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Third-party evidence for Apollo Moon landings
As with SELENE, the Terrain Mapping Camera of India's Chandrayaan-1 probe did not have enough resolution to record Apollo hardware. Nevertheless, as with SELENE, Chandrayaan-1 independently recorded evidence of lighter, disturbed soil around the Apollo 15 site.
Chang'e 2 Edit
China's second lunar probe, Chang'e 2, which was launched in 2010 is capable of capturing lunar surface images with a resolution of up to 1.3 metres. It claims to have spotted traces of the Apollo landings, though the relevant imagery has not been publicly identified.
Apollo missions tracked by independent parties Edit
Aside from NASA, a number of entities and individuals observed, through various means, the Apollo missions as they took place. On later missions, NASA released information to the public explaining where third party observers could expect to see the various craft at specific times according to scheduled launch times and planned trajectories.
Observers of all missions Edit
The Soviet Union monitored the missions at their Space Transmissions Corps, which was "fully equipped with the latest intelligence-gathering and surveillance equipment." Vasily Mishin, in an interview for the article "The Moon Programme That Faltered," describes how the Soviet Moon programme dwindled after the Apollo landing.
The missions were tracked by radar from several countries on the way to the Moon and back.
Kettering Grammar School Edit
A group at Kettering Grammar School, using simple radio equipment, monitored Soviet and U.S. spacecraft and calculated their orbits. According to the group, in December 1972 a member "picks up Apollo 17 on its way to the Moon".
Apollo 8 Edit
Main article: Apollo 8
On December 21, 1968, at 18:00 UT, amateur astronomers (H.R. Hatfield, M.J. Hendrie, F. Kent, Alan Heath, and M.J. Oates) in the UK photographed a fuel dump from the jettisoned S-IVB third rocket stage.
Pic du Midi Observatory (in the French Pyrenees); the Catalina Station of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (University of Arizona); Corralitos Observatory, New Mexico, then operated by Northwestern University; McDonald Observatory of the University of Texas; and Lick Observatory of the University of California all filed reports of observations.
Dr. Michael Moutsoulas at Pic du Midi Observatory reported an initial sighting around 17:10 UT on December 21 with the 1.1-metre reflector as an object (magnitude near 10, through clouds) moving eastward near the predicted location of Apollo 8. He used a 60-cm refractor telescope to observe a cluster of objects which were obscured by the appearance of a nebulous cloud at a time which matches a firing of the service module engine to assure adequate separation from the S-IVB. This event can be traced with the Apollo 8 Flight Journal, noting that launch was at 0751 EST or 12:51 UT on December 21.
Justus Dunlap and others at Corralitos Observatory (then operated by Northwestern University) obtained over 400 short-exposure intensified images, giving very accurate locations for the spacecraft.
The 2.1m Otto Struve Telescope at McDonald Observatory, from 01:50–2:37 UT on December 23, observed the brightest object flashing as bright as magnitude 15, with the flash pattern recurring about once a minute.
The Lick Observatory observations during the return coast to Earth produced live television pictures broadcast to United States west coast viewers via KQED-TV in San Francisco.
An article in the March 1969 issue of Sky & Telescope contained many reports of optical tracking of Apollo 8.
The first post-launch sightings were from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) station on Maui. Many in Hawaii observed the trans-lunar injection burn near 15:44 UT on December 21.
We can see the astronauts’ footprints!
Thankfully, we do have a closer spacecraft, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been in orbit around the Moon since 2009. And it has captured recent photographs of all the Apollo landing sites (see here and here). These images show the Apollo spacecraft in exactly the right locations and amazingly, you can even see the astronauts’ footprints as they explored their lunar home.
These landing sites have also been independently spotted by a variety of other spacecraft from China, India, and, as discussed above, Japan.