An image showing a group of astronauts with their helmets off is not quite what it seems. While the photo is real and is used in an attempt to support moon landing conspiracy theories, the astronauts were not actually on the moon at the time—they were training in preparation for the Apollo 16 mission.
According to Snopes, the misleading photo was used to support the theory that the moon landing was a hoax. “So these guys on the moon took a moment to take their helmets off for this picture,” the caption reads. The photo does, in fact, show a group of astronauts without their helmets on, but it was taken during a training session, not on the surface of the moon.
The photo was originally taken in February 1972 and shows Lunar Module Pilot Charles M. Duke, Commander John W. Young and Command Module Pilot Thomas K. Mattingly II in a training session at the Kennedy Space Center as they prepared for the Apollo 16 moon landing. This was just one of the many ways astronauts trained for the historic space missions, which also included desert survival training, water egress training and neutral buoyancy simulation. Wired reported in 2011:
Apollo astronauts practiced every second of their mission, even planting the flag (above), many times, indoors, outdoors, in space suits, underwater, in planes, in centrifuges, in pools, in the ocean and anywhere else NASA saw fit. They were prepared for every contingency and trained for water planned landings as well as desert and jungle survival in case their capsule missed the ocean and hit land. They learned geology, how to withstand g-forces, maneuver in low- and zero-gravity conditions, and how to drive electric rovers and land the lunar module.
Of course, during the mission itself, the astronauts wore helmets. The Apollo 16 lunar landing mission was launched in April 1972 and its primary objectives, according to the Lunar and Planetary Institute, included performing geological inspection in the Descartes region, activating surface experiments and conducting inflight and photographic tasks.
Have you seen the misleading image of astronauts without the helmets circulating social media? What is your favorite photo from the Apollo 16 mission? Sound off in the comments section below!
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