Image from German music video falsely shared as proof of 'fake Moon landing'

A picture taken from a music video appearing to show astronauts posing on the Moon with their helmets off was falsely presented in Chinese social media posts as evidence the United States staged a lunar landing. The posts surfaced as China launched a probe to collect samples from the far side of the Moon in a programme US officials warned was being used to mask military objectives.

"Who else dares to doubt that the US Moon landing is fake?" read the simplified Chinese Weibo post shared on May 7, 2024.

The post featured a picture of six people in spacesuits posing with their helmets off. They appear to be on the Moon with the Earth in the background.

Text beneath the picture sarcastically says: "Now you believe that the U.S. moon landing was real".

Screenshot of the false Weibo post, captured on May 17, 2024

The post surfaced after China launched a probe on May 3 to collect samples from the far side of the Moon, a world first as it pushes ahead with an ambitious programme that aims to send a crewed lunar mission by 2030.

It is a technically complex 53-day mission that will also see it attempt an unprecedented launch from the side of the Moon that always faces away from Earth.

The rapid advance of China's space programme has raised alarm bells in Washington with the head of NASA warning it is being used to mask military objectives.

The picture also circulated alongside a similar false claim on Chinese video-sharing platform Bilibili.

The posts did not directly indicate which US lunar mission was supposedly faked but appeared to perpetuate widely debunked conspiracy theories alleging the Moon landings were staged.

Professor Jack Burns, an astrophysicist at the University of Colorado Boulder, had earlier told AFP the conspiracy was "pure nonsense".

The United States' Apollo programme landed a total of six spacecraft and 12 astronauts between 1969 and 1972.

"We have lots of proof that 12 Apollo astronauts visited the Moon and brought back lunar soil samples that are much different from that on Earth," Burns told AFP.

Music video

Reverse image and keyword searches on Google found the picture shared in the circulating posts was taken from a music video.

It corresponds to the one-minute and two-second mark of a video posted on the official YouTube channel of German band Rammstein on July 31, 2015 (archived link).

The music video was for the song "Amerika".

Below is a screenshot comparison of the falsely shared picture (left) and its corresponding frame in the music video (right):

Screenshot comparison of the falsely shared picture (left) and its corresponding frame in the music video (right)

According to the band's website, the video was filmed in a former chemical factory near the German capital Berlin on August 6 and 7, 2004 (archived link).

The spacesuits shown in the video were "a loan from Hollywood" and 240 tons of ash were used to create the Moon landscape, the website said (archived link).

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