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

06 September 2016

Question

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.

Thanks!
Prasad S

Prasad S

Answer

Kat put this question to David Rothery:

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

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 that's 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 didn't have sufficient spatial resolution to actually see the hardware. But nobody said it didn't actually happened. The Soviets at that time weren't 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. It's 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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