Republished July 20, 2009--Forty years after U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon, many conspiracy theorists still insist the Apollo 11 moon landing was an elaborate hoax. Examine the photographic evidence, and find out why experts say some of the most common claims simply don't hold water.

You can tell Apollo 11 was faked because ... the American flag appears to be flapping as if "in a breeze" in videos and photographs supposedly taken from the airless lunar surface.

The fact of the matter is ... "the video you see where the flag's moving is because the astronaut just placed it there, and the inertia from when they let go kept it moving," said spaceflight historian Roger Launius, of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

The astronauts also accidentally bent the horizontal rods holding the flag in place several times, creating the appearance of a rippling flag in photographs (Apollo 11 moon-landing pictures).


Neil Armstrong and Apollo 11's Eagle lunar lander are reflected in Buzz Aldrin's visor in one of the most famous images taken during the July 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing.

You can tell Apollo 11 was faked because ... only two astronauts walked on the moon at a time, yet in photographs such as this one where both are visible, there is no sign of a camera. So who took the picture?

The fact of the matter is ... the cameras were mounted to the astronauts' chests, said astronomer Phil Plait, author of the award-winning blog Bad Astronomy and president of the James Randi Educational Foundation.

In the picture above, Plait notes, "you can see [Neil's] arms are sort of at his chest. That's where the camera is. He wasn't holding it up to his visor."


"My God, it's full of stars!" Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 character Dave Bowman famously exclaimed when faced with the vastness of space.

You can tell Apollo 11 was faked because ... the astronauts made no such exclamation while on the moon, and the black backgrounds of their photographs are curiously devoid of stars. (See more iconic space pictures.)

The fact of the matter is ... the moon's surface reflects sunlight, and that glare would have made stars difficult to see. Also, the astronauts photographed their lunar adventures using fast exposure settings, which would have limited incoming background light.

"They were taking pictures at 1/150th or 1/250th of a second," Bad Astronomy's Plait said. "In that amount of time, stars just don't show up."


The Apollo 11 lunar lander known as the Eagle rests peacefully on the moon's surface in a picture taken mere hours after the July 20, 1969, moon landing.

You can tell Apollo 11 was faked because ... the module is shown sitting on relatively flat, undisturbed soil. According to skeptics, the lander's descent should have been accompanied by a large dust cloud and would have formed a noticeable crater. (Explore an interactive moon map.)


The fact of the matter is ... the Apollo 11 lander's engines were throttled back just before landing, and it did not hover long enough to form a crater or kick up much dust, the Smithsonian's Launius said.
"Science fiction movies depict this big jet of fire coming out as [spacecraft] land, but that's not how they did it on the moon," he added. "That's not the way they would do it now or anytime in the future."


A moon-landing picture shows Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing on the footpad of the Eagle's ladder, his bent knees suggesting that he's about to jump up to the next rung. (Read "Buzz Aldrin, First Man (to Pee) on the Moon, Sounds Off.")

You can tell Apollo 11 was faked because ... Aldrin is seen in the shadow of the lander, yet he is clearly visible. Hoax subscribers say that many shadows look strange in Apollo 11 pictures. Some shadows don't appear to be parallel with each other, and some objects in shadow appear well lit, hinting that light was coming from multiple sources—suspiciously like studio cameras.

The fact of the matter is ... there were multiple light sources, Launius said. "You've got the sun, the Earth's reflected light, light reflecting off the lunar module, the spacesuits, and also the lunar surface."

It's also important to note that the lunar surface is not flat, he added. "If an object is in a dip, you're going to get a different shadow compared to an object next to it that is on a level surface."


The contrasted lines of a boot print appear as Buzz Aldrin lifts his foot to record an image for studying the moon's soil properties. Apollo 11 pictures show scores of clear bootprints left behind as the astronauts traipsed across the moon. (Find out more about moon exploration.)

You can tell Apollo 11 was faked because ... the astronauts' prints are a bit too clear for being made on a bone-dry world. Prints that well defined could only have been made in wet sand.

The fact of the matter is ... that's nonsense, said Bad Astronomy's Plait. Moondust, or regolith, is "like a finely ground powder. When you look at it under a microscope, it almost looks like volcanic ash. So when you step on it, it can compress very easily into the shape of a boot." And those shapes could stay pristine for a long while thanks to the airless vacuum on the moon.


When Apollo 11's Armstrong and Aldrin took off from the moon in July 1969, they left behind part of the Eagle, the U.S. flag, and several other instruments and mementos, including the seismometer Aldrin is adjusting in the above picture.

You can tell Apollo 11 was faked because ... with instruments such as the Hubble Space Telescope capable of peering into the distant recesses of the universe, surely scientists should be able to see the various objects still on the moon. But no such pictures of these objects exist.

The fact of the matter is ... no telescope on Earth or in space has that kind of resolving power. "You can calculate this," Plait said. "Even with the biggest telescope on Earth, the smallest thing you can see on the surface of moon is something bigger than a house."


Strange patterns of light partially obscure the upper left part of a picture of Buzz Aldrin setting up a foil sheet for collecting solar particles near the Eagle.

You can tell Apollo 11 was faked because ... those mysterious reflections come from studio lights on a production set.

The fact of the matter is ... it's highly unlikely NASA would make such an obvious blunder if they had spent millions of dollars to fake the Apollo 11 moon landing, Plait said.

"Okay, let's take a step back. NASA's going to release a picture showing studio lights? Hello!" The odd lights in the picture are simply lens flares," he said. "There's a big fat pentagonal one right in the middle that is from the aperture of the camera itself."