Are Apollo Moon Photos Fake?

by Ian Williams Goddard


FOX Television advanced the claim that NASA’s Apollo Moon missions were a hoax largely because Apollo photos contain alleged anomalies. [1] David Percy, an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society, told FOX: “Our research suggests that images of the Apollo landings are not a true and accurate record. In our view the Apollo pictures were faked. Many of the images are replete with inconsistencies and anomalies.” Are Percy and other Apollo deniers correct? Let's examine their claims.


Examination of Apollo-Photo “Anomalies”

Illumination in Shadow: FOX narrator: “On the Moon, the astronaut's only source of light was the Sun. ... Here’s an astronaut who descends into the huge shadow cast from the lunar module, yet his entire body is still visible. How is it that he is not shrouded in darkness?” Apollo critic answers: “It’s because there’s more than one light source, which means they're not on the Moon.”

Question: why is the astronaut in the shadow illuminated?

Answer: surface reflection of light:

Test: surface reflection illuminates toy astronaut in shadow. In second image, foreground reflection is reduced with black paper.

The side-by-side photos show a test I conducted with a toy lunar module and astronaut placed in its shadow as in the Apollo image above. The two photos show the difference between a reflective gray-paper foreground and a less reflective black-paper foreground. Foreground reflectance from the powerful lamp above was sufficient to illuminate the toy astronaut in the shadow of the toy lunar module. This simple test demonstrates that Apollo astronauts illuminated in shadow are not an “anomaly” but a predictable result of sunlight reflecting off the lunar surface.

FOX narrator: “In this picture the Sun is directly behind the astronaut, his figure should be a silhouette, yet even the smallest characteristics of his suit are recognizable.” A photographic expert then says: “He seems like he’s standing in the spotlight. I can’t explain that.” That astronaut is in the first of these three photos:

Illumination of Apollo astronaut on left matches surface reflection on toy astronaut in the middle picture compared to the toy with black paper laid in front to suppress reflection. The astronaut is illuminated by surface reflection of sunlight.

The toy-astronaut test shows us the difference between a reflective foreground (gray paper) and a less reflective (black paper) foreground. Apart from surface reflection, the only light source was the lamp behind the toy. These tests show that illumination of astronauts in shadow is not an anomaly but a predictable result of surface reflection. In addition to surface reflection, light from the Earth in the sky above the Moon is 68 times brighter than a full Moon seen from the Earth. [2]

Different Shadow Directions

FOX narrator: “On the Moon, the astronaut's only source of light was the Sun. Yet in this photograph from Apollo 14, the shadows are cast in different directions suggesting multiple light sources.” Dave Percy: “The shadows cast by the rocks in the foreground should have been east-west like the LEM [lunar module] shadow.”

Test: slanted surface alters shadow direction on Moon-rock model under one light. Similar slanting of the ground can be detected in Apollo Moon photo.

The photo on the right shows one light shining on a clay model of Moon rocks and ground. This test simulates the shadow “anomaly” in the Apollo photo and demonstrates that ground slant — in addition to light source and viewer position — is an important factor in shadow direction. The LEM in the background and the magic marker in the foreground serve as shadow controls, showing the direction shadows on non-slanted ground run in the area. The direction of model-rock shadows differs from control, running downhill with the slant of the ground upon which their shadows are cast. (Note: the toy LEM in the background is further from the lamp in weaker light than in the first test, yet the toy astronaut on it is still illuminated in shadow by surface reflection.)

Other examples in Apollo photos of shadows following ground slant. On left shadows run down crater. On right run down Hadley Rille.

Just as the shadows follow the topography of the lunar ground in these two examples, the alleged shadow “anomaly” in the previous Apollo photo is clearly a result of ground slant and therefore is not a genuine anomaly indicating fakery. Apollo critics cite other examples of shadow-direction “anomalies,” all of those I've viewed are obviously a result of irregular ground slant.

Identical Backgrounds

FOX Narrator: “These two photos seem to have the same mountain backdrop, yet the lunar module is only visible in one of them. Seemingly impossible since the LEM never moved, and its based remained even after the mission. Some suggest the same artificial backdrop was used when shooting two entirely separate pictures.”

Examination of Apollo-15 photos clearly proves that the mountains in the background are so large and distant that they can be seen without changing their appearance from myriad points of view with or without the LEM in the foreground. [3] The mountains above are the Apennine Front on the left and Mount Hadley Delta on the right of each photo. [4] The astronauts went up to those mountains and walked on Hadley Delta. How could they walk into a fake backdrop?

See this lunar panorama (scroll to the right) showing Apollo-15 astronaut David Scott at the base of Mount Hadley Delta with the Apennine Front behind him. Here is another view of the Apennine Front from the slope of Hadley Delta. Here is a panorama with the fresh crater in the foreground seen above. Here are other views of these mountains from various locations: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H. Those photos show that the known and mapped lunar mountains in question are not a fake backdrop but are real three-dimensional mountains around the astronauts. The lunar mountains in question are also seen in the following 360-degree panoramic view of the Apollo 15 landing site. [5]

This panorama, a composite of single photos, shows that the Apennine Front and Hadley Delta can be viewed without the LEM in the foreground, since when the camera views them at 180 degrees (as marked below the panorama), the LEM is behind the camera at 0 degrees, out of the picture frame for that photo. The panorama also gives a sense of how far away the mountains are. Because there is no atmosphere on the Moon, objects do not fade over distance and thus distant mountains can appear very close, as they do in the two photos FOX showed.

The claim that these known and mapped Moon mountains that are viewed from myriad angles in Apollo photos [3] are really a fake backdrop that was accidently used in two staged studio sets on Earth is not a theory but an exercise in silliness. explains the other example FOX presented of an alleged identical background “anomaly.” [6]

Crosshair Knockout

FOX narrator: “For reference, crosshairs were permanently etched into the lunar cameras, so they would have to appear on top of every image. But in this photo, a crosshair is behind a part of the lunar rover.” David Percy then opines: “his situation is impossible and has to be the result of technical manipulation and doctoring of the image.” Clue: in each example FOX showed of an object appearing to be over a crosshair, the obtrusive object was sunlit and bright white, such as these examples:

Question: why do crosshairs vanish over sunlit white objects?

Answer: strong luminosity can washout thin lines.

Test: hair across lens is washed out by sunlit white paper. With no atmosphere on the Moon, sunlight is stronger.

In this test a strand of hair was taped across a camcorder lens, which was then pointed at a sunlit white paper. While my test failed to vanish the hair-line completely, it demonstrates that diffuse solar reflection on a white surface can wash out a thin line. This result is sufficient to render the phenomenon of crosshair vanishing over sunlit white objects not anomalous. Also reflective intensity and thus crosshair-knockout potential would be greater on the Moon with no atmosphere to reduce solar intensity. Click here to see partial and complete crosshair knockout against white clouds in an exoatmospheric photo. [7]



None of the alleged photographic anomalies presented by FOX TV are true anomalies and thus they evidence neither manipulation nor a hoax. In the future Goddard’s Journal shall examine alleged physical anomalies said to be evidence that man never set foot on the Moon. In the meantime, other claims from FOX are presented and addressed at the websites linked-to below.

[1] FOX Television Network: Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on The Moon? February 15, 2001.
[2] Fortean Times: Percy and the Astro-Nots. 1997.
[3] Apollo 15 Digital Picture Library & JSC Digital Image Collection.
[4] NASA Photo ID: AS15-82-11057
[5] Apollo Lunar Surface Journal. Thanks to David Harland, Mike Constantine, and Dave Byrne who assembled the Apollo-15 panoramas and to Ken Glover who helped me update links to them.
[6] BadAstronomy: Fox TV and the Apollo Moon Hoax. 02/12/2001.
[7] Thanks to Michael de Kooter for finding this crosshair-knockout example.

(c) 2001 Ian Williams Goddard
This report was first published on February 26, 2001 and has been updated.


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