5.11:   Remote probes took the photographs

This seems to be the argument the hoax community have decided on. It gets them out of a hole nicely. With the work of fraudsters and charlatans like Bart Sibrel, Jarrah White and David Percy completely discredited by this research (it clearly isn’t a transparency overlaid on a window neither was it filmed in LEO), this is the only recourse for them.

Is it reasonable?

Well, evidently there is the capability to transmit TV images over long distances, and evidently those TV images can be in colour. There is also the capability to control unmanned vehicles remotely. What the conspiracy lovers can not do, however, is identify which unmanned probe took the live TV images, or state when this probe was launched, or who was controlling it, or why the voices of Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin are tracked as coming from the moon (with the correct delay for the distance) and not from either Earth (which would give an incorrect voice delay) or from LEO (which would be instantly detectable because of the orbital speed this would require).

We do, at least, have evidence from lunar orbit that photographs could have been taken by US probes, namely the Lunar Orbiter series ones that were used to provide mapping and other supporting data for the Apollo landings.

Figure 5.11.1a shows Lunar Orbiter 1’s first image of Earth from lunar orbit as printed in magazines at the time. The LOIRP have produced a much cleaned up version (see the articles on this page), but it should be pretty obvious that the view of Earth is not the quality we have seen in Apollo photographs, and neither is it in colour. Figure 5.11.1b shows that cleaned up version in comparison with a NIMBUS image from the date it was taken, August 23rd 1966.

Figure 5.11.1a: First ever Earthrise photograph, taken by Lunar Orbiter I on 23/08/66. Source.

Lunar Orbiter V returned a much better photograph on 08/08/67, available here and shown in figure 5.11.2 below, along with ESSA satellite data. The ESSA image date is August 7th, but for reasons outlined in great detail elsewhere in this research by the time it covers this area in the Lunar Orbiter image it is the 8th.

This image is very good quality, and we have to concede that there is an impressive amount of detail. It is, however, still in black & white, not colour, and the unfortunate thing for the conspiracy theorist is that all of the Lunar Orbiters were crashed into the moon long before the first Apollo went anywhere near there. The probes also did a lot of research into things like radiation, micro-meteoroids and radar tracking that the conspiracy lovers always like to claim wasn’t researched at all. They’d also have to concede that camera film works just fine in space without getting ruined by all that radiation, because the Orbiters used Kodak film.

One moon hoax proponent has tried to use the Lunar Orbiter 1 image to claim that Apollo photos are faked, His claim looks like this (figure 5.11.3)

Figure 5.11.5: Surveyor 3 TV image of Earth compared with 3D reconstruction using restored ESSA data. Source.

Surveyor’s images were sent back as TV signals, and the lines in this image are obvious. It is also nothing like as clear as most of the lunar based Apollo views of Earth.

Fans of Apollo 12 will remember that the piece of equipment that broadcast this image was retrieved by the Apollo 12 astronauts from the surface of the moon.

A later probe, Surveyor 7, did produce some much better quality pictures of Earth.

The images can be found in this document, which summarises the results from all the Surveyor probes. Interestingly, Surveyor VII also took pictures of laser beams fired from Kitt’s Peak observatory, something that was also tried during Apollo 11 and that also acted as proof that the planned laser reflector experiments deployed during Apollo would work. Figure 5.11.6 shows the images of Earth taken by the probe, along with an original negative discussed on this page.

They are undeniably of good quality. They are also undeniably in black and white and from a probe that stopped sending images long before Apollo 8 got anywhere near the moon, and the projection does make identification difficult in places - it isn’t easy mapping out a 3D globe on a 2D piece of paper.

The discarded S-IVB has also been suggested as a possible source of the footage, but as these either impacted the moon during the missions (thereby discounting them as a source for images after they crashed) or were sent into solar orbit (where they remain today), this can also be discounted. Given that the S-IVB was still in use after TLI until the LM was extracted from it, they are unable to answer which craft is filming the S-IVB during undocking if the astronauts remained in LEO. The S-IVB can’t possibly have filmed the images of Earth taken by the rovers on the lunar surface, nor could they have taken the high quality still images. It also fails to explain how uncut shots taken during TLC & TEC can go from showing people in the lunar module to long distance shots of Earth showing features that satellites had not yet imaged.

In short, it is a glib throwaway dismissal based on nothing more than pre-supposition and with no basis in fact whatsoever. It is pretty much “well they must have”, and no evidence is offered to support it. Ever. Denial is all that is required, apparently.

If you believe it was filmed by some remote vehicle, then you need to prove it. Find the vehicle concerned, tell the world how the images were transmitted back to Earth, who controlled the probe and from where. Put up or shut up.

Figure 5.11.6: Surveyor VII views of Earth taken 22-23/01/68. Sources given in text.

Just for fun, here’s a close up in figure 5.11.7 of a re-digitised version of the Surveyor image taken at 12 noon on the 23rd in comparison with the satellite image from the same day. The landmass taking centre stage is South America.

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Figure 5.11.7: Stacked image of Earth taken by Surveyor 7 in comparison with satellite imagery (left) and 3D reconstruction using digitally restored ESSA data (right).

Figure 5.11.2: Lunar Orbiter V image of Earth compared with ESSA data and 3D reconstruction using digitally restored ESSA data. This image from here, original image here.

Figure 5.11.1b: Lunar Orbiter Earth image compared with NIMBUS mosaic and 3D reconstruction using digitally restored NIMBUS data

Figure 5.11.3: Social media claims about lunar orbiter

So, does this claim have any validity?


These are photographs of the probe and its camera (figure 5.11.4)

Figure 5.11.4: Lunar orbiter probe (above: Source) and the photographic system (left, source).

Firstly, it did not have many layers of radiation protection, it had a thin layer of aluminium designed to protect against solar flares (see here). Any more protection would have compromised the weight limits. In any case, the shielding was there to protect the probe from long periods of exposure, not short missions. Radiation detectors on the probes allowed them to modify the processing regime in the event of high radiation levels. In fact, as this document states, one of the main protections from radiation afforded the camera (in the event of a high solar particle event) was to physically change the orientation of the probe so that more of it was between the sun and the camera! The geiger counters, shielded by the same level of aluminium as the cameras and film, would detect high levels and:

“..it would be possible for the mission control to minimize the darkening of the film by operational maneuvers, such as stopping the photographic operation and acceleration of development of the film in the loopers, and in case of more penetrating events, shielding the film in the cassette by the spacecraft itself and by the moon.”

Furthermore, the doses that these counters actually measured indicated that the shielding provided by crew cabins and suits would be more than adequate unless the event was extreme.

“The radiation experiments produced data which confirmed that the design of the hardware that Apollo astronauts would use on their lunar missions beginning in 1969 would protect them from average and greater than average short-term exposure to solar particle events.”

Secondly, the pressure vessel was nitrogen at at 1-2 psi. Very low pressure compared with Earth’s 20 psi. It was there not to protect the film, but to protect the development process, as discussed here.

The Apollo cameras were shielding for the film in themselves - anything that stands between a radiation emitter and a target is a shield, and the film was specially designed to withstand periods of vacuum (to which it was not exposed for long). Comparing systems designed for long periods of continuous exposure to vacuum and potential solar flares with short term lunar missions is not the best way of proving your case, particularly when a small amount of investigative work shows that you don’t understand the subject.

What about photographs from the lunar surface? Were there any taken there? Well, yes there were, by the Surveyor probes, probes that also looked at surface temperature and radiation levels.

Surveyor 1 provided the first colour photographs of the lunar surface, but the first colour photograph of Earth (taken 30/04/67) came from Surveyor 3, which can be seen in figure 5.11.5. The photograph could only be taken because of a favourable libration (the moon’s “wobble” caused by its interaction with our gravity), and Earth was not usually visible. The image was taken on 30/04/67 at 10:30 GMT. While the Atlantic is largely over-exposed, the cloud band off South America, and the curved system to the far north, can be made out.