Exposing PseudoAstronomy

September 6, 2008

The Apollo Moon Hoax: There Is a “Prop Rock” Labeled with a “C” (Updated)


This was my first entry is what is becoming a large series on the Apollo Moon Hoax — the conspiracy theory that NASA faked the Apollo moon landings. This is/was one of my first blog posts, which was relatively unorganized compared with my present posts. It was originally made on September 6, 2008, but it has been re-organized as of June 26, 2009.

All posts in this series:

The Claim

In Apollo photograph AS16-107-17446 (Apollo 16, film roll 107, photo #17446), shown below, there is a large rock in the foreground. After the photograph had been duplicated many times by many people and sent out to the public, an apparent “C” was superimposed over the rock (shown below). Conspiracists claim that this is obvious evidence of a hoax because it’s a prop rock — they believe that the prop man forgot to turn the rock over because NASA took the time to label all the rocks to make sure they go where they’re supposed to.

Apollo Photo AS16-107-17446

Let’s Think Logically

Before I actually get into why this “C” is there, there are a few basic logical questions that one should ask when presented with this claim:

  1. Does anyone actually label props on sets? When Penn & Teller addressed this claim on their Showtime program (I won’t name it because I want to keep this blog at least G or PG), they asked their propman if he’s ever labeled sets. The answer was a resounding “No.” You may claim this is an argument from authority, but you should really ask movie producers if they label their props. Seriously.
  2. Even if Hollywood labels their props, why would NASA? Why would they risk accidentally putting a prop “label-side up?” After all, they must have had literally thousands of “prop rocks” to keep track of and make sure that they were put in their exact locations, which leads me to …
  3. … If NASA had hundreds or thousands of props to keep track of, why didn’t they set up their scenes ONCE, make certain that it looked alright (as in no props with the label facing up), and then do all of their filming? They should’ve checked everything and then filmed. Which leads to …
  4. … A major problem with this conspiracy theory, and many others, is that it lends the conspirators incredible power. After all, they must have been able to keep the lid on this for decades despite the half-million people involved in the project (1 out of ever 360 Americans, according to the 1970 US Census). And yet, with all this incredible power at their disposal, they miss something like a rock that’s flipped the wrong way?

Refuting This Claim the Standard Way

If you have managed to get this far and still believe this claim, then let’s actually get to what’s really going on. Have you ever scanned or photocopied something? If so, you know that any little piece of dirt, hair, dust, or whatever that gets between your original and your imaging device will show up in the copy. That is what happened in the case of the infamous “C” rock – a hair (such as an eyelash) or a small piece of lint got caught between the image and the imager when they were making copies of it. Plain and simple. In the original photograph (closeup shown below), there is no “C.”

Refuting This Claim My Way

That is the fairly standard way to explain/debunk this claim – it’s simply a hair in the copy and the original doesn’t show it. But there’s another way: The ONLY photograph that conspiracy theorists point to with the “C” rock is AS16-107-17446. The photograph taken just before it, AS16-107-17445, shows the bottom-half of #17446, including the rock in question. The rock is in the exact same position, orientation, etc. And yet … there is no “C” on it!

No hoax proponent has ever looked at photo #17445 and claimed that it has the “C” on the rock. In other words, their conspiracy “theory” is not internally consistent even in this one single claim. The photo is shown below, first in full, then in detail.

Apollo Photo AS16-107-17445
Apollo Photo AS16-107-17445 Detail (Pre-C Rock)

Why This Claim Is Not Consistent with Another Hoax Claim

Another hoax claim that I have not addressed as of the time of writing or updating this post is that photographs that NASA claims from Apollos 16 and 17 that were taken hours and miles apart show “identical” backgrounds. This would seem to imply that NASA had one set that they used for each mission. The next logical assumption is that they would set up the set once, check it over, and then do all their filming. But, that can’t possibly be true given the differences in Apollo photos AS16-107-17445 and AS16-107-17446.

Final Thoughts

In sum, there are three main reasons why this claim doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny: (1) It simply doesn’t make sense that a rock would be labeled and “accidentally” left label-side up, (2) It is very easily explained by a simple hair getting caught in the copying device, and (3) the claim is internally inconsistent because no hoax proponent has ever looked at other photographs of the same scene and claimed that there is a labeled rock or a cover-up.

This is, hence, another example of anomaly hunting to create a false dichotomy: There is something that appears anomalous in the Apollo footage (anomaly hunting), therefore the moon landings were faked (false dichotomy).



  1. Nice companion to your observatory talk.

    Comment by RockinRobbins — September 7, 2008 @ 2:04 pm | Reply

    • I think Jarrah White sum it far better there: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AQQHTjeMkA (search for MoonFaker on YewTube)
      In fact it proven, that the “C” is not a “hair on the negative”, because this photo WAS printed in book The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Space Technology, page 164 (from 1982). When Ralph Rene brought this up, then NASA retouched the photos and changed their numbering, so daming was the discovery… still they leaved the C on the set “Moon dust” pile bellow the rock:

      That itself prove the C is really center of the scene, or jut a prop mark. Regardless, since we 40 years can’t get back, it is easy to understand why it had to be faked. Not to mention American pride that was hurt badly by Russians beat them in everything in space exploration 🙂 Anyway, since it is proven that in the “Suns” on NASA pictures are lightbulbs, then the discussion is over: http://s14.postimage.org/44u1twzcx/lightbulb_anim.gif

      Of course, there is fun when one see, how people is trying to defend this gigant lie, just to make fools of themselves 🙂 If this is the lightspot from the Sun, then I’m J. F. Kennedy: http://s10.postimage.org/71olwfnjd/blikajici_slunce_1.gifhttp://s9.postimage.org/s7rotip7z/blikajici_slunce_2.gif (yea, the “Sun” is also shrinking in size, lol) … Curiously, not only the spherical visors are imunne for the rotation, but also in many and many other cases the “Sun” did not flick or shrink, when they move… And if this should be blamed for the TV camera, then it is also fake, because real Sun on real Gemini 4 Ed White spacewalk looks kinda different: http://2i.cz/56122f05d6
      another angle: http://depositfiles.org/files/p0rmp30nz -or- http://www.sendspace.com/file/p678bb

      Apollo? Busted!

      Comment by trodas — October 9, 2012 @ 8:06 am | Reply

      • You would think the sun would be hottest in the middle right? and NASA would have known it would be impossible to fake a moon landing, they would have brought in the best and most trusted people and you think they left a rock with a C on it. i don’t know why i’m posting this its what 8 years late?

        Comment by Pablo Lopez — May 12, 2020 @ 1:45 am

  2. The ‘C’ doesn’t look like a hair or eyelash to me, and it’s position on the rock is much more likely to be a prop-label than an accident.

    But okay, you can have this one because there are dozens of other pieces of evidence. Taken together, it’s all rather convincing. Individually, I admit there’s no one thing that was enough to convince me (of the hoax).

    What really convinced me was Apollo 13. They must have gotten careless with this one because of its theater/drama significance. The landing site they selected “Frau Marau”, in itself an occult figure, is suspicious enough. Much more suspicious is the fact that it wouldn’t have been illuminated yet at the time they were scheduled to land.

    You have to understand the mindset of these guys, capable of the big lying, who must sign all their works with their mafia signature. In this case, Apollo 13’s “problem” occurred on April 13th, at 13:13 hours into the mission.

    Those who don’t have the eyes to see, ears to hear, or otherwise have too much pride to maintain an open mind, are going to write it off as a coincidence.

    Fine. Most people would rather believe in a lie that gives them pride than face an ugly truth that not only it’s a lie but they are dupes.

    Open mind first, THEN the skepticism.

    Comment by Astronomy Enthusiast — October 22, 2008 @ 8:25 am | Reply

    • Okay, let’s see the evidence for your claim that the Apollo 13 landing site would have been dark at the time of landing. Because that’s simply untrue.

      Every Apollo landing was made in early morning, just after sunrise at the landing site. That was the main factor in the scheduling of each launch. The long shadows from the low sun angle in the early morning made it easier for the astronauts to see rocks and craters during landing.

      The surface temperatures were also much more moderate. Although there’s no air on the moon to carry heat, thermal radiation is still very important. The oft-heard hoax advocates’ claim about the extremely hot surface melting the film is based on the noontime temperature, and even on the later missions the astronauts were gone by local noon.

      Comment by Phil Karn — February 18, 2010 @ 11:18 am | Reply

    • at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_13 there is no mention og the even occurring at 13:13
      the launch was at 19:13 but the odds on that are 1 chance in 60 seconds so quite realistic, though a interesting coincidence the it was 13th mission too. of course wiki could be wrong or data changed

      Comment by ross — June 18, 2016 @ 4:35 am | Reply

  3. “The ‘C’ doesn’t look like a hair or eyelash to me, and it’s position on the rock is much more likely to be a prop-label than an accident.”

    To me it looks like an eyelash or small string of dust, but that specific thing is reasonably subjective. But why would a label on a rock, something that’s fairly circular, be in any particular position or orientation? That doesn’t make any sense.

    “But okay, you can have this one because there are dozens of other pieces of evidence. Taken together, it’s all rather convincing. Individually, I admit there’s no one thing that was enough to convince me (of the hoax).”

    One of the hardest parts in convincing people such as yourself that this is not a hoax is that you look at the “all together” picture rather than the evidence. Think of it like a court case: Lots of evidence is presented, to show that someone is guilty. However, the defense then picks apart every single piece of evidence with logic, context, science, eye-witnesses, historic documents, etc. Yes, taken all together the prosecution has a case, but once you examine each individual claim, the house of cards falls.

    It’s like that with the moon hoax, and indeed many other conspiracies. A major difference is that it’s even harder to disprove hoaxes because you have to know about history, classical physics, heat transfer, optics, photography, geology, social history, radiation, particle physics, and many many other things in order to go through all the claims.

    In my 1-hr planetarium show, I address over two dozen claims, but I barely scratch the surface. Besides that, it is so easy to keep coming up with new claims because all you have to do is to see something or hear something that doesn’t quite make sense, or seems too coincidental, and you have a new claim. The work that goes into disproving that claim is tremendously more complicated (usually).

    For example …

    “What really convinced me was Apollo 13. They must have gotten careless with this one because of its theater/drama significance. The landing site they selected “Frau Marau”, in itself an occult figure, is suspicious enough. Much more suspicious is the fact that it wouldn’t have been illuminated yet at the time they were scheduled to land. You have to understand the mindset of these guys, capable of the big lying, who must sign all their works with their mafia signature. In this case, Apollo 13’s “problem” occurred on April 13th, at 13:13 hours into the mission.”

    … I have heard literally over 100 different hoax claims for the Apollo landings. I have never heard this one. I’ve heard a variant of it that the public had gotten bored with the landings and this was dramatized to drum up interest and keep funding, which is disappointing to hear, along with the people who say NASA killed the Apollo 1 astronauts because they were going to “spill the beans” and tell the world NASA was faking it.

    But then the question is raised as I alluded to above: I can disprove dozens of Apollo landing hoax claims, including the “Big Six” (my terms) which are the C Rock, no stars, deadly radiation, deadly temperatures, the flag waving, and the cross-hair “anomalies” in photos. Plus, I can give you independent evidence that we did go to the moon, including results from the seismometers that were left, the currently ongoing laser ranging experiment based off the reflectors left by the astronauts, the properties of the rocks from the Apollo sample returns, and the UV photography. (And these will be the subjects of future blog posts.)

    So if I can do all that, should one obscure claim that you can make that I personally can’t refute (because I don’t have the background information nor time to research it) really convince you or anyone else that it’s all fake?

    Comment by astrostu206265 — October 22, 2008 @ 10:35 am | Reply

  4. I got something for you, what is with all of the + signs in the original photograph that the conspiracists use to say there is a ‘C’ in the rock? Not to mention, look at the boldness and thickness of the C in the blown up imangen, then look at the super fine + on the right side of the rock and then look at the original…you can still see the + but can’t see the C even though the C is way more bold and prominent. But what is with all the + signs all over the photo? I believe we landed on the moon, so… and I believe we will land Mars too!

    Comment by Justin — July 17, 2009 @ 2:09 pm | Reply

  5. This is a good series, overall. Good work.

    I’ll check, but I wonder if you have anything on the old lunar lander recovered by a later flight, and the mirror planted on the Moon by Apollo astronauts now used to check the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

    Comment by Ed Darrell — July 17, 2009 @ 3:59 pm | Reply

    • I don’t have anything on the former, but I have mentioned the latter (the Apollo Lunar Laser Ranging experiment). However, I do not have a full-blown post on it.

      Comment by astrostu206265 — July 17, 2009 @ 11:36 pm | Reply

    • The old lunar lander that was recovered by an Apollo mission was Surveyor III. Apollo 12 landed next to it in the fall of 1969. They examined the lander, removed the camera, cut a few other samples and returned it to earth. Most of the lander is still on the moon.

      You can now see the Surveyor III camera (minus some holes cut for analysis) in the Smithsonian Air And Space Museum in Washington DC.

      As for mirrors on the moon, there are actually five — three left by Apollo astronauts (Apollos 11, 14 and 15) and two on Russian Lunokhod rovers. They are all still used by special observatories on earth with lasers that can accurately measure the distance to the moon over time. The latest of these observatories, Apache Point, has gotten the precision down to a millimeter! They are doing a remarkable number of things with that data, including verifications of Einstein’s theories of relativity; showing that the moon is continually moving slowly away from earth as the tides transfer some of earth’s angular momentum to it; that the value of the gravitational constant is really constant; and a whole bunch of other neat things.

      Comment by Phil — March 31, 2011 @ 12:15 pm | Reply

  6. Rock “C”.

    Good god, does anyone notice how NASA labels anything?

    Look at the image names: AS16-107-17446
    Look at any part number on the command/service/lunar modules.

    If it had something like: mr16-107-10000, then maybe.

    Comment by Doofus — July 17, 2009 @ 5:53 pm | Reply

    • Good point – I hadn’t thought of that one.

      Comment by astrostu206265 — July 17, 2009 @ 11:34 pm | Reply

    • to go with that thought, if your only methodology of labeling is alphabetic (rather than say alpha-numeric) you are going to run out of labeling options pretty quick for those thousands of prop rocks.

      here’s a reverse conspiracy theory for you… why is it the letter (or number or whatever) is always oriented correctly in a shot? Another mere coincidence? I think NOT!

      my god how do you have the fortitude to keep up such a battle against such insanity? keep up the good work and know you’re greatly appreciated and not alone.

      Comment by danish — July 18, 2009 @ 3:40 am | Reply

  7. I’ve read this “c” thing before and although I think the moon landing is a hoax I checked both original sources of the pictures here: http://www.apolloarchive.com/apollo_gallery.html and here: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/resources/apollo/frame/?AS16-107-17445.

    None of these pictures show a “c”.

    But the comparison of AS15-89-12015 is for real and shows two different pictures on the two sites (one with lamps at the top other w/o).

    Comment by Dick — July 21, 2009 @ 6:42 am | Reply

  8. I just came across this site and found it to be an excellent resource.

    Astronomy Enthusiast,

    I believe you are incorrect in your statement that the Apollo 13 landing would have happened in darkness. I used a planetarium program (in this case XEphem) and plugged in the landing dates for the successful Apollo missions. They all appear to have occurred after lunar dawn at the landing sites. The Moon view on XEphem also marks the landing sites. Very convenient.

    I used http://www.lpi.usra.edu/lunar/missions/apollo/ as my source. It appears that launch to moon touchdown for the Apollo missions varied between 103 to 110 hours. Taking 103 as a conservative value for what would have been an Apollo 13 landing, we have just about 4 days and 7 hours. Apollo 13 launched April 11 1970, 02:13:00 pm EST and landing would have been April 15, 9:13 pm. Given that Apollo 14 landed where Apollo 13 would have been, according to XEphem Apollo 13 would indeed have landed on a sunlit surface. That would have been 1 day after the terminator had crossed the landing site. This is consistent with the other soon-after-dawn landings.

    Thanks for playing.

    “But okay, you can have this one because there are dozens of other pieces of evidence.”

    Please list these dozens of other evidence and we’ll see if they hold up.

    “You have to understand the mindset of these guys, capable of the big lying, who must sign all their works with their mafia signature. In this case, Apollo 13’s “problem” occurred on April 13th, at 13:13 hours into the mission.

    Those who don’t have the eyes to see, ears to hear, or otherwise have too much pride to maintain an open mind, are going to write it off as a coincidence.”

    Wow, prejudice mixed in with superstition.

    Comment by ND — September 7, 2009 @ 11:08 pm | Reply

  9. I agree with danish — I don’t understand how you have the patience to politely address the people who insist on believing the so thoroughly refuted nonsense that the landing is a hoax. Danish calls it “insanity” — let’s call it like it is: this is not insanity, it is stupidity. Furthermore, it is willful stupidity. All you can do is try, and we thank you for it.

    I suppose the only thing that will actually convince people like Dick and Astronomy Enthusiast will be if somehow we can purchase telescopes powerful enough to point at the moon and see the landing sites for ourselves. I swear to god that they will then claim that NASA has hung an artificial moon between us and the real moon, complete with miniature fake LMs and flagpoles.

    Comment by Clayton — September 18, 2009 @ 6:45 pm | Reply

  10. the claim foto is not the same foto as there orginal foto, note the astronorts legs

    Comment by CuzPB — January 3, 2011 @ 3:45 am | Reply

  11. I never heard of this one. I just wonder, if you were going to label your props from all 3(?) EVA’s then you would have more than 26 rocks to organise and your labelling system would be a little more complex than just plain ABC, “EVA 2 Scene 4 Rock 98 ” etc etc etc
    Also, it wouldn’t be play school, why so big a C…if you have an OHP pen and trying to write on a plaster of paris irregular shaped prop you tend to write small, and you write small because you know it isn’t supposed to be seen even if the idea is label the underside… but you dont try t write a big C because even with a stencil it is going to be hard….

    Comment by Andy — March 11, 2011 @ 6:32 am | Reply

  12. That “C” is too curved at both ends to be a lint, or eyelash. It’s an absolute letter.

    Comment by Pint — March 30, 2011 @ 7:47 pm | Reply

    • Look at other photos and a “c” is on the grond as well so 2 hairs marks in the same shape as a “c” umm no way it was all staged.
      Also the coke bottle was seen being kicked on the footage in the Australian footage but edited out for the replay.
      Again google this all covered up but too many could and did see this coke bottle.

      Comment by cool jay — May 27, 2012 @ 6:52 am | Reply

  13. You keep going on about “it not making sense” as if we know all the details on how such a thing would have been filmed… maybe they have used small models to also film some footage and needed to label some rocks so they could recapture certain footage in other ways… Faking a moon landing is not something done every week so why do you know whats strange and not strange about it.. as for the pics with out it, THAT does not make sense and more than likely been edited since to cover up the mistake.

    Comment by Paz — July 8, 2012 @ 4:56 pm | Reply

    • Or maybe faking a moon landing is something that has *never* been done…has that possibility occurred to you?

      You can’t jump to the conclusion that it was all faked just because you see something you don’t immediately understand. The moon is a thoroughly alien place. Your Earth-bound intuition and “common sense” often doesn’t work there.

      Comment by Phil — July 9, 2012 @ 6:41 am | Reply

  14. I’m surprised that no-one has bought up the rather poignant & ironic fact that of all people Richard C. Hoagland & Mike Bara (!!?!!) wrote up an investigation in which they contacted NASA and had a copy made of photograph AS16-107-17446 to prove that the ‘C’ was a human hair. But then a broken clock is right twice a day.

    Comment by Graham — July 14, 2012 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

  15. The easiest counter-argument to the “C” on the rock… moan hoax believers often talk about images that are edited in order to look realistic – after effects added by hand… And yet, NASA didn’t take the time to remove the “C” before publishing the photo. Hoaxers are damned by internal inconsistency. (See Paz’s comment above)

    The other thing is, and this is just a guess, but if I were a props master I would label the props using detachable methods. Ie. notes with sticky tape. Then all you have to do is remove the label before placing the prop down. (I have worked in the entertainment industry, but not film, so it’s an educated guess.)

    Comment by flip — August 13, 2012 @ 5:23 am | Reply

  16. Haha, are you serious? An eyelash? I won’t even bother to prove you wrong. LoL

    Comment by Jupiter — April 7, 2013 @ 12:52 pm | Reply

    • Next time you scan a photograph and don’t have any dust, dirt, lint, nor hair in it no matter how hard you clean the photo and scanner, let me know.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — April 7, 2013 @ 1:03 pm | Reply

  17. Hey Mr. I believe in everything the government tells me. Can you please explain to me why your so called “original unmodified photos of the rock with the letter “C” that happens to be a hair or eyelash photo looks more modern in color and quality than the one posted here that shows the letter “C” and is in fact the original one?


    Lying can only get you so far. So I’d like to hear your explanation for this one so I can get a nice chuckle.

    Everyone check out that site. The pictures and videos prove the landing was faked and photos were edited with great detail in explanation and basics physics and logic. There was even a video on there that showed the apollo taking off from the moon with a flame, but that can’t be because there is no atmosphere on the moon so how can you see a flame? But that video, if you click on it, you will notice it has been taken down and the account has been blocked due to “copyright infringement”

    Comment by Shawn — January 3, 2014 @ 11:50 am | Reply

    • Did you even bother to read the post? Or listen to any of Stuart’s podcasts on this? Because your question is already answered in copious detail in the above post.

      Comment by flip — February 20, 2014 @ 4:00 am | Reply

  18. Can you explain, how is it possible, that the Moon rock in museum in Holland is wood, not stone at all? Why NASA should make a stunt like this?


    Comment by Erkki — July 28, 2015 @ 1:33 pm | Reply

    • It seems as though you are assuming that humans are infallible. That things don’t get misplaced, mislabeled, accidentally mored, nor accidentally broken, and that when they do, it’s a conspiracy because that can’t possibly have been done by accident.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — July 29, 2015 @ 6:48 am | Reply

      • So, you’re saying, that a NASA kind of high-tech organization makes mistakes like that. They sent Moon landing heroes for a World tour and by mistake forgot to check, if the samples were rock or just a block of wood? You must be a true believer then.

        Comment by Erkki — July 29, 2015 @ 11:29 am

      • No. I’m saying that the museum probably accidentally switched something. Not NASA gave them petrified wood. Have you seen the organization and “security” in museum back rooms? I have, in many, and I’m surprised that stuff like this doesn’t happen more often — or maybe it does, it’s just never as important as a lunar sample.

        I never blame a conspiracy for what can much more easily be explained by simple human incompetence.

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — July 29, 2015 @ 11:42 am

      • Please forgive my confusion, but I’m not familiar with the term, “mored”. Is that some specialized jargon?

        And Erkki, do you associate with any human or group of humans who are (or seem) incapable of ever making mistakes?

        Comment by Rick K. — July 29, 2015 @ 11:20 pm

  19. Sure, I make mistakes. Like I used to believe everything NASA’s feeding to us. Not anymore. Feel free to believe what you want. Like those pictures taken with no view finder. What a great photographers those guys where. Just click the button….

    Comment by Erkki — July 30, 2015 @ 12:52 am | Reply

    • I’m sorry Errki, but maybe we ran into a language barrier. I was asking if you have friends or co-workers, or even people you do business with, or similar relationships, where you are confident that some or all of those people are incapable of making mistakes?

      Comment by Rick K. — July 30, 2015 @ 6:53 am | Reply

  20. Hey, I just pulled a small hair out of my ear… spookily, it looked just like the letter ‘C’ on the picture. What are the odds?!!
    I placed it on a photograph of my house and now my house is a fake – gutted.

    Comment by jnoake — November 16, 2015 @ 10:24 am | Reply

  21. nobody here sees something very strange in this photo?

    Comment by skeptikol — June 30, 2018 @ 4:14 am | Reply

  22. hold on, let me magnify and edit…

    Comment by skeptikol — June 30, 2018 @ 4:19 am | Reply

  23. Comment by skeptikol — June 30, 2018 @ 4:21 am | Reply

  24. this is all fake if you read all the theory u will know who is laying

    Comment by Moon Rocks — August 30, 2018 @ 11:18 am | Reply

  25. I have analysed the picture and cannot find the C on the rock. You added the C.I have checked both images.

    Comment by Duncan — February 17, 2019 @ 7:37 am | Reply

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