Feeds

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

Space myths

The essential guide to IT transformation

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

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN Kickstarter push breaks TWELVE THOUSAND POUNDS
That's right, folks, you've stumped up OVER 9000 beer tokens - and counting
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Best practices for enterprise data
Discussing how technology providers have innovated in order to solve new challenges, creating a new framework for enterprise data.
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.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?