Photographed on the Sea of Tranquillity?
by Andreas Märki, M.Sc.
There is insufficient visible lunar surface to the distant horizon in the Apollo 11 photographic record – Why?
On the relatively flat Mare Tranquillitatis the lunar horizon should be more than two kilometres away from an astronaut’s Hasselblad camera, but in the case of the Apollo 11 photographic record there is insufficient visible lunar surface.
In all the Apollo 11 photographs the missing lunar surface background in general, and the far too low horizon in particular, strongly indicate that these photos were taken in a studio environment. This is also demonstrated to be the case for the so-called ‘live’ TV broadcasts.
The landing site of the Eagle, the Apollo 11 LM, was a lunarscape associated with a sea – in this case a sea consisting of dust and rocks. The boundaries of this lunar location are investigated in this study.
At the Apollo 11 landing site (unlike other Apollo missions 12 and 14-17) there were no visible mountains or hills. Everything is relatively flat and level. The absence of hills and mountains may well be appropriate for the Sea of Tranquillity, but on closer examination the horizon is unnaturally near to the action and the horizon can be described as too ‘low’ in many of the photographs.
Figure 1. Buzz Aldrin deploying the solar wind collector (AS11-40-5872)
According to the official record, the camera was fitted to a chest bracket on the astronaut’s spacesuit. Therefore the height of the Hasselblad still camera was approximately 1.35 metres (4.43 ft) above the lunar surface. In the above image the top of Aldrin’s helmet is in line with the horizon. For some reason the camera viewpoint appears to be higher than Aldrin’s helmet, despite the fact that the terrain looks level. But if the camera height was actually 1.35 metres above the surface then the ground would be ascending towards the horizon.
The camera height and position can be seen here:
Figure 2. AS11-40-5875 AP11-S69-31109 (cropped)
camera height and position during a training session
In the image with the flag, AS11-40-5875, the surface appears to be relatively flat and level. The camera is oriented virtually perpendicular to the horizon – the astronaut and the flag are a good reference for the vertical – so there is little or no inclination in this example.
In this photo Aldrin’s chest is in line with the horizon. And from a camera height of 1.35 m (4.43 ft) the surface area appears to be virtually level as far as the horizon.
The range of visibility over a flat and horizontal area can be calculated easily for a camera height of 1.35 metres:
On the Moon it extends as far as 2.2 kilometres
and for comparison,
On Earth it extends to 4.1 kilometres
1.35 m is assumed as a mean camera height in the following examples. Smaller deviations are not relevant regarding visibility to the far horizon: for a camera height of 1.00 m the visibility range on the Moon would still be 1.9 kms.
In this instance the visible distance to the horizon in the photo with the flag (AS11-40-5875) should therefore be 2.2 kms.
Below are examples looking in other directions:
Composite image AS11-40-5864-69
Figure 3. Views in other directions
In the above images the horizon looks relatively close to the camera, and there are no visible hills. We now consider the horizon line. In AS11-40-5868 the horizon ascends to the right, so the viewer might conclude that the lunar surface is also ascending. But in composite image AS11-5864-69 the same horizon line is much flatter. AS11-40-5868 may therefore be tilted. But since there is no reference for the vertical this image is not investigated further in this study.
AS11-40-5928 (Fig. 3 top left) seems to fit best for detailed analysis: Aldrin is upright and therefore the photograph can be considered to be well levelled. Nevertheless, the distance from the camera to the horizon is extremely short and can be estimated as being in the order of only 38 metres, as indicated below:
AS11-40-5928 with approximate distances
The two lower arrows diverge from the photographer's feet, which are directly underneath the camera and therefore on the vertical centre line below the photo. Since Armstrong’s shadow is on the left, this image has probably been cropped on its left side from a larger original photo. But this matter is not further investigated here; even though it would augment the effects that are presented in this study.
In the official record this photo is labelled "OF300", referencing a raw scan from the original film; its area of coverage is additionally confirmed by the fact that all the cross hairs are present.
The length of the shadow of the LM is calculated taking the height of the LM to be 7 m, and the sun incident angle of 14° at the beginning of the extravehicular activity (EVA). In the initial photograph with the solar wind collector, (fig 1) the incident angle is somewhat steeper; but the estimation will remain on the conservative side.
The distance from the camera to the astronaut can be calculated with the angle between the cross hairs (10.3°) and the height of Aldrin (1.8 m).
In this image, there is foreground, mid ground – the LM and shadow – but no distant background surface area whatsoever.
In the following figure the camera height is indicated with a blue, dashed line. This would also be the horizon on a perfect flat area on the Moon: it is called the mathematical horizon. In the earlier picture with the flag the mathematical horizon coincides with the visible horizon.
The ochre dashed horizon line fits perfectly to a horizontal line which leads to the vanishing point on the mathematical horizon (footnote 1):
Figure 4. AS11-40-5928: Aldrin by the Lunar Module
On the left half of this photo one looks down to the horizon and also "down to space". The estimated sight angle to the end tip of the shadow is 1.35m/38m or 2.0°; this conservative estimate is in line with the 2.5° as measured in the photo. Even if one added a margin of 45 cm to the height to cover possible bumps in the terrain and 7 m to the length, the angle to the end of the shadow would still be 0.9m/45m or 1:50 or 1.1°. And at the left border the angle would be somewhat greater still.
Even a 1:50 downward viewing angle on the Moon would mean that the landing area was actually a plateau towering at least 350 metres above the level of the Sea of Tranquillity – without any hills extending above the line of sight for the next 35 kms. This is illustrated in the following figure:
Figure 5. Landing plateau (green) and line of sight (red)
For a 4° downward viewing angle the height of the plateau would be 4,200 m and the distance (without any other high mountains) extending to 120 kms.
In the following figure this effect is illustrated further. The scene has been re-created on a soccer field:
Figure 6. AS11-40-5928 (left) and the re-created scene with a similar horizon line with terrain beyond darkened
The above example, taken with all the other photographs of the landing location, demonstrates that the horizon line is the furthest extent of the studio surface rather than the lunar horizon, or ridge, in the lunar scene.
Obviously all these images were taken in the same place. So if one picture was taken in a studio, then this has to be the case for all the Apollo 11 lunar surface photos.
However, taking AS11-40-5928 alone is not a proof for a studio scene; the inclination of the surface area towards the horizon can only be estimated together with the other photos. Therefore the so-called 'live' (at the time) TV is now taken into consideration. The following figure shows a single frame of this coverage together with the re-creation; the approximate camera height is shown as a blue dashed line.
Figure 7. Frame from the so-called ‘live’ TV (left); and right, the re-created scene with terrain beyond darkened
– – dashed blue line on mathematical horizon on height of camera; TV frame diagonal field of view: 80°
Here the "looking down to space" effect is so obvious that this can be considered as mathematical proof that this TV sequence was recorded in a studio. Even if the camera had been slightly tilted or its height lower – the lowest option would be around the chest of Aldrin – the "looking down to space" effect would still be huge.
In this sequence the effect is 13°, this corresponds to a plateau at an altitude of over 45 kms and no mountains in the vicinity of 400 kms. Even if one applies a margin, the effect would be at least 1:10, or 5.7°.
In a real environment this limited visibility would only be possible from a 8,600 metre-high platform – with no visible mountains in the neighbourhood for 170 kms. All this fits with neither to the Moon in general nor to the Sea of Tranquillity in particular.
But it does correspond perfectly with these images having being created in a studio environment where one can only see a limited surface area – the equivalent of the illuminated foreground in the re-creations.
Therefore this study concludes that these Apollo 11 still photographic images and the ‘live’ TV coverage must have been taken in a studio on Earth.
Aulis Online, March 2013
Note 1. The Mathematical Horizon is the intersecting line of a celestial sphere with a horizontal plane which contains the position of the astronaut subject's camera mount.
All calculations and references used are available at
Calculation of the Visibility Distance (d)
R: Radius of the Earth: 6370 km – or – Radius of the Moon: 1738 km
Appendix 1. Calculation of the horizontal visibility distance on a sphere
A) Visibility distance from the height h (from the observer P to T, the most distant visible point on the sphere):
B) Visibility distance for an unknown height h, but a given angle(to the horizontal):
1. Calculation of h:
About the Author
Andreas Märki was born in 1955 and graduated as Master of Science from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. He is employed as a technical expert in the space industry.
It was as recent as 2008 that he began to notice inconsistencies in the Apollo record and realised that virtually no public person was willing to address this matter.
Andreas therefore commenced his investigation into Apollo 11 history and found disinformation to be more prevalent than is generally realised. He has published the results of his findings – mainly on the Web.