Astronauts without helmets image is from training, not proof of fake moon landing | Fact check

The claim: Image shows NASA astronauts posing for a picture on the moon without helmets

A May 25 Facebook post (direct link, archive link) shows a black and white photo of three Apollo 16 astronauts posing with their helmets off. One of the astronauts is sitting in a lunar rover while the other two stand next to the vehicle.

“Astronauts remove their helmets for a photo while on the moon landing,” reads the caption on the photo.

The post was shared more than 100 times in five days. Similar posts sharing the same image could be found elsewhere on Facebook and TikTok.

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Our rating: False

The picture actually shows three astronauts during training for the Apollo 16 mission in Florida, according to NASA.

Apollo 16 crew shown at Kennedy Space Center

The black-and-white image shows astronauts Charles Duke, John Young and Thomas (Ken) Mattingly standing next to a lunar rover, but the men are not on the moon.

The photo was taken at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Patti Bielling, a NASA spokesperson, told USA TODAY.

“In the lead-up to their launch on April 16, 1972, the crew and back-up astronauts of Apollo 16 conducted extensive training at NASA Kennedy in preparation for their mission to the Moon," Bielling wrote in an email. “This includes training on the Lunar Roving Vehicle.”

NASA had previously shared the same image on its Flickr account, tagging the Kennedy Space Center in the image's metadata. Getty Images also shared the photo. Both sources identify the image as showing a training exercise on Feb. 6, 1972.

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Mattingly’s inclusion in the photo also proves the image was not taken on the moon, as he was the command module pilot for Apollo 16 and remained in orbit above the moon while Duke and Young were on the surface. Mattingly was nearly on the crew for Apollo 13 and flew on the Space Shuttle but never set foot on the moon, according to NASA.

USA TODAY has debunked multiple claims that the moon landing was faked, with social media users questioning how the media had photos from the moon before Apollo 11 returned, doubting that the lunar rover could reach the moon and claiming Buzz Aldrin admitted the Apollo 11 moon landing was a hoax.

Evidence that the NASA Apollo missions to the moon occurred include photos and videos captured by astronauts on the moon, modern satellite photos of lunar vehicle tracks and other mission artifacts, hundreds of pounds of lunar rocks and samples collected on the expeditions and lunar data collected from devices Apollo astronauts left on the moon.

USA TODAY could not reach the social media users who shared the claim for comment.

Snopes and AFP also debunked the claim.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Apollo 16 crew removed helmets at Kennedy Space Center | Fact check