Figure 5.3.2: The IBM System/360 Model 30. Source: IBM

Have a careful look at the picture. Where is the monitor? Where is the graphics capability? Here is IBM's top of the range personal computer 9 years after the end of the Apollo mission (figure 5.3.3):

Figure 5.3.3: The IBM Personal Computer 1981. Source: IBM

My undergraduate dissertation was written on something not dissimilar to this just 8 years later.

The ESSA World journal cited in chapter 2 also has images of the kinds of computer technology available to those receiving the satellite data.

Figure 5.3.4 shows banks of computers and tapes that were used to process meteorological data (not just satellite data, while figure 5.3.5 shows the kind of graphics capability available to ESSA meteorologists. In this case it is being used do show isobars on a map, along with the various overlays that could be used in the process. ESSA also used computers to re-align the individual images into a global mosaic.

Figure 5.3.4: Computer equipment at ESSA. Source: ESSA World

Figure 5.3.5: Computer terminal used to produce weather charts. Source: ESSA World

So, the computers shown above had no graphics capability, but does that mean there were no computer graphics at all? Or digital images? Not quite, but as we will see the capabilities of computers at the time are far less than imagined by hoax believers.

The first digital image is widely reported as being the one shown in figure 5.3.6.

Figure 5.3.6: The first digital image. Source: PetaPixel

5.3:      They did it all in Photoshop

Well, I just did, so surely NASA must have, right?

It is a common mistake amongst many conspiracy theory lovers to assume that what they see around them on a daily basis has always been available. Films show levels of special effects where the clearly impossible happens in front of the viewer's eyes, and image manipulation tools like Photoshop are used to change images or manufacture them completely almost routinely. It is difficult for them to conceive that these are recent developments, and that there was a world that had to cope with non-digital methods of recording and storing information, where camera films had to be developed in darkrooms, and photographers had no idea what images they were taking until some time after they had taken them.

Ironically, it is often claimed that the computers in Mission Control were incapable of managing simple navigational computations, but at the same time capable of altering Apollo images. Pictures of the computers used to process the satellite images have already been shown in Chapter 2, but it is perhaps worth going over the state of the art in terms of computer graphics at the time of Apollo to see whether the claim that digital manipulation is reasonable, or whether simple airbrushing could have been up to the job.

In 1968, the year of the first Apollo circumlunar mission, the first mass marketed PC was launched by Hewlett Packard, the HP 9100A. You can see what it looked like in figure 5.3.1.

Figure 5.3.1: The HP 9100A. Source: HP Museum

The HP museum states that his little beauty helped Dr Van Allen, the man after whom the Van Allen belts are named (and whose evidence is often misused and misquoted by conspiracy lovers to 'prove' the landings never occurred), to calculate the use of Jupiter's gravity to slingshot a space probe towards Saturn. It is obviously capable of significant calculations in terms or orbital mechanics, but it has no graphics capability other than an LED alphanumeric display.

There were more powerful mainframe computers. These were large central computers, the equivalent of a modern server, that could be interrogated directly or by satellite terminals. The terminals themselves would have little functionality other than as a communications device to the mainframe.

Figure 5.3.2 shows an example of an IBM mainframe that would have been around in the late 1960s:

This image is a scan of a photograph and was achieved in 1957 by Russell Kirsch. This news must fill the heart of every sceptic with joy, but let's take a look at it.

Anyone imagining that we suddenly have the capability of high resolution digital images, and therefore the ability to manipulate them, is surely going to be disappointed. Granted there are another 11 years until the first Apollo photograph of the Moon is taken, but we still need in that time to achieve colour display and graphics software, and we didn’t do that.

The sharp-eyed amongst you will have noticed that the image is black and white, not colour. Colour television was indeed around at the time of Apollo, but there wasn't any computer hardware capable of rendering colour. Colour rendering did not actually appear until 1977 with the introduction of the Apple II. The first dedicated graphics cards did not appear until the 1980s, and the first edition of Photoshop appeared in 1990. In a nutshell, because the history of graphic computing is beyond the scope of this study, the techniques of computer manipulation of graphic images were in their infancy during Apollo. Neither the hardware nor software existed that would allow the photographs taken by Apollo astronauts to be manipulated by a computer in order to incorporate satellite images.

As an example of what was possible it’s worth mentioning the work of Charles Csuri. Csuri was a pioneer in the field of computer art, recognising that the kind if things being generated by engineers and mathematicians on a computer display could be put to use in generating art. His first major works were done in the late 1960s, including ‘Sine wave man’ and ‘Hummingbird’, all done on a massive mainframe computer with punch cards to program in each individual movement of a plotting pen. As detailed here, Csuri initially used an IBM 1130 and then a PDP 11/45, shown in figure 5.3.7.

Figure 5.3.10: Doctored image from Soviet occupied Czechoslovakia with Alexander Dubček removed.

Czech leader Alexander Dubček is standing 3rd from the right in the photograph on the left. In the photograph from the right he has gone. In order to achieve this everything on the left of him has been moved across so that other people and buildings are filling the space he used to occupy.

The main points here are that the original exists, someone kept hold of it despite the political implications the photograph has (although it may have been one printed outside the USSR). Secondly, anyone can go to that area now and check the building positions and notice that in the doctored image they are wrong. Finally, Dubček’s shoe is still there. The photograph editor forgot to remove it. Oops!

For something like this to have been done with Apollo photographs every original photograph and negative would have had to be destroyed.  Not one single person in the process would have kept an original or mentioned it to anyone.

If the scenes on the Moon are fake, then all the craters and rocks in the alleged studio set would be fake, and yet (as shown on this site) details shown by modern lunar probes show that the smallest craters and rocks are absolutely correctly positioned despite it not being possible for NASA to know that they were there.

The fakery would also have had to be done without a single mistake creeping in. While some people have made a handsome living on the internet pointing out where digital enhancements have been made to Apollo photographs, or pointing out digital artefacts as some sort of proof of aliens, UFOs and other such nonsense, the original photographs show no such errors (see the discussion on slides and newspaper articles below).

Impossible to fake them? Again, I am reluctant to use the word but to all intents and purposes it is. The task would have been too much even for a team of skilled airbrushers and photograph editors who would have to be relied on to keep quiet about their fakery and the use of computer imaging techniques that they simply didn’t have.

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Figure 5.3.8: ‘Hummingbird’ (left) and ‘A Happy Time’ (right) by Charles Csuri

Hardly the ‘Blue Marble’ are they? My first experiment with computer graphics in the mid-1980s involved drawing a leaf written in BASIC language and recorded on cassette. It took days of writing to get 10 seconds of on screen plotting to work, saved on cassette tape. Csuri was using punch cards and had to wait until it was plotted on paper before knowing he’d got it right. Is this good enough to generate Apollo 8’s Earthrise? Is it bollocks. Even if it was, the conspiracy nuts still need to prove that that is what actually happened. They have never done that, all they do is claim it was without any supporting evidence. They drop CGI into the conversation in the hope that you won’t know anything about it and assume they’re right. A small amount of effort is all that is required to show that they aren’t. Here’s another example done in 1969 (or thereabouts) from this video actually showing the moon landing (figure 5.3.9).

Figure 5.3.7: an IBM 1130 (left) and PDP 11/45 (right) of the types used by Charles Csuri

Notice the lack of monitors to display any visual output. In reality, while his art was computer generated the actual images did not appear on a screen but on paper or microfilm. Csuri used the computer to generate co-ordinates and move a pen from one area of the plotting medium to another. By repeatedly photographing the sequence a time lapse movie of the art could be generated. In this article he describes the process:

"The subject was a line drawing of a hummingbird for which a sequence of movements appropriate to the bird were outlined...Over 30,000 images comprising some 25 motion sequences were generated by the computer. For these, selected sequences were used for the film. A microfilm plotter recorded the images directly to film. To facilitate control over the motion of some sequences, the programs were written to read all the controlling parameters from cards, one card for each frame."

And in this article he says:

“After processing a Fortran program you got back punch cards. The punch cards which contained the graphics information were used to drive a drum plotting device. The software for the device only understood pen down and pen up for the beginning and the end of line segments. No animation language, modelling tools, nothing.”

This is self-evidently a world away from the sophisticated programming and video techniques you would need to generate images of Apollo’s quality and well short of the that imagined by those who suggest CGI as a source for these early images of Earth. Figure 5.3.8 shows a couple of examples of the finished product.

Figure 5.3.9: Stills from an early CGI film showing the lunar landing


Again, this was filmed by producing each frame of the film on a computer screen and photographing the result. It is certainly not real time rendering and it is certainly not anything like the real thing.

What the conspiracy fans expect us to believe is that photographs were taken on the ground. Those photographs then had added to them images taken by black and white satellites that were converted to colour, rendered in a 3D realistic form, given the correct orientation in space and then reproduced for public release, with no seams or joins or errors or inconsistencies. I am reluctant to use the word impossible, as it's not a scientific term, but that is what the task would have been: impossible. Impossible to do in a photograph and certainly impossible to do in a live TV broadcast.

Yes, NASA had access to higher quality satellite images than were available here, and Jack Schmitt even managed to take one to space with him, but black and white images in 2D projection are not realistic 3D colour images with shadows and shading and perspective thanks to the curvature of the Earth. In theory, it could have been possible to transmit images to an Apollo craft, assuming they had the kind of equipment we have already seen that is needed to reproduce a satellite image, but why do this? If they are on the way to the Moon they can see the weather and there is no need to send them the images.

In short, no, it could not have been done using a computer.

Could other techniques have been used?

‘Faking’ photographs has been around almost as long as the photograph, and there are many reported examples from the Soviet Union in particular where individuals who have fallen out of favour with the regime have been removed from photographs, and political slogans added to flags and banners that weren’t there originally.

There were a variety of techniques ranging from directly touching up negatives and photographic plates, composing new photographs by cutting up originals or superimposing multiple negatives or plates together, and airbrushing.

Airbrushing is a skilled technique where fine mists of paint are applied with a jet of air to a surface. Its most common use is to remove imperfections and blemishes from a photograph, but it can, in the right hands, add things. Fine detail can be achieved by a skilled practitioner, but there are obstacles that they would have had to overcome. Assuming for just one second that the Apollo images were done in a studio or in LEO, the Earths rendered in the Apollo photographs could not have been done at the same time as the photographs were taken as they would not have had the satellite images available to them.

They would have to have been done after they had the satellite images to work with. For the higher resolution LEO satellites, it could take 12 hours just to acquire the images needed for a full disk Earth image These would then have to be reproduced by an artist who not only knew how to airbrush well, but understood meteorology well enough to know how the weather patterns would progress. They would then have to faithfully reproduce these weather patterns in photograph after photograph (not to mention frame after fame of video and live TV) all the while adjusting the photograph for the correct amount of Earth rotation and producing incredibly fine detail without a single hint that it was added after the fact.

Airbrushing in details on the kind of negatives produced by Hasselblad cameras frankly could not have been possible. The only method available would have been to produce a large print, airbrush that, then re-photograph it. The silence of the original developers of the photographs would have to be guaranteed, because it would be pretty obvious that the Earth was missing from them.

The same obstacles exist for composing fake photographs using the addition of satellite images. The satellite photographs are not in colour. The mosaics used in this research are obviously mosaics. Somehow these need converting to colour and placed realistically on a globe without anyone noticing. Consistently, time after time. Without any hint that there was ever anything different about the photographs. If you search the internet for examples of these pre-digital composites, what emerges is firstly there is always an original with which to compare the fake, and secondly there are mistakes.

Figure 5.3.10 below shows an example of both. It’s my own scan (hence the poor quality!) of an image from a copy of Life magazine in April 1970 specifically about photograph manipulation.