QUESTION: Can telescopes on Earth see the lunar landing site(s)? There is a lot of misinformation about government cover-ups and Hollywood
simulations, but can anyone with a powerful enough telescope prove that it is there?
ANSWER: Various pieces of equipment, such as the lander platforms and moon buggies, were left behind at six landing sites on the moon. The largest of
these objects, the landers, are just 9 meters (30 feet) across. None of our current telescopes is powerful enough to detect them. Even in an image
from the Hubble telescope, they are smaller than a single pixel. Hubble can only distinguish things on the moon that are more than 60 meters wide.
Suitcase-sized reflectors placed on the moon during the Apollo missions can be detected (albeit not seen) from Earth. Scientists bounce lasers off the
reflectors to measure the distance between the Earth and the moon. However, those who maintain that humans never set foot on the moon argue that a
secret robotic mission delivered the reflectors.
In 2008, we should get our first look at the landing sites since the last Apollo mission in 1972. NASA is sending a spacecraft, the Lunar
Reconnaissance Orbiter, with a powerful camera to photograph the moon's entire surface with a resolution of about half a meter. The goal is to scout
out potential locations for a moon base, not search for relics, but with such good resolution, those relics should be visible.
The images may not satisfy moon-hoax proponents. After all, the original lunar photographs supplied much of the purported evidence that NASA faked the
moon landings. For example, the lack of stars and the tricks of light and shadows are said to be evidence of a hoax. On the contrary, these oddities
are consistent with the photos being real.
All of the missions took place in the morning of the lunar day, which lasts 29.5 Earth days. The sun is shining, but the sky not directly illuminated
appears black because there is no atmosphere to scatter incoming sunlight. With a camera set for daytime exposure, the stars are too faint to be
Likewise, the fact that shadows are not completely black on the moon is not evidence of air in a Hollywood studio scattering light from a spotlight.
The lunar surface itself reflects light. Backscatter – reflection of light back in the direction from which it came – is particularly strong.
Strong backscatter is also the main reason the full moon appears about 10 times as bright as a half moon.