Exposing PseudoAstronomy

October 5, 2011

Playing Hide-and-Seek with the Apollo Landers


This post is less about “pseudoastronomy” and more about what you (or anyone) with an internet connection can do with the amazing pictures taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Though I suppose it’s also related to the Apollo Moon hoax in that we finally have a camera in orbit that’s capable of seeing the Apollo landers.

The Instrument

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft has been in orbit of the moon for nearly three years. It has a suite of instruments onboard, though the one we want for this exercise is called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC). This camera actually has two “lenses” on it — a wide-angle camera (WAC) and a narrow-angle camera (NAC).

The spacecraft is in an orbit that, with the field of view of the cameras, allows WAC images to have a pixel scale of 100 meters, and the NAC has a pixel scale of about 50 cm (0.5 meters, or about 20 inches). And that’s just cool.

So we’re using LRO’s LROC’s NAC. Lots of a.c.r.o.n.y.m.s. Each NAC image is about 2.5 km wide and generally about 50 km long – a tiny fraction of the surface of the moon.

What to Do

You could use the LROC image search feature and find the Apollo landing coordinates from Wikipedia or some other source, put them into the search, and go searching for the Apollo sites that way.

You could cheat a bit and use this website’s list of NAC images with the Apollo landing sites in them (that’s what I did). Then you can use the LROC image search and search for that exact image and click on it. Or, you can directly go to the URL http://wms.lroc.asu.edu/lroc/view_lroc/LRO-L-LROC-2-EDR-V1.0/M113853974RE and replace that last string of letters and numbers (M113853974RE in the case here, which is for the Apollo 16 landing site) with the image ID.

Then, search! You can use the Flash-based tool that the LROC team has set up on that page to zoom in and out and search for the landing site, or you can download a TIFF image (generally around 20-50 MB) from the link towards the top (“Download CDR PTIF”). Sometimes using the information and image on the site with the list helps you to find it more easily.

But while you’re searching, you’ll find a lot of other interesting features. You could find the Apollo 17 “Challenger” descent stage along with the astronaut tracks (story about that on the LROC site here). And if you end up liking treasure-hunting on the moon, you may find Moon Zoo a citizen science project, of interest.

When identifying the NAC images to look through, one thing to pay attention to is the “incidence angle” or “solar altitude” which tells you what the shadows are going to be like. You may think that it’s best to see these when the sun is directly overhead (solar altitude is 90°, or incidence angle is 0°). But, this isn’t actually the case, You want longer shadows so that the features are easier to see. Incidence angles closer to 60-80° or so are generally best (solar altitude 10-30°).

But don’t take my word for it — try looking at the same landing site under an 80° incidence versus a 10° incidence angle. While the craters are much harder to see and the landing sites look more like brightness features rather than “3-D” because of the lack of shadows, you’ll see things like bright crater ejecta and dark crater ejecta that the lower sun angles made invisible!

Final Thoughts

Maybe it’s just me, but I actually find this kind of thing fun (I spent an hour looking for Apollo 15 last night in 5 different lighting conditions). It also gives you a nice perspective on the relative sizes of things — not necessarily that the Apollo hardware was “small,” but really how BIG the moon is, and how much we have left to explore.

If the solar system were reduced in size such that the sun were a grapefruit (about 10 cm), Earth would be located about 11 meters away. Humans have traveled a mere 2.8 cm, or about 1 inch, into the solar system.

I also find it absolutely amazing that in this day and age, there are still people out there who don’t think we ever landed people on the moon.

P.S. Please remember my comments policy. I consider anything related to UFOs to be off-topic for this post.



  1. OK Stuart, now without the links that you will not allow because of your extra-fine print that preclude all things Billy Meier.

    No need for hyperbole, Stuart; it is only the first alleged moon landing (Apollo 11) of July 20, 1969, that has been asserted a hoax and the greatest swindle of all time deceiving the entire world in order to win the Cold War, the race to the Moon, and so forth, against the Soviet Union.

    Comment by Bruce — October 6, 2011 @ 3:07 am | Reply

    • Bruce, I hope you realize that Maybe on the order of 10,000 people believe Billy Meier who has his own take on the whole moon hoax idea. Many more – polls show anywhere from 6-20ish% of the population – have their own ideas about the situation. Saying “it is only the first” that was a hoax is specific pretty much to your group.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — October 6, 2011 @ 7:45 am | Reply

      • Thanks for allowing my comments, finally, inconsistent as it’s been. And thanks for chiming in, mixing it up with us peanut gallery participants.

        Stuart, whether 1, 10k or 10 billion believe Billy Meier or not, isn’t important. This is not a popularity contest. It’s about what is true and what is not.

        To say that we never landed on the moon is a giant distraction from the real question of whether Apollo 11 was a hoax or not. Meier’s ET buddies have said we did indeed put men on the moon but Apollo 11 was “the greatest swindle of all time deceiving the entire world in order to win the Cold War, the race to the Moon, and so forth, against the Soviet Union.”

        Where do you stand specifically on Apollo 11 and do you think it was possibly cinematically faked as outlined here? http://www.futureofmankind.co.uk/Billy_Meier/gaiaguys/meierv9p131,132Stuhlinger.htm

        Comment by Bruce — October 6, 2011 @ 10:48 am

      • As I have said before, provide actual evidence and I will look at it. A transcript from Meier’s alleged alien encounter does not supply evidence. Within that encounter, there is not a shred of actual evidence for a supposed faked landing, just the supposition that it was faked. If you would like to provide observational evidence about why you think it was hoaxed, then I will look at it. If you would like to continue to provide links to Meier that just states that it was faked and a swindle, without actually providing observational evidence to that point, this conversation ends as do your comments on this post.

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — October 6, 2011 @ 10:57 am

  2. You’re getting a bit testy, Monsieur. I’ll see what I can dig up but considering what Queztal had to say on the truth ever coming to light, I’ll have my work cut out for me, which doesn’t preclude the possibility that Apollo 11 and only Apollo 11, was a hoax.


    Billy: And, will the truth ever come to light?

    11. That would hardly be the case because the entire fraud is played in such a way that the discovery of the truth has practically as good as no chance.
    12. Also the provable contradictions of all kinds which can be allocated by the photographs and videos would bear no fruit for the acknowledgement of the truth.

    Comment by Bruce — October 6, 2011 @ 12:27 pm | Reply

  3. Stuart Robbins: “As I have said before, provide actual evidence and I will look at it.”

    Michael Horn: I provided legal standard evidence for the Jupiter-Io information preemptively published by Meier. Did I miss your comments on it?

    Comment by Michael Horn — October 6, 2011 @ 2:19 pm | Reply

    • You missed my, “I’m not looking at something other than Apophis until you provide evidence that my conclusions are wrong; I’m not your skeptical lackey to analyze any claims you throw at me.” Which I’ve stated several times. Your “The Answer” did not provide any answer, as Zach pointed out. It failed to provide any additional documents linking the “red meteor” to Apophis with any specific information before Apophis was actually discovered. This issue is now closed on this post. You want to comment more on this post and you can do so by talking about the Apollo landing sites, LRO, LROC, or why you think A11 was faked by providing actual evidence, not allusions.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — October 6, 2011 @ 2:27 pm | Reply

  4. OK Stuart, give me a little leeway here in your demand to – “provide actual evidence” for the Apollo 11 moon landing hoax. I will try to build my case, slowly, if I may. Not sure where this will lead, if anywhere.

    From a December 7, 2004 article in USA Today http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/2004-12-07-rocketeers_x.htm ; regarding the motivating factor of quickly putting a man on the moon, and that being “Beating Russia to the moon” . This ties in to the allegations made by Billy to Queztal, in the previously listed link above, regarding Von Braun’s ties to Walt Disney and Von Bruan’s right hand man, Ernst Stuhlinger. And also their assertion of the importance of beating the Russians to the moon.

    Quetzal: “In that time the mendaciously propagated and nonexistent Moon-landing was a pure political maneuver of the Americans, ostensibly to trump the Soviet Union in the so-called space race, to practically anticipate this and thereby to be the winner and more powerful, which was supposed to serve as a deterrent military action in regard to the Soviet Union supposedly fearing the Americans.”

    ====================================== below is the quote from the USA Today article of 12/07/2004 ==========================================================

    “Over the next decade, the rocketeers didn’t have much to do. “We called ourselves PoPs — prisoners of peace,” Stuhlinger quips. John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960 and soon after fell from grace with the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. A few years before, the USSR had beaten the USA to space with its Sputnik satellite.

    “Kennedy wanted to do something to regain America’s prestige,” Stuhlinger recalls. Kennedy asked Vice President Lyndon Johnson to write letters seeking advice. One went to von Braun.

    Stuhlinger has copies of memos that bounced between von Braun and the White House. Von Braun laid out everything he knew about the capabilities of U.S. and Soviet rockets. He concluded that the USA would have little chance of beating the Soviets to a manned space lab, but would have a “sporting chance” of beating them to an orbit of the moon and “an excellent chance” of beating them to a moon landing.

    In other words, the USA didn’t go to the moon because it was there. We went because we could get there first.

    In a speech in May 1961 Kennedy laid out one of history’s great mission statements: “This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

    It could not happen without the German rocketeers.

    “The irony is that in the 1960s, we went from nothing to landing a person on the moon in eight years,” says space entrepreneur Musk. “Today it would take two or three times as long, and that’s crazy.”

    Astronaut Walter Schirra, 81, who flew three space missions, was one of the seven original Mercury astronauts when he heard about Kennedy’s speech. “I couldn’t believe we’d made that commitment,” he recalls. “So many things happened so fast. I’d just flown Mach 2 for the first time in 1958.” To get to the moon would require speeds of Mach 25, which would take engines 60 to 70 times more powerful. “That’s a big leap.”

    The von Braun team numbered 400 in 1961. It quickly swelled to 8,000. But the Germans were the leaders, and von Braun was the star. “That was important,” Stuhlinger says. “We had a von Braun. There is no von Braun today.”

    “If the Germans had not been here, the technology would’ve been delayed by 10 years, 15 years,” says Mark Smith, who knows the Germans from his years as CEO of Adtran,a Huntsville tech company. “No group of people is indispensable, but they shrunk the time frame.”

    Rules about federal contracts and processes were tossed. “We could make decisions in almost no time,” says Walter Haussermann, who led development of guidance controls. He remembers talking with IBM about supplying the mission’s computers. He was able to say yes in two days. “Today, it would take years,” he says.

    Thanks to the Germans’ experience, glitches rarely slowed the project. The only disaster: a fire in the Apollo 1 that killed the three-man crew. Manned flights were delayed for nearly two years to make sure it didn’t happen again.

    Ask the Germans how they accomplished so much so quickly, and they struggle for an answer. They note the commitment from Kennedy, the military and the American public — all pulling toward a single goal. Schirra, who often worked closely with the Germans, says the space race was like a years-long adrenaline rush. “It was a competition with Russia, and we had to beat them,” he says.

    Mostly, though, the Germans seem nonchalant, as if it were easy to put a man on the moon in eight years. “We all believed it could be done,” Dannenberg says with a shrug.”

    Comment by Bruce — October 7, 2011 @ 4:22 am | Reply

    • Bruce, I’m not sure why you think this is actual evidence of faking A11. If anything, this is a commentary on the slow pace of the federal government today versus what can be done when we want to beat the “dirty ruskies.” Future posts will be blocked if you do not provide actual evidence that they were faked. I’m talking about specific things. Like, say, disappearing or rotated or non-centered crosshairs, that I have not already addressed in this blog.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — October 7, 2011 @ 10:04 am | Reply

      • Stuart, I didn’t say it was ‘actual evidence’. This is only step 1 as I do some research. Like in a court of law; proving there is motivation.

        Comment by Bruce — October 7, 2011 @ 10:55 am

      • This is not the trial of the century. You make your case short and sweet or you don’t make it here. Have Michael let you write a long guest post on his blog.

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — October 7, 2011 @ 11:08 am

  5. Hi Stuart,
    Have you seen the work done by GoneToPlaid on the LRO images?
    He has made videos showing the LRO apollo images, and made quite a few red/cyan 3D images of the landers made from the LRO images..
    Well worth some interest IMO

    He has a youtube channel here:

    Hope this does not get stuck in your spam filter…

    Comment by Trebor — October 10, 2011 @ 10:19 am | Reply

    • I have; in fact, that’s the site I cite as listing the Apollo landing NAC strips for easy look-up. 🙂

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — October 10, 2011 @ 1:12 pm | Reply

  6. It is quite easy to prove that the Apollo 11 moon landing was real. There are four proofs. The first proof is that the Japanese Kaguya/SELENE lunar orbiter photographed the Apollo 11 landing site as well as the other Apollo landing sites. The Kaguya/SELENE image of the Apollo 11 landing site shows the LM descent engine exhaust halo which was created once the LM had descended to within 100 feet altitude above the terrain. The halo is not present in any of the old Lunar Orbiter photographs since Apollo 11 had not yet landed on the moon. The delusional hoax believer will of course claim that the Japanese space agency (JAXA) is controlled by NASA.

    The second proof is seen in the Eagle’s descent footage as filmed by the 16 mm Data Acquisition Camera (DAC) which was mounted above the LM starboard window. The DAC footage, once the LM has descended to 350 feet, shows tiny craters and boulders which are only 1/2 meter in diameter. Over 40 years later, every single one of those very tiny craters and boulders are seen in LRO images of the Apollo 11 landing site, specifically in the the LRO images taken with high solar incidence angles (very low solar elevation). Furthermore those tiny craters and boulders, seen in the DAC footage, are in precisely the correct locations in the LRO images. Progressively smaller details are visible in the DAC footage as the Eagle descended even lower. Some of those details, such as extremely thin boulder shadows which are only a quarter meter wide, are visible in my deconvolved and enhanced versions of the raw LRO images, and photographing those details was completely beyond the capability of the old Apollo era Lunar Orbiters.

    The third proof is in the EVA images taken during all of the moonwalks. This proof has been staring everybody in the face or over 40 years. Quite simply, where are the heat waves? There are no heat waves because the moon has no atmosphere. Never is there even the slightest hint of a faint double image or mirage just above the distant lunar terrain since these are atmospheric effects which we commonly see here on earth. Out-of-focus distant objects in the EVA photos can readily be sharpened by using image deconvolution. This would not be possible if heat waves, caused by an atmosphere, were present when the EVA photos were taken. The delusional hoax believer will of course claim that the EVA photographs were taken at a secret desert location which was made to look like the moon. This is impossible because deserts radiate heat more rapidly than nearly any other type of terrain on earth. Even a desert during the pre-dawn hours of a clear winter night is rapidly radiating heat into the atmosphere. This is why deserts have such large daily temperature extremes, and why distant lights at night in a desert always twinkle like hell. Thus the most visually striking proof that men landed and walked on the moon is in the EVA photographs. Hundreds of photographs which show zero effects from any sort of atmospheric distortion. The lunar horizon is 2 km away in the Apollo 11 photographs. 2 km of terrain with absolutely zero signs of any type of atmospheric distortion, diffraction, refraction, mirages, tunneling, double images, et cetera.

    The fourth and final proof is in the LRO images themselves. The LRO has taken dozens of photos of all of the Apollo landing sites. Anyone can view those photos on the LRO web site, but one should note that the photos shown usually are the raw LRO image data. The 12-bit image data is companded to 8-bit data in order to reduce the data size for transmission to earth. This results in very contrasty images which appear to lack any detail in the darkest areas of the images. One must decompand the 8-bit images back to their original 12-bit pixel depth in order to view all of the details within the images. Next, one must calibrate the images. Then one must remove the banding pattern seen for the odd versus even numbered columns. The banding pattern is a byproduct of reading out all of the CCD’s even columns, followed by reading out all of the CCD’s odd columns. Next, one must use Fourier analysis to identify and remove all repeating electronic noise patterns which are introduced by the various electronics aboard the LRO. These are the image processing steps which must be done in order to really see what is in the LRO images. One could then go further by deconvolving the images since each LRO narrow angle camera exhibits slight on-axis optical aberrations. These aberrations, primarily axial astigmatism, are due to slight optical decentering caused by the extreme vibrations which the LRO experienced during launch. Image deconvolution corrects for these optical aberrations and improves the resolution. Following is an example of using deconvolved and enhanced LRO images of the Apollo 11 landing site to produce a short movie which shows the landing site from lunar sunrise to sunset:


    It borders on insanity for hoax believers to claim that NASA more than 40 years later is still trying to perpetuate a moon landing hoax, or that any of the Apollo landings were a hoax. Such claims certainly are extremely delusional. Yet delusional mental disorder and belief in conspiracy theories go hand in hand.


    Comment by GoneToPlaid — November 24, 2011 @ 12:08 am | Reply

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