Can You See the Great Wall of China from the Outer Space or the Moon?

The answer is likely to be “No”.

The space-based myth that the Great Wall of China can be seen from the Moon has existed for nearly 300 years.

First in 1754, English antiquary and physician William Stukeley first suggested that the Great Wall of China may be visible from the Moon due to its gigantic length in his Family Memoirs.

Later this hypothesis was mentioned and upheld by journalist Henry Norman in his book The Peoples and Politics of the Far East in 1895.

A 1932 Ripley's Believe It or Not! Cartoon strip adopted the same idea that the wall is "the mightiest work of man, the only one that would be visible to the human eye from the moon." It claimed the Wall as "the mightiest work of man, the only one that would be visible to the human eye from the moon."

can you see the great wall of china from space

After continuous spread of the idea in many years, though without any clear and convincing evidence, the presumption that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made creation that can be seen from the Moon originated.

But with the advancement of aerospace technologies, many astronauts were sent to the low orbits of the Earth, and even the Moon. They all mentioned that they couldn’t see the Chinese ancient construction with the naked eyes from the outer space.

Apollo 12 (mission in 1969) astronaut Alan Bean once said “The only thing you can see from the moon is a beautiful sphere, mostly white (clouds), some blue (ocean), patches of yellow (deserts), and every once in a while some green vegetation. No man-made object is visible on this scale. In fact, when first leaving earth's orbit and only a few thousand miles away, no man-made object is visible at that point either.”

Shuttle astronaut Jay Apt (4 missions between 1991 and 1996) mentioned: “We look for the Great Wall of China. Although we can see things as small as airport runways, the Great Wall seems to be made largely of materials that have the same color as the surrounding soil. Despite persistent stories that it can be seen from the moon, the Great Wall is almost invisible from only 180 miles up!”

The China’s first Taikonaut, Yang Liwei, flew into space in 2003, he also said that he couldn’t see the structure of the Great Wall from the capsule window.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who spent five months aboard the International Space Station in 2012-2013, reiterated the facts about the Great Wall’s visibility from space. “The Great Wall of China is not visible from orbit with the naked eye,” Hadfield said on Twitter. “It’s too narrow, and it follows the natural contours and colours (of the landscape).”

Since the wall looks a lot like the stone and soil that surround it, it is difficult to discern with the human eye even from low Earth orbit, and is difficult to figure out in most orbital photos. Even though we may possibly see a certain section under the perfect weather condition, it is not the only man-made object we can spot from high up there. Many structures such as highways, airports, bridges, dams, and big buildings like Egyptian Pyramids of Giza can be found on the pictures taken from the low Earth orbit.

The Great Wall is definitely invisible by the unaided human eyes from the Moon. However, this does not detract from the significance of this astounding ancient Chinese project.

Keep reading:

  • Where is the Great Wall of China?
  • Who Built the Great Wall of China?
  • The 13 Best Places to Visit the Great Wall of China

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