Apollo Investigation

Short Apollo Astronauts in Moon Photos: Apollo for Dummys – Part Three

by Leonid Konovalov
Associate Professor Camera Department, Russian State University of Cinematography (VGIK)

When Armstrong declared 'one small step…' He was actually played by a short person who was only 155 cm (5 foot) tall.

For a number of years now many people have suspected that there was someone standing in for each of the famous space-suited astronauts in the Apollo lunar surface photographs and TV coverage. These suspicions were driven by the questionable heights of the astronauts in the imagery. Unlike most Soviet cosmonauts, whose heights are on average 162-168 cm, the American Apollo astronauts were generally somewhat taller, up to 183 cm (a fraction over 6 foot) in height.

fig 1
Fig 1. Height comparisons between N. Armstrong (USA), D. Scott (USA), A. Leonov (USSR), P. Belyaev (USSR).

Neil Armstrong was 180 cm tall, and Buzz Aldrin’s height is 178 cm. Fully kitted out in their spacesuits, helmets and moon boots, their overall heights would have been closer to 195-200 cm. But in the lunar surface photographs the figures were consistently significantly shorter – somewhere around 25-30 cm shorter. At the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC., the Apollo astronauts are depicted by mannequins standing alongside the lunar module.

These differences in height measurements are easily checked out by comparing the mannequins with objects on display nearby – with the lunar module ladder for example. The museum’s display astronauts would also be noticeably shorter if placed next to Neil Armstrong. The real Neil Armstrong will have been taller, not only when standing alongside the displays in the museum, but also if he was on the Moon.

It turns out that other actor-astronauts in the Apollo mission photos were also short in stature.

fig 2

Fig 2. Top view of the lunar module featuring the ladder strut.

fig 3a

fig 3b

Fig 3. NASA employee standing alongside the ladder strut of the lunar module demonstrating how the US flag is removed from its stowed location.

The United States flag together with its mast was stowed inside the flag case which in turn was attached to the left side of the ladder. You can see in figure 3 that the top of the demonstrator's head is virtually at the same level as the upper part of the flag case. Now let's look at the actor-astronaut who descended the ladder in the historical Apollo 11 TV transmission that purported to be live from the Moon.

fig 4

Fig 4. The actor-astronaut jumps off the LM ladder and then stands at the base.

In the above freeze frame from the TV transmission (figure 4) the astronaut looks at the camera after having egressed through the hatch of the lunar module and descending the ladder. Having jumped down from the last rung he lands on the LM leg support bowl. He is slightly crouched over after the jump and then straightens himself up.

However, the top of his helmet is only at a point that roughly corresponds to the centre point of the flag case. According to the NASA record, just after the LM landed, the telescopic support had compressed slightly, therefore the top of the flag cover should have been even lower than was seen in the rehearsal demonstrations recorded on Earth.

In fact we see a completely different picture. In the still from the live TV transmission of the LM ladder descent (figure 4) Armstrong’s height in his spacesuit (as we already stated) should have been 195-200 cm. But here, not only does he fail to reach anywhere near approaching the top of the flag cover, his head only comes to a point considerably lower than that of the NASA demonstrator who posed near the ladder and flag case seen in figure 3.

This height discrepancy is made even worse considering the fact the astronaut is wearing a spacesuit. And of course if the astronaut were to remove his helmet and moon boots, he would have been even shorter. It turns out that the figure in this image was some kind of stand-in, a person of very short stature.

Most certainly it could not have been Neil Armstrong.

But the oddities don't stop there. The astronaut moves from the ladder and takes a step towards the fixed television camera. We can see that the horizon is slanted because the attached camera was tilted (skewed with respect to the horizon). If we align the image with the horizon, it turns out that astronaut(s) couldn’t possibly have stood and walked upright, Armstrong is standing at an angle to the vertical of 12º-13º and yet somehow he manages to not fall over! – See also figure 7 in Photographed on the Sea of Tranquillity?

fig 5

Fig 5. Image horizontally aligned. Carefully-cast actor models must have been specially selected to play the role of the astronauts. They were certainly short, and in some way also capable of counteracting the laws of gravity.

A completely unexpected confirmation of this conclusion that the astronauts on the Moon were portrayed by short actors came to me in the form of a letter from Irina Dorofeeva. She had read my writings about the diminutive heights of astronauts in the Apollo TV recordings and photographs. She said that in one chapter I had missed a significant point – body proportions. After examining images of Armstrong in his helmet and gauging the space above his head, she wrote:

With Armstrong in a helmet, the gap over the head in the frame, based on the proportions of the face, seems to me more like 6-7 cm. If the thickness of the astronaut's boots is also 6-7 cm, it turns out that the proportions of the spacesuit are practically proportional to the body. In other words, an astronaut, dressed in a spacesuit and in his moon boots, maintains the same proportions between the torso and legs as he would without the spacesuit.
But in both the figure and in the photograph in question, the proportions of the body (the length of the legs relative to the torso) correspond to the height of a person who is only 155-160 cm tall.

If you take a size chart from any Western sewing publication, you will notice that in the case of people 160 to 180 cm tall, their legs are mainly longer, but not so the torso. These data are of course generalized, but correct. Thus, in the eyes of a woman who has been sewing since childhood, the body proportions in the photos of the real astronauts indicate that these are men about 180 cm tall – but the mannequin-person in these lunar images was someone who was only about 155-160 cm in height.

fig 6

Fig 6. Freeze frame from the Apollo 16 mission with corrected horizon alignment.. Again notice the short figures relative to the LM ladder.

fig 7

Fig 7. Athletes of different heights. To test what Irina Dorofeeva said about torso-to-leg ratio, I took photographs of several athletes and selected the two at the extreme left.

The height of the wrestler on the left of figure 7 is 172 cm, and the height of the basketball player standing next to him is 200 cm. They stand aligned with their heels. Then we align them to the tops of their heads.

fig 8

Fig 8. The two athletes aligned with their feet (left) and with the top of their heads (right).

We can see immediately that the waist and navels are at the same level, while the overall heights are different specifically due to the length of their legs. But the proportions of the astronauts who walked around on the lunar surface correspond to persons with a height of 155-160 cm. Not a single lunar astronaut has long legs in the TV coverage and in the still photographs.

Armstrong and Aldrin were undoubtedly portrayed by short actors who were at least 20-25 cm shorter than either of them. Or maybe these people were not even short men at all. They could equally have been women.

fig 9

Fig 9. Apollo 11 astronauts on their way to the launch pad.

We now examine a picture of the three Apollo 11 astronauts on their way to board the Saturn V rocket. Neil Armstrong is closest to the camera, on the right. Collins follows him, and Aldrin is third. Now let's refer to a familiar photograph of Aldrin on the Moon, figure 10. In both this picture and in figure 9, Aldrin is facing the camera.


Fig 10. Aldrin standing alone on the lunar surface, image AS11-40-5903.

Here it is again, the most famous of all the lunar surface astronaut photographs. Surely you will agree that the lunar astronaut's head in his helmet somehow appears disproportionately large while his legs are rather on the short side?

fig 11

Fig 11. Combined image of a ‘lunar’ Aldrin overlaid alongside the terrestrial Aldrin with the helmet visors scaled to about the same relative size.

The ‘lunar’ Aldrin has been given a yellowish tint so it is easier to see the overlay comparison. The very considerable difference in height of the two Aldrins is most apparent. I am prepared to accept that in the picture of Aldrin on the Moon he may have bent his knees slightly, but the difference in height is not less than 25 cm. The most important thing here is how much shorter he is as the ‘lunar’ Aldrin.

Shorter people have shorter legs but have equal-sized torsos.

fig 12

That famous photograph of Aldrin on the Moon was used to make a toy model astronaut described as 1:20 scale on the original box. Astronaut Aldrin's height (178 cm) in his spacesuit should be approximately 195 cm taking into account the empty space above his head inside the helmet; the cover above the helmet, and his moon boots.

Based on a scale of 1:20, the model should be approximately 97.5 mm high. However, the figurine is only 86 mm high, as if the prototype from which it was made was just 172 cm tall in his spacesuit. If we subtract the spacesuit and boots, it turns out that the real height of the astronaut was about 155 cm – not 178 cm. A difference of 23 cm.


These studies show that without doubt, the roles of the Apollo 11 astronauts were played, if not by dwarfs, then certainly by some undersized men and/or women who were only 155 cm (just 5 foot) tall.

Associate Professor Leonid Konovalov
English translation from the Russian verified by BigPhil

Aulis Online, December 2021

About the Author


Leonid Konovalov graduated with honours from the Camera Department of VGIK in 1987. He has been teaching at VGIK for 28 years and now teaches at the Moscow School of Cinema and at the University. He is an Associate Professor in the Camera Department of the Russian State University of Cinematography. Konovalov was camera operator/ additional camera operator on many movies and film series. He was camera operator on the movie The Belovs which received the State Award in 1994.

Leonid is a participant in television shows like The Battle of Psychics, Psychics are Investigating, and Secret Signs as well as contributing to TV programs dealing with the Moon landings on major Russian networks such as TV Centre, RenTV and Zvezda.

Leonid Konovalov engineered the non-standard photographic films RETRO and DS-50 at the Shostka Chemical Plant "Svema" which were used in the production of 14 movies. In the magazine Cinema and Television Technology (in Russian) Leonid has published seven articles in scientific and technical topics. He also has written the book How to Make Sense of Films.

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