great wall of china not visible from space

I’ve heard from several different people that the Great Wall of China was the only man-made object visible from space. I heard it so many times that I became convinced of its veracity, and having not had the opportunity to take a jaunt into space, I had no way of verifying it.

I had never questioned the truthfulness of the claim when I thought it would be fun to see it on one of the many map sites or applications. I did searches for it using the applications, but they couldn’t find it, so I just looked at China, thinking it would be easy to pick out. I didn’t know where it was, so I had a hard time with that.

I found two maps that showed where the wall was located, but it was still hard to tell if it was the wall or if it was just a road from the satellite images.

For example, here’s a satellite image of Beijing in Google Maps (click on it for the actual view).

Beijing, China

As you can see, the wall is not readily visible, but I’m not the only one who thought it was visible from space. Someone on the webmaster world forum thought the same thing, and another person pointed them to the snopes article showing that the claim was false.

So now, if you ever hear anyone say the Great Wall of China can be seen from the moon (or space), you’ll know it’s not true, and you can prove it. If you can’t see it from a satellite, you’re not going to be able to see it from the Moon.

Incidentally, here’s what I believe to be a pretty decent view of the wall in Google Maps. If you zoom out a four or five notches, it pretty much disappears.


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  1. I’m actually kind of sad that you can’t see it from space, but would never believe that you could see it from the moon. I’ve seen a photograph that the Apollo 17 mission astronauts had taken on trip between the Earth and the moon and you can barely make out the continents, let alone the Great Wall. On a side note… Isn’t Google Maps and Virtual Earth wicked?

    Comment by jason on August 5, 2005 @ 4:48 pm
  2. Very wicked indeed. I love’em!

    Comment by dan on August 5, 2005 @ 5:04 pm
  3. I had never heard that it was visible from the moon, but I had thought it was visible from space. I can’t believe people would actually make up something like that, though – perhaps it’s a lighting issue and the satellite snapped at the wrong moment?

    In any case, if it’s not really visible, the astronauts are going to have a boring time as they go for a sightseeing orbit today!

    Comment by Meredith on August 8, 2005 @ 1:11 pm
  4. In the snopes article, they actually got quotes from astronauts who had been to the space station and the moon that said it couldn’t be seen. The theory from the article is that it was said before man had even been in space as a way to indicate its enormity.

    An exact quote from the article says, “the claim that it is visible from the moon was probably an attempt to find a concise way of conveying the grand scale of the wall to people who had never seen it (outside of black-and-white photographs that could only reproduce small portions of the wall) and of asserting the triumph of man’s mastery of the vastness of nature (i.e., even if we couldn’t travel into space ourselves, we’d already constructed a man-made object of such large scale that it would surely be visible all the way from from the moon).”

    Comment by dan on August 8, 2005 @ 1:20 pm
  5. How depressing. Bottled water is no better than tap water, country singers don’t write their own songs, and the Great Wall of China isn’t visible from space — it’s been a rather depressing week or so on your blog, Dan. I am left sadly disillunsioned.

    Comment by Karalyn on August 9, 2005 @ 2:12 pm
  6. I hadn’t noticed the pattern of downer posts, but life’s not all bad – I found out how to make video stills in Linux and I was amazed by MSN’s virtual earth. Still, I’ll make a point to write about cheery and chipper things for a while to balance it out.

    Comment by dan on August 9, 2005 @ 3:04 pm
  7. Wikipedia has some good notes about conflicting views on the subject (not sure if that’s a pun):

    Comment by Matt Casey on August 16, 2005 @ 10:20 pm
  8. They featured the Great Wall of China on Google Sightseeing, comparing the Google Map to a NASA image to highlight a definite part of the wall. So you can (sort of) see it from Space, depending on where you consider space to be from!

    Comment by Mark on August 17, 2005 @ 1:13 am
  9. Matt: Thanks for the link. I didn’t realize the issue was still being debated.

    Mark: True, but the satellite image is zoomed in. I thought the claim referred to being able to see it with the naked eye.

    Comment by dan on August 17, 2005 @ 9:30 am
  10. How about this guy?

    We’ll have to wait until Google updates their satellite images of the area to verify. At least you know your petroleum dollars are going to good use.

    Comment by Dave on August 18, 2005 @ 12:55 pm
  11. that link to google maps shows a river, the Great Wall borders China and Mongolia

    Comment by eleven on August 24, 2005 @ 5:37 pm
  12. Eleven: The Great Wall of China is huge, so you’re correct that it borders China and Mongolia, but that’s just part of it, not the whole thing. That part of the wall can’t be seen from the satellite photos either, but it was easier to locate the other part of the wall by using the water as a point of reference.

    Comment by dan on August 24, 2005 @ 8:55 pm
  13. I was in a hurry and didn’t reply better. The map on the link posted to google maps is a river, not the wall. It looks like an overflow river, because the body of water is a resorvoir, and probably explains why it’s white (dry) and not blue.
    read Editor’s note.

    here is where you see the Wall:,113.650818&spn=0.164853,0.321590&t=k&hl=en
    and if you click on the Hybrid button, you’ll see it’s the border.

    but the point remains that it is not visible from space.

    Comment by eleven on August 25, 2005 @ 3:14 pm
  14. Ah, my mistake. Thanks for the correction.

    Comment by dan on August 26, 2005 @ 1:27 pm
  15. That Wall DOESN’T border My country and China.That was the reason to build that.Now it is different.

    Comment by Bi on August 27, 2005 @ 6:16 pm
  16. No you cannot actually see the wall – being too thin.

    I think the misunderstanding comes from an observation stating that it is long enough to have a discernible length even seen from the moon. That is if you could mark the start and end with lanterns strong enough to be seen on the moon you would see to specks of light. Whereas on other man made buildings, two lanterns at either end would just seem like one speck of light.

    Comment by firebyrd on August 30, 2005 @ 6:08 am
  17. I was a bit dissappointed, that it could not be seen, but moreso that it was a fabrication.

    Comment by Deborah on September 7, 2005 @ 3:21 am

    Comment by Deborah on September 7, 2005 @ 3:27 am
  19. im also sad to hear that you can’t see the Great Wall of China from space. I thought that mayby you coulod see it…

    Comment by lexy7720 on September 19, 2005 @ 7:07 am
  20. You are right body,
    I spent approx. 1 hour to find the great wall on google earth, and finally i find nothin’, after all, i think that is a “urban legend”!!

    Comment by cenk on October 3, 2005 @ 5:00 am
  21. That is soo funny, my husband was showing off Google earth to our cousin and we where sooo pissed we couldnt find the great wall. We where like “what the hell, i thought it was visualable from the moon, haha” you are so right on, I am glad I found this comment, we could have wasted all today trying to prove a point. thanks

    Comment by Davina on October 16, 2005 @ 12:44 pm
  22. It is not the wall that can be viewed from space but it’s shadow at early morning and/or late evening everyday. That satelite image was taken with the sun straight up so there are no shadows visable.

    Comment by Crisy on October 30, 2005 @ 10:23 am
  23. Actually, NASA has several satellite photos of about 90 miles of the great wall, and from their website:
    “The wall is easily detected from space by radar because its steep, smooth sides provide a prominent surface for reflection of the radar beam”

    Comment by tomcon on November 9, 2005 @ 7:29 pm
  24. I cant belive it, i searched about 1 hour on google maps for that wall, and after getting pissed off and angry i find out that the hole thing is just fake…. Man this suck’s, but 10x for posting the comment otherwise i would have searched anothere 2 hours :) ^_^’ (srry for english, not american or british :| )

    Comment by David on November 13, 2005 @ 4:49 pm
  25. Can you 100% believe google map?????? We can see the highway clearly about 5000ft from the earth but we could’t see the great wall at all?????

    Comment by TheSaint on November 15, 2005 @ 5:07 am
  26. TheSaint: I don’t see how Google would benefit by altering the satellite photos. It seems a bit too conspiracy theorist to me.

    Comment by dan on November 15, 2005 @ 11:00 am
  27. found it!

    Comment by bibi on September 7, 2006 @ 9:01 am
  28. Bibi: Umm, what’s your point? You’re zoomed in to 100ft, and last I checked that wasn’t anywhere close to being in space.

    Comment by dan on September 7, 2006 @ 11:10 am
  29. maybe there is some consolation. our friends on the moon might be able to admire the ‘polders’ of the netherlands. They are in the middle of the country (a bit east of Amsterdam), and are very rectangular and about 20 x 20 miles.

    Comment by kees on September 9, 2006 @ 8:40 am
  30. Hi, Iwas wondering if it was acturally true if a person could see the Great Wall of China from the moon? And if so, how?


    Comment by Chelsa on December 5, 2006 @ 11:15 am
  31. Ummm, How could a person actually see the Great Wall of China from the moon?

    Comment by Chelsa on December 5, 2006 @ 11:16 am
  32. Please read the above comments and the original post – they answer your question.

    Comment by dan on December 5, 2006 @ 11:21 am
  33. um… look. no image could depict what one might see with the naked eye, given that they had 20/20 vision. don’t say the wall isn’t visible until you’ve ventured into space yourself and confirmed it. that image, is just that… an IMAGE. not the actual view.

    Comment by t on September 1, 2007 @ 12:52 pm
  34. Love it a lot. He is so right!!!

    Comment by Janet on October 10, 2007 @ 9:11 pm
  35. I can still see it. It’s kind of hard to find but yes, it is very visible.

    Comment by Expert on December 7, 2007 @ 3:57 pm
  36. OK now see the thing is that you used google earth which in fact naver has a clear picture in most spots especialy from that camer or info received. with or without zoom the naked eye with clear vision and a true 3D veiw could probably see the GREAT WALL OF CHINA from space but maybe not the moon. So dont make these people beleive what you got to say without going to space to look youself. And yes i have not been to space but you did not use the right sorce on your webpage.

    Comment by Blake Carroll on December 13, 2007 @ 11:24 am

    Comment by Dpnraw on June 27, 2008 @ 11:08 am

    Visible from space, not the moon.. read the article

    Comment by calvan4 on October 12, 2008 @ 3:47 pm
  39. Pilot in Military. I recieved a very rare clearance to fly over China. Flew right over the Great Wall and took a few pics. We were at FL340 (34K) and could barely distinguish between it and roads. If we struggled to see it from that altitude, I am convinced with the naked eye you absolutely cannot see it from space.

    Comment by B on November 23, 2008 @ 10:40 pm
  40. i can’t see the gerat wall of china out there its not visible in my eye can you make it more zoon so that i could see the great wall of china..?

    Comment by jonel on August 2, 2009 @ 2:12 am
  41. im really disapponted i thought its true iv search for about 2 hrs. i think .. now that i knew thats its not true i ned to start making my papers about that”rumors that the great wall has a reflection in the moon” i ned to prove it to my classmates that its not true

    Comment by DANICA MAE on November 28, 2009 @ 10:53 pm
  42. You’re retarded. Google earth has terrible resolution. Look up some H.D shots of the wall from space in Google images.

    Comment by Pinto on May 3, 2010 @ 2:04 pm
  43. LOL’d @ this blog.

    Comment by Pinto on May 3, 2010 @ 2:15 pm
  44. thank you so much we were so lost, couldnt find the great wall.

    Comment by emma on August 13, 2011 @ 5:57 pm
  45. if you’re all sad that you can’t see the great wall of china from space you’re all going to be disapointed when you find out its impossible for the great pyramid to be built in 22 years, they would have to cut transport and place each of those blocks every 9 seconds and every block is several tons heavy, physically impossible with the “tools” they had back then!

    Comment by toughguy on October 29, 2011 @ 8:53 am

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