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The original of this GIF was tweeted here and I've reconstructed it because I don't know how to post it here (How to show this particular tweeted (GIF?) in a question? - trouble downloading). These are images taken by a Chinese cubesat in lunar orbit, taken again by a Dutch radiotelescope.

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On 7 October, the Chinese lunar satellite DSLWP-B made this 1.5 hour time lapse of the Earth appearing behind the Moon. A team worked hard this week to download the images with the Dwingeloo @radiotelescoop: @bg2bhc, @KuehnReinhard, @ea4gpz, @tammojan, @cgbassa, PE1NUT et al

You can read more about this dish in


Question: Are there other, perhaps notable examples of "stolen" space data" or "hijacked space signals" (I use the terms loosely) that resulted in particularly notable images or results? I can't believe this is the first time its happened.

While these days one generally tweets one's "stolen" space data, for the purposes of this question any kind of rebroadcast or public release of the images or data that included the admission that it is "stolen" or "hijacked" would count.

Let's exclude more modern use of LEO through GEO (modern weather satellites, satellite TV, etc.) since those are commonplace and numerous, and not really "space missions" as much as they are commercial services these days.


Video version, found here

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    $\begingroup$ Crpytography is pretty old. Perhaps they removed all encryption of data in lieu of a better transmission rate for a cubesat? Or used a vulnerable encrpytion method? I heard encryption is harder in space where nobody can hear bits flipping. $\endgroup$ – Magic Octopus Urn Jan 6 at 3:04
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    $\begingroup$ For the early space missions likely option is Jodrell Bank svengrahn.pp.se/trackind/jodrell/jodrole2.htm who had scientists without a space program of their own and positive interactions with both US and USSR programs for getting the basic tracking data. Not finding any actual papers published from this data to make an answer from though. NASA Data sets archive includes USSR sourced data from the period nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/DatasetQuery.jsp but all data sets seem to list various Russian institutions as the source. $\endgroup$ – GremlinWranger Jan 6 at 5:03
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    $\begingroup$ @MagicOctopusUrn :it's unlikely data on a scientific mission is encrypted, as that would add a point of failure without having any benefit for the mission. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Jan 6 at 12:17
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    $\begingroup$ "stealing" implies depriving the owner of an object of its use. People were listening in, not sabotaging reception by others. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Jan 6 at 12:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Hobbes it might, but can you see the quotes that I've put around each instance of "stolen" to make it clear I'm not using the word literally? You can steal fame, steal a kiss, steal home base... In this case though, there's enough wavefront for everybody. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 6 at 13:01
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Two items of note: Luna 9's initially released pictures came from scientists at Jodrell Bank Observatory in England, which could be received because they were in a standard format. This came ahead of the official release of the first photographs from the surface of the Moon.

Apollo 11 signals were received and decoded by Amateur Radio operators. Many missions are actually received by amateur radio operators and receivers.

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  • $\begingroup$ My question reads as follows: Question: Are there other, perhaps notable examples of "stolen" space data" or "hijacked space signals" (I use the terms loosely) that resulted in particularly notable images or results? For Apollo 11, what was actually decoded and what was released/published. I haven't just asked about people listening to some noisy signals in their living room. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 6 at 3:12
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh - this is very much an answer to the open ended question you posted. If you're unhappy with it, consider that the main problem is with your question: generally things that seek a list are at odds with the design of stack exchange, as also are question with multiple sub-parts. $\endgroup$ – Chris Stratton Jan 6 at 3:14
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    $\begingroup$ Re Luna 9, worth noting that the intercepted and published photos had a distorted aspect ratio: airspacemag.com/daily-planet/scooping-the-soviets-16255658 $\endgroup$ – Chris Stratton Jan 6 at 3:18
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    $\begingroup$ Luna 9 (and repeats with the same players) is pretty much the definitive example of this, ie, that satisfies your question to the degree that it can have a specific answer. The Apollos stuff is pretty much a "and by the way also..." $\endgroup$ – Chris Stratton Jan 6 at 3:25
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    $\begingroup$ Jodrell Bank tracked many of the early interplanetary missions, Luna, Venera, Zond, Mars and Ranger. They even cooperated with the Soviets on e.g. the Venera missions. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Jan 6 at 12:21
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note: Here are two examples of "hijacked signals" that include "public release of the images or data that included the admission that it is 'stolen' or 'hijacked'." I am sure there are a few more. One is backyard audio and the other is intercepted video!


From Lunar Eavesdropping in Louisville, Kentucky by C. Graney, Jefferson Community & Technical College, Otter Creek-South Harrison Observatory

The site shows images of Rutherford’s article and the front page of section B of the July 23, 1969 issue of the Courier-Journal and mentions these articles in QST:

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Baysinger told me that the Apollo lunar eavesdropping project arose because in the late 1960’s he was an amateur radio astronomer with an interest in NASA, in astronomy, in UFOs, and in other such things that were hot topics at a time when America was on the verge of landing its first men on the moon. He experimented with satellite tracking and capturing pictures of Earth transmitted from weather satellites. He had some success in these matters – for example, he was able to print out crude images from weather satellites using an impact printer that printed using carbon paper.

These interests and efforts led to the idea that he might independently verify the information that NASA had been providing about the Apollo program. Could he get unedited, unfiltered information about the Apollo 11 landing by eavesdropping on the radio signals transmitted from the lunar surface? And could he find out things that NASA did not want the public to know about?

Most of all, successfully detecting a transmission from the lunar surface would be a great technical accomplishment. Various local experts said that it could not be done.

On the night of the Apollo 11 eavesdropping effort, Baysinger said he and Rutherford had to essentially “bore-sight” the antenna on the moon – aim it by getting behind it and sighting it like a gun. This was difficult since the weather was cloudy and the moon not easily visible. The antenna, which was originally built as a radio telescope to look at naturally occurring radio sources in space, had a motorized steering mechanism but it had to be manually guided. Its “beam” or “field of view” was such that, once pointed at the moon, it could be let go for a little while, but pretty soon it would have to be re-aimed because the Earth’s rotation caused the moon to drift out of the field and the signal to be lost. In fact, this was one piece of evidence that, once the receiver started picking up Apollo 11 signals, the signals were indeed from the moon – if the antenna was not kept aimed at the moon, the signal disappeared.

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Baysinger’s wife and daughter watched the Apollo 11 landing on TV while Baysinger and Rutherford listened via Baysinger’s equipment. The signal on the home-built equipment came through approximately 5-10 seconds earlier than the signal on TV. Baysinger figures NASA or the TV network [I assume it was probably CBS] put in a delay in case they needed to edit out anything embarrassing.

The signal the lunar eavesdropping equipment picked up was noisy, but Baysinger says you could hear what was going on. Baysinger made tapes of the transmissions, which he still has. In September 2009 he transferred salvageable sections of the tapes to MP3 format for this project. You can hear them for yourself via the links below.

There are several MP3 links there with links to the same point of time in transcripts.

MP3 (9MB) download: http://observatory.jctcfaculty.org/APOLLO11/AUDIO/A11-HighQual.wma

Complete recording in WMA format (approximately 5 minutes). Click here for a time-indexed transcript of complete recording compiled and annotated by Baysinger in September 2009. Times are measured from the beginning of the WMA file. The first two pages are what is audible on the WMA file. The second two pages are annotated copies of the NASA transcript. Note that while the NASA transcript and NASA audio includes comments from Collins and CAPCOM, along with NASA's PAO voice-over, only Aldrin and Armstrong's voices are audible in the recording. In this regard Baysinger’s recording shows similarities to one made from a German radio observatory (click here).

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Baysinger’s wife and daughter watched the Apollo 11 landing on TV while Baysinger and Rutherford listened via Baysinger’s equipment. The signal on the home-built equipment came through approximately 5-10 seconds earlier than the signal on TV. Baysinger figures NASA or the TV network [I assume it was probably CBS] put in a delay in case they needed to edit out anything embarrassing.

The signal the lunar eavesdropping equipment picked up was noisy, but Baysinger says you could hear what was going on. Baysinger made tapes of the transmissions, which he still has. In September 2009 he transferred salvageable sections of the tapes to MP3 format for this project. You can hear them for yourself via the links below.

I asked Baysinger whether he found anything that NASA edited out – comments about things going wrong, the astronauts being loose with their language, or exclamations about meeting aliens! He said no – absolutely everything was transmitted to the public on TV. In fact he said, “that was kind of disappointing”. Part of the idea of this project was to hear the unedited “real story”, and it turned out there was nothing edited out.[iv] Indeed, Rutherford’s story (click here for hi-resolution version which you can read) makes no mention of hearing anything unusual.


That article links to a page on on the Honeysuckle Creek site for the Bochum observatory in (at that time) West Germany: - https://www.honeysucklecreek.net/other_stations/bochum/index.html

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short MP3 of The Eagle Has Landed from Bochum: https://www.honeysucklecreek.net/audio/A11_Landing_Bochum_Net1.mp3

During Apollo 11, the observatory ‘listened in’ on the first lunar landing.

The present Director, Dr. Thilo Elsner, has provided a short audio recording of transmissions received from the Apollo 11 Lunar Module, Eagle, at the time of Lunar touchdown.

The Moon was just above the horizon at the time of the landing, but it was below the horizon for the first step. (See graphic below.)


I found a copy of the 1972 article Sternwarte Bochum beobachtet US-Apollo-Mondexperimente Neues Von Rohde & Schwarz 57 Okt./Nov. 1972 pp 24-27.

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    $\begingroup$ This is great stuff! $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jan 6 at 18:47
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    $\begingroup$ Most of Baysinger's delay is from the sheer number of retransmissions involved in getting the signal to the television. He's hearing things directly, while the TV audio is going Moon -> Goldstone -> Houston -> TV network studio -> TV local studio -> TV broadcast antenna -> television. Additionally, the television path may involve as many as three bounces through geosynchronous satellites, and a delay as the audio is mixed with locally-generated video. $\endgroup$ – Mark Jul 22 at 20:53
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  1. Tracking Apollo-17 from Florida http://www.svengrahn.pp.se/trackind/Apollo17/APOLLO17.htm enter image description here

On December 10, 1972 we picked up our first signals on S-band. The main carrier was 45 dB over noise and the voice subcarrier was 25 dB over noise. Apollo 17 passed. over the lunar disc between 1722 and 1819.10 local time (2222-2319 UT), and during these 57 minutes we measured a total Doppler frequency shift of 43 kHz (see figure below). The frequency numbers on the ordinate is the dial reading on the R-390 receiver minus 29000 kHz.

The spacecraft had entered orbit at 1447.23 local time (1947.23 UT), Initially the orbit was 97.4-314.8 km. The orbital period was then 128.2 minutes and the spacecraft would be seen from the earth for about 80 minutes. We clearly did not pick up the signal as the spacecraft appeared from behind the Moon. The doppler curve below is indeed not perfectly symmetrical which most probably is the result of the eccentricity of the orbit. The average speed in the orbit was 1.58 km/s. If the orbit had been perfectly circular at the 128.2 minute period the doppler shift for a simple transmitter would have been = 2287.5 x 1000 x 1.58/300000= ± 12 kHz. For a coherent transponder the doppler shift would be almost double this number (doppler shift on both uplink and downlink), i.e. 46 kHz. We observed about 43 kHz which is consistent with the fact that we did not catch the complete pass in front of the lunar disc.

  1. In the text: "The TNA-400 was equipped with a low-noise receiver operating in the 13 cm range (S band, in which the transmitters of the Apollo lunar modules worked enter image description here

image of the Earth rising above the lunar horizon, taken on a television channel from one of the Apollo, intercepted by the Soviet tracking station in Crimea ("Shkolnoye").

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  • $\begingroup$ thanks for the update! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 22 at 23:00
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@PearsonArtPhoto's answer mentions Luna 9. I just ran across this image in the really lovely historical slides of Ian Morison: The Story of Jodrell Bank.

Here are some thumbnail-sized screen shots, but please view the presentation itself.

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