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NASA debunks so-called 'man on the moon' image

"Man on the Moon"
"Man on the Moon"
NASA (public domain)

An image caught on Google Moon, which seems to resemble the vague figure of a man, has gone viral on the Internet and has caused endless speculation about what it is. Is it an alien moonwalker, traversing the lunar surface just as 12 men from the planet Earth did decades ago? Is it an ancient statue, something like the Colossus of Rhodes? According to a Thursday story on New York's PIX11 / WPIX-TV, NASA has an explanation.

NASA’s explanation is that the image is likely a fault in the photograph that was used to construct the Google Moon map, likely from Apollo 15 or Apollo 17. A bit of dust or an eyelash could easily cause the image that seems to resemble something artificial on the lunar surface. As proof, digital images taken of the same location by the Lunar Renaissance Orbiter does not show the image of a man or anything else out of the ordinary.

This sort of thing has happened before, with tricks of light and shadow or photography flaws gulling people into believing that something is on another world that is extraordinary. The most famous of these cases is the so-called “face on Mars” that showed up in a photo taken by one of the Viking orbiters in the 1970s. The image appeared to be the gigantic face of a primate of some sort. Subsequent images by more advanced NASA probes showed the “face” to be a natural mesa and not the artifact of a long dead Martian civilization.

This will not stop conspiracy theorists from claiming NASA is covering up evidence of alien life. Like most conspiracy theories it does not stand up on close examination. The one sure thing that would cause expanded budgets and a new mandate to explore space would be the discovery of evidence of intelligent life beyond the Earth. If the so-called “man on the moon” or the “face on Mars” were real NASA would be more likely to trumpet it to the world and then start devising plans to launch missions to such monuments,