Why is there no blast crater under the Lunar Lander?

After the lunar module landed on the Moon, photos show that there is no blast crater or obvious signs of disturbance in the lunar regolith (soil). The photo below illustrates this observation—the ground below the rocket nozzle appears undisturbed. Conspiracy theorists point to this as evidence that this whole scene was fake.

Lunar lander on the Moon

However, even on Earth there would be no crater. Tests from lander prototypes did not produce any such crater, and neither do routine landings by military VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) aircraft. A small amount of disturbance maybe, but certainly nothing like a crater. Bear in mind that Harrier jets are far more powerful than the lunar lander and they don't go around making craters.

Furthermore, dispersal of dust on the ground is caused not by rocket exhaust, but by the displacement of air. There is no air on the Moon, therefore no significant dust movement.

There is, however, a small effect on the surface. The photo below shows a close-up of the ground directly under the rocket nozzle. You can actually see where the exhaust has caused discoloration and an outward sweeping effect. These effects can be duplicated on Earth using simple rocket equipment.

Blast pattern under the lander
Click here for hi-res version

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Author: Dave Owen.