A report of NASA, dated December 1971, shows at page 18 a picture on which the traces left behind by the Apollo 15 mission are superimposed.

In 2012 NASA released a computer enhanced photo of the same site where Apollo 15 landed. However, the picture shows a completely different landscape and shape of the traces.

How can two images of the same site look so different?

Picture 1: Actual lunar surface traverse routes (see page 18) - NASA Apollo 15 Mission Report (Dec 1971). Picture 1: Actual lunar surface traverse routes (see page 18) - NASA Apollo 15 Mission Report (Dec 1971).

Apollo 15 landing site imaged from an altitude of 15.5 miles (25 km). The Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) is parked to the far right, and the Lunar Module descent stage is in the center. (M175252641L,R)

Picture 2: Apollo 15 landing site imaged from an altitude of 15.5 miles (25 km). The Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) is parked to the far right, and the Lunar Module descent stage is in the center. (M175252641L,R)


I have found pictures of all Apollo sites (11, 12, 14-17) photographed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. None of these photos seem to be a close or distant match of the one published in the Dec 1971 report.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photographs Apollo landing sites see: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photographs Apollo landing sites


closed as primarily opinion-based by Organic Marble, uhoh, Rory Alsop, Fred, called2voyage Oct 17 '18 at 20:27

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of How do we know the Apollo Moon landings are real? $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Oct 13 '18 at 4:04
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble: I think this question is worth answering separately: it is perfectly possible for this to have an answer that neither affirms the accuracy of both pictures, nor indulges in conspiracy theory. (For example, someone might document that NASA had accidentally mislabeled photos from another site in 1972 or 2012.) $\endgroup$ – Nathan Tuggy Oct 13 '18 at 4:26
  • $\begingroup$ I recommended that you should find a better quality reproduction of "the one published in the Dec 1972 report." Your edit does not address the problem I've pointed out. I really think the best way would be to ask a new, separate question seeking a better version of the old image. With that, you can come bach here and update this question. If it's closed, it can always be reopened with new information added. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 13 '18 at 5:36
  • $\begingroup$ I think a (composite) large picture taken by LRO that shows the entire area in the NASA document from Dec, 1972 should exist. I can not find it. $\endgroup$ – Robert Werner Oct 13 '18 at 5:57
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    $\begingroup$ @NathanTuggy, you can't convince 'em, and look at the time and brainpower uhoh has spent writing up some very good answers. Close it and be done. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Oct 13 '18 at 13:14

OP states:

The two images can not be genuine in the same time. At least one of them is a fake.

Step 1

Have a look at the scales of the two images:



Step 2

Show them, or at least the lander/ALSEP areas, at the same viewing scale of 1.32 meters per pixel, (0.25x for the newer one, 7.59x for the older one):



Step 3

Annotate the images to indicate the LM to ALSEP distance in each



Step 4

Have another look at the OP's older image, it's a screen shot from a PDF likely made from scanning a printed copy of a 1971 report. The contrast is horrible. That plus long shadows at a low solar inclination distorts perception of topography.

Here are histograms for the two areas shown in Step 2, clearly there's a problem:

newer older

Step 5

Review the OP's assertion:

The two images can not be genuine in the same time. At least one of them is a fake.

Decide this is another hoaxer question rather than an actual question, vote to close as duplicate indicated.

If OP is interested in a realistic comparison I recommend to ask

"How to find a better quality copy of this poorly reproduced image?"

  • $\begingroup$ We have to find a better quality copy of the picture published in the 1972 report or reduce the size of a large, high resolution, image, say 4 x 6 km, taken by LRO in such a way as to match the resolution of the 1972 photo. NASA should have published such a picture taken by LRO. $\endgroup$ – Robert Werner Oct 13 '18 at 6:08
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    $\begingroup$ @RobertWerner The fact that you are not interested in a better quality and reasonable contrast image, but insist on a conclusion based on this lousy reproduction confirms my theory. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 13 '18 at 6:31
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    $\begingroup$ Good job, uhoh. Step 3 also shows that the resolution of the 1972 image is much lower than the LRO photo, so most of the landmarks evident in the LRO image have been reduced to a single pixel at most and aren't recognizable. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Oct 13 '18 at 7:15
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    $\begingroup$ @RobertWerner yes, conspiracy theorists would love to see answer based on intentionally corrupted images. This is even more confirmation that that's what you're doing here. The right way to proceed is to wait for a good quality version of the poor image, not to "creatively distort" a good image. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 13 '18 at 7:58
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    $\begingroup$ I think even with the terrible quality, the two images still are comparable - the prominent crater at the top of the LRO image is identifiable just above and left of ‘LM’; similarly the smaller crater to its left is visible as well as the small cluster below the annotated line $\endgroup$ – Jack Oct 13 '18 at 10:30

Supplemental answer for those who would like to pursue a good quality version of the image in the December 1971 report, rather than manually "make lousy" a good LRO image as OP proposed.

The document Guide to Lunar Orbiter Photographs NASA SP-242, 1970 (~100 MB!), (lousy reproduction but only ~10 MB here) is an excellent resource. I found this in @Uwe's question Usage of Apollo Lunar Surface Hasselblad Camera with 500 mm lens?

Both of these:

Table 4. Photography of Areas of General Interest - Near Side
Table 5. Sites of Selected Areas of Special Interest - Near Side


V-26.1 .... [104 to 107) Hadley Rille

and a map of the area, showing areas covered by both low and high resolution imaging is shown on page 113 of the document.

Note that V indicates Lunar Orbiter 5, 1967-075A.

It is possible, though I don't know for sure, that the image in the December 1971 report is from V-104 through V-107, M/H. According to Wikipedia the coordinates should be about 26.1°N 3.6°E, so that seems to put the Apollo 15 landing site in V-105M only, and that photo would be taken with the orbiter's medium resolution camera.

Guide to Lunar Orbiter Photographs V-26.1

Lunar Orbiter images have been catalogued. Those for V can be found at https://www.lpi.usra.edu/resources/lunarorbiter/mission/?5 and both V-105M and the three parts of V105-H can be found at https://www.lpi.usra.edu/resources/lunarorbiter/frame/?5105

V-105M is as follows, and remember that the map is a Mercator projection of a sphere and not from the spacecraft's point of view, so there will be several kinds of distortion between the two views; they won't match perfectly.

Lunar Orbiter Photograph V-105M

Lunar Orbiter Photograph V-105M rotated detail

Compare a rotated section from the right side of the full image above, to the OP's original screenshot of a PDF of a printout of the December 1971 report. Differences are probably related to reproduction quality and contrast.

OP's image

Images of the Apollo 15 landing area from https://www.google.com/moon/ help to demonstrate how variations in contrast and solar elevation angle can make the same terrain look very different as well.

enter image description here

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Thorough detective work and sincere too, in spite of the obvious problems with the question! $\endgroup$ – Jack Oct 13 '18 at 10:26
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    $\begingroup$ You compared two identical pictures. Of course, there aren't differences. The photo of the Apollo 15 site from here google.com/moon is the same as i.stack.imgur.com/vXkc4.jpg (from the 1971 report). You have to compare the google.com/moon with images taken by LRO, 40 years later, of the same Apollo 15 site. They do not coincide. The shadows and illumination are irrelevant. Just the patters of craters (their relative positions) must match. $\endgroup$ – Robert Werner Oct 13 '18 at 16:19

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