Quite often in the Apollo hoax world the Soviets get mentioned, notably that if they had found anything untoward in the Apollo missions they would have gladly taken the opportunity to expose their American counterparts as frauds. They never did. Instead, they ploughed on with their own unmanned exploration of the lunar surface with a pair of remote controlled rovers: the Lunokhods.

There were two in all - Lunokhod-1 landed in 1970 aboard it’s landing vessel, Luna 17, in Mare Imbrium.

While Apollo 15 did pass close by to the landing area, it was much too distant to capture it in any of the photographs it took. The image below left, for example, is AS15-93-12714, and the blue square identifies the approximate location of Luna now. Below right is a zoom of the same blue area, with the red square identifying Luna’s location more precisely.

Sadly then, we can’t use Lunokhod-1 as a marker for Apollo images. We can, however, use Lunokhod-2 - or rather, we can use its absence in Apollo images as well as use the rocks and craters it photographed. Lunokhod-2 landed in Le Monnier crater in January 1973, just one month after Apollo 17 vacated Taurus-Littrow valley 100 miles to the south. It is that proximity to Taurus-Littrow that means that both Apollo 15 and 17 did a number of passes over Le Monnier with their Panoramic Cameras, so we have good and high resolution coverage of the area before Lunokhod landed.

High resolution coverage of the area explored by Lunokhod-2 by the modern Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter means we can compare those Panoramic Camera images with modern images, and we can also compare both with the images that the Russian rover sent back to Earth as it trundled along the lunar surface.

Let’s have a look at the area under discussion, firstly as seen in the best image available of the crater before Apollo or Luna, high resolution frame 3 of image 78 taken by Lunar Orbiter IV. Luna 21’s landing point is marked in red, and Lunokhod-2’s final resting point in green - both positions are approximate.

Let’s see how that compares with LRO and Apollo versions of the same area.

Hopefully it’s fairly obvious from this that both the Apollo and LRO versions contain considerably more detail than is present in the Lunar Orbiter image of the site, which means that no-one could have known what should have been present in the Apollo photographs before they were taken. The Apollo view (above right) is actually a relatively low resolution version merging full size versions of AS15-P-9299 and AS15–9301 rather than the 1.2Gb sections that will be used later.

So, let’s move in a little closer and have a look at the starting point for the Lunokhod journey - the landing site of Luna 21. Here’s the best view of the site from the LRO, compared with the best view of the site form Apollo.

Granted Apollo’s view of the site is not as clear as the LRO, but it is still clear enough to show that there is no Luna 21 and there are no tracks visible from Lunokhod. As a little aside, there is also enough detail to show that the Apollo image contains the same craters as those in the LRO view.

OK, so what? Well, the important bit now is to look at what Lunokhod could see from its cameras as I looked back its parent craft. Here’s the view (all panoramas are from this site).

Now let’s see if we can identify those features on LRO (top) and Apollo (bottom) versions:

The two craters centre left at the top of the image help demonstrate that the view is looking south-west towards the hills bordering Le Monnier.

Let’s zoom into those hills a little and add some arrows on some prominent features.

The first thing to point out is that, entirely as expected and despite the LRO image being a screendump of the map available on the internet, the view of the area completely vindicates the Apollo image. All of the small details are there, and none of these small details was visible in pre-Apollo photographs.

Of all the features highlighted I will confess I am less sure of the two picked out by the yellow and blue arrow, but I am absolutely happy that I have got the area in question correct. It is possible that the magenta arrow actually points to the two large craters at the top and centre of the vertical shots, but the appear to over a ridge line and therefore may not have been visible from Lunokhod. Just for fun, here’s an additional Apollo 11 image taken by the Metric Mapping Camera (AS15-M-0394).

Lunokhod trundled its way across the floor of Le Monnier over the course of several lunar days, finally ending up at Fossa Recta - the long thin channel on the right of the orbital images above. It took several panoramas on the way, but most of them are of areas or details that don’t show up clearly on Apollo photos.

As we will see, however, there are some details in Fossa Recta that can be seen in Apollo and LRO views of the site. Before we show that, however, we need to show what we are looking at in the Lunokhod panoramas. The first stop with any kind of decent view of the fossa is this one:

There are some quite distinctive tread marks, so we ought to be able to figure out where we are and identify the craters in the opposite wall. The images below show a crop of the Lunokhod image (top left) compared with an LRO view (right) and an Apollo Panoramic Camera view (bottom left). East is at the top.

The green circle in the LRO image indicates the approximate location of the Lunokhod photograph, based on the tracks it left behind.

Interestingly, this photograph makes it into the ‘International Atlas of Lunar Exploration’, a weighty and expensive academic tome. In this section available on line, the book inverts the image and states that it was taken looking towards Near Cape (which is to the south-west of Fossa Recta - making the position of Lunokhod on the eastern side of the Fossa. As can be seen above, the actual location of Lunokhod is on the west side and is looking almost due east.

There is a similar confusion for the next image we look at here:

Again the image in the Atlas is inverted (and is placed incorrectly in the image sequence) with it stating that the image shows hills between near and far cape. This would put this image as running north-south from left-right.

In reality, south is on the left of the image, and the hill in the distance are Near Cape, as we will see below. The top image is the LRO view rotated to match that of the photograph. West is at the bottom of the photograph. The arrows and square boxes identify the same features in each photograph. The yellow circle identifies the approximate location of the rover when it took the photograph.

And here is Apollo’s view. Although they are more difficult to make out, the solid arrows are a match for those in Lunokhod and the LRO photographs. The hollow arrows point to features that are visible in the LRO image and should help confirm the location of the solid arrows.

At the southern end of the image we can get a glimpse of the Near Cape, and once you identify a couple of craters you can begin to spot other ones as well. Here they are (below left) compared with the Apollo image (below right).

The Atlas is currently undergoing preparations for a revised edition, and that author tells me that the images will be correct in the next one.

This LRO website on Lunokhod-2 gets the image the right way around, but gets north and south wrong!

So - what have we proved here?

Firstly, we’ve managed to identify features in Lunokhod-2 images that are found in LRO photographs.

Secondly, we’ve managed to see that identifying lunar locations is a tricky business, with a couple of errors in some prestigious websites and publications by showing where the Lunokhod images were taken.

Thirdly, we’ve been able to identify features in Lunokhod images that also appear in photographs taken in Lunar orbit by Apollo spacecraft, showing that Russian photographic evidence does indeed support the Apollo programme.

Tovarisch, Kamerad.