5.7 How come the shadow of the LM reaches the horizon?

IN A NUTSHELL: That’s not the horizon. It’s the raised rim of a nearby crater that hides the actual horizon, which is a lot farther away.

THE DETAILS: In photograph AS11-40-5931 (Apollo 11), shown below, the shadow of the Lunar Module appears to extend all the way to the horizon.

Detail of photograph AS11-40-5931 (Apollo 11).

Moon hoax theorists argue that this makes no sense: the horizon should be miles away. For them it proves that the picture was taken on a small movie set and that the “horizon” is actually the line where the black backdrop that faked the sky met the edge of the set floor.

However, if we look at AS11-40-5961 (below), another photograph of the same location taken from a greater distance in roughly the same direction, we can see that the shadow of the LM actually doesn’t reach the horizon at all. Moreover, the alleged “movie set” must have been huge.

Photo AS11-40-5961 (Apollo 11).

In AS11-40-5931 the tip of the LM shadow is falling on the rim of a crater, known as Double, which is about 15 meters (50 feet) in diameter. The actual horizon is hidden by this rim.

The Double crater can be seen in the reconnaissance photographs taken by the Lunar Orbiter uncrewed probes in 1967, two years before the Apollo 11 landing (for example in photograph V-76-H3) and in the more recent pictures taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter probe in 2009 (shown below).

A photograph of the Apollo 11 landing site taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (2009).

In this LRO image, the Double crater is located to the left and slightly below the Lunar Module, which is the bright spot at the center. The four tiny dots around this spot are the LM footpads; the other bright dots are the instruments left on the Moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

It should be noted, however, that the horizon on the Moon is much closer to the observer than on Earth because the Moon is a smaller world. Barring any valleys, hills or mountains, the lunar horizon is about 2.43 kilometers (1.5 miles) from an observer whose eyes are 1.7 meters (5 feet 7 inches) above the ground. On Earth, for that same observer the horizon is about 4.7 kilometers (3 miles) away. From the point of view of the cameras mounted on the astronaut’s chest bracket, about 1.5 meters (4 feet 11 inches) above the ground, the lunar horizon would be even closer: just 2.28 kilometers (1.41 miles).