6.11 Did astronauts fake TV footage of Earth seen from deep space?

IN A NUTSHELL: No. Had the footage been faked by shooting it from Earth orbit through a circular window to make the Earth look small and distant, as some conspiracy theorists claim, the clouds would have changed continuously as the spacecraft flew over different parts of the planet. But in the footage the clouds remain unchanged.

THE DETAILS: Moon hoax theorist Bart Sibrel, in his video A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon (2001), shows an Apollo 11 video recording that he claims to be “never before seen or heard footage” in which the astronauts allegedly faked being far from Earth when they were actually still in low orbit around it.

According to Sibrel, they “placed the camera at the back of the spacecraft and centered the lens on a circular window in the foreground, outside of which it is completely filled with the Earth in low orbit. The circumference of the window then appears to be the diameter of the Earth at a distance, with the darkened walls of the spacecraft appearing to be the blackness of space around it.” (Figure 6-24).

Figure 6-24. A frame from the allegedly faked Apollo 11 video.

In other words, according to Sibrel's theory, the astronauts used the circular window to mask the bulk of the Earth and only show a circular portion of its surface, thus creating the illusion of a distant floating sphere.

In actual fact, the footage is not “never before seen or heard” as Sibrel alleges. It is part of a series of color TV transmissions made by the Apollo 11 astronauts on their way to the Moon, 10.5 hours and 34 hours after liftoff, when they were respectively 94,500 and 240,000 kilometers (51,000 and 130,000 nautical miles) from Earth. The full recording has been available for a long time, for example on the Apollo 11 DVDs published by Spacecraft Films. Sibrel's version is recut out of sequence: the unedited footage simply shows the astronauts preparing for TV transmissions and testing the camera settings. This is evident by listening to their communications in full, as available in the Apollo Flight Journal, instead of taking selected quotes out of context.

Moreover, the camera trick alleged by Sibrel wouldn't have worked even if the astronauts had tried it. If the Apollo spacecraft had been in low orbit around the Earth, with its TV camera peeking at a small portion of the planet below through a circular mask, the footage would have shown ever-changing clouds and parts of the planet rolling by as the spacecraft rapidly circled the globe. The uncut, less grainy version of the video presented by Sibrel instead shows exactly the same unchanging cloud patterns for as much as fifteen minutes.

The original footage reveals that the frame shown in Figure 6-24 includes the outline of all of the western coast of North America and of Baja California in the upper left region (north is down and to the left). This is confirmed by photograph AS11-36-5337, which was taken approximately at the same time as the TV transmissions and shows the same cloud patterns, allowing to determine that the TV picture actually shows the entire North American continent and most of the Pacific Ocean. This would be impossible from low Earth orbit.