Great Wall of China Visible From Space

Apparently the Great Wall of China is visible from space. This confirms the old myth, but reverses reports from last year stating that the wall wasn't visible. A Chinese astronaut was able to snap a picture of it as he orbited overhead in the space station. Unfortunately it's not very visible. The astronaut wasn't even sure if he had actually photographed it or not. Plus, it turns out that many man-made things are visible from space.
Update: Here's a story in China Daily that contains the astronaut's photo of the Great Wall. You can't miss it because apparently the wall is bright yellow (or is it bright orange?)


Posted on Mon Apr 25, 2005


Plus, it turns out that many man-made things are visible from space.

Satelites strike immediately to mind 😊
Posted by Sharruma  on  Mon Apr 25, 2005  at  08:49 PM
Aww, I was hoping they'd show the picture of the great wall from space.

I had to think for a little about your comment, Sharruma. It makes sense!
Posted by Smerk  on  Mon Apr 25, 2005  at  08:56 PM
Is it just me, or does an article about a photograph, that DOESN'T SHOW THE PHOTOGRAPH make anyone else crazy!?
Posted by Wally  on  Mon Apr 25, 2005  at  09:31 PM
I looked for the photo. Haven't been able to find it yet. Still looking.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Mon Apr 25, 2005  at  09:59 PM
The picture looks a BIT larger than what one would would see with the naked eye. So now the Great Wall can be seen from space with a really good camera - but then again so can a license plate.
Posted by Saint Cad  on  Mon Apr 25, 2005  at  11:17 PM
It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. How wide is the wall, like 40 - 50 feet?

Now, how wide is the nearest freeway?

So, if you could see The Wall from space, shouldn't you be able to see the entire freeway network of the US and other countries on satellite photos?

I have thought about this, and the only way that I could think of that The Wall would show up in a satellite picture is if the sun was shining obliquely (just rising or setting) at it, and the camera was getting a picture of a long shadow cast by the wall.

I remember seeing a site for a company that had satellite time on an old satellite, and for some cash they would photograph the co-ordinates that you wanted. They had pictures of all kinds of celebrities houses on the site, and they showed (using Bill Gates' house) that even though the resolution of the satellite could not pick up something as small as a human from directly overhead, if you took the picture at a certain time of day (dawn/sunset) that you could get the shadow from a person to show up, because it was several times larger than the object that cast it.

So, depending on whether or not the satellite is over the target at the right time, I would imagine that the wall itself is invisible, but the shadow could be visible.

Wow. According to this site, the wall is only 21 feet wide.

Then every building would be visible from space....
Posted by Rod  on  Tue Apr 26, 2005  at  01:13 AM
"was studied by Professor Wei Chengjie, an expert in remote sensing,"

I stopped bothering with it after that.
Posted by Soldant  on  Tue Apr 26, 2005  at  03:23 AM
The whole Great Wall from space fiasco is a fascinating look at hyperbolae, misunderstanding and nationalism. You can read the origins of this myth at Scopes (, but this cosmic legend (the space version of an urban legend) has held on as fast as the one about NASA inventing Tang and Velcro. So here are some facts:

1) The human eye is capable is discerning an object the length of the Great Wall from a distance of 240,000 miles (Moon to Earth), but the wall itself would appear thinner than a microbe at arm's length

2) The glare of the sunlit Earth against the black sky, as well as cloud cover on the Earth, would prevent astronauts from being able to see the Wall from the Moon. Many reported they could not even discern continents

3) Many man made objects can be seen from orbit, as stated in the article. Several astronauts have seen the Wall, but due to it being made from regional material it easily blends into its surroundings when seen from space, so it is not easy to pick out. It also winds and follows natural grades so it is harder to see than straight lines of roads or airport runways.

4) The Chinese government based a national tenet on an urban legend to promote national patriotism. They are now scrambling to avoid embarassment when their own teikonaut failed to verify the legend (although he could have had conditions been perfect - but remember, the legend is the GW can be seen from the Moon, not just Earth orbit)

5) Photographs can pick out more detail, and telescopic lenses can be very detailed, but the legend deals with the naked eye. Photos can be used to verify the astronauts sighting, as Chiao did with his image, but it should not be infered that the astronaut could visual see all the detail in the image.

I hope this offers some more insight into this cosmic legend.
Posted by Jim  on  Tue Apr 26, 2005  at  06:45 AM
I think Jim has really summed up my sentiments well. Plus, what is their idea of "space"? Is it 2 inches outside of the atmosphere? Is it halfway between the Earth & Moon, or is it ON the moon? The distance between yourself and an object would change how visible the object is. I can see my Time Zone chart in my cubicle. If I move back 10 feet at a time, eventually I will run into someone else's desk, but also, my time chart will be less visisble as I move away. That closer I am to it, the better I can see it.
Posted by Maegan  on  Tue Apr 26, 2005  at  07:24 AM
I'll bet you can see The Big Boy Graveyard from space. Why? Because they're Big, boy.
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Tue Apr 26, 2005  at  08:42 AM
Actually, the idea of "The Great Wall" is itself a myth. There is no one big wall. Instead, it's a whole network of walls of various sizes and shapes all over the region from Pyongyang in North Korea to western China, and from central China up into Mongolia. They started building them back before the Qin dynasty (say, around 300 BC) and stopped bothering with them in the Ming dynasty (early 17th century AD). I think that the parts of the wall most Westerners are familiar with from pictures are carefully preserved sections from the Ming walls.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Tue Apr 26, 2005  at  09:01 AM
I don't see what all the fuss is about. I could clearly see the wall from the orbit of Neptune last night during my astral projection.
Posted by Charybdis  on  Tue Apr 26, 2005  at  09:08 AM
If the wall is so visible, why did they have to color it in the photo? Why not let us see what the astronaut saw? Like a previous post said, it's an attempt to boost national pride. Plus the papers are always trying to suck up to the current dictators. It's a good way to keep their fragile publishing privileges.
Posted by Captain Al  on  Tue Apr 26, 2005  at  09:14 AM
Not that is the FINAL word on anything they do seem to sum it up very well on this one. What's visible depends MOSTLY on how far out in space you are. has some really great photos of exactly that... what is visible from space at what distances. Most cities, highways, refinerys, and large structures are visible from low earth orbit. The legend, as stated before, what that the Great Wall was the only man-made object visible from "the surface of the moon" which is all but impossible... at least with just the human eye. If "they" come in closer for a "look-see" though... we'll be busted... "they" will find us! 🙄
Posted by Mark-N-Isa  on  Tue Apr 26, 2005  at  02:59 PM
I've done a little reading on this, and it mostly depends on how far out you define "space" as being. The fact that spy sattelites are in widespread use should tell you that many human-made objects are visible from orbit. On the other hand, nothing on Earth's surface that's much smaller than a continent is visible from the moon.

One of the first American astronauts to orbit the Earth reported that he could see (from orbit) a pickup truck driving along a specific country road in West Texas. His report was later verified.
Posted by Big Gary C in Dallas  on  Wed Apr 27, 2005  at  05:24 PM
About seeing that pickup from orbit, remember that early astronauts were all test pilots, who as a group had really, really good vision. It was one of the selection criteria.
Posted by Carl Fink  on  Thu Apr 28, 2005  at  04:14 AM
If I remember right, the legal defination of space is everyhting 20 miles up and further. Which is why U-2 and SR-71 pilots had to qualify as astronauts, they went over 100,000 feet. How much more I'm not allowed to say.
Posted by Christopher Cole  on  Sat Apr 30, 2005  at  06:23 PM
The myth is that the Great Wall is the only man-made object on Earth visible from the MOON. And it is, indeed, a myth. Think aboutit, as someone above mentioned, all buildings on Earth over 21 feet wide would be visible. Canals in Los Angeles should be visible. What makes the GW so special? Nothing, IT'S A MYTH!
Posted by Mark  on  Sat Apr 30, 2005  at  06:53 PM
Re: Rob (size of great walls width)
Recently when i was visiting the great wall, i drove from Bejinng to the wall, we had to drive a great deal to get out of the city and to a higher elevation, even though the great wall is only 21feet wide, it is very high on huge hills, and is not easily accessible by foot.
Posted by Stephanie  on  Fri May 06, 2005  at  04:40 PM
Myths are great because they are, well, myths... What's wrong with dreams? Some people say that man walking on the Moon is a myth, that it never actually happened. However, lots of people believe it did (happen). Is it wrong? I don't think so. I have read somewhere, some time ago (a loooooong time ago) that the reason why the Great Wall can be seen from space is that it's veeeeery long... It makes sense to me. I believe that the altitude is also a factor. And so what if it's not the only man-made object visible from space?
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Posted by ika smith  on  Tue Sep 20, 2005  at  12:14 AM
Posted by f  on  Tue Sep 20, 2005  at  12:16 AM
i dont believe at all this great wall is visible from space, yes its huge, but really how could it be?
Posted by sarah  on  Mon Dec 26, 2005  at  06:45 AM
I think we've already had that debate... it depends on how far from Earth we/they/you are...

I quote:

"The Earth looked very beautiful from space, but I did not see our Great Wall," Liwei told reporters after his return.
"However [...] according to American astronaut Eugene Cernan, speaking during a visit to Singapore: "In Earth's orbit at a height of 160 to 320 kilometres, the Great Wall of China is indeed visible to the naked eye."
Posted by Ka  on  Mon Dec 26, 2005  at  09:21 AM
hey i was just wondering if anyone could get back to me really (!!!) quickly on how the great wall of china failed to do its job because i know it did fail but i cant find any books or articles that say how .. ? haha please & thanksss 😊
Posted by nelly  on  Tue Apr 25, 2006  at  03:12 PM
this might be what you are looking for...
I quote: "However, the Great Wall did not stop the invasion of the Mongols who conquered the whole country and set up the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368)."
Read the rest of the article for more details.
And also, about the destruction of the Great Wall...
Posted by Ka  on  Sun Apr 30, 2006  at  09:18 PM
:-) kool our family liked it
Posted by Amber  on  Tue May 02, 2006  at  01:56 AM
It was said that it can't be sean from space!
Posted by Lexink The Great  on  Fri Dec 01, 2006  at  04:25 PM
yu r all freaks for caring
getta LIFE!
Posted by cheryne  on  Mon Mar 12, 2007  at  01:53 AM
i dont see it!!
Posted by jennifer  on  Thu Jun 07, 2007  at  06:23 PM
What seems to be the point that EVERYONE is missing is that what does it matter if you can see it from space or not? There is nothing to be gained from the argument and it only depends on your position and eyesight. Wow, so profound...
Posted by Brandon  on  Thu Apr 24, 2008  at  12:08 PM
Thank you for the explanation.
Posted by Lens  on  Sun Sep 13, 2009  at  03:23 PM
Its all bullshit ! ! ! ! ! you can't see it from space.
Posted by :P  on  Fri May 14, 2010  at  08:25 PM
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