The N.A.S.A. moon landing photographs: Are they fake?



Moon landing deniers have been around for a while. But in the age of “Fake news” and questionable press practices, the movement keeps on growing. Much of moon landing denier’s so-called proof is in the photographs.


However, as a photographer with a pretty good knowledge of photographic realities, I am sure that the photographs come from the moon’s surface. In this blog post, I will show how the knowledge of just a couple of photographic principles can either explain what you see in the moon photographs or prove that what you see is correct.

Let’s keep an open mind


I think that many of the conspiracy theorist’s points of view can be listened to. At least, I get the reasoning behind the conclusions they reach. Particularly in their reasoning as to why an organization like N.A.S.A. would “want” to fake the moon landings.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in spacesuits on a mockup of the moon
Images of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong training on a mockup set of the moon help to fuel conspiracy theorist's claim of a fake moon landing.

Moon photographs

What do the conspiracy theorists say?


Why the U.S would spend billions of dollars to fake getting to the moon rather than just go to the moon boil down to these 3 points


  • The United States was in a space race with the Soviet Union and desperately needed a win after a long string of Soviet space program wins, and a long string of U.S. space mission fails and Soviet space mission wins. Faking the landings was an “easy” way to win the space race.
  • N.A.S.A. needed to continue getting funding for further research and development and show the U.S. government that all the money they had spent so far was worth it.
  • Landing on the moon would distract people from a failed Vietnam war
soldiers marhing off to war in vietnam
Keeping people's mind of the chaos of the failing Vietnam war might have been the government's motivation to fake a sucessful landing on the moon

So, the fact that certain people can think that this achievement was faked, I get. But as a photographer, I know that there is just a ton of irrefutable evidence to the fact that someone walked on the moon. Read on:

Conspiracy theories and the facts


Although I might give weight to these arguments, you cannot refute much of the photographic evidence. As much as there are reasons to fake a landing, there are reasons to just going there and getting the job done. Nowhere is this more evident than in the photographs. It is ironic because the photographs are where conspiracy theorists go to prove the total opposite.


The proof is in the pudding, read on . . .

How conspiracy theorists use moon photographs to prove their point



So, let’s go through the most popular photographic arguments that we never flew to the moon. Although there might be other photographic arguments supporting a fake moon landing, I have addressed the most common. This is where I invite conspiracy theorists to comment below if there are others.


The photographic arguments that the moon landings never happened revolve around the following “proofs.” 


  • The crosshairs of the photographic plates sometimes go behind rocks and other elements in a scene. They must have been added later.
  • Extreme temperatures on the moon would have destroyed the old-style gelatin emulsion silver negative-type film by either melting or freezing.
  • There are no stars in many of the lunar surface images. No stars mean that you are not in space.
  • Places that should be dark and not illuminated are actually pretty well illuminated. This could only mean that there was a spotlight making sure that everything was well lit.
  • Shadows do not make sense and seem to go in different directions proving that there were different light sources instead of only the sun.

Are photo crosshairs behind objects?



The crosshairs of the photographic plates sometimes go behind rocks and other elements in a scene. They must have been added later.


NASA made the wise decision to add a glass plate (also called a reseau plate) to superimpose crosshairs on all the images taken. These crosshairs are also known as fiducials. They were 1 millimeter (0.039 inches) long and 0.02 millimeters (0.00078 inches) wide.

Stitching between each photo to get a panoramic view like this is facilitated with the help of fiducials.
photo of moon lander with astronaut far away
Fiducials would have helped to be a reference in the stitching together of these photographs to form a panoramic view seen here.

N.A.S.A. believed that Fiducials would allow scientists to have a reference for eliminating lens distortion and development distortion. By knowing the fiducial point’s locations on the photographic plate were known with great precision, it was possible to get exact bearings of anything in the photographs. Especially when several photos were taken at different angles. It is part of a super exact science called photogrammetry.

These crosshairs facilitate photo matching and stitching of several photos together to make one large “panoramic” photo of a scene. Crosshairs are still used today in Hollywood when filming green screen or blue screen (chromakey) scenes to create virtual realities. The goal in 1971 was not to fake a reality though. The difference is that crosshair references are actually used within a scene and not on a camera plate. For moon photography, the crosshairs were simply there to get reference information.

Man in front of green screen with reference markers
Green screen reference markers used in the movie Tron Legacy

Whether NASA did actually use the crosshairs for spatial positioning is still disputed to this day because the photos ended up more like snapshots and not many scene shots were taken at several angles.

Crosshairs disappear behind brighter objects


Conspiracy theorists say that many of the reference crosshairs appear behind certain objects that are, “allegedly” on the moon. This would support the theory that the crosshairs were added at a later date and were not in the original shots.

In many shots, the crosshairs seem to be behind objects

But 100% of all the shots where crosshairs appear to be behind objects are from blown-out copies of original negatives. They are also only over white objects in photos where they were most likely overexposed in the copying process to get the copy. Any photographer worth their salt will tell you that this is super common in the blow-up process when making prints.


Photo image printing explains it all


To print a photo, an image was blown up using a light projector. The process involved projecting light through a negative and exposing it to light-sensitive paper,  This exposes the paper to give you different shades of colors that give you your photo. Lighter parts of the photo are represented by transparent parts of the negative. This lets more light through to the photographic paper.


Bright areas on a moon’s surface will burn into the film more than dark areas. This burn will not give justice to darker areas of the photo that are in the vicinity of the lighter areas. Basically brightness leaks into other parts of a photo.


Blowing out a part of a photo can not only occur at the printing stage but also at the photo capture stage as well.


The photographers we consulted agreed that the fiducial washout was almost certainly the result of bright areas of the emulsion “bleeding” over the tiny fiducials. The fiducials are very thin, only about 0.004 inch thick (0.1 mm). The emulsion would only have to bleed about half that much — less than the thickness of a human hair — in order to completely obscure the fiducial.

Crosshairs on good copies of negatives are all fine

What is the point of fake crosshairs?


Most importantly, in all this, what would be the motivation to fake crosshairs in a moon photograph? I guess conspiracy theorists argue that by showing the anomalies, no matter how debunkable they are, it can be proven that the whole project was a sham.

As a photographer, we know that the proposed way of faking these crosshairs all make no sense. Just placing a reseau plate at the time of printing would have been an easier way to place fake crosshairs in a shot.

Using the conspiracy theorist’s form of argument, it would actually make more sense to say that the presence of crosshairs proves that the photos were faked.

In my humble opinion, 


  • The whole motivation of faking a crosshair does not make too much sense. What does it prove?
  • If fake, the actual images are astoundingly perfect in proportions, size, and luminosity, so why would such an elaborate hoax have overlooked a crosshair mishap? 
  • 100% of crosshairs allegedly behind objects are on white and on blown out copies. Originals are fine.
  • There are a million ways to fake crosshairs with the tech from the 70s that would easily show crosshairs over everything.

Temperatures on the moon were too hot/cold


Extreme temperatures on the moon would have destroyed the old-style gelatin emulsion silver negative type film via melting or freezing.

This is an ongoing blog post. Please check in regularly as I will be addressing all other moon landing hoax conspiracy theories in the same post.

2 Responses to The N.A.S.A. moon landing photographs: Are they fake?

  1. tom

    if the moon landing was on the light side of the moon..then the horizon would not be so short plus the photos would be similar to earth photo on a sunny day..the moon photos depict a very short horizon and darker almost night time lighting.. which stands to reason cause the photos were made at night in a remote desert area on earth using artificial lighting.

    • As for the horizon being short, I am not quite sure what you are getting at. Although this argument could hold water, it depends where you are on the light side of the moon, doesn’t it? If you are close to an area where there is darkness, those photos depict exactly what you would see. Shadows are extremely hard in an airless environment as well. Light just does not diffuse with nothing to diffuse in. In photography we call that hard light. As for the photos looking exactly like what you would get on a really sunny day on earth. That is just being ignorant of how the sky becomes the light blue as it is here on earth as opposed the extreme black you get on the moon when looking out toward a patch of lunar sky in any direction.

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