Debunked: Apollo Lunar Module Hatch Too Small for Spacesuit


Senior Member
Apollo moon hoax claims sometimes include this one, which I sought to address directly using some modern tech that can now be had quite affordably. The claim is that the lunar module hatch is too small for an astronaut in a spacesuit to fit through it. This claim crops up occasionally in Apollo hoax circles. You can find it repeated in David Percy's book Dark Moon, p. 341 and in arguments presented by James Collier.

"Next was the National Air and Space Museum in Washington and the Johnson Space Center in Houston where I video taped an actual LM. Here research indicated that the crew compartment and hatches were too small for the astronauts to actually enter and exit."

I have even heard claims repeated on conspiracy forums that the astronaut models placed around the lunar module on display at the Smithsonian were deliberately designed to be smaller than full scale to try to hide the fact that the hatch itself is too small. Here's one example of such a post, though you can find this line of argument repeated elsewhere as well:

These days it's possible to do 3D scans of the relevant objects with affordable equipment and find out whether the space suit will fit, and of course the best way to do it does not involve "video taping" the LM, except to record the experience itself. Over the past number of weeks, and really for the last few months (time flies) I've been working on building a portable LIDAR scanner using an Arduino, a couple of servo motors with a pan/tilt mount, and a Garmin LIDAR-Lite v3. It was a great project to start learning how to program and use an Arduino, and it also introduced me to the basics of passing data over Bluetooth and Android app development (hey that gives me an idea for another project; build my own Arduino-based wireless adapter to pass data to my telescope).

The lunar module on display at the Apollo/Saturn V Center happens to be the last remaining lunar module that was fully constructed, intended to fly humans to the moon, and never used. It was for the original H-class missions, but when Apollo was cut short, NASA moved up the timeline to transition to the J-class missions (the most visible difference being the presence of the lunar rover) and that meant the last H-class lunar module would go unused. Fortuitously, the would-be Apollo 15 LM is on display with its hatch open and tilted down at an angle that allows it to be scanned from the ground by a LIDAR scanner. Directly across the hall from the LM is a full sized Apollo training suit used by Gene Cernan, worn by a dummy, complete with its practice PLSS (portable life support system) backpack attached. I scanned both objects using my Arduino based LIDAR device from multiple positions around each object, then combined the scans in MeshLab and brought them into a single project file for direct comparison. To my great shock and surprise, the spacesuit fits through the lunar module hatch beautifully.

Future uses of this scanner may include a trip up to the Cradle of Aviation museum to scan their full-scale lunar module simulator on display to combine with scans of the lunar module exterior in order to create a complete interior and exterior model of the LM derived directly from real Apollo hardware in order to create a full simulation (or maybe even a short Unity-based VR experience?) of the process of opening the hatch and egress from the LM. I may eventually upgrade it by adding a small camera to get real RGB data of each point in order to help create full color models of each object.
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