Apollo Investigation

Jarrah White’s Column

Dubious Pro-Apollo Claims Debunked: No. 2


Did Chandrayaan-2 confirm the ‘findings’ of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter?

I had something else planned for this second entry in my new column, but a September 3, 2021 presentation involving the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) made this a matter of priority.

On July 22, 2019, the ISRO launched its second mission to the Moon, the Chandrayaan-2. Taking the long route by increasing its highly-elliptical Earth orbit over a period of several weeks, the spacecraft entered lunar orbit on August 20, 2019. Equipped with a variety of instruments, of particular interest is an Orbital High Resolution Camera (OHRC) supplied by ISRO’s Space Applications Center, with a resolution of 0.32m/pixel.1

The first thing that comes to mind is: such a camera should be able to do a better job resolving lunar landers on the Moon’s surface than did NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Pre-Apollo and post-Apollo imagery between 1966 and 2020

Sydney Opera houseBefore we proceed further, a little reminder of the capacity of NASA’s earlier probes is in order: for all intents and purposes, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is the 21st century equivalent of the 1966-1967 Lunar Orbiter probes which had mapped 99% of the lunar surface down to a 1m resolution.2

Since 2009, the LRO’s camera (LROC) has been mapping the lunar surface with resolutions of between 1m/pixel and 0.5m/pixel. In 2011, NASA announced that LRO had briefly descended in altitude and returned pictures of 0.25m/pixel.

For comparison, the cameras aboard the privately owned GeoEye-1 satellite have a resolution of 0.41m/pixel and are perfectly capable of distinctly resolving cars and humans from an altitude of nearly 700km (435.7miles).3

Fig. 1.01. Sydney Opera house as seen from the GeoEye-1 spacecraft. Note that both cars and pedestrians are visible in this resolution – enlarge.

While bearing in mind that the ISRO probe is even more capable than the GeoEye, it is also true to say that having stated that the Apollo lunar landing sites were imaged by the LROC from a distance of 50km (31miles) at 0.5-meter resolution, the NASA images of these locations should be able to show any hardware present at these sites in distinct detail.

Yet the only LROC images that NASA has released since 2009 show a few white or gray pixels. Some are better than others, but generally they leave much open for interpretation and ironically enough I have been able to recreate the ‘artifacts’ using Microsoft Paint of all things!

Fig. 1.02
Fig. 1.02. Had I adjusted the hardness of my brush tool when drawing the shadow, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the ‘real’ LM and the one I added to the image.

Despite the lack of clarity, the LROC images of the Apollo sites have been cited by propagandists and Apollo believers alike as the ultimate “independent” evidence of Apollo’s authenticity. Wikipedia’s entry on the LRO has this blurb concerning the LROC images: “It is expected that this photography will boost public acknowledgement of the validity of the landings, and further discredit Apollo conspiracy theories.” 4

Amusingly, Wikipedia cites as a reference a Science@NASA article written by astronomer and science writer Dr. Tony Phillips together with science journalist Patrick L. Barry. Titled Abandoned Spaceships it has also been abandoned by the site – or as NASA prefers “the cosmic object you are looking for has disappeared beyond the event horizon.” But not beyond the reach of the Wayback Machine, from which archive we learn that this article of July 11, 2005 (coinciding with the 36th anniversary month of Apollo 11) very much focused on the proposed LROC imaging of the Apollo landing sites.5 The authors were very confident in their assessment:

Apollo moon buggies are about 2 meters wide and 3 meters long. So in the LROC images, those abandoned vehicles will fill about 4 by 6 pixels. What does a half-meter resolution picture look like? This image of an airport on Earth has the same resolution as an LROC image. Moon buggy-sized objects (automobiles and luggage carts) are clear.

Fig. 1.03

Fig. 1.03. This is the clarity we were promised. Original NASA caption: ‘An example of half-meter resolution overhead photography, the same resolution that LROC images will be. This photo of an airport shows airplanes of various sizes as well as many car-sized service vehicles. Notice how shadows help the objects to stand out from the background. The LROC high-res images will also be grayscale, but will be less grainy than the example above thanks to its digital imaging technology. Image courtesy MIT Digital Orthophoto Project.'

That same article included a prediction from the LROC Principal Investigator Mark Robinson: “I would say the rovers will look angular and distinct. We might see some shading differences on top from seats, depending on the sun angle.”

Ironically, the LROC imagery never showed the clarity seen in the airport photo that they cited (seen in Fig. 1.03). And by 2011, when NASA publicly released LRO images purporting to show the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 sites at a resolution of 0.25m/pixel, Robinson had changed his tune when he told reporters at a LRO press conference on September 6:

Because you know what the LRV looks like, you can actually see... if you squint really hard, begin to resolve the seats and the fact that the wheels are slightly left turned. [emphasis added]

Surely, an object that is both angular and distinct, should not require you to ‘squint really hard’ in order to make heads or tails of it!

A critical examination reveals that the LROC process is neither transparent nor independent. When NASA unveiled the first pictures of the Apollo sites from LRO back in July 2009 (coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11), I attended their press conference over the phone. I asked the LROC Principal Investigator Mark Robinson who precisely had received these pictures. He told me that the images were sent as encrypted files to NASA’s White Sands Tracking Facility in New Mexico, then they were forwarded to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), then finally passed on to Arizona State University (ASU). A year later I asked a relative of mine to double-confirm this with a follow up email to the LROC website in 2010. This was the webmaster’s response:

The LRO images are stored digitally on board the LRO spacecraft, much like a consumer-grade digital camera. The digital files are then converted into electromagnetic signals that are beamed towards Earth using the spacecrafts [sic] high gain antennae. The signal is picked up by a radio dish antenna in New Mexico, where the signal is converted back into a digital file. The digital file is then transferred back to Goddard Space Flight Facility, which then transfers the digital files to Arizona State University. Our team at ASU then processes the digital file (which is not in a format that would be recognizable as an image) into a format for delivery to the Planetary Data System (for archive purpose), as well as additional formats that allow the public to view the images over the Internet.

This elaborate game of pass-the-parcel with the images gives the opportunity for the images to be manipulated by someone either at White Sands or Goddard before finally passing them on to ASU. And sure enough, photo-analysis reveals a myriad of new anomalies with no rational explanation. Such anomalies would warrant their own article but these are just some that I have documented.

  • The ‘halo’ disturbance at landing sites, spotted by pre-LRO spacecraft and supposedly caused by the LM descent plume, is nothing more than the sunlit sides of large craters, thus there is no indication of any soil disturbance.6
  • The boot print trails and rover tracks mysteriously stop abruptly outside the confines of the published area of the promotional image, and even rover tracks change colour from black to white.7, 8
  • Almost comically inconsistent lighting between photos: with some pictures showing the artifacts lit up a bright white and others showing them pitch black, despite the Sun being directly overhead in both pictures;9, 10 and there is even one obliquely angled picture of the Apollo 15 site with the sunlit side of the ‘LM’ in darkness!10
  • Photos supposedly showing the US flag still casting a shadow on the lunar surface, when it should have been destroyed by micrometeorites decades ago. For a valid comparison, note that in 1992 the Soviet Union flag erected outside the orbiting Mir space station was reduced to ‘only two threads’ after less than two years of micrometeorite bombardment.11, 12

There have been many other lunar orbital missions prior to the LRO. Such probes by the United States include the Clementine and Lunar Prospector, the latter of which did not even carry a camera. Missions by other space agencies include Japan’s SELENE mission, India’s Chandrayaan-1, Europe’s SMART-1, and China’s Chang’e 1. None of the cameras on these missions had a resolution capable of resolving hardware on the surface. Generally the resolutions were at best between 5m/pixel to 10m/pixel and at worst between 20m/pixel to 365m/pixel.

The technical limitations on all these craft has not deterred the Apollo propagandists from matching craters and mountains in the Apollo photographs to those in the post-Apollo photographs, as if it were the Apollo astronauts who had discovered these surface features. Such hype seems to ignore the fact that the lunar landscape features were initially resolved by pre-Apollo probes and using such pictures as a reference enabled NASA to make accurate scale models and shaded relief elevation maps of the intended Moon landing sites.13, 14

To further illustrate this point, there have been cross-comparisons of surface features seen in these pre-Apollo photographs and Apollo photographs. Jonathan and René Cantin produced a side-by-side comparison video pointing out matching craters between Apollo 11’s descent film and Lunar Orbiter 5 frame 076; and the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) team were able retrace the alleged steps of Apollo 14 astronauts all the way to Cone Crater using nothing but their own scan of Lunar Orbiter 3 frame 133-H2.15
Fig. 1.04a
Fig. 1.04a. The alleged Apollo 11 landing site as photographed by Lunar Orbiter and LRO. Left: A cropped and blown up copy of Lunar Orbiter 5 frame 076H3. The image was cropped from the third generation USGS scan and can be downloaded on the ALSJ. Center: S69-3716 is an annotated version of the same LO5 frame and was included in the Apollo 11 Mission Report. Despite being second or third generation, the copy of S69-3716 that I downloaded from the LPI website has much higher resolution than the USGS scan and shows the exact same tiny details seen in the LRO image on the right.

Fig. 1.04b

Fig. 1.04b. Damaged LOIRP scans of LO5-076-H3 in comparison with LRO. Back in the 1960s, NASA released the Lunar Orbiter frames to the public by photographing the feed off TV screens. This resulted in significant image degradation, but was officially done to prevent the Soviets from knowing the resolving capability of American spy satellites. The public had to wait until the LOIRP to see the unfiltered imagery that NASA was privy too. Unfortunately, as can be expected when working with a forty-two year old videotape that’s been viewed over and over again, the original tape containing LO5-076-H3 had degraded significantly before the LOIRP team had the chance to digitize it. The subsequent Lunar Orbiter pictures of the other landings sites are a better indication of the original image quality.

Fig. 1.04c
Fig. 1.04c. The alleged Apollo 12 landing site as photographed by Lunar Orbiter 3 (left) and LRO (right).

Fig. 1.04d
Fig. 1.04d. The alleged Apollo 14 landing site as photographed by Lunar Orbiter 3 (left) and LRO (right).

Fig. 1.04e
Fig. 1.04e. The alleged Apollo 15 landing site as photographed by Lunar Orbiter 5 (left) and LRO (right).

Fig. 1.04f
Fig. 1.04f. The alleged Apollo 16 landing site as photographed by Lunar Orbiter 4 (upper) and LRO (lower). Side note: the Lunar Orbiter 4 photo is an image enhancement of the LOIRP’s digital transfer of LO4-078-H3 to bring up the details. It’s an improvement over both the photo-of-a-photo USGS scan and the raw LOIRP scan. But as was the case with the Lunar Orbiter tape of the Apollo 11 site, don’t expect miracles when trying digitize magnetic tapes that are over forty years old.

Fig. 1.04g
Fig. 1.04g. The alleged Apollo 17 landing site as photographed by Lunar Orbiter 4 (upper) and LRO (lower). Side note: the Lunar Orbiter 4 photo is an image enhancement of the LOIRP’s digital transfer of LO4-089-H3 to bring up the details. It’s an improvement over both the photo-of-a-photo USGS scan and the raw LOIRP scan. But as was the case with the Lunar Orbiter tape of the Apollo 11 site, don’t expect miracles when trying digitize magnetic tapes that are over forty years old.

Fig. 1.05
Fig. 1.05. At NASA’s Landing & Ascent (L&A) Facility, each of the Apollo crews used a simulator consisting of a LM interior with television screens in place of the windows, which projected the feed from a computer-driven TV camera. The simulation was done by fixing the moonscape to the ceiling and moving the TV camera towards or away from it to simulate landing and ascent respectively. This moonscape used by the Apollo 15 crew is the only surviving model and is currently on display at Brevard Community College. On this scale, the LM would be 6mm high and 4mm wide (9mm with legs extended), about the size of a sugar cube. Note how the sculptors already have a pre-landing map of the intended Apollo 15 landing site with which to cross-check their model for accuracy.

Fig. 1.06
Fig. 1.06. Kinescope frames of an Apollo 15 landing simulation. The numbers on the left corner indicate simulated feet from the surface. To illustrate the accuracy of this model, the ALSJ contributor Marcus Mehring has labelled certain craters supposedly observed by the astronauts during their descent. Had we not been told these pictures were taken at the Landing & Ascent Facility, I’m sure most would have assumed they were from the actual flight.

Had the Apollo landings actually taken place, I‘m pretty sure that NASA would know better than to send astronauts to the Moon without first resolving the status of the intended landing site. What would you do if you were the NASA administrator? Send some guys to the Moon and hope the landing site was fit for purpose? Or use an unmanned probe to both scout the area from orbit and determine the suitability of the landing site for a touch down?

Apollo critic Bill Kaysing had stated that seeing the hardware at the location through a ground-based telescope would be acceptable for establishing the veracity of the Apollo landings. In the Fox TV special in 2001 he said: “I would like to invite NASA and all of their supporters to simply take the most powerful telescope on Earth and see if there’s a lunar lander there.” Danish astronomer Dr. Richard West of the European Southern Observatory [ESO] had advocated using the Very Large Telescope array for just that purpose.16

Working in interferometric mode (four telescopes operating in unison), the VLT-I has sufficient resolving capabilities to see the Lunar Module. But nothing ever came of this proposal. If you were cynical, you might be tempted to say that the ESO astronomers were afraid of what they might find (or not find) and have refused to do so.

However, since becoming an astrophysicist I’ve learned that time on any observatory’s telescope is very competitive. You don’t rent your time, you must write a peer-reviewed proposal explaining when you plan to use it and what you intend to use it for. Then you simply send that proposal to the observatory in question and hope its managers approve it. I came to the conclusion long ago that since the ESO managers were likely to be of the misguided mindset that the Apollo missions were real events, looking at the Moon to try and find Apollo hardware would not be considered a good use of time. Thus: proposal rejected.

How I believe the Apollo program was faked
It is worth taking a moment to elaborate on how I believe this hoax was accomplished. Obviously, the film and the TV recordings of astronauts walking on the Moon would have had to have been staged in a studio environment. That’s a given. But what I’m specifically talking about here is how the telecommunications were faked. Once the Saturn V went up and went out of spectators’ sights, the only indication that something was up there came in the form of radio communications.

Despite misleadingly being cited as “independent verification”, NASA’s Manned Space Flight Center had various tracking stations in the United States, Madrid and Australia receiving signals from the Apollo spacecraft. Potentially, anybody with a radio telescope tuned to the correct frequency and pointed at the Moon could tune in and determine how far away those signals were transmitted from.

A common argument I hear from the pro-NASA side is that if the astronauts stayed in low Earth orbit, the radio readouts would have indicated that. Not so. The Soviets had already demonstrated the way to make an unmanned lunar craft appear to be manned, such that radio operators would be fooled. On September 19 and September 20, 1968, cosmonaut voices were transmitted from the circumlunar Zond 5 mission and received by various radio telescopes on Earth, including those operated by Jodrell Bank and the CIA.

Zond 5 spacecraft

Fig. 2.01. Artist’s rendition on the Zond 5 spacecraft, initially thought to be manned.

The following account is from cosmonaut Pavel Popovich, who participated in this little stunt:

When we realized we would never make it to the moon, we decided to engage in a little bit of hooliganism. We asked our engineers to link the on-the-probe receiver to the transmitter with a jumper wire. Moon flight missions were then controlled from a command centre in Yevpatoria, in the Crimea. When the probe [Zond 5] was on its path round the Moon, I was at the center. So I took the mike and said: ‘The flight is proceeding according to normal; we’re approaching the surface…’ Seconds later my report – as if from outer space – was received on Earth, including the Americans. The U.S. space advisor Frank Borman got a phone call from President Nixon [actually Johnson], who asked: ‘Why is Popovich reporting from the moon?’ My joke caused real turmoil. In about a month’s time [actually eleven month's time] Frank came to the USSR, and I was instructed to meet him at the airport. Hardly had he walked out of his plane when he shook his fist at me and said: ‘Hey, you, space hooligan!’17

Zond 5 became the first unmanned mission to circle the Moon and return to Earth.F1 Had they not disclosed the fact that the voices originated from Crimea, they could potentially have falsely claimed to have been the first to send a man around the Moon. Perhaps the Soviets were testing the waters before committing to such a hoax. At the time the Americans weren’t planning a similar mission until mid-1969. Ironically, it is said that this Soviet ‘joke’ contributed to NASA’s decision to reprogram the Apollo 8 from its scheduled Earth orbit test flight to a manned circumlunar orbital flight launching in December 1968. Equally ironically the ‘US space advisor’ Frank Borman was also known as the ‘cold war warrior’ as well as the Apollo 8 crew commander.18

Chang’e 5’s sample return

Fig. 2.02. If this looks familiar, it ought to. Chang’e 5’s sample return mission profile is essentially an unmanned equivalent of Apollo.

In October 1967, almost a year before Zond 5, the Soviets had also achieved the first fully autonomous docking with their Kosmos 186 and 188 missions. Much more recently, the Chinese launched their Chang’e 5 sample return mission to the Moon. This one was very different to that of the Soviets, given that the mission consisted of a mother craft which would return the sample package to Earth and a separate lander with an ascent stage and descent stage. The Chang’e 5 has been likened to an unmanned Apollo mission. Had the Chang’e 5 lander broadcast staged videos of taikonauts walking on the Moon or had the orbiter transmitted videos of taikonauts floating aboard a Shenzhou capsule in Earth orbit, I’ve no doubt that anybody listening in would have thought Chang’e 5 was manned. The Chinese would even have some 2kg of rock samples to show for it! But I digress.

It is thus my argument that in order to create the telecommunications hoax, the Apollo astronauts remained in low-Earth orbit to achieve zero gravity interior shots aboard the spacecraft, which were then relayed to an unmanned orbiter and lander mimicking the purported trajectory of the Apollo CM/LM combo to the Moon. To maintain continuous contact between the unmanned probe and the Earth orbiting astronauts, at least three geostationary satellites would also be required. On arrival at the Moon, the unmanned lander component would occupy the landing site and deploy the necessary seismometers and retroreflectors and the like, while transmitting faked videos of astronauts on the Moon.

Fig. 2.03
Fig. 2.03. The Apollo 12 astronauts supposedly landed near the Surveyor 3 spacecraft. These unmanned landers were originally going to carry the retroreflectors supposedly carried on Apollos 11, 14 and 15.

NASA would therefore need two unmanned probes to relay telecommunications. One from the lunar surface and one around the Moon and on the trip there and back. It is worth noting that the Apollo retroreflectors were originally intended for the unmanned Surveyor landers19 and also that in 1964 NASA initiated planning for a LEM Truck (an unmanned cargo variant of the Apollo Lunar Module)20 and that has led some to wonder if it was used for the purpose just described.

I disagree. If NASA was to go full on with its own Zond 5 style telecommunications hoax it would make more sense to use a spacecraft fully proven to be capable of landing on the Moon. The Apollo lunar module only underwent orbital flight tests around Earth on Apollo 5 and 9, and allegedly around the Moon on Apollo 10, but crucially, the LM was never tested as far as actually landing on the Moon was concerned. I consider that an up-scaled version of their Surveyor lander with an ascent component would fit the bill.

Independence or co-dependence
All of the above brings us back to India’s Chandrayaan-2. Is ISRO independent of NASA? Yes and no. ISRO and NASA are demonstrably collaborating together on various joint-space missions. In the past, NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) facilities in Goldstone, Australia and Madrid has provided ground support for various ISRO missions, including the Mars Orbiting Mission and the previous Chandrayaan-1 mission.21 It has also supplied various instruments on the Chandrayaan-1 orbiter. For the future, various collaborative missions are planned. Most notably the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) satellite scheduled to launch in 2023.22

At the present time, the Chandrayaan-2 mission in general seems to be purely an Indian undertaking. Concerning equipment on Chandrayaan-2, the only contribution of NASA’s that can be established is a retroreflector that they supplied for the ill-fated Vikram lander that the orbiter deployed.23 Presumably such a retroreflector was intended for the same purpose as those deployed by the unmanned Lunokhod rovers and the static units supposedly deployed by the astronauts on Apollo 11, 14 and 15. However, NASA’s DSN network is supporting the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in receiving signals from Chandrayaan-2 24 and that raises some red flags, as any images received firstly by NASA instead of ISRO have the potential of having been tampered with.

Picture priorities
And this brings us to the nub of the question: do we have pictures of the Apollo landing sites from Chandrayaan-2? Again, yes and no. Photographing past landing sites does not seem to be a priority for ISRO, nor is updating their own website. On September 3, 2021, the Gujarat Council on Science and Technology (GUJCOST) live streamed a Zoom presentation on their YouTube account.25 At about one hour into the video, ISRO-SAC Director and CEO Nilesh M. Desai, casually (if not flippantly) unveiled a slide headed “Apollo-11 Landing Site Imaged by Chandrayaan-2 OHRC On 02-Apr-2021”. The slide showed an image of the now familiar craters and a weird structure purported to be the Eagle Descent Stage.

Fig 3.01
Fig 3.01. Screenshot of ISRO’s public Zoom presentation that unveiled their OHRC image of the Apollo 11 landing site.

The first thing I'd want to know is who received this picture. Unfortunately, we were not told in the presentation whether the image was first received by NASA's DSN or by ISTRAC. And I have been unable to ascertain which of the two networks initially received the image in question but whatever the originating source, the propagandists and Apollo believers are uncritically accepting this image at face value. Simply seeing whatever they want to see in these pictures, pareidolia and confirmation bias in action.

However, as this is the first non-NASA image purporting to show Apollo 11 hardware, I decided to take a closer look to see if I could confirm whether or not the weird anomalous structure is in fact the Apollo 11 descent stage. Interestingly, despite this image apparently being taken on April 2, 2021, it doesn’t appear anywhere on ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 website.26 After creating an account, you can access zip files of the OHRC data via the Browse and Download section of their Chandrayaan-2 website. But at the time of my writing the most recent OHRC data package available for download is from August 27, 2020 – over a year ago.

In order to get the April 2, 2021 image, I had to full-screen the Zoom meeting with 1080p enabled and take a screenshot of the PowerPoint presentation itself. This is hardly an ideal way to get the picture, but it’s all we have to work with. Nonetheless, the screenshot proved useful in my analysis.

First, I wanted to establish the resolution of the image. My screenshot is 2160x1440 pixels. There is a 20m scale on the slide which I measured as being ~67pixels across.

Fig 3.02

Fig. 3.02. Pixel measurement of the scale bar from Fig 3.01.

This gives us a resolution of: 20m/67pixels ≈ 0.29851m/pixel.

This means that the smallest detail in the picture is about 30cm wide. The anomaly purported to be the LM is about 23-27pixels wide – equivalent to a width between 6.87-8.06m For comparison: NASA claims the LM descent stage is 4.22m wide, or 9.4m wide with the four landing legs extended.

Fig 3.03
Fig. 3.03. Pixel measurement of the strange anomaly purported to be the Apollo 11 descent stage.

Second, for comparison, I took an LROC picture of the same area that was published on the LRO website on March 12 2012. The image number is M175124932R. The full image strip shows a much wider area and is downloadable as a tiff file over 1GB in size, but the publication also includes a cropped and annotated png copy showing the area of interest.

Fig 3.04
Fig. 3.04. LROC image M175124932R, purported to show the abandoned relics from the Apollo 11 mission.

This annotated png is only 1000x1000 pixels. It can also be downloaded from NASA’s website, albeit in jpg format. Interestingly, despite jpg generally being inferior quality to png, I did not notice any image degradation between the two.

I then overlaid this cropped and annotated version of M175124932R and the screenshot of the Chandrayaan-2 image on top of each other in Photoshop. To get the craters to match up as close as possible, I needed to adjust the Chandrayaan-2 screenshot accordingly using the Free Transformation tool. I have otherwise not altered this picture in any way.

Fig 3.05

Fig. 3.05. Comparison of M175124932R and the Chandrayaan-2 image of the same location.

M175124932R is perhaps the best LROC image of the Apollo 11 site I’ve seen. I use the word ‘best’ very loosely, but the pixelated white blobs at least resemble the expected arrangement of the LM descent stage core and three of the four footpads. The missing fourth footpad is supposedly obscured in shadow (I’ll ignore for now that the Apollo 11 Hasselblad images imply that the footpads should be illuminated, even in the shade).

In comparison the ‘LM’ seen in the Chandrayaan-2 image looks distinctly different. Despite the different sun angles between the NASA and the ISRO photos, one leg is completely missing on the sunlit side. More alarmingly, the ‘LM’ in the Chandrayaan-2 picture it appears to have the three visible legs arranged in the shape of an equilateral triangle. And where we could expect to see the width of the LM descent stage as implied by the LRO image, we instead see what looks like a small crater to the right of the ‘LM’. The shading pattern is very similar to other craters in the photo, even the RGB values of the pixels are similar.

To further illustrate this point, I went onto Google Images and found an accurate overhead diagram of the LM descent stage, showing the locations of all the parts of the central core and the landing legs.

LM descent stage
Fig. 3.06. Overhead diagram of the LM descent stage.

I then removed this diagram from its surrounding white background, shrunk it down in Photoshop and overlaid it onto the ‘LM’ in the LROC pictures such that the footpad matched up. In flipping between the LRO picture with and without this diagram, the match looks promising. Amusingly, the overlay actually makes a more convincing image! More on par with what we’ve become used to seeing from GeoEye-1.

Fig. 3.07

Fig. 3.07. M175124932R with LM diagram overlaid.

But when we do the same thing with the Chandrayaan-2 image, the discrepancy becomes more apparent.

Fig. 3.08

Fig.3.08. Chandrayaan-2 image with LM diagram overlaid.

The weird white appendage on the left could possibly be interpreted as the LM leg with ladder, until one notices that it’s angled differently from the LROC image and the footpads of the other legs are completely absent. If anything, the Chandrayaan-2 image reveals a landing craft with only three legs, not four. Following an obvious hunch, I returned to Google Images and found an overhead diagram of the three-legged unmanned soft landing Surveyor spacecraft.

Surveyor lunar lander

Fig. 3.09 Overhead diagram of the Surveyor lunar lander.

The precursor to Apollo, NASA successfully soft landed five out of seven Surveyors on the Moon between 1966 and 1968. And it is worth remembering that an ‘Apollo’ corner retroreflector package was originally intended for at least one of the unmanned Surveyor landers. Although that test did not come to fruition,19 for the simulation of a lunar EVA by Apollo astronauts, NASA would simply have to replicate the successful ‘joke’ pulled off on the Zond 5 mission by the Soviets.

So I removed the Surveyor diagram from its surrounding background and overlaid it on top of the weird structure seen in the Chandrayaan-2 photograph. Sure enough, we have a much closer match. The landing legs of Surveyor diagram overlay near perfectly on top of the Chandrayaan-2 anomaly. Even one of the footpads seems to line up on top of a small bright spot.

Fig. 3.10

Fig. 3.10. Chandrayaan-2 image with Surveyor diagram overlaid.

Any mismatch could be attributed to misalignment between the spacecraft and the Surveyor overlay. If the craft was somewhat leaning to the left, that would make two of the legs appear in a straight line. The camera angle could also be at fault, as the craters appear vertically elongated in comparison with the LROC image, suggesting that the Chandrayaan-2 was not looking directly down on the landing site.

It is also noteworthy that on the NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive’s entry for Surveyor 1 27 we are told: “The three footpads extended out 4.3 meters from the center of the Surveyor.” Returning to our picture from Chandrayaan-2, just one of the anomaly’s three legs measures about 14 pixels. Using the resolution of 0.29851m/pixel measured above, this gives us a leg length of 4.18m, which is very close to 4.3m.

The results of my analysis can be demonstrated visually in the three images in Fig 4.01 below:

Fig 4.01

Fig 4.01 Top. LROC M175124932R with LM diagram overlaid. Center: Chandrayaan-2 image with LM diagram overlaid. Bottom: Chandrayaan-2 with Surveyor diagram overlaid – enlarge.

It is clear as day that while the blobs in LROC image M175124932R resemble the expected arrangement of the Apollo LM descent stage seen from above, the object photographed by Chandrayaan-2 better resembles an unmanned Surveyor lander seen from above.

It is important to remember that since the LROC images were passed around NASA’s White Sands tracking station and NASA’s GSFC before arriving at ASU, there was more than enough opportunity for these images to have been photo manipulated, such that the Surveyor-type relay probe at each landing site was replaced by a few pixels resembling the slightly larger LM descent stage. That might also be the case for the Chandrayaan-2 data, since it is being is being jointly tracked by NASA's DSN and India's own ISTRAC.

Although it is important to note that unlike the earlier LROC Apollo site pictures – which made a significant splash across the world’s media in both 2009 and 2011, this ISRO presentation has not been widely reported in the news media, inferring some degree of autonomy for the OHRC at least. To my knowledge, this may be the first unfiltered and thus unaltered close-up picture of the Apollo 11 site that we have ever seen.
See Editor’s note below

A copy of the original image file that Nilesh Desai used in his presentation would be welcomed for further analysis, but that aside, and although it is not possible to know precisely how the Chandrayaan-2 image was received, or processed, or by whom, it is quite obvious that any two pictures of Apollo hardware taken at the same location would always show identical structures. If anything, data that were lost in the LROC’s 0.5m/pixel lower resolution should show up in the OHRC’s higher resolution of 0.3m/pixel and thereby reveal even more details of the four-legged descent stage. Instead, the shape we see is that of a smaller three-legged lander.

Exactly why ISRO is withholding the original file of this image is something only they can answer with accuracy. I shall withhold on casting my judgment on the decision not to release it to date. Nevertheless, the Soviet Zond 5 telecommunications hoax and the unmanned Chang’e 5 sample return mission likened to a miniature version of unmanned Apollo provide a proof of concept on how to pull off such a hoax.

It is my conviction that what the Chandrayaan-2’s OHRC actually resolved was the unmanned relay probe that would have been necessary to dupe anybody on the outside with the technology to track the spacecraft and this is born out by my photo-analysis which indicates that what the Chandrayaan-2’s OHRC resolved was not the Apollo 11 LM, but rather a Surveyor-type spacecraft that landed in its place in order to serve as the vital component in the hoaxing of the Apollo lunar landings. I give thanks to Nilesh M. Desai of ISRO’s SAC for including this rarely seen Chandrayaan-2 image in his presentation.

Jarrah White

Aulis Online, September 2021

Jarrah WhiteAbout the Author

Jarrah White is an Australian filmmaker, astrophysicist and geologist. He has Certificate III & IV qualifications with distinctions in Screen and Media at the Sydney Institute of TAFE NSW, Australia; and a BSc with Major in Geology and a Minor in Astrophysics completed in November 2017 and July 2019 respectively.


Editor’s Note: It is possible to interpret the ISRO picture (and the other anomalies: i.e. the flag and shadows) in other ways. Since it has been placed on the record (albeit briefly and relatively discreetly, is this not a whistle-blow from the Indian SRO which cannot otherwise speak out?)
Or is NASA using these funded, and therefore “under the thumb space agencies”, to reinforce the Apollo narrative and answer the Apollo critics by deliberately showing a different reality to that of the LROC image. In which case the Chandrayaan-2 photograph is inferring (via the ‘missing leg’ and the odd configuration) that indeed the descent stage was trashed (crushed by the upward thrust of the ascent stage) as a result of its launch from the lunar surface. The entirety of this exercise could therefore be designed to either ‘prove’ the reality of Apollo once again or cope with the inevitable future fallout.
Further, the casual and flippant slipping in of this image by Desai reminds one of the JPL July 1976 Viking presentation which equally casually and flippantly ‘slipped in’ the now infamous Face on Mars image. Repeating patterns.


F1. The Zond 5 also became the first spacecraft to send lifeforms around the Moon. It carried a biological payload of turtles, wine flies, mealworms, bacteria and spiderwort plants. This has led many propagandists to cite the Zond 5 as 'evidence' humans can survive the radiation on a flight to the Moon. However, as will be explained in more detail in a future column, they are comparing apples with oranges. The lifeforms aboard Zond 5 were all highly radioresistant. Meaning that they can harmlessly absorb huge amounts of radiation that would be lethal to humans. Saying astronauts can survive the Van Allen belts because turtles can survive them is like saying a human can survive exposure to the vacuum of space because tardigrades can survive it.


    1. Chandrayaan-2 payloads
    2. J.N. Wilford, We Reach The Moon: The New York Times Story of Man's Greatest Adventure (1969).
    3. Geoimage GeoEye-1
    4. Wikipedia, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
    5. T. Philips, P.L. Barry (2005) Abandoned Spaceships, Science@NASA
    6. MoonFaker: LRO, SELENE & Clementine
    7. MoonFaker: LRO at 25km, Dead Ends & No Fly Zones. PART 1
    8. MoonFaker: LRO, More Dead Ends
    9. MoonFaker: LRO, Silhouettes At 25km
    10. MoonFaker: LRO, Still No Halo
    11. Moonfaker: LRO, Flag or no Flag?
    12. MoonFaker: LRO, Flag or No Flag? II
    13. Example of a relief map derived from Lunar Orbiter 5 frames, June 1971
    14. NASA's Landing & Ascent Facility that used the models for training simulations,
    15. NASA Apollo 11 Maps/Images And LOIRP's Apollo 14 comparison Lunar networks
    16. European Southern Observatory, World's biggest telescope to prove Americans really walked on Moon
    17. C. Burgess, R. Hall The First Soviet Cosmonaut Team: Their Lives and Legacies, Praxis (2009).
    18. First to the Moon: Apollo 8 and the Soviet Union, the Smithsonian
    19. History of Laser Ranging
    20. Apollo LM Truck
    21. NASA's Deep Space Network to Support India's Mars Mission, and CHANDRAYAAN-1
    22. Parliament proceedings | ISRO-NASA joint satellite project NISER proposed to be launched early 2023
    23. Chandrayaan-2 Lunar Mission of ISRO
      And Aussie assistance to support India’s attempts to wake Vikram moon lander
      And India Loses Contact with Vikram Lander During Historic Moon Landing Attempt
    24. Chandrayaan-2 will take NASA-Isro ties to a new height
    25. GUJCOST Celebrates Vigyan Utsav (STI Ecosystem for Atmanirbhar Bharat) | 3rd September 2021
    26. ISRO Science Data Archive
    27. NASA Space Science Data Archive

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