Apollo Investigation

Earth Photos from the Moon 3: Inconsistencies

by Phil Kouts PhD

Part Three: Apollo 17

This illustrated paper features inconsistencies in the photographs that included the Earth supposedly taken from the lunar surface during Apollo 17. Photographic images taken from the Moon could have provided evidence that the lunar landings really occurred, but these photographs do not appear to be genuine. Qualitative analysis points to unresolvable contradictions, therefore no specific quantitative assessment is required. Here it is assumed that the lunar landings took place for narrative purposes only.

Three Series of Photographs
There were no photos of the Earth taken from the lunar surface during Apollo missions 12, 15 and 16. Apollo 14 took some black & white photos with the Earth included, but very little information of value can be gleaned from them. Apart from Apollo 11 there is only one mission where colour photos of Earth are available – namely Apollo 17. This flight appears to be completely different from any previous mission. On checking out the available data in the Apollo 17 Image Library, quite a few colour photos were taken from the lunar surface that included the Earth. But these images are anomalous.

To evaluate these images correctly it is necessary to understand which cameras were used for which photographs.E1 Analysis of the photos with the Earth reveals that the 500 mm lens was never used during Apollo 17 for photographing the home planet from the lunar surface. Although the lens could have been used to take pictures of the Earth that were similar or even better than those taken from orbit during Apollo 11 when the Hasselblad with the 250 mm lens was used as discussed in the first article (Aulis, 2014). During Apollo 17 many landscape pictures were taken with the 500mm lens but no attempt was made to include the Earth. An excellent opportunity missed.

All the photos with Earth taken during Apollo 17 were shot with the 60 mm lenses similar to those allegedly used on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 EVAs (extra-vehicular activities). Accordingly, when analysing the Apollo 17 images, it would be fair to apply approximately the same parameters as those of Apollo 11.

There are three sets of photographs that include Earth in the background – they are respectively attributed to the three periods of EVAs (Image Library, 2019).

These are photos claimed to have been taken during the middle part of the first EVA:

AS17-134-20383, 20384, and 20387 – 3 frames,

The next series that includes photos taken 25 hours later is attributed to the second EVA:

AS17-137-20910 and 20911 and AS17-134-20957 to 20961 – 7 frames,

And the last series was photographed approx. 26 hours after the second, during the third EVA:

AS17-134-20461, 20463 to 20466, 20471, and 20473 – 7 frames,

In total there are seventeen images with the Earth in frame (see thumbnails in Appendix 1).

First EVA – a proven composite image, with additional corroborating evidence

This image is the iconic AS17-134-20384 (Fig. 1), Jack Schmitt with the US flag; on the left, the same images with colours enhanced; the files downloaded from NASA websites on different dates. This image can be found in various NASA documents, as well as in many books and articles about Apollo.

Figure 1

Figs. 1-3. Jack Schmitt with flag and Earth, retrieved by the author on different occasions as shown – right column the same images with colours enhanced.

It has been established beyond doubt that this image is a composite of at least two elements; this fact has been researched and proven elsewhere, e.g. here (Aulis, 2017). It is important to recall that this photo was allegedly taken without the benefit of a viewfinder. It is also obvious that the picture (check the left column) was officially modified several times to make it harder for viewers to understand the make up of the image when it is enhanced. To those who are familiar with photographic compositing, it is obvious that in both the lower enhanced frames the random glows do not have a natural origin – evidence of deliberate manipulation at work.

Cameras and Video recordings

Of all the Apollo pictures with Earth, AS17-134-20384 to - 20387, are unique in that it is the first and only time where the record of crew conversations in the mission transcript can be reasonably matched to the action on the lunar surface. Fig. 4, derived from the TV coverage and the audio record shows three video frames corresponding to the time when the photos with Earth were taken.

Figure 4

Fig. 4. Video frames of the occasion when the photos with Earth were taken: AS17-134-20384 (left), AS17-134-20385 (middle) and AS17-134-20387 (right).

The Hasselblad 70mm electric camera had a handgrip fitted under the camera for triggering exposures. See picture below (Photography, Apollo Archive). The TV coverage of this scene actually shows both astronauts were operating a hand-held camera (EVA-1, Archive).

Figure 4a

Fig. 4a. Hasselblad 500 EL fitted with its hand grip.

To take the iconic shot AS17-134-20384, due to the angle of the visible Earth, Gene Cernan should have rotated the camera approximately 30 degrees counter-clockwise and, at the same time, tilted it backwards at an angle of approx. 30-33 degrees. The same approach to shot AS17-134-20387 by Jack Schmitt should have turned the camera approx. 15 degrees clockwise and, at the same time, tilted it backwards at an angle of approx. 30-33 degrees. These movements are not obvious in the video frames.

Moreover, it is claimed that only one camera loaded with Magazine 134 was used during the episode with the flag. Indeed, as it can be seen from the Image Library, another camera loaded with Magazine 147 was also available for the first EVA, but was not used between 117:48:26 AET (AS17-147-22527) and 120:36:02 AET (AS17-147-22528). Therefore, all pictures with the flag and Earth were taken with the same magazine and camera. Note that according to the record, photos with Earth in frame were taken around 118 hr 30 min AET.

Also according to the record of the astronauts’ conversation (Voice transcription, 1972, tape 78A, pp. 19 to 22) within a short time period, just three minutes, the camera changed hands twice: Harrison P. Schmitt (Jack) took four pictures, then Commander Eugene A. Cernan (Gene) took another four and Jack took the last three. Accordingly, there are three groups of photos in the Image Library. A surprising aspect is that the astronauts never used the words ‘take’ or ‘give’ or ‘thanks’ with regard to the actual handing the camera over to each other. Their conversation continues as if each had his own camera handy at the same time.

One question is why they didn’t use their own cameras to take pictures of each other. On the other hand it’s extremely odd that all this action took place without either astronaut making a single comment. Further, as one can see they pass the camera to each other twice within 3 minutes and do this very quickly and without stopping. Especially strange was the behaviour and movements of Jack, who during this entire episode, keeps in his left hand on a sampling tool,E4 and effortlessly receives the camera in his right hand.

From a compositional point of view this process of taking pictures seems surprisingly accurate, bearing in mind that the camera lacked a viewfinder. A highly challenging task for such a complex composition. It is very clear from the TV recording that the photographer bent his knees and tilted his body… leaning forward as if he was suspended on a wire. The inevitable conclusion is that this cannot be a true and accurate record of a real event, but rather a staged performance.

Second EVA – two photographic series with a boulder

There are two series of images with Earth taken during the 2nd EVA. Within which are two frames with a view over a ‘Boulder 2’, AS17-137-20910 and 20911, marked in the Image Library as shot at 143:08:09, equivalent to 05 20 28 09 in the voice transcripts on tape 94A/34 (see thumbnails in Appendix 1). The astronauts were busy collecting samples and talking with CC (Capsule Communicator (CAP COMM)). From the TV record, at the relevant time Gene Cernan operated quietly in front of Earth near Boulder 2, looking up the slope of the South Massif, it could be accepted that he took two pictures of Earth over Boulder 2, although there is no indication in the voice recordings that these photos were in fact taken. At that time, Jack Schmitt had a conversation with CC.

Figure 5
Fig. 5. Three original photos of Earth AS17-137-20910, -20911 and -20961 taken over a boulder.

The second series of five frames AS17-137-20957 to 20961 (see thumbnails in Appendix 1) is attributed to 143:23:22 which is equal to mark 05 20 43 23 in the voice transcripts on tape 94A/44. The Image Library states that:

Gene took a series of Earth portraits over Station 2 Boulder 2, looking up the slope of the South Massif. He has reset the focus.

Again, within the period +/-30 sec from this moment the astronauts were busy discussing their planned activity with CC. There is no indication that a photograph was taken.

The two occasions when Gene Cernan supposedly took pictures with Earth are shown in Fig. 6. In the left frame, Gene is precisely in front of the boulder; in the right frame he has moved about one metre to the left, and made a single step backwards compared to his position in the left frame recorded 15 minutes earlier. The TV coverage was shot from the camera on the lunar rover. (EVA-2, Archive 1 and EVA-2, Archive 2) This information is of crucial importance.

Figure 6

Fig. 6. Two TV frames with Earth taken by Gene Cernan: AS17-137-20910 (left) and -20961 (right) over a boulder.

Here is a rather bland series of seven images with Earth from EVA-2 – except the shadows of stones are too short for an oblique sun angle (see Appendix 2). However, two rocks on the left in -20910 and -20911, as well as one of these rocks in the image -20961 must be very embarrassing for NASA. Gene, the photographer, moved slightly to the left shooting the image -20911 after -20910, and then some 15 minutes later was also in a position shifted to the left in -20961 compared to -20910, the distance from the top left stone to the ‘Boulder 2’, became more or less doubled in both instances (Fig. 7a). Gene was even further to the left when photographing the same view in -20961 than when taking -20911.

Figure 7a
Fig. 7a. Two segments of images that include small rocks; the camera has moved to the left in frame -20911 compared to frame -20910. The top stone is used for analysis in Fig.8 below.

The Earth has moved slightly to the left relative to the ‘shoulder’ of the boulder in frame -20961 compared to -20910 – but this is not enough. It has to clearly move left against the stones too. The Earth over the ‘boulder 2’ appears to have shifted to the right.

Before going into detailed analysis of this, a couple of preparatory steps have to be considered: to keep Earth as a major reference object the image -20910 was turned 6 degrees counter-clockwise, while the image -20961 was increased in size by a factor of 1.036 which was necessary to make shapes and orientations of the planet identical in these two images. This is illustrated in Fig. 7b. An adjustment of dimensions is necessary in case of a casual picture resizing in the subsequent reprints from the original prints.

Figure 7b

Fig. 7b. Two Earths, close ups from Fig. 5 after adjustment (see text).

For the sake of clarity, marker lines in Fig. 8 are added over a black & white composition with images of Fig. 5, i.e. -20910 on the left, and -20961, on the right. On the left, a green line connects the rock with an edge of Earth, the blue line defines a perpendicular to the horizon, and red line depicts the local ‘horizon’ made of the South Massif in the background. The images of Earth together with the ‘horizon’ on both pictures define the reference frame. Note, the South Massif in the background is very close to the footage location.E3 Therefore the vertical displacements are not considered.

The problem is with the right image where the vantage point obviously moved to the left, whereas the image of Earth in response has been moved to the right; the green marker when paralleled from -20910 to -20961 does not reach Earth – with a shortage of approx. 10% which is unambiguously clear. This is the major mismatch.

Figure 8
Fig. 8. Abridged AS17-137-20910 (left, turned counter-clockwise 6 degrees) and -20961 (right, increased by factor 1.036) over the boulder as in Fig. 5; the South Massif in the background. The colour marker lines were adjusted on the left and then paralleled on the right, demonstrating a clear mismatch. A greyed-out ‘trio’ on the right illustrates approximately where the Earth should be.

To appreciate the problem, Fig. 9 below provides further illustration. Three shots were taken mid afternoon with the sun's shadows approx. equivalent to those in Fig. 5. Each picture includes three key elements representing respectively a top stone on the left in Fig. 5, Earth and the ‘Boulder 2’: a tripod on the right as the ‘Boulder 2’, downtown on the horizon at an approx. distance of 12 km as Earth (which is an accurate representation of Earth with an angular size of approx. 2 degrees) and a yellow stone on the left approx. 6 metres away from the tripod.

A vantage point in picture 2, compared to that on picture 1, was shifted to achieve twice the distance between the tripod and the yellow stone; further moved in picture 3 to triple the distance. On the left, the composition demonstrates a close position of all three elements, as in AS17-137-20910; in the middle picture the vantage point is moved to the left so the horizontal distance between the yellow stone and the tripod became twice as long as in AS17-137-20961.

In the third picture, the vantage point is moved even further making the distance between the yellow stone and the tripod approx. three times larger than it was in the first picture. What is happening with the position of downtown which is the equivalent of Earth? It has moved to the left due to the rules of perspective because the Earth is at ‘infinity’ and remains the key reference object in all three pictures in Fig. 9. In other words, when you laterally change the vantage point a large object at infinity moves together with you, i.e. it ‘follows’ you.

The trouble with the Apollo photos in Fig. 5 is that the change of vantage point moved the images of Earth in the wrong direction: to the right instead of to the left in pairs -20910 vs -20911 and -20910 vs -20961. It was either a clear misunderstanding by those who ‘pasted-in’ the image of Earth in these Apollo photos – or it is very elegant whistle-blowing.

Fig. 9 illustrates that in image -20961 on Fig. 8 Earth should shift somewhere to the left in an area indicated by the shaded ‘trio’ of Earths. Unfortunately, it is impossible to accurately identify the position where the Earth should be due to the lack of information as to how far away the stone was in Fig. 5 from boulder 2. The image of the brown house below serves as a far remote object although not at ‘infinity’ – it also moves to the left following the change of vantage point.

Figure 9
Fig. 9. Shifting the perspective as in Fig. 8. A yellow stone on the left, a downtown view on the horizon as ‘Earth’, and a tripod as ‘boulder 2’. Explanation in the text. (click to enlarge)

Full clarification requires an example showing where the Earth moves in the right direction. This can be seen from a comparison of frames AS17-137-20961 and -20960, the latter turned counter-clockwise 5 degrees and increased by factor 1.027 (Fig. 10). Although it is impossible to quantitatively judge whether the shift is adequate.

The question is how did it come about that the Earth moved in opposite directions in practically identical compositions?

Figure 10
Fig. 10. AS17-137-20961 (left) and -20960 (right, turned counter-clockwise 5 degrees and increased by factor 1.027) over the boulder (as in Fig. 5); South Massif in the background. The colour marker lines are adjusted on the left and then paralleled on the right, demonstrating the correct direction of Earth following the observer-photographer.

Third EVA – Another confirmation of mismatching

Figure 11
Fig. 11. Three images from the 3rd Apollo 17 EVA.

A series of photos from AS17-134-20461 to AS17-134-20471 were taken within three minutes from 169:30:33. This is equivalent to mark 06 22 50 33 in the voice transcripts on tape 12A/13. In the different compositions in Fig. 11, the angles at which the pictures were taken are rather arbitrary, so at first glance it seems that not a great deal of definitive information about the Earth can be extracted from these images.

However, a revision offers up a number of anomalies. The key is AS17-134-20473 with Gene Cernan, the rover and Earth at 169:39:17 corresponding to mark 06 22 59 17 in the TEC document. The Image Library explains that,

Jack returns the favor by taking more photos of Gene. Poor picture.

In fact, this picture is very helpful since it facilitates gauging the profile of the South Massif on the background, which in turn, helps verification of the angles in the photos of the 1st EVA including those in the ‘iconic’ AS17-134-20384. Let us compare the backgrounds in EVA-1 and EVA-3 using Fig. 12 as a valid reference.

Figure 12a
Fig. 12a. AS17-134-20473 with Gene, the rover and Earth rotated simply 45 degrees counter-clockwise.

Figure 12b
Fig. 12b. AS17-134-20466 rotated 5 degrees clockwise compared to AS17-134-20473 rotated 44 degrees counter-clockwise - a good correspondence of the background. The colour markers are paralleled in the two images.

Fig. 12 confirms a perfect match of the background, i.e. the reference frame including Earth with a fragment of the South Massif. Again, it is important to note as mentioned above, there is no need to identify the exact local zenith line; it is a relative orientation of the two groups of elements, critical for this analysis. Next, in Fig. 13, the images of Earth are aligned and their tilts match well. However, the horizon lines in Fig. 13 are clearly mismatched.

On comparing the photos of the first and third EVA the horizon lines should be aligned in the first place because all these photos were taken from exactly the same location which is around the LM and flag. The horizon lines in Fig.13 are matched but in turn this brings an angular shift between the Earth of around 2 degrees which seems to be rather too large for an interval of a mere 48 hours, but the quantitative estimation of the Moon libration is beyond the scope of this paper.

Figure 13cFig. 13. The South Massif's horizon lines are now matched as the pictures were taken from practically the same location. Respectively the red line parallels the green one. A subject for further investigation is evident.

Let us now compare AS17-134-20461 with AS17-134-20473. They are also turned at an angle relative to each other for adjustment to the backgrounds. Initially, the position of the Earth on the two pictures seems to be adequate. However, the size of the planet which is certainly different in the two images (Fig. 14a), is a real problem. The Earth size in each frame on the original should be precisely the same due to the fact that it is an infinitely-remote object and the Hasselblad camera did not have a zoom or variable focal length capability.

It is clear that after -20461 with the LM (lunar module) was resized for the accurate comparison (as in Fig. 14), the position of Earth in these two images is completely mismatched. It is helpful to remind ourselves that the reference framework consisting of the Earth combined with South Massif in the background, approx. 8 km away from the footage location,E4 should remain static and independent of the photographer who moves a few metres.

Figure 14a

Fig. 14a. Close-ups from AS17-134-20461 (left) and 20473 (right). Earth is in each frame. Blue marker line was adjusted on the left and then paralleled on the right, demonstrating a good match of Earth’s tilt in both images.

For the Earth to be so dislocated, and for the reference framework to get so distorted, the only explanation is an inaccurate compositing job on putting together the elements of the composition.

Figure 14b
Fig. 14b. Close ups from AS17-134-20461 (left) and 20473 (right). AS17-134-20461 rotated 13 degrees compared to AS17-134-20473 rotated 44 degrees both counter-clockwise. The left picture is increased by a factor 1.178 to match the size of Earth. The colour markers in the two images indicate a good correspondence with the background.

Third EVA – Lack of interest from Mission Control

A crucial fact related to the 3rd EVA is in the transcript, tape 112A/13, p.1718 (Voice transcription, 1972), between the marks 06 22 48 34 and 06 22 51 46. It appears that CC wasn’t at all interested in giving any instructions to astronauts to take photos with the Earth in frame. There is only one occasion where Mission Control discusses taking pictures of something without naming it, but that could be interpreted as Earth, although they didn’t actually mention the word ‘Earth’. The fact is that around that time the astronauts did take a series of pictures with Earth on shot. CC said:

…and, Jack, we’re making plans here, to change the camera usage at the end of EVA here. And we’re going to let you take commander’s camera out to the ALSEP and take a few photos that people think we need. And Gene is going to take your camera out and document a geophone.

There is nothing more specific in the document that could be related to photographing the Earth in this episode.

It appears that those at Mission Control were never interested in having any images of the Earth from the lunar surface. In this instance, they talked reluctantly about changing their plans for the sake of taking ‘a few photos people think we need’. By saying this, CC admitted that taking pictures with Earth had not been planned. Clearly, those at Mission Control were not interested in taking any such photos at the time of the communication.

The reaction of the astronauts ‘on the Moon’ was also quite remarkable. In turn, the astronauts did not use the word ‘Earth’ either. They didn’t even say anything that would help clarify which pictures CC was talking about. They responded in a way that this was something they understood without mentioning the subject. One wonders how could they be sure that shooting the Earth is what ‘people think’ was needed.

It may have been the case that NASA technical managers fully appreciated the complexity of producing pictures with the Earth that they wanted to avoid dubious and easily recognisable fake images. But they may have been under such pressure from administrative superiors that they reluctantly agreed to take such photos. For example superiors probably requested that some extra 'sky' area be left in frame to enable the Earth to be pasted in at a later date during post production – see below. This space above the lunar scene in frame is essential if you need the sky area within the shot into which you later intend to position the Earth.

For some reason the managers had no motivation to obtain photos with Earth – quite the opposite of what we would expect. Indeed, it would be natural to use the opportunity to demonstrate the astronauts' presence on the Moon. Why would they not want to do this?

Comparison of three Earth views

The astronauts were walking on the Moon for several hours during each EVA paying no attention to the home planet, but at a given moment, simply out of the blue, they became interested in including the Earth and started shooting shots that ‘included’ it. During the first EVA this happened approx. four hours after the beginning of the EVA and then at the very end of the second EVA.

In Figure 15a, the Earth image from AS17-134-20384 is compared to that from AS17-137-20961 and from a typical EVA-3 photo; related software-generated Earth images are in Fig. 15b with the precise time of AS17-137-20961. We have to take into account that the two first Earth images a) and b) are approx. 25 hours apart (to be precise, 24 hours and 57 minutes 31 seconds, according to the Image Library). This time interval is very close to that required for the Earth to arrive in the same position as was seen from the Moon after one rotation of the Earth (24 hours and 55 mins). Therefore the pictures of the Earth during the second EVA have exactly the same side of the Earth in shot as during the first EVA.

Surprisingly, the astronauts were interested in taking photos with Earth only when the mid-Pacific Ocean was in front of them. To be more specific, the Apollo 17 crew took photos of the Earth only with Australia at the top of the frame i.e. the same composition as in the photos taken by the Apollo 11 crew, see here.

The most amazing fact is that there were no other views of Earth shot from the Moon.

Unfortunately, there is no chance of finding Australia in images of Apollo 17 due to their poor quality. Given that the mission was in early December when the summer is over the deserts of the Australian continent, another aspect needs to be checked: how on earth was it possible that the clouds were so dense in the summer over Australasia?

Figure 15a

Fig. 15a. Three images of Earth, enlarged elements extracted from AS17-134-20384 (1st EVA), AS17-137-20961 (2nd EVA), and AS17-134-20471 (3rd EVA).

Figure 15b

Fig. 15b. Three positions of Earth at the times when the photos were allegedly taken:
a) 1st EVA, 12 Dec 1972, 01 hr 18 min; b) 2nd EVA, 13 Dec 1972, 02 hr 16 min; c) 3rd EVA, 14 Dec 1972, 03 hr 23 min (GMT). The times were converted from data in the Image Library.E2

Let’s compare these images with pictures allegedly taken during Apollo 11. They are relevant to the series of photos analysed in Aulis, 2014. In Fig. 16 three photos of the Earth with Australia at the top of the frame are compared, taken by the Apollo 17 crew, i.e. in the same place as in the photos taken during Apollo 11. Here, we also observe a fixed view of Earth in all three frames, although their actual vantage point is slightly shifted along with the rotation of the Earth. In any event, in both missions there was only one view of Earth in each photo that included Earth, despite there being plenty of other opportunities.

Starry Night Complete Space & Astronomy software was used in this analysis to compare these photos with expected views of the Earth. The Image Library refers to this software and a comparison to the images published by NASA has validated the images in this series of articles.

In the top line of Fig. 16 there are views of Earth in series of three allegedly taken during each EVA during Apollo 17. In the bottom line are photos taken during Apollo 11: a) from orbit before landing; b) from the lunar surface; and c) from the CM departing the Moon after the craft insertion into an Earth-bound trajectory.

Figure 16

Fig. 16. Comparison between views of Earth in Apollo 17 and Apollo 11 which were depicted in the missions’ photos.

Therefore from Fig. 16 it is clear that each series of three photos with the Earth in frame were taken with the Earth in the same position. An intriguing aspect of this position is that it was related to rather arbitrary moments in each EVA but, for some reason, the crew chose to take photos with the Earth in exactly this position. This position occurred 1 hour and 24 minutes after the beginning of the first EVA; 2 hours and 47 minutes after the beginning of the second EVA and 5 hours and 58 minutes after the beginning of the third EVA.

The astronauts had plenty of time and various other opportunities to take pictures with completely different views of the continents. The reason behind the astronauts’ decision to shoot exactly the same view of the Earth is yet to be determined.

The limited choice of the Earth views doesn’t seem to be a coincidence. It is more reasonable to propose that when the post production compositing was undertaken on these photos, only a very scarce set of Earth pictures was available (or selected) for the compositing. As it is harder to intentionally organize such a particular selection, the best guess would be that either there were no other views of Earth available for compositing, or this particular selection was intentionally done by whistle-blowers.

Fig. 17 shows positions of the Earth at the beginning and ending of each EVA. It is obvious that there were a number of impressive options for taking pictures with the Earth. For example, at the end of the first EVA the continents of Asia and Australia would have been in view, while in the beginning of the third EVA, California was visible. Nevertheless, the photos of the Earth in the Apollo 17 mission were taken only when the Moon was exactly over the Earth’s equator with 150º West longitude in the middle of the Pacific. Regarding the photos with Earth in Apollo 11, author contemplated in 2014 that,

[a]ll of them possibly taken from geostationary orbit at a point over the mid-Pacific Ocean, approx. at a zenith vertical over the equator, Longitude West 165 deg. some 2000 km south of Hawaii. (Aulis, 2014a)

What was so special about the middle of the Pacific Ocean that prompted the crew to take pictures of Earth?

Figure 17
Fig. 17. Software-generated views of the Earth from the Moon at the beginning (upper row) and at the ending (lower row) of EVAs. The times are from Table 3-1 in (Mission Report, 1973).

Moreover, it is impossible to verify the rotation of the planet through the cloud pattern despite the precise time of the shots. Improved image quality would be expected in the last mission, compared with the first, but that was not the case.

Best candidate for taking the Earth photos used

It appears that all the pictures with Earth taken from the lunar surface are attributed to the only position of the planet visible from the Moon: over the Pacific Ocean at the equator at 150ºW. If these photos of Earth are genuine, they may have been taken from geostationary orbit. And the best candidate for this is the ATS-1 (Application Technology Satellite), a spin-stabilised satellite built by the Hughes Aircraft Company which flew the SSCC (Spin-Scan Cloudcover Camera), the

'Father of Satellite Meteorology, to provide continuous cloudcover patterns of the full-disk Earth view. (…) SSCC operated on ATS-1 until Oct.16, 1972.' (ATS-1, 2002, p.773)

It follows from this record that at the time of Apollo 17 this camera already wasn't operational. Although there was a series of similar satellites, e.g. ATS-2 to ATS-4, from which a suitable candidate could be found.

Figure 18

Fig. 18. Illustration courtesy of (ATS, 2002). The satellite is positioned at an altitude of 35,786 km.

ATS-3 was launched in November 1967 and had on board,

A spin scan cloud camera which provided continuous, full-disk hemispheric images of the Sun-lit Earth every half hour. This camera was modified to produce color images… with a spatial resolution of 3.2 kilometers. (Missions, Archive)

It is clear that by the time of announced flight of all manned Apollo missions starting from Apollo 8, NASA had developed a capability to take pictures of a full Earth which were perfectly suitable for illustrating any flight beyond LEO.

It is logical to assume that photos of Earth taken by these satellites were used to double for those apparently shot by the Apollo crews. The author wishes to note that his hypothesis that the pictures were taken at 150ºW was developed some ten years before he found direct confirmation to that in (ATS, 2002, p.774):

ATS-1 (…) was the first experimental near-geostationary weather satellite (position at 150ºW longitude)…

Concluding Comments

The official NASA website has mission reports and image libraries for each mission. In each library, one can search for photos including the Earth. There are surprisingly few relevant images compared to the 32,000 or so photosE5 claimed to have been taken during the six Apollo missions. Photos with the Earth claimed as taken from the lunar surface can be found in only three missions out of six. Colour photos were only taken during missions 11 and 17. The Apollo 17 pictures with the Earth are of a much poorer quality than those taken during Apollo 11.

A comparative analysis of photos from EVA-3 has confirmed that there was indeed a paste-up or compositing involved in the production of the series of images with Earth. Further, pictures with Earth over boulder in EVA-2 as well as those with flag, rover, and astronauts in EVA-3, were also fabricated with undeniable errors or subtle whistle-blowing.

During EVA-3, Mission Control admitted that taking a picture with Earth had not been planned and they reluctantly suggested taking pictures of Earth under some pressure. Furthermore, they were showing they were still not interested in doing so at the time of the communication.

As discussed above, one wonders how during EVA-3 the astronauts were certain that shooting the Earth is what ‘people think’ was needed. It could be that the astronauts have simply forgotten about a provisionally-agreed timing when they should have taken a number of 'photos with Earth’, therefore Mission Control had to remind them to do so. This was absolutely necessary as only photos of Earth taken from one certain vantage point were available for compositing later. Therefore any further delay would have made the rotation of the planet noticeably different. The fact that the third series of pictures with Earth in the Apollo 17 series was taken after a pause of approx. 26 hours (longer than the ideal 25 hours compared to the previous one), corroborates this suggestion. We have here a viable explanation of this reminder from Mission Control.

The only view of Earth is over the mid Pacific Ocean. Despite the Apollo astronauts allegedly having spent about 80 hours on the lunar surface during their EVAs, supposedly over that time seeing virtually all Earth’s continents, they didn't take any other views except a few with Australia in the corner. By the start of Apollo flights, NASA developed a capability to take pictures of the full-disk Earth which were entirely suitable for illustrating any flight beyond LEO. It is logical to assume that photos of Earth taken by the Application Technology Satellites (ATS) were used to simulate those allegedly shot by the Apollo crews.

One may ask why we should be studying pictures that are almost 50 years old. There are very good reasons to do so since the images in the library have been changing over time. In the Apollo 17 Library, it states that,

Beginning in 2004, NASA began to provide scans from original film and, as they become available to the ALSJ, we are using them to replace all prior versions.

So, the images continue to live a life of their own. It would be reasonable for a request to be made to NASA to reveal and display all the original films for independent experts to study and compare.

To sum up, there is no reliable evidence that the photographs with the Earth allegedly taken by the Apollo crews from the lunar surface are genuine. Instead of delivering convincing proof of the Moon landings there are only a few very suspicious pictures. Golden opportunities to prove beyond doubt that they were where it is claimed they were, have been missed. The few images allegedly taken from the Moon fail to withstand close, detailed analysis.

Phil Kouts

Aulis Online, November 2019

End Notes

E1. Document (Index, 1974, p.43) states,
The Lunar Module carried three Hasselblad electric data cameras, two with 60-mm focal length lenses and one with a 500-mm focal length lens. Each of the cameras had a reseau plate which provided metric capability. The 60-mm cameras could be handheld in the LM or bracket-mounted on the astronauts' environmental control unit for EVA photography. The 60-mm cameras were used for photography through the LM window and for photography of surface activities, sample sites, deployed ALSEP instruments, and the LRV tracks. These cameras exposed pictures both in color and in black and white. The 500-mm camera, which used black and white film, was used to photograph distant objects from 43 selected points during three EVA periods.

E2. On Timing there is a discrepancy in the Apollo 17 time references. The elapsed time in the Image Library is, for some reason, related to the pre-planned launch time, Ground Elapsed Time (GET). Since it is known that the launch was delayed by approx. 2 hr and 40 min due to a failure of the automatic countdown sequencer this is the time shift that should be taken into account when the timing of frames from the library are compared to those in other documents. Everywhere else, for example in the transcript documents, the elapsed time from the actual moment of the Saturn V launch, so called the Apollo Elapsed Time (AET), is used. The synchronization of the phrases on voice records to pictures in the Image Library could be achieved by deduction of the 2 hr and 40 min from the time quoted in the Library. Further, the time in transcripts is given in two digit pairs of days, hours, minutes and seconds. Therefore, this time format should be converted into the same format as in the Image Library. For example, a conversation on tape 112A/12, marked by the times from 06 22 48 34 to 06 22 51 46, is equivalent to that of around approx. 166 hr 50 min of AET and, in turn, is relevant to an event depicted in the Image Library with the series of photos AS17-134-20461 to 20466, which are attributed in the Image Library to the elapsed time of 169:30:33.

E3. A topographical map of the Apollo 17 mission site.

Figure End Note 3

‘EVA-1 &-3’ is an area around LM and flag where the pictures with Earth and astronauts in frame were taken. ‘EVA-2’ designates an area where the photos of Earth over Boulder 2 were taken.

E4. A sampling tool was 32-inch tongs depicted in Fig. A-3, page A-8, and described in detail on Page A-9, in the Apollo 17 Mission Report (1973).

E5. Remarkably, a NASA-approved photographer Michael Light, in his book of photos from the Moon, Full Moon (1999, Jonathan Cape, 2nd ed. 2002), contemplates that,

Beyond their memories, the astronauts were able to bring back only a few precious things from their odyssey: numerical data from experiments, 838 pounds of lunar rock, film and video footage, and the trove of more than 32,000 still pictures. It is the photographic imagery that has proved most useful over the years to the planetary geologists, astrophysicists, and astronomers attempting to reconstruct the history of the Moon from the eighty short hours humans have actually walked its surface.

Prints from Full Moon have been acquired for permanent display at the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Earth and Space in New York. As there is no reliable photograph of the Earth taken from the lunar surface what then is the value of the Apollo Odyssey?


(Aulis, 2014) Phil Kouts Photos of Earth from the Moon, 2014.
(Aulis, 2017) Leonid Konovalov Shadows’ in the Lunar Sky? 2017.
(Index, 1974) Apollo 17 Lunar Photography. Data users note: N75-14672, National Space Data Center, Greenbelt, MD. December 1974.
(Image Library, 2019) NASA: Retrieved August 2019.
(EVA-1, Archive) TV EVA-1, Apollo 17 Video Archive.
(EVA-2, Archive 1) TV EVA-2, Apollo 17 Video Archive and (EVA-2, Archive 2) TV EVA-2, Apollo 17 Video Archive.
(Photography, Archive) Apollo 17 Mission: The Camera Equipment. 2019, retrieved 23 October 2019.
(Photo with Flag, 2011) EVA-1 at the LM. A portrait of Jack with the U.S. flag and the Earth, retrieved 3 August 2011.
(Voice Transcription, 1972) Apollo 17 Technical Air-to-Ground Voice Transcription, Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas. Dec. 1972.
(Mission Report, 1973) Apollo 17 Mission Report. JSC-07904, NASA, Houston, 1973.
(Aulis, 2014a) Phil Kouts Photos of Earth from the Moon: Anomalies 2, 2014.
(ATS-1, 2002) Herbert J. Cramer Observation of the Earth and its Environment. Survey of Missions and Sensors. 4th Ed., Springer Verlag, 2002, 1514 pp.
(Missions, NASA) Applications Technology Satellite Program, retrieved 2 July 2019.
(Sun Angles, 2005) Brian W. Lawrence Sun angles, Apollo Lunar Surface Journal, 2005, retrieved 12 October 2019.

Appendix 1

Thumbnails of images that include Earth from Apollo 17 magazines:

Figure 1a
Fig. 1A. Images from the first EVA. Magazine #134, 1st series with flag.

Figure 2a
Fig. 2A. Images from the second EVA. Magazine #137, 1st series over boulder.

Figure 3a
Fig. 3A. Images from the second EVA. Magazine #137, 2nd series over boulder.

Figure 4a
Fig. 4A. Images from the third EVA. Magazine #134, 2nd series with LM and flag.

Figure 5a
Fig. 5A. Images from the third EVA. Magazine #134, a series with rover.

Appendix 2

Around the Flag
Due to the fact that most of the photos with the Earth in frame were taken around the flag it is worthwhile to mention an anomaly related to the lighting of the scene.

The shadows in Apollo 17 are often much shorter than they should be for the claimed time of photography. The angle of the Sun illumination during the entire time of the astronauts’ presence on the surface and specifically during each moonwalk, had not changed very much. Indeed, referring to the estimates shown in the NASA website (Sun angles, 2005), the contradicting evidence is easy to find. For example, at around 115:45 AET, the Sun’s angle was 15.8 deg. over the local horizon. It means that the shadow on a flat surface would be approx. 3.5 times longer than the height of an object producing it. In fact, it is evident from the frame AS17-134-20377 that the actual ratio of the shadow lengths to the object heights was approx. 2.2 which corresponds to the angle of lighting of approx. 24 degrees to the horizon (Fig. 6A). Such an angle would corresponds to 132:20 AET, i.e. a time which was some 17 hours away and much closer to the beginning of the second EVA.

Figure 6a
Fig. 6A. Shadows are not as expected for the time of the claimed photography.

This example confirms the overall conclusion that the photographic data published by NASA contains unresolvable contradictions. In this case, either NASA’a data for Sun angles is entirely wrong or the lighting doesn’t correspond to the correct angles of sunlight. The latter means that the artificial, electric lighting of the lunar environment was incorrectly positioned.

About the Author

Phil Kouts lives and works in New Zealand.

Phil Kouts has a PhD in applied physics and gained considerable experience in applied research, working as research fellow in various universities in the UK as well as an R&D manager in private companies. 

He writes under a pseudonym to differentiate his professional occupation from his interests, and can be contacted by email at philkuts@gmail.com

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