Exposing PseudoAstronomy

July 15, 2009

The Apollo Moon Hoax: Why Is There No Lunar Dust on the Lander’s Footpads?

The Apollo Moon Hoax: Why Is There No Lunar Dust on the Lander’s Footpads?


For my continuing series in the Apollo Moon Hoax, I am going to address a claim that follows along the lines of the NASA stagehands not doing their job right — not placing any dust on the lunar module’s footpads.

All posts in this series:

The Claim

The basic claim goes as follows: When looking at the pretty pictures of the golden footpad of the Apollo lunar module (LM — see photo below), there doesn’t appear to be a single grain of dust on it, as though the module was just “placed there.”

Lunar Module Footpad - AS11-40-5926

Lunar Module Footpad - AS11-40-5926

Obviously, the NASA people who didn’t put the dust there were trying to tell future generations that this was a faked event, leaking this information out so no NASA higher-ups would realize.

The Lunar Atmosphere vs. Earth’s Atmosphere

There isn’t any. Simply put, the mass of the entire atmosphere of the moon is less than the amount of gas expelled by each Apollo descent engine.

As a result, if you were to pick up a handful of lunar dust and drop it, it would fall straight down with an acceleration about 1/6th that in Earth’s gravity. It would land directly below where you released it.

But it would appear to fall faster than that when compared with actually dropping flour-like substances on Earth. This is due to Earth’s atmosphere, which adds a resistive force to the dust settling down. In addition to this resistive force preventing its downward motion, Earth’s atmosphere is not still – it moves around. This allows any light material to billow out, creating clouds of material, and rarely landing directly below the location you released it.

The Lunar Module’s Descent Engine Shut-Off

The Apollo LMs had an antenna that when it came into contact with the lunar surface would trigger a light inside the craft. This light would be a signal to the astronauts to shut off the engine. Hence, the engine would be shut off before the craft landed.

Putting the Pieces Together to Debunk the Claim

At this point, we have two facts. First, lunar dust will drop straight down if it is released – be it from an astronaut that picks it up or from the force of a rocket engine’s exhaust (which, while not strong enough to create a crater was strong enough to suspend lunar dust). Second, the Apollo engines were shut off before the craft landed.

Consequently, as soon as the engines shut off, the source of a temporary atmosphere that surrounded the craft was terminated, and the dust that was suspended in it immediately dropped towards the lunar surface. The craft still had both a horizontal component to its trajectory, and the legs were above the majority of any of the temporary atmosphere that suspended the dust.

Hence, when the craft landed, it landed both to the side of the settled dust, and the dust would have already settled before the craft touched down, preventing any from being deposited on the LM’s footpads.

Final Thoughts

This claim is yet another one that hinges upon a perceived anomaly. And yet, this anomaly is common sense here on Earth but our common sense does not serve us well when trying to understand the lunar environment. When you hear a hoax claim, try to think about what would really happen in the environment of the moon, and you will be on your way to debunking the claim yourself.


  1. The absence of an atmosphere on the moon means that dust travels farther and faster the earthly dust. The dust picked up by the lander is clearly visible in the final moments of the descent video. Aldrin even remarks on it…”Picking up some dust”. But the dust streaks rapidly away in all directions, because there is no atmosphere to slow it down. When the engine is cut, the dust dissapears off towards the horizon.

    Comment by Jim — July 17, 2009 @ 1:50 pm | Reply

    • That is correct, thank you. Zero atmosphere is a vacuum with no forcing energy to stop and slow down particles in space or on the moon. However the moon does have slight force of gravity to slow down and bring those moon dust particles back down but far away. Remember on Apollo 14 with Allen Shepard first and only one to hit a golf ball on the moon as he really did and remarked there it goes ‘miles and miles’. Rocket engine force in space is continuous as the longer the engine fires the faster and faster the ship will go without ever slowing down until another force of energy is encountered or used (i.e. ‘Retro Fire’ and return to the THICK atmosphere of Earth) …And the planets (or whatever planet) gravity starts to pull it in and so on. For an easy example, a ship as Apollo traveling at 17,000 plus miles per hour re-enters the Earth’s THICK atmosphere by just friction of the ship alone falling down to the surface takes that 17,000 plus miles an hour speed all the way down to apx. 320 MPH, then the shoots are deployed still slowing down the ship to just 25 MPH and ‘Splash Down’ …and done!

      Comment by Lorne Ernst — August 31, 2013 @ 1:10 am | Reply

    • so a boot mark of a human makes a clear detailed foot print but the heavy LM leg has nothing. makes no sense.

      Comment by ross — June 18, 2016 @ 4:40 am | Reply

      • Have you picked up a LM and looked under the pads?

        Comment by Woof — August 21, 2016 @ 10:58 am

  2. The lunar atmosphere is so thin, that It was reported at the time that when depressurizing the LM,
    the gas vented from the cabin increased the lunar atmosphere by about 5% !

    Comment by Mainsqueezer — July 17, 2009 @ 3:41 pm | Reply

    • Looks like a plus for terraforming. Yay for space conquoring!.
      And yes, I probably did spell that wrong.

      Comment by sasracer — July 18, 2009 @ 2:34 pm | Reply

    • Yes, some of the ALSEP instruments set up on the moon easily detected the presence of the astronauts. Not only did the seismometers detect their footsteps, but the particle detectors saw the water vapor emitted from the cooling units in their backpacks. Even after they left there were some disturbances to the instruments from occasional venting of stuff inside the descent module left at the landing site.

      Comment by Phil — July 9, 2012 @ 9:25 am | Reply

    • Read section 1 of NASA’s paper called ‘The Apollo Experience, Lessons Learned for Constellation Lunar Dust Management, by Sandra Wagner Section one deals with Surface Obscuration during Descent. Your conclusion about a thin layer of dust is just musings. NASA doesn’t agree with you.

      Comment by sailincpl — July 29, 2013 @ 8:15 pm | Reply

      • i read the paper…… exactly what was your point? the paper says (quote) “During the final phase of the lunar module descent, the interaction of the descent engine exhaust plume with the lunar surface resulted in the top layer of the lunar soil being eroded away. The particles were picked up by the gas stream and transported as a dust cloud for long distances at high speed.”

        the paper also talks about other missions landing in different places with different amounts of dust. i think you believe you made a point, but you did not. explain what you meant.

        Comment by kmrod — January 27, 2015 @ 12:20 pm

    • I find that impossible to believe.

      Comment by Steve Spreckley — April 25, 2016 @ 1:21 am | Reply

  3. OK, It has taken me ten minutes to settle all my sceptical point except one. I understand why there would be no dust ON the footpads of the lander, but why is there almost two inches of dust for Edwin Aldrin to step in, right at the landing site? Thanks for the site; I’d like email to read your reponse when you get to it. Daniel

    Comment by Daniel Leibrant — October 27, 2009 @ 11:08 pm | Reply

    • Believe it or not, the pressure of an astronaut’s foot was actually quite a bit greater than that of the descent engine right before landing. The total engine thrust was greater, but it was spread out over the much larger nozzle. So it only removed the very thin layer of very light dust directly below it, leaving plenty of dust for Aldrin to make his impression a ways away.

      Comment by Phil Karn — February 18, 2010 @ 10:54 am | Reply

  4. I was just reading this and gasping at how big an idiot the author was. Then I got to the part where he was debunking the idiotic myth and took a sigh of relief.

    Comment by Me — July 28, 2010 @ 8:01 am | Reply

  5. The Descent lunar module engine expels over 9,000 Lbs of thrust. When the switch was toggle to shut the engine down, it was no more then three feet off the surface. The lunar module at descent weighed 5,183 lbs, trapping the engine exhaust between the lunar module and the moon surface at a ratio of 4 to 5 (around 5,000lbs of thrust). Evidence of large amounts of moon dust was apparent from watching the LRV bouncing around the lunar surface. We also know there is no atmospheric pressure, and gravity is only .16 of the earth leaving the dust resistant at 6%, and blowing the dust at 83% of the action force, which would have force the faster sand, right below the full thrust, to collide with the outside slower dust in a violent nature. This would have force the inside sand to create an upper ward dust storm slamming into the lunar module, spreading dust every where, and that includes the landing footpads as well.

    Comment by Len — September 1, 2010 @ 7:11 pm | Reply

    • Most of what you said makes little sense, but I’ll simply point out that on the moon, with no atmosphere, the descent engine exhaust blew the dust radially outward in flat sheets that hugged the ground. There was no reason for it to rise above the surface.

      The movies of the landings even show “shadows” made in the sheet of dust by small rocks and other surface irregularities. These shadows clearly moved as the LM moved horizontally, further showing that the dust closely hugged the surface.

      Comment by Phil — December 12, 2010 @ 3:22 am | Reply

    • Yep dust should be on the foot pads even foot prits are half under the foot pads which is impossible but not if the stage crew placed them when they lifted the llm in place.
      experts have said the thrust from the engine should have made a blast crater and none is shown.
      Also the sound recorded inside does not show the true thrust sound.
      Again cover up fake landings and time will prove this.

      Comment by cool jay — May 27, 2012 @ 6:37 am | Reply

      • So who are these “experts” who say there should be blast craters?

        Look more carefully at the pictures taken under the lunar module. Many show very obvious scouring of the surface where all the loose dust was blasted away. This was especially obvious on Apollo 11 because the engine wasn’t shut off until the LM had touched down on the surface.

        Comment by Phil — July 9, 2012 @ 9:28 am

  6. the hummle telescope should get some real photos of the lunar site space modules

    Comment by peter — September 25, 2011 @ 9:07 am | Reply

    • The Hubble is not able to resolve something that small so far away. Any telescope, even one in space where there’s no atmosphere in the way, has limits. The larger the telescope diameter, the smaller the angle it can resolve. Although the Hubble is quite large (2.4 meters) the Apollo hardware is so small and so far away that even the Hubble can’t see it.

      But we do have a telescope that has seen all the Apollo sites quite well: the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). It has a telescope only 195mm in diameter, but it is so much closer to the moon (it has been less than 50 km from the surface) that it can easily see the Apollo sites. Check out http://www.lroc.asu.edu/ for some spectacular photography.

      Comment by Phil — July 9, 2012 @ 9:43 am | Reply

  7. Anything is possible when dealing with government programs, the government injected there own people with psypallis so it could be a hoax.

    Comment by mark — August 26, 2012 @ 11:19 am | Reply

    • Nope, anything is *not* possible with the government. They have to obey the same laws of physics and mathematics as anyone else.

      What always amuses me about claims like yours is that you expect us to believe that the government was too incompetent to actually land on the moon and, at the very same time, supremely competent at pulling off a massive hoax involving hundreds of thousands of people and keeping it all under wraps for over 40 years!

      Comment by Phil — August 26, 2012 @ 7:59 pm | Reply

    • GovernmentS… plural, if we’re to believe the conspiracy theory. It would have to involve all the countries that were involved, such as my turf Australia, as we received the transmission from Apollo 11. It would also have had come up with a way to leave the reflectors on the surface of the moon, which observatories around the world use. Then you’d have the thousands of people involved in the conspiracy that need to keep it a secret. Then the people that enforce said secret keeping. When you do all that it’d be easy just to go to the damn moon and be done with it.

      Comment by bersaba — January 15, 2014 @ 5:47 am | Reply

  8. This article is wrong. Apollo 12 commander Pete Conrad talks about the dust from 300 feet down and a actually has to fly the eight ball the last 30 feet.

    There was so much dust that they actually thought they overshot the parking lot. Because of the protocol NASA had for controlling dust and because they weren’t sure where they exactly where, they conducted a clandestine SEVA.

    So supposed scientists talking about rocket PSI and a lack of atmosphere are full of ****. Dust was a real concern for all flights. They even had a paper on it called, “The Apollo Experience, Lessons learned for Constellation Lunar Dust Management.”

    The first chapter dealt with Surface Obscuration During Descent.

    End of ******** please, where is the dust on the feet of the LEM and why is the soil beneath the vehicle not disturbed. Dust was an issue supposedly for Apollo 12, and all subsequent flights, why was there none in the photos.

    Comment by sailincpl — July 29, 2013 @ 8:05 pm | Reply

    • Absolutely nothing that you said negates what I wrote in the blog post.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — July 31, 2013 @ 9:14 pm | Reply

    • here is some dust on the footpads (zoom in)

      and here is a picture clearly showing radial markings of a blast pattern going away from the engine


      Comment by kmrod — January 27, 2015 @ 12:25 pm | Reply

      • Everyone who sees any radial blast patterns has one heck of a wild imagination. I’ve seen several high resolution photos and none of them contained evidence that the descent engines had disturbed the surface at all. There was still plenty of dust and pebbles. As for the LM’s footpads, I do see a tiny bit of dust which has settled into some creases.

        Comment by LooneyModule — December 9, 2015 @ 11:01 pm

    • When you download the photo of the LM leg , zoom in close up and the White stuff surrounding the ball joint resemble styrofoam or otherwise known as packing material, in addition, the leg seems held at that angle by two metal rods attached via metal screws , They either has futuristic elasticated metal or was this needed to keep the leg from leaving over under the weight of it in the studio

      Comment by ross Adams — June 18, 2016 @ 5:17 am | Reply

  9. Ridiculous. There was dust. Apollo 15 stated their view was obscured by dust starting at 60 ft above the surface. They reverted to IFR allegeding using radar to know their height above the surface. Yeah right.

    The dust which obscured their total view would have been above the footpads!


    Why not use the transcripts? From Apollo 15

    “104:41:36 Irwin: 120 feet. Minus 6.

    104:41:39 Scott: Okay. I’ve got some dust.

    [Scott, from the 1971 Technical Debrief – “I could see dust – just a slight bit of dust. At about 50 to 60 feet, the total view outside was obscured by dust. It was completely IFR (Instrument Flight Rules). I came into the cockpit (that is, switched his attention from the view out the window to the instrument readings that Jim was giving him) and flew with the instruments from there on down.”]

    104:41:40 Irwin: Minus 5; 100 feet at 5; nine percent fuel; minus 5.”

    DUST! DUST! The total view outside was obscured by dust on landing Apollo 15! It was IFR rules!! They flew by instruments from 50 to 60 feet above the surface!

    Look at this image: https://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a15/AS15-87-11842.jpg
    You can see the Descent Engine Nozzle almost touching the ground. There’s no crater! There’s no dust on the pads. There is no sweeping.

    The caption of the photo states
    “Compared to some other missions, there doesn’t seem to be as much evidence of sweeping by the Descent Engine exhaust as there is in some other missions, particular Apollo 12.”

    No evidence of sweeping, despite the transcript they had to fly the last 60 feet down by instrument because the dust obscured their view? Really? And there’s no dust on the pads?

    There are photographs allegedly taken by the orbiting Command Module of the landing site. It mentions the lighter soil disturbed by the descent engine. No sweeping? No dust? NASA contradicts itself.


    Check out this photo of the crushed Descent Engine Bell of Apollo 15. It’s amazing the LM didn’t destroy itself; it allegedly landed off horizontal, tilted. There is no sweeping.
    The astronauts tossed a white duffle bag under the LM. Dust stuck to it. Dust stuck to their spacesuits in other photos. But not on the pads when it obscured their view 50 ft above the surface when landing?

    Another photo of the lighter soil caused by sweeping upon landing:
    Notice the sweeping yards and yards away form the LM

    You can reason all you want about the lack of dust on the pads or of lack of sweeping or craters caused by the Descent Engine, but the historical photographic and transcipted records of the landings contradict themselves and you!
    Thank you.

    Comment by Scott — August 15, 2015 @ 2:19 pm | Reply

    • Why would the dust have to be above the pads? What’s being obscured is the lunar surface. The dust just has to be between the surface and the Mark I eyeball.

      Comment by Woof — October 15, 2015 @ 6:43 pm | Reply

    • @Scott
      You did what I call a “Jarrahdox.” You used a transcript from Apollo 15 to prove how much blown dust there was and how they had to use IFR to land the LM. Would there be a lot of dust and would they have to use IFR if the mission was faked?
      You did it again when you showed pictures from orbit with supposed sweeping of the surface. The surface of what? Sweeping from what?

      I don’t see any sweeping of the surface in the pictures you showed. Neither do you. Somebody at JAXA thought he could see discoloration from the exhaust. That’s where this claim came from. I think that person was wrong. All we’re seeing is normal difference in surface brightness due to its varying slope.

      I had never seen that picture of the crushed engine nozzle before. Thanks for pointing that out. I can’t think of any reason there would be a crushed nozzle in a fake mission, can you?
      As Phil Plait would say, “We’re done here, right?”

      Comment by Astrobrant — June 16, 2016 @ 10:40 am | Reply

  10. Basic questions.

    Why are the struts and footpads covered in gold Mylar?

    Yes, I understand gold Mylar is used to deflect heat. …from the footpads?

    How come they are still covered in gold Mylar after being sand/dust blasted by a 10,000lb rocket engine?

    Comment by Tim Heritage — August 26, 2015 @ 9:57 am | Reply

    • Deflect heat… from the sun. The point?

      The engine exhaust goes down, hits the surface, then blows dust radially outward. At no point are the struts or pads in the dust blast pattern.

      Comment by Woof — October 15, 2015 @ 6:46 pm | Reply

  11. This makes sense but the video of the moon rover kicking up dust seems to disprove a lot of what you are all saying. Fun at home experiment. Creat a vacum with out of pvc like we use to do in science class, fill will sand and drop any object. In ever drop there are noticeable flakes on top of the object. I don’t think nasa faked the whole thing but there are some interesting things that don’t seem right.

    Comment by S en — June 15, 2016 @ 7:06 am | Reply

  12. gold mylar melts at around 200 degrees celcius. even pure gold would melt at the temperatures of the exhaust, let alone the sand blasting. and indeed, why put gold mylar on lander foots. To protect the styrofoam? what a joke. And your argument of on the one hand saying that sand blows out radially, and otherwise falling down vertically (in vacuum) just shows that you didnt pay attention in physics class, or probably never had any.

    Comment by henk — August 21, 2016 @ 4:00 am | Reply

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