- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
The claim: A mismatch between a space boot and the lunar footprint proves the moon landing was fake
In July 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin stepped onto the moon.
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," Armstrong famously declared.
For half a century since, conspiracy theorists have argued it wasn't.
A Sept. 16 Instagram post compares images of the famous moon footprint and the smooth sole and heel of Armstong's space boot. The caption claims the mismatched footprint and boot tread prove the moon landing was “fake.”
The post garnered more than 1,800 likes in one day. The user who made the post, @sawasmemes, told USA TODAY they intended it to be taken as a joke, but the comments indicate many are taking it as a factual assertion.
"Lad u do know u could just Google this to get the answer right," one skeptic wrote.
"Bruh they had a boot sleeve as protection and warmth on the outside of their normal shoes," another commented.
Those commenters are correct.
This healless footprint matches the tread on the lunar overshoes that Armstrong and Aldrin wore to walk on the moon.
Footprint matches lunar overshoes
When Armstrong and Aldrin stepped out onto the moon’s surface, they wore lunar overshoes – sometimes called “moon boots” – over their pressure boots. The pressure boots had a smooth sole, and the overshoes had a tread.
Cathleen Lewis, a space history curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., told USA TODAY that focus on the treaded footprint was "a reoccurring trope from moon landing deniers."
Spacesuit designers engineered the tread to spread the astronauts' weight as they explored the moon’s surface and its unknown texture, The New York Times reported. Lewis said the oversized galoshes and their blue silicone soles were designed to provide astronauts added traction and protection against unfiltered solar radiation.
NASA shows the same photo of the footprint on its website. “The first footprints on the Moon will be there for a million years,” it's captioned. “There is no wind to blow them away.”
Armstrong’s spacesuit is currently on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
After returning to the lunar module, Armstrong and Aldrin tossed their overshoes and other unnecessary items from the hatch to save weight for lunar samples.
"These items remain on the surface of the moon at the Sea of Tranquility, as they were considered to be excess cargo for the Eagle’s crew to return to the Columbia Command Module and then to earth," Lewis said. "Every gram that they left on the surface of the Moon meant that they could bring back an additional gram of lunar samples."
Our rating: False
We rate FALSE the claim that a mismatch between a space boot and the moon footprint proves the moon landing was fake. The conspiracy theory overlooks the fact that astronauts wore lunar overshoes over their boots. Those overshoes were treaded, while the astronauts’ boots were not. After completing the moonwalk, Armstrong and Aldrin left the lunar overshoes behind to save weight on the spacecraft.
Our fact-check sources:
NASA, accessed Sept. 17, July 20, 1969: One Giant Leap For Mankind
NASA, accessed Sept. 17, Apollo 11– First Footprint on the Moon 07.08.04
AFP Fact Check, March 2, False ‘boot print’ comparison shared in Facebook posts about Neil Armstrong’s Moon landing
PolitFact, May 7, 2019, No, these photos of Neil Armstrong’s space boots and a footprint don’t disprove the moon landing
Cathleen Lewis, Sept. 17, emailed comment to USA TODAY
The New York Times, July 17, 2019, One Small Step for Man, One Big Step for Moon Boots
NASA, accessed Sept. 17, Apollo 11 Image Gallery
NASA, accessed Sept. 17, Spacesuit image
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, accessed Sept. 17, Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 Spacesuit
Reuters, July 16, 2019, Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit unveiled at Smithsonian
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Moon landing conspiracy theory misrepresents footprint