Faked Apollo photos


Apollo Investigation

Were Apollo Lunar Surface Photos Composites?
An investigation that suggests post production work on images

Aulis is continually receiving communications from researchers with their views on both sides of the argument regarding the authenticity of the Apollo record. A recent observation came from a researcher, who wishes to be known as William, pointing out semi-circular marks in the upper left and lower right of a considerable number of Apollo photographs. Here is an example of marks found at the top and bottom of many such lunar surface images:

Full image AS17-138-21167.

AS17-138-21167 CU
AS17-138-21167  upper left and lower right.

Having spent nearly 50 years in the photographic and film-making business, David Percy’s experience in producing animated films, as well as creating still photographic composites, suggested to him that these marks were most likely not all captured during original photography, but probably introduced during the finishing process, see below.

Film animation used to require the use of a photographic rostrum before the widespread advent of digital methods employed today. A similar type of rostrum was fairly common in the production of 35mm slides for AV presentations – again, before the days of digital, and presentation applications such as PowerPoint.


In order to keep the work in place a three-pin pegbar would be used. There were several types varying from three round pins as below, to the Acme pegbar which has a central round pin and two rectangular pins.  

3 pin pegbar Fleischer pegbar with three round pins.

The following NASA picture (LAM 2) is a composite of images which were taken during lunar orbit, but the graticule grid was added separately afterwards.  The three punch holes strongly indicate that a Fleischer pegbar was used for accuracy in the registration of the overlay with the original composite. 

LAM 2LAM 2 composite and matching three-pin pegbar. Note: if required, any of the pins in the bar can be removed.

If the LAM 2 image was cropped to virtually exclude the punch marks, and if a small segment was included in the cropped area, the result would look like the close up section shown below, very similar to the Apollo 17 lunar surface example at the top of the article.

LAM 2 CUClose up, cropped from LAM2.
There are two possibilities as to how these marks might have been photographed into the images. One in-camera, with the marks on the réseau plate, and the other during post production to simulate a required result. We visited Hasselblad in Sweden on 30 August 1996 and met with Jan Lundberg the Project Engineer responsible for building the cameras used on Apollo, and examined a 500 EL/70 Lunar Surface Camera with a Biogon 60mm lens. During our conversations Jan Lundberg stated that: “the reticles were established on the plate by metal evaporation at Zeiss. The plate had small ridges on the film transportation edges which raised it about 800th of a millimetre above the surface of the film.” There was no mention of any additional marks having been added to the plate by Hasselblad or Zeiss.

Indicators that pegbars were used?

All the marks found in the lunar surface photos are in exactly the same relative locations at the top and bottom of the images and in line with the reticles, and from examination of the LAM 2 picture there is evidence that a three pin pegbar with round pins may have been used.

The fact that a portion of the marks on both the upper and lower edges of some lunar surface photos have remained visible, possibly incurred during any post production work, could of course, be whistle-blowing. In fact, we are not aware of these marks being commented upon until now.

Rostrum platen with upper and lower pegbars.

In this picture of an Oxberry platen with a rear light diffuser, the artwork would be backlit (as well as being top lit) for animation cells to be used without a back projected image. It was often desirable and quite usual to have a pegbar at the top as well as at the bottom of the work platen. 

Where these ‘registration’ marks are visible in the Apollo images they appear at the top as well.  The marks themselves vary in shape across the missions, and indeed within the missions. Studios have experienced registration holes becoming ripped and/or worn during production over the years.  This is possibly the case here: the overlay cells became well used resulting in the registration holes becoming damaged and distorted.

If it were necessary to add ‘in camera’ reticles, compositing would provide the ideal opportunity – adjusting the look, contrast and brightness to match in with the original image. This could have been in the form of the reticles being accurately marked onto clear pre-punched acetate cells so as to register correctly on the rostrum platen.

Jack White found that at least one Apollo 14 image indicated that something strange had occurred with the reticles – this was on AS14-66-9306 – they can be seen curling up in this example:

Close up of upper left corner of AS14-66-9306.

Use of larger format originals?

VistaVision Frame
. . VistaVision frame using horizontal pulldown.

It is not unusual for material intended for further optical processing to be originated on a larger format, in order to maintain quality in the finished result. 35mm VistaVision cameras (deploying a larger frame area using horizontal 'pulldown') have often been used to originate movie scenes destined for further optical work.

The scene would then be reduced down at the optical processing stage to a standard 35mm film sequence with conventional vertical pulldown, to be later intercut with the main production.

So it is conceivable that some or even all these images were originated on larger format still cameras, then projected using the rostrum with the ‘in-camera’ reticles added at the post-production stage, and re-photographed onto 70mm film (as used in the lunar surface camera).

So what benefits might be derived from working with images from a larger format source? 1) maintaining quality, and 2) re-framing, or tweaked composition becomes possible.

Jack White concluded that images like the ones below were cropped from larger originals.  The rostrum would be an ideal tool for the job, permitting the exclusion of anything unwanted – while at the same time providing plenty of scope for whistle-blowing:
Incorrect shadowsIncorrect shadows

As the late Jack White stated, a photographer cannot stand beside his or her image!

The above examples strongly suggest that they were cropped from larger-sized originals. Perhaps other Apollo images have been cropped as well.

If the compositors had cropped photos with the reticles already ‘photographed in’, then any adjustments (including cropping) would become very apparent, because the reticles would no longer be correctly positioned or centred. Furthermore, if any retouching was undertaken, reticles would best be added after any such work was completed.

AS12-46-6726 – an example of Apollo image retouching.

When brightness and contrast are stretched, the heavy retouching becomes very apparent around the astronaut and the LM in AS12-46-6726 – Kazimierz Ozóg brought our attention to this example 1. The close up of the area around the astronaut reveals in more detail crude retouching of the black ‘sky’. And note the un-retouched 'noisy' green zone to the right of his right leg. After any such retouching work all photos, retouched or otherwise, would have to end up in sequence within any given roll of film. This is where were the rostrum would come in.

HJP 'Douglas' Arnold of Kodak with a duplicate roll No 40 from Apollo 11.

How was any such post-production work actually carried out? The marks observed on the photos are too large for the three pins of a regular pegbar to span a photo, but the sizes of the holes are about right if the image only occupied just under half the length of the pegbar, here are two examples:

AS16-113-18349 Lower
AS16-113-18349 – lower portion of the image occupying approx half the span of the pegbar.

AS17-108-17617 lower
Another example AS17-108-17617 – lower portion of image.


It is conceivable that wherever they were taken, a number of the Apollo lunar surface photographs are, at the very least, reworked, retouched images. At worst, every Apollo lunar surface image was produced using all the post-production techniques available to NASA at the time, allowing full flexibility regarding the finished, published result.

Elsewhere on Aulis we have demonstrated obvious, extensive fakery within the body of Apollo imagery as well as extensive retouching of material. Jack White has provided examples of instances where cropping may have occurred. New research by two scientists, one Russian and one Swiss, has revealed that the lunar horizon was not kilometres away but only metres from the camera 2. Images not taken on the Moon but in a studio on Earth.

Aulis Online
February updated May 2013

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Our thanks to researcher William for his astute observations.