Can the Great Wall be seen from space?

I am sure you have heard or read this claim before: “The Great Wall in China is the only man-made construction that can be seen from space!”. My parents came to China 10 years ago with a tour group and their trip leaflet mentioned it. A few weeks ago I also read it in a travel blog.

But is it true? Everybody knows the Great Wall is an impressive and very long construction, but… visible from space? Maybe if you have never been to the Great Wall you would be inclined to believe it. So I will show you a picture:

The Great Wall at Mutianyu.

The Great Wall at Mutianyu.

Seen from the distance (look at the part in the mountains on the background), the Great Wall looks like a dusty road. If it could be seen from space, then every 3-or-more lane highway would be visible, right? A big space like Tiananmen Square in Beijing should be visible too.

The fake facts debunking website Snopes reported about this belief in 2014 and concluded from the evidence that it was false. At first I thought the origin of this claim was that some astronaut had seen the Yellow River from space and mistook it for the Great Wall, but according to Snopes the belief predates human launching of satellites and appeared on a couple of books published in 1904 and 1938 which claimed that the Great Wall was visible from the moon. From the moon, nothing less!!

I did not need Snopes to tell me it was false as I could reach that conclusion by myself. But it is interesting that this myth is still alive, more so now that there is so much talk about fake news and alternative truths.

I was thinking about the Great Wall because my family will come to China in May and we will visit Beijing. I have been in Mutianyu, Simatai and Badaling so I would like to try a new section, maybe Huanghuacheng or Jinshanling. Which section of the Great Wall would you recommend?

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