The Great Wall of China Isn’t Visible from Space

“One of my challenges was to try to photograph the great wall of china. And I did actually take some photos, but it was hard to discern the wall with the naked eye.” —Leroy Chiao

In a Nutshell

Contrary to popular belief that the Great Wall of China is the only man made structure that can be seen from space, astronauts have often reported that in fact zero man made structures, including the Great Wall, can be seen beyond Earth’s immediate atmosphere.

The Whole Bushel

Perhaps the most famous fact about the Great Wall of China is that it is the only man-made structure that can be seen from space. Unfortunately, that’s not an actual fact. Astronauts have been quoted saying that zero man-made structures are viewable from space, unless you count the millions of lights that illuminate landmasses on the night side of the Earth.

It turns out that the whole “it can be seen from space” thing came about before we ever actually had the capability to find out for ourselves whether or not it was true. At best, astronauts say that it’s impossible to see any structures at all beyond 180 miles above the Earth’s surface, and those structures do not include the Great Wall.

In fact, astronauts are more likely to see airport runways from the Earth’s atmosphere than the Great Wall. It looks like this misconception first gained popularity when a few different writers just decided to claim it as truth, as far back as a 1904 claim by Henry Norman.

Show Me The Proof

NASA: Space Station Astrophotography
Snopes: Great Walls of Liar

  • Peach

    I’d imagine many people have thought about this for hundreds of years..

  • rhijulbec

    Another long held belief gone…lol. I heard the pyramids were also visible. Oh well.

  • mck

    Why not include a pic from space and let readers identify the Great Wall of China?

    Seen lot of similar articles on internet but rarely do they show a pic from space.

  • mck

    Looking at some of the misconception articles, I feel that some of them are not relevant to current generation at all. I feel that clarifications are more popular than the misconceptions. After some generations, the thought of some thing being a popular misconception might be a misconception.

    Any case, I don’t have any problem with propagating these articles even if the misconception is not prevalent. The articles provide more insight than just about the misconceptions.

  • AwJiss

    I though this was common knowledge ffs,I’ve heard a long time ago that no man made structure is visible,although im not sure about Burj Khalifa since its around 880 meters long,but through this whole article I was just saying:Thank you cpt Obvious

  • Marozia

    We already knew this fact. But thanks anyway.

  • Jan

    “zero man-made structures are viewable from space”
    Palm Island of Dubai is visible from space. <- Fact

    • R5h2x

      Would that be a structure?

      • Mike Van Orden

        good point, it is man made though

  • Akshat Sonar

    The only man made object seen from Space are Lights.

  • Y2

    Pollution clouds can be seen from space.

  • Y2

    Arguable whether or not pollution clouds are a structure, but they’re consistent, and man made.

  • Bored

    It never made sense to me anyways. Tired of seeing/hearing this “fact” all the time.