiny.

David - Shiny and big.



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Welcome Prasad!

The moon landings did happen!

There are several strands of "evidence" (apart from the samples of moon rock given to countries all around the world by the successful returning teams).

Most compelling are the independent images of the landing sites captured by the European Space Agency's "SMART-1" probe, an ion-drive powered craft launched in 2003; part of its mission was to scrutinise the Lunar surface, which results in the capturing of images of the infrastructure left behind more than 40 years previously:

The other strand of evidence is the mirror positioned on the moon from which a laser beam is reflected to measure the Earth-Moon distance on a daily basis. This is how we know that the moon is moving about 2cm further from the Earth each year.

So, in sum, there are personal accounts, images and independently gathered data that all support the claim that men went to the moon in the 1960s and 70s. chris, Thu, 7th Jul 2016

Unlike Mars, the Moon does not have enough atmosphere to move grains of sand.

There is another phenomena, where it seems that sunlight at dawn can electrostatically charge minute specks of dust, and elevate them above the Lunar surface. I guess this would eventually fill in footprints.

It is possible that a meteor impact could obliterate one of the landing sites, but is unlikely to damage all of them.  evan_au, Thu, 7th Jul 2016

Although earth based telescopes cannot provide enough resolution to detect moon landing artefacts those mounted on lunar orbiting satellites certainly can and numerous pictures of landing vehicles, rover tracks etc have been published. syhprum, Thu, 7th Jul 2016

Better images here ... RD, Thu, 7th Jul 2016

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