Feeds

Can you really see the Great Wall of China from the Moon?

Space myths

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Also in this week's column:

Can you really see the Great Wall of China from the Moon?

It is one of the greatest urban myths that astronauts can see the Great Wall of China from the surface of the Moon. They cannot.

Astronaut Michael Collins in his book Liftoff (1988) wrote that there is a false notion that the Great Wall of China is visible from the Moon. Collins orbited the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.

Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong has stated many times that the Great Wall is "definitely not visible from the Moon". Apollo 8 and 13 astronaut Jim Lovell made very careful observations and says that "the claim is absurd". Apollo 15 astronaut Jim Irwin has said that seeing the Great Wall from the Moon "is out of the question".

Fellow Astronaut William Pogue orbited the Earth in the Skylab Space Station in 1973 to 1974. The altitude was about 300 miles (482.8 kilometres) above Earth. Pogue wrote in his book, How do you go to the bathroom in Space? (1991) that he could see the Great Wall of China from the space station, but he needed binoculars to do so.

Astronaut Jay Apt orbited the Earth a total of 562 times on four Space Shuttle missions from 1991 to 1996. Apt wrote in the November, 1996 National Geographic: "We look for the Great Wall of China. Although we can see things as small as airport runways, the Great Wall seems to be made largely of materials that have the same color as the surrounding soil. Despite persistent stories that it can be seen from the Moon, the Great Wall is almost invisible from only 180 miles up!"

The Great Wall of China is only about 20 feet (about 6 metres) in width. That is not a big target to see from the Moon - an average of 238,855 miles (384,400 kms) away!

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's SHOCK DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck - boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.