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.

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

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)

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.

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).

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.

We can employ exactly the same criticism to one internet user, who claims to work for China’s Space Agency (yeah right, they let Americans do that), who proposes that all the photos of Earth were taken by unmanned probes with a camera mounted on the outside, because apparently no handheld camera existed capable of that level of detail.

He doesn’t identify which colour camera was involved, nor does he seem to be aware (or is ignoring) the many shots which are very obviously taken from inside Apollo spacecraft or on the lunar surface, nor the ones where Earth is duplicated in the doubled glazed Apollo windows, or the blurred and out of focus ones, or where the viewing angle changes because the photographer has moved, or where the same view has been taken on two different magazines but the same camera, or the ones taken by live TV or by 16mm cameras. Figure 5.11.8 shows just a few examples of the many available.

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.

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.

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.

Figure 5.11.8: Sections of Apollo images showing reflections in windows and obvious internal details. Top to bottom, left to right: AS13-62-8943, AS13-62-8888, AS11-40-5845, AS11-36-5404, AS11-37-5434, AS15-99-13412, AS08-14-2392,

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Figure 5.11.3: Social media claims about lunar orbiter

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

He even produces his original tracking notes.

These radio hams knew what they were doing. They would not be fooled by an object supposedly in LEO that no-one had seen from the ground. Objects in Earth orbit have a habit of being visible.

The professional tracking stations were also not likely to be fooled. Their large dishes were pointed specifically at the moon and received transmission for hours at a time. Even those not involved in the missions directly could track them, such as the big dish at Jodrell bank, or Parkes, amongst many others not directly involved in the missions (see, for example, the ones listed here). This article describes how an Italian radio telescope was used to record data and voice transmissions on NASA’s behalf as a back up. The reporter contacted those involved, stating that:

“They guaranteed me that what they were listening to came from the Moon, because with that radio telescope you could only listen to communications that came from the Moon and not something sent from the United States".

You can even include the citizen scientists involved in Operation Moonwatch (figure 5.11.13), where individuals around the world tracked satellites to confirm their orbits, and even spotted Apollo spacecraft.

Figure 5.11.11 (above): Social media claims about Apollo transmissions.

Figure 5.11.12 (right): Apollo 17 Doppler curve (source given in text).

The original poster is correct - there would be, and was, a clear difference between the tracking station handover in LEO compared with those for lunar bound missions.

The reply to him is, however, very much mistaken.

The figure of ‘40 minutes’ is almost correct, but not for the reasons he claims. 40 minutes would about cover the amount of time it would take something in lunar orbit to pass into and out of sight of a ground based receiver. If the spacecraft being intercepted was in LEO, it would only be in range for 15 minutes at best. Check the transcripts for Apollo 7 and 9 - handovers are a constant thing. Compare that with Apollo’s lunar missions and the same receiving stations are in use for hours at a time.

Baysinger, for example, managed 35 minutes of recording for Apollo 11 using a directional antennae pointed at the moon, as did other enthusiasts. Just not possible for an Earth orbiting craft.

His Doppler radar claim is debatable. Certainly amateur enthusiasts have been able to utilise Doppler effects (the change in pitch as an object changes its position relative to the observer), and one such enthusiast tracked Apollo 17 across the lunar surface. Figure 5.11.12 shows his Doppler curve. Scientists were also using Doppler effects to track satellites.

There are a few issues with the claim.

First and foremost, by the time Apollo 8 happened there were no Lunar Orbiters in lunar orbit - the last one impacted the moon in January 1968. Secondly, as he rightly points out in his video, it took some time to get the photos from them. The images had to be taken, developed, transmitted and processed. The cameras also would need to be pointing in exactly the right place. The orbiters had to be redirected to get the view, and there was no guarantee that it would work as intended (see here). These two factors together mean that it would have been pretty much impossible to get a view of Earth consistent with the time of the live TV broadcast. Even if they used a satellite (such as ATS, footage from which is included in the video), the issue of collecting the image, processing it and producing a usable image over which a TV camera could be panned remains.

Finally, there’s the flaring that we see in the footage as the camera tries to adjust to an overly bright Earth - this wouldn’t work over a photograph.

The video also alleges that the camera pans too quickly in response to capcom’s “up a bit, down a bit” commands, but in reality there is no way to tell which of the instructions Apollo 8 is following - he’s just making assumptions.

As with many of the claims made about the production of Apollo images, of whatever source, a moment’s thought introduces far more problems than the claims address. In short, it’s just not practical or possible. It’s a simpler exercise to send someone. The reason the voice communications seemed to be coming from the moon is because they were there. The many professionals and amateurs tracking it received signals from the moon because that’s where they were coming from. It’s also worth pointing out that the same youtuber claims that all the footage of Earth was done from geosynchronous orbit, which is completely at odds with the claim that it was done from the SIV-B. These guys just can’t get their story straight, because they only concentrate on a sungl;e facet of the picture that fits their delusion. When you try and join all the dots of their conspiracy nonsense together the picture galls apart.

The ‘it was all done by a remote probe’ is a lazy, idle, glib throwaway dismissal based on nothing more than pre-supposition and with no basis in fact whatsoever. The proponents of these arguments either don’t know as much as they claim, or are deliberately glossing over the bits that don’t fit their deluded narrative. It is pretty much “well they must have”, and no coherent, logically consistent evidence is offered to support it. Ever. Denial is all that is required, apparently. They might think it gets them out of a hole, given that the images of Earth and moon are undeniably accurate, but it just raises more unanswerable questions for them.

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 5.11.13: Jodrell Bank’s recording of Apollo 11’s descent to the lunar surface (left) and Parkes’ recording of the signal from Columbia (right). Below, ‘Moonwatch’ newsletter excerpts.

A variation on the remote probe theme was posted on youtube, claiming that the images of Earth in the live TV broadcasts (at least from Apollo 8) were done using Lunar Orbiter images, over which a camera was panned to give the illusion of someone trying to keep a viewfinder-less TV camera on an image of Earth (figure 5.11.14).

Figure 5.11.14: Example frame showing how one person believes the TV view of Earth was captured.

He expands on his theme in a later post (figure 5.11.9).

Figure 5.11.9: Social media claims about the SIV-B

This is despite the fact that the SIV-B impact sites have been photographed from lunar orbit (figure 5.11.10).

Figure 5.11.10: Examples of SIV-B impact sites (Source).

Those same impacts were recorded by Apollo seismometers, and mentioned during the missions, for example this reference from Apollo 13:

023:18:53 Kerwin … we have an S-IVB impact of about 8.57 south and about 33.9 west, which is a little west and a little south of the Flight Plan value. We have it at a GET of about 77 plus 51 which is just before AOS, and the LOI paths are a little bit late, and as I say, it's still pretty soft, and we'll be updating you with firm numbers.

There are also many examples of images, video and TV of Earth taken after the SIV-B was discarded. There’s only one ridiculous notion here, can we guess who made it?

Another element to the ‘it could have been a remote probe’ notion is the story of Zond 5. Zond 5 (which successfully took a biological payload to lunar orbit and back) famously sent transmissions of human voices back to Earth of cosmonauts reading out telemetry and preparing for a landing, allegedly provoking much alarm amongst the Americans and British listening in. The actual event varies depending on who’s telling the story. One version is that very much Earth bound cosmonauts were broadcasting to Zond 5 and the return signal was intercepted. Some cosmonauts have even claimed direct responsibility for the prank. A slightly more prosaic version of the tale (told here for example, and also in Brian Harvey’s ‘Soviet and Russian Lunar Exploration’) is that the transmissions were taped to test voice communications without the tricky business of sending a cosmonaut.

It’s also well known that radio hams like Larry Baysinger picked up Apollo 11 transmissions, and others picked up Apollo 15 voice communications. Readings from a number of other missions were also intercepted by amateur enthusiasts. Could these have been signals sent by an unmanned probe in lunar orbit?

Well, no. The Apollo 11 transmissions were missing the essential ‘Houston’ component - only Apollo 11 crew voices were heard. You’d also have to somehow get stable transmissions from the lunar surface transmitted and coordinated with a craft in lunar orbit (which would disappear from view for an hour at a time), all the while sending back pictures of the lunar surface (and images of Earth that had to be live).

The claim shown in figure 5.11.11 illustrates the confusion.