Third-party evidence for Apollo Moon landings is evidence, or analysis of evidence, about Moon landings that does not come from either NASA, the U.S. government (the first party), or the Apollo Moon landing hoax theorists (the second party). This evidence serves as independent confirmation of NASA's account of the Moon landings.
Existence and age of Moon rocks
A total of 382 kilograms (842 lb) of Moon rocks and dust were collected during the Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 missions. Some 10 kg (22 lb) of the Moon rocks have been destroyed during hundreds of experiments performed by both NASA researchers and planetary scientists at research institutions unaffiliated with NASA. These experiments have confirmed the age and origin of the rocks as lunar, and were used to identify lunar meteorites collected later from Antarctica. The oldest Moon rocks are up to 4.5 billion years old, making them 200 million years older than the oldest Earth rocks, which are from the Hadean eon and dated 3.8 to 4.3 billion years ago. The rocks returned by Apollo are very close in composition to the samples returned by the independent Soviet Luna programme. A rock brought back by Apollo 17 was accurately dated to be 4.417 billion years old, with a margin of error of plus or minus 6 million years. The test was done by a group of researchers headed by Alexander Nemchin at Curtin University of Technology in Bentley, Australia.
Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment as left on the Moon by Apollo 11
Plot of arrival time of photons (Y axis) for each of many laser pulses sent to the moon (X axis). This data, along with similar data from the other landing sites, shows there are man-made objects on the Moon in the locations of the Apollo landings. Credit: The APOLLO
(Lunar Laser Ranging) Collaboration
The detection on Earth of reflections from laser ranging retro-reflectors (LRRRs, or mirrors used as targets for Earth-based tracking lasers) on lunar laser ranging experiments left on the Moon is evidence of landings.
Retroflector left on the Moon by Apollo 14
Quoting from James Hansen's biography of Neil Armstrong (First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong):
"For those few misguided souls who still cling to the belief that the Moon landings never happened, examination of the results of five decades of LRRR experiments should evidence how delusional their rejection of the Moon landing really is."
The NASA-independent Observatoire de la Côte D’Azur, McDonald, Apache Point, and Haleakala observatories regularly use the Apollo LRRR. Lick Observatory attempted to detect from Apollo 11's retroreflector while Armstrong and Aldrin were still on the Moon but did not succeed until August 1, 1969. The Apollo 14 astronauts deployed a retroreflector on February 5, 1971 and McDonald Observatory detected it the same day. The Apollo 15 retroreflector was deployed on July 31, 1971 and was detected by McDonald Observatory within a few days.
The image on the left shows what is considered some of the most unambiguous evidence. This experiment repeatedly fires a laser at the Moon, at the spots where the Apollo landings were reported. The dots show when photons are received from the Moon. The dark line shows that a large number come back at a specific time, and hence were reflected by something quite small (well under a metre in size). Photons reflected from the surface come back over a much broader range of times (the whole vertical range of the plot corresponds to only 30 meters or so in range). The concentration of photons at a specific time appears when the laser is aimed at the Apollo 11, 14 or 15 landing sites; otherwise the expected featureless distribution is observed. The Apollo reflectors are still in use.
Strictly speaking, although the reflectors are strong evidence that human-manufactured artifacts currently exist on the Moon, and their locations are consistent with NASA's claims, they do not prove humans have visited the Moon. Smaller retroreflectors were carried by the unmanned landers Lunokhod 1 and Lunokhod 2. The Lunokhod 2 reflector has been in use since 1973. The location of Lunokhod 1 was unknown for nearly 40 years but it was rediscovered in 2010 in photographs by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and its retroreflector is now in use.
New lunar missions
Apollo 11 landing site photographed by LRO
Post-Apollo lunar exploration missions have located and imaged artifacts of the Apollo program remaining on the Moon's surface.
Images taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission beginning in July 2009 show the six Apollo Lunar Module descent stages, Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package (ALSEP) science experiments, astronaut footpaths, and lunar rover tire tracks. These images are the most effective proof to date to rebut the "landing hoax" theories. Although this probe was indeed launched by NASA, the camera and the interpretation of the images are under the control of an academic group — the LROC Science Operations Center at Arizona State University, along with many other academic groups.
After the images shown here were taken, the LRO mission moved into a lower orbit for higher resolution camera work. All of the sites have since been re-imaged at higher resolution.
Further imaging in 2012 shows the shadows cast by the flags planted by the astronauts on all Apollo landing sites. The exception is that of Apollo 11, which matches Buzz Aldrin's account of the flag being blown over by the lander's rocket exhaust on leaving the moon.
Higher resolution image of the Apollo 17 landing site showing the Challenger lunar module descent stage as photographed by the LRO.
Apollo 14 landing site, photograph by LRO
Long-exposure photograph taken from the surface of the Moon by Apollo 16 using a special ultraviolet
camera. It shows the Earth with the correct background of stars (some labeled).
Long-exposure photos were taken with a special far-ultraviolet camera by Apollo 16 on 21 April 1972 from the surface of the Moon. Some of these photos show the Earth with stars from the Capricornus and Aquarius constellations in the background. The joint Belgian/British/Dutch satellite TD-1 later scanned the sky for stars that are bright in UV light. The TD-1 data obtained with the shortest passband is a close match for the Apollo 16 photographs.
In 2008, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) SELENE lunar probe obtained several photographs showing evidence of Moon landings. On the left are two photos taken on the lunar surface by Apollo 15 astronauts in July or August 1971. On the right is a 2008 reconstruction from images taken by the SELENE terrain camera and 3-D projected to the same vantage point as the surface photos. The terrain is a close match within the SELENE camera resolution of 10 meters.
SELENE reconstructed photo
The light-coloured area of blown lunar surface dust created by the lunar module engine blast at the Apollo 15 landing site was photographed and confirmed by comparative analysis of photographs in May 2008. They correspond well to photographs taken from the Apollo 15 Command Module showing a change in surface reflectivity due to the plume. This was the first visible trace of manned landings on the Moon seen from space since the close of the Apollo Program.
As with SELENE, the Terrain Mapping Camera of India's Chandrayaan-1 probe did not have enough resolution to record Apollo hardware. Nevertheless, as with SELENE, Chandrayaan-1 independently recorded evidence of lighter, disturbed soil around the Apollo 15 site.
China's second lunar probe, Chang'e 2, which was launched in 2010 is capable of capturing lunar surface images with a resolution of up to 1.3 metres (4.3 ft). It spotted traces of the Apollo landings.
Apollo missions tracked by independent parties
Aside from NASA, a number of entities and individuals observed, through various means, the Apollo missions as they took place. On later missions, NASA released information to the public explaining where third party observers could expect to see the various craft at specific times according to scheduled launch times and planned trajectories.
Observers of all missions
The Soviet Union monitored the missions at their Space Transmissions Corps, which was "fully equipped with the latest intelligence-gathering and surveillance equipment". Vasily Mishin ("The Moon Programme That Faltered."), in Spaceflight. 33 (March 1991), pages 2–3 describes how the Soviet Moon programme lost energy after the Apollo landing.
The missions were tracked by radar from several countries on the way to the Moon and back.
The NASA Manned Space Flight Network (MSFN) was a world-wide network of stations that tracked the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab missions. Most MSFN stations were only needed during the launch, Earth orbit and landing phases of the lunar missions, but three "deep space" sites with larger antennas provided continuous coverage during the trans-lunar, trans-earth and lunar mission phases. Today, these three sites form the NASA Deep Space Network: the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex near Goldstone, California; the Madrid Deep Space Communication Complex near Madrid, Spain; and the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, in Tidbinbilla, near Canberra, Australia.
Although most MSFN stations were NASA-owned, they employed many local citizens. NASA also contracted the Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, Australia, to supplement the three deep space sites, most famously during the Apollo 11 EVA as documented in Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia and portrayed (humorously and not quite accurately) in the movie The Dish. The Parkes Observatory is not NASA-owned; it is, and always has been, owned and operated by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), a research agency of the Australian government.
Several other Australian sites which are no longer part of the Deep Space Network were also involved in relaying Apollo lunar transmissions. The deep space (lunar) tracking station was originally Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station. Carnarvon Tracking Station was one of the smaller and more numerous MSFN sites used primarily to support the near-earth segments of Apollo missions, though it also relayed data from the ALSEP lunar surface experiments. Due to its location on Australia's west coast, Carnarvon played a special role in the Apollo trans lunar injection and atmospheric reentry phases. Deakin Switching Centre routed the Apollo television broadcasts.
It would have been relatively easy for NASA to avoid using the Parkes Observatory to receive the Apollo 11 EVA television signals by scheduling the EVA at an earlier time when the Goldstone station could provide complete coverage.
- On December 21, 1968 at 18:00 UT, amateur astronomers (H.R. Hatfield, M.J. Hendrie, F. Kent, Alan Heath, and M.J. Oates) in the UK photographed a fuel dump from the jettisoned S-IVB third rocket stage.
- Pic du Midi Observatory (in the French Pyrenees); the Catalina Station of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (University of Arizona); Corralitos Observatory, New Mexico, then operated by Northwestern University; McDonald Observatory of the University of Texas; and Lick Observatory of the University of California all filed reports of observations.
- Dr. Michael Moutsoulas at Pic du Midi reported an initial sighting around 17:10 UT on December 21 with the 1.1-metre reflector as an object (magnitude near 10, through clouds) moving eastward near the predicted location of Apollo 8. He used a 60-cm refractor telescope to observe a cluster of objects which were obscured by the appearance of a nebulous cloud at a time which matches a firing of the service module engine to assure adequate separation from the S-IVB. This event can be traced with the Apollo 8 Flight Journal, noting that launch was at 0751 EST or 12:51 UT on December 21.
- Justus Dunlap and others at Corralitos Observatory (then operated by Northwestern University) obtained over 400 short-exposure intensified images, giving very accurate locations for the spacecraft.
- The 2.1m Struve telescope at McDonald, from 01:50-2:37 UT, observed the brightest object flashing as bright as magnitude 15, with the flash pattern recurring about once a minute.
- The Lick Observatory observations during the return coast to Earth produced live television pictures broadcast to United States west coast viewers via KQED-TV in San Francisco.
- An article in the March 1969 issue of Sky & Telescope contained many reports of optical tracking of Apollo 8.
- The first post-launch sightings were from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) station on Maui, and observed the trans-lunar injection burn near 15:44 UT on December 21.
- Table Mountain Observatory, a Deep Space Network station in California, reports that they tracked all the Apollo lunar missions except 17.
- Bernard Scrivener at Honeysuckle Creek recorded 45–50 hours of radio conversation between Houston and Apollo 8. These are recordings of the raw audio, not what was released to the public through NASA.
- A list of sightings of Apollo 10 were reported in "Apollo 10 Optical Tracking" by Sky & Telescope magazine, July 1969, pp. 62–63.
- During the Apollo 10 mission The Corralitos Observatory was linked with the CBS news network. Images of the spacecraft going to the Moon were broadcast live. :p. 17
- The Bochum Observatory director (Professor Heinz Kaminski) was able to provide confirmation of events and data independent of both the Russian and U.S. space agencies.
- A compilation of sightings appeared in "Observations of Apollo 11" in Sky and Telescope magazine, November 1969, pp. 358–359.
- The Madrid Apollo Station, part of the Deep Space Network, built in Fresnedillas, near Madrid, Spain tracked Apollo 11.
- Goldstone Tracking Station in California tracked Apollo 11.
- At Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK, the telescope was used to observe the mission, as it was used years previously for Sputnik. At the same time, Jodrell Bank scientists were tracking the unmanned Soviet spacecraft Luna 15, which was trying to land on the Moon. In July 2009, Jodrell released some recordings they made.
- Larry Baysinger, a technician for WHAS radio in Louisville, Kentucky, independently detected and recorded transmissions between Apollo 11 astronauts on the lunar surface and in the command module. Recordings made by Baysinger share certain characteristics with recordings made at Bochum Observatory by Heinz Kaminski (see above), in that both Kaminski's and Baysinger's recordings do not include the capsule communicator in Houston and the associated Quindar tones heard in NASA audio and seen on NASA Apollo 11 transcripts. Kaminski and Baysinger could only hear the transmissions from the Moon, and not transmissions to the Moon from the earth.
Paul Maley reports several sightings of the Apollo 12 Command Module.
Parts of Surveyor 3, which landed on the Moon in April 1967, were brought back to Earth by Apollo 12 in November 1969. These samples were shown to have been exposed to lunar conditions.
Chabot Observatory calendar records an application of optical tracking during the final phases of Apollo 13, on 17 April 1970:
|“||"Rachel, Chabot Observatory's 20-inch refracting telescope, helps bring Apollo 13 and its crew home. One last burn of the lunar lander engines was needed before the crippled spacecraft's re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. In order to compute that last burn, NASA needed a precise position of the spacecraft, obtainable only by telescopic observation. All the observatories that could have done this were clouded over, except Oakland's Chabot Observatory, where members of the Eastbay Astronomical Society had been tracking the Moon flights. EAS members received an urgent call from NASA Ames Research Station, which had ties with Chabot's educational program since the 60's, and they put the Observatory's historic 20-inch refractor to work. They were able to send the needed data to Ames, and the Apollo crew was able to make the needed correction and to return safely to Earth on this date in 1970."||”|
Corralitos Observatory photographed Apollo 14.
Paul Wilson and Richard T. Knadle, Jr. received voice transmissions from the Command Service Module in lunar orbit on the morning of August 1, 1971. In an article for QST magazine they provide a detailed description of their work, with photographs.
Jewett Observatory at Washington State University reported sightings of Apollo 16.
Honeysuckle Creek tracked Apollo 16 and recorded the audio of the landing.
At least two different radio amateurs, W4HHK and K2RIW, reported reception of Apollo 16 signals with home-built equipment.
Sternwarte Bochum Observatory in Germany tracked the astronauts and intercepted the television signals from Apollo 16. The image was re-recorded in black and white in the 625 lines, 25 frames/s television standard onto 2-inch videotape using their sole quad machine. The transmissions are only of the astronauts and do not contain any voice from Houston, as the signal received came from the Moon only. The videotapes are held in storage at the observatory.
Sven Grahn describes several amateur sightings of Apollo 17.
As new research facilities such as orbiters and telescopes are built, the question arises whether they can see Apollo artifacts on the Moon.
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