Exposing PseudoAstronomy

February 17, 2014

Interview for a Japanese Program on the Apollo Moon Hoax


Introduction

Two weeks ago, I was contacted by a Japanese production company, asking me if I’d be willing to do a short interview for a program that they are producing – and probably broadcasting – around March or April. In Japan.

I agreed, and I was sent a few different questions to get an idea of what I should prepare. I had only heard of some of them, so I did some research and, as a way to prep, I wrote up “brief” responses. Obviously I wasn’t reading while being recorded, but it was a way to organize my thoughts.

And get a free blog post. So, here are ten interview questions and my responses, as prepared. On the show, they weren’t all asked, and a few additional ones were, so I don’t think I’m pre-empting anything by putting these online. Please note that the questions were originally in Japanese, translated into English, and I have edited them a bit for grammar.

Interview Questions and Answers

1. Why did the moon landing conspiracy surface? Did it start with the 1976 book written by Kaysing Conspiracy?

For anything before the internet era, it’s really hard to pin down the start of anything — all you can do is find the earliest example, but there could always be something before that that you simply could not find.

Bill Kaysing’s book in 1976 was the first book to claim that it was a conspiracy, yes, and the very fringe Flat Earth Society was one of the first organizations to do so in 1980.

However, there are various people who were NASA watchers back during the Apollo era who have variously claimed that even in the late 1960s, there were some people who were claiming that it was all a hoax. But, in terms of contemporary, printed material with a definite copyright date, Kaysing’s book was the first.

2. Do you know what the initial reaction to Kaysing’s book when it was just released was?

[No …]

3. Following the book’s publish, the movie, Capricorn One, was released. Do you think the movie was released because of the public’s initial reaction to the Kaysing’s book?

It’s likely it was written due to general hoax sentiment, not due to Kaysing’s book in particular, but it would be interesting to have gotten a contemporary interview with writer-director Peter Hyams to learn his motivation. He said, “There was one event of really enormous importance that had almost no witnesses. And the only verification we have . . . came from a TV camera.”

It’s important to mention that NASA actually helped with the production of the movie, loaning them equipment as props, including a prototype lunar module. If NASA were trying to cover up an Apollo conspiracy, one might think they would not have helped make a movie about them covering up a Mars landing conspiracy.

Do you know how much attention the book and movie received at that time? Was there any media coverage about it?

I don’t know about the book, but the movie became one of the most successful independent films of 1978.

4. The conspiracy theory surfaced in the 70s, and media brought it back again in the late 1990s and early 2000s, such as FOX’s TV special program, “Conspiracy Theory” and the book, “Dark Moon,” which are about the moon landing conspiracy. Why do you think the media covered this topic again after decades?

I’m not sure, but the 1990s saw a resurgence of missions of the Moon and Mars by the United States. People who believed in the hoax could then use that to gain traction. And, if you find a sympathetic producer, or even one who thinks that they can get ratings by making something so sensational like the FOX docudrama, then you can get your show made.

5. The points that conspiracy theorists bring up: Despite the fact that there was a large amount of thrust, there was no blast crater left on the moon.

There’s no real reason to have expected a “blast crater” in the sense of an explosion. There was some disturbance of the ground under the nozzle, but it was a blast as in a blast of air.

You can also use very basic math to show why you wouldn’t expect one: If you use the specifications, you can show that the pressure under the engine was only about half a pound per square inch. The average adult when walking exerts about three times that pressure. When you clap your hands together, you exert more pressure than the lunar module’s engines did on the surface of the Moon.

If astronauts did land, there should have been a large amount of dust floating around, yet we can see no sign of dust on the space suits or their surroundings.

There actually shouldn’t have been. This is a case where your every-day experience on Earth does not prepare you for what to expect on the Moon. If I take dust and blow on it in this room, it billows out and slowly falls down after swirling around for a long time.

But, there’s no air on the Moon. Any particle that’s kicked up will go up and then drop right back down. There’s no air to suspend the dust. In fact, you can go to movies of the lunar rover and see it kick up dust and fall right back down to the surface which requires the vacuum of the Moon rather than an air-filled sound stage on Earth.

6. About the “identical background” claims on Apollo 16 mission footage, how do you dispel this claim? Some people (such as Phil Plait) have said that it’s just a simple error with the video. They say that Erick Jones, who is the editor of the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal, says that those two clips were taken about only a few mins apart. According to our research, the “identical background” video clips were taken from the NASA-sponsored documentary video, “Nothing so Hidden.” And the documentary is produced by other production company outside of NASA. Therefore, our understanding is that it’s an error on editing stage of production: the production company took wrong clips and audio and used in the documentary. What do you think of our theory?

Makes sense. This is an innate problem with conspiracies: You have to suppose this vast maniacal group of people trying to hide the truth, so you can’t trust them on anything. And yet, this claim requires you to trust an original claim that was shown to be in err and not trust the correction.

There was a lot of footage taken on the Moon, a lot of audio and video. Stuff gets mislabeled, put in the wrong box, or edited wrong in production of documentaries afterward. Despite all attempts, the people involved were only human, and mistakes are bound to happen. You shouldn’t contribute to a conspiracy what simple human error can very easily explain.

-How did NASA usually archive footage back then during the Apollo project

[Explanation courtesy of "Expat" of the Dork Mission blog, who worked with the BBC during the Apollo era on the Apollo missions.]

Everything was transferred to 16mm film, by the kinescope process. A contractor, The AV Corporation of Seabrook (just a few miles from JSC, or MSFC as it was then known) handled all media requests. They had a pretty good catalog. No doubt there were also copies for internal use. By the time I made a documentary about Skylab, AVCorp was out of the picture and NASA’s own film editors worked with me to search the archive.

If mastering on film seems illogical by today’s standards, it wasn’t back then. The point is that film is independent of TV line standards. In those days transcoding between the US and European standards was a highly imperfect process. All our documentaries were produced on film anyway, so a video release would just have been a nuisance for us and the end result would have been degraded.

As late as 1981, when I was location producer for the BBC coverage of STS-1, I had BBC engineers getting on my case and refusing to transmit images shot by a US-based ENG (video) crew. We had to go through a ridiculous pantomime pretending that it was a film crew instead. By the time we sent the material back to London via satellite, how could they tell?

-For what purpose did NASA produce these documentary videos of the Apollo project?

A better question would be, why wouldn’t they? Practically every government agency has a public relations department, tasked with disseminating their work to the public and gathering support and more funding. In addition, Apollo returned a lot of useful science that we’re still using today – including myself in my own research – but it was also a world-wide public relations endeavor to prove that the United States was better than the Soviets. Of course you’re going to make documentaries and put out material to make people aware of it and such a triumph of human engineering.

7. Why do these theories continue to surface even until today? Do you think it’s because we now have easier access to footage from space? Is it a sense of distrust of NASA?

I think there are a lot of reasons. One is of course a distrust of government. Another reason is that people like to think they know secrets, and a conspiracy is a big secret.

Another reason is that a lot of the lines of evidence that people point to for the hoax are not easily explained because they are contrary to our experience on Earth. For example, one claim is that there should have been stars in the sky because the sky is black, so it must have been night like on Earth and at night you can see stars. But, the sky is black because there’s no atmosphere, it was actually daytime, and the cameras were set to properly expose the lunar surface and astronauts for day. You can’t capture photos of stars with those settings. But, the time I just took to explain that was much, much longer than just throwing out the, “there should be stars!” claim and it’s much easier given our every-day experience to think that there should be stars, rather than take the time to understand why there aren’t.

8. Why hasn’t NASA given their opinion on the Apollo moon-landing hoax ever since 2001? (What is the reason NASA doesn’t answer the conspiracy theorists?)

I would guess because they don’t want to give it any more publicity. It’s a lose-lose-lose situation for NASA:

a. If there is no official statement, conspiracy people will point to that and say that NASA won’t even defend themselves.

b. But if there is an official statement, then conspiracy theorists will say that NASA took the time to respond to them so there must be a controversy and they must be hiding something and you can’t trust anything the government says anyway.

c. In addition to that, Congress will wonder why they should be paying NASA to respond to ridiculous claims, and so NASA risks having their budget cut.

This happened maybe a decade ago when NASA was going to pay James Oberg, an American space journalist and historian, to write a book dispelling the hoax claims. And NASA lost-lost-lost: First, conspiracy people said it was a disinformation campaign; second, Congress wondered why NASA was spending money to do this; and third, when NASA cancelled it because of the outcry on all fronts, the conspiracists claimed NASA cancelled it because it really was a hoax.

Not Related to the Moon Hoax

9. There are still images taken by the Voyager of Saturn that Dr. Norman Bergrun, as author of “Ringmakers of Saturn”, claimed to show a UFO. What do you he possibly mistook it for? This is an example article about Dr. Burgrun’s claim.

Bergrun’s process was to take photos that were published in things like newspapers and magazines, put them under a microscope, and take a photo of them through the microscope’s eyepiece, and then look for weird tings. When going through that process, you are going to find weird things. Every example of a spaceship or alien or whatever that he has can be VERY easily explained by dust or gunk getting in the photo, or uneven illumination, or film grain, and the anomalies he found do not appear in ANY other version of the images.

In fact, one such example that Bergrun points to as a UFO is a bright speck in the bottom of an image, except the bottom part of that image is clearly NOT part of the image that Voyager took because the rings cut-off about 20% of the way from the bottom. This shows that the photo he’s using is a reproduction, including blank area, and he’s pointing to image anomalies caught in that duplication.

- And there are the 1996 infrared photos by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1996 [SJR-- actually, 1995], and some people insist that that is a UFO. What do you think of it? What do you think it possibly is? The refereed photos are shown here.

They look like moons to me. Each exposure was 5 minutes long, and stuff moves in 5 minutes. In fact, one of the outer-most moons that’s within the rings, Atlas, goes around Saturn every 14 hours. In the time that photo with Hubble was taken, it went about 0.6% of its orbit, which would mean it should be a bit elongated. Every moon interior to it would be even longer because they would have moved farther in its orbit in the same amount of time.

10. In addition, there is now footage that NASA releases to the public on their homepage, and this footage or stills sometime show space debris or mini-jets that NASA has captured. Then, some people look at those debris or mini-jets, and introduce them as UFOs on the Internet. Why do you think people often do that?

I think people “want to believe.” They are going to look for any sort of anomaly or object they can’t explain and then say that, because they don’t know what it is, it is aliens. In skepticism, we call this an “Argument from Ignorance” – they are ignorant of what it really is, so they make up what it is in a way that fits their preconceived ideas.

Final Thoughts

The interview was more focused on the origin of the conspiracy and a bit more on general conspiracies than on debunking particular claims made by hoax proponents. I have no idea how I came off on camera – this was my first “real” moving-picture-type interview other than for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science that I did at TAM last year that has yet to be put online (but apparently they ARE working on it!). We’ll see.

They might send me a DVD copy when it comes out. I know my mom wants a copy.

December 1, 2012

Podcast #56: Photography Claims of the Apollo Moon Hoax, Part 3


Sorry this is coming out a few hours late (though earlier than some), but the fact that I can speak clearly today was a surprise. Anyway …

This episode is the third of likely just three on photography claims people make that supposedly show the Apollo lunar landings were faked. Claims addressed are:

  • Why Can’t We Image Apollo from Earth?
  • Lens Flares are present when they shouldn’t be because they were using the best possible lenses
  • The backgrounds in some photos aren’t right …
  • Who took Video of Neil Armstrong Descending onto the Moon and the LM lifting off the Moon?
  • The American Flag is Always Lit Regardless of Side
  • There Are No Stars!
  • The “C” Rock.

This is also a “full-fledged action-packed” episode featuring all other segments: New News, Q&A, Feedback, Puzzler, and an announcement.

The announcement is: Though it’s a bit early to say for certain we’re not all going to die this December 21, I’m starting to look for back-peddling by doomsday proponents for a follow-up episode very early next year. If anyone listening to this podcast happens to come across something by anyone who claimed stuff like Planet X would cause a pole flip, a big solar storm would wipe us out, or even on the positive side that we’ll all be able to levitate and do instant healing, and you see these people start to make up excuses for why it’s not happening, please send it in!

P.S. I tried a new noise removal setting in this episode as well as a different equalizer. I also saved it at slightly higher bitrate. Let me know if there are still issues, or if the audio at least sounds any better.

May 16, 2012

Podcast Episode 35 – Apollo Hoax Photos, Part 2


Slightly late, episode 35 has been posted. I go over four photography claims dealing with crosshairs and shadows.

I’m also considering experimenting with making this episode (and potentially some other visual ones) into YouTube-type videos. Let me know what you think.

Oh, and this episode introduces a new segment — new news related to previous episodes.

October 20, 2008

The Apollo Moon Hoax: “No Stars” Claim and an Explanation of Dynamic Range


All posts in this series:

Continuing my sporadic series on claims made by people who believe that the US never landed humans on the moon, I am going to address one of the simplest and yet most prolific claims:  There are no stars in the pictures of the moon.  After all, the sky is black and without an atmosphere we should be able to see stars … right?  WRONG

I am going to address this in three ways, first by proposing questions which demonstrate the lunacy (pun intended) of this claim when you actually think about it.  Second, I will address the reason why we don’t see stars in a qualitative way, and third I will explain dynamic range and why stars aren’t visible in a quantitative way.

Method 1 – Why This Doesn’t Make Sense

The claim effectively goes:  On the moon without an atmosphere in the way, the sky should be filled with stars.  Since there aren’t stars, it must be fake.  In fact, it must be a really bad fake because NASA knew that they wouldn’t be able to figure out where every star goes on their black backdrops for their sets because other people would realize they are in the wrong place, so they just eliminated the stars all together and made the backdrops completely black.

This shows one of the major problems with conspiracy theories of this scale – you have to grant the conspirators a huge amount of power, intelligence, and influence, yet they have to be so unbelievably dumb as to make simple mistakes that the conspiracy theorists can then point out.

When I do my planetarium show on the Apollo Moon Hoax (“Why We Did NOT Not Land on the Moon”), I have the operator bring up the star projector along with a 360° lunar panorama to “simulate” what the conspiracy theorists say it should be like if we’re on the moon.  And it’s a good simulation.  Why?  Because the stars should be in the same place as they are on Earth!  Even though the moon is 384,400 km from Earth, that’s pretty much nothing in relation to where we would see stars from the Apollo cameras.  Only if the astronauts were to do very precise astrometry with very long-focal length lenses (as in telescopes) would they be able to discern any deviation from where the stars would appear from Earth, and even then, it would only be for the very closest stars to our solar system.

So, the fact that we have great planetarium star projectors that simulate the positions of thousands of stars means that NASA should have easily been able to figure out where to put the stars.  And not just that, but if NASA couldn’t figure out where to put the stars – when they had 1 out of every 360 Americans working on the Apollo program in some manner – how would someone else be able to figure out that they were in the wrong place when the exact orientation and location of every single Apollo photograph is simply not available to them?

It simply doesn’t make sense for NASA to have purposely left the stars out.

Method 2 – A Qualitative Explanation of Dynamic Range

Dynamic range (discussed with numbers below in Method 3) is the ability to observe/record/detect a range of values.  For example, if you look at an oven thermometer, it probably has numbers for 100° to maybe 500°.  That’s the dynamic range of it, it can’t record anything below 100° nor about 500°.  Same thing with a car’s speedometer – its dynamic range is probably 0 mph to around 150 mph.  Any speed above 150 and it’s useless.

With cameras, it’s a little more complicated because you can control the “window” of dynamic range with things like shutter speed and aperture.  So let’s go back to the thermometer example – the one above has a range of 400°.  Let’s say I re-calibrated it such that it can now record between -100° and +300°.  Its dynamic range is still the same, but I’ve changed what temperatures it’s sensitive to in the same way changing the shutter speed of a camera will change what light levels can be captured before they’re too dim to be recorded or too bright to be completely washed out.

This is what happened with the stars:  The dynamic range of the camera film was too small to both properly expose the lunar surface and to record stars.  And since, for the most part, the astronauts went to the moon to explore the lunar surface and not do stellar astronomy, they didn’t take pictures of the stars …

… except they actually did (example photo on the right).  Conspiracy theorists never actually bring this up because it’s one of those incontrovertible pieces of evidence that we actually did go to the moon.  Ultraviolet light is blocked by our atmosphere and so it doesn’t reach the ground (for the most part), which is a good thing for life such as us.  To do UV astronomy, you have to go above Earth’s atmosphere, and so the Apollo 16 astronauts actually brought UV cameras to the moon.  They took photographs that were made available, and they were the first of their kind showing features in the far-UV spectrum.  Many years later, when space-based UV telescopes became operational, they confirmed that the Apollo 16 photographs were real because they showed the same things.

Method 3 – A Quantitative Explanation of Dynamic Range

This is a discussion of dynamic range with more numbers.  For ease of argument, let’s say that the dynamic range of the camera film used by Apollo is between 1 and 100.  If only 1 piece of light or less hits the film, the film records it as black.  If 100 pieces or more hit the film, it’s recorded as white.

Now let’s say that the moon reflects between 6000 and 20,000 pieces of light per second, while any one reasonably bright-looking star hits the moon with more like 1 piece of light per second.  (This is actually the approximate scaling between the two.)  This is not because of any atmospheric effects (Earth’s atmosphere transmits over 90% of visible light through it, and it wouldn’t selectively screen out star light from moon light, anyway), but simply because the stars are much fainter because they’re much farther away.

As you can see right away, we have a problem:  Our film can only record between 1 and 100 counts, but the moon reflects over 100 times that amount of light per second.  That’s why we have a variable shutter speed.  We can expose the film for less than 1 second.  In this case, if we expose the film for 1/250th of a second, then the film should only pick up between (6000/250 = ) 24 and (20,000/250 = ) 80 pieces of light in that picture.  Since 24 and 80 are both between 1 and 100, then we have properly exposed the moon, getting its brightness within the dynamic range of the camera.

Now let’s look at the stars.  In that 1/250th second photograph, there’s only a 1 in 250 chance that a piece of light will enter the camera and be recorded by the film.  It’s very unlikely.  And so, to the film, that star wouldn’t even be there – it wouldn’t be detected – because it’s below the dynamic range of the film.

Now let’s say you actually did want to photograph the stars.  With 1 piece of light per second, you would probably want to take a picture for around 50 seconds (to get it in the middle of your dynamic range).  But, if you take a picture for 50 seconds, the amount of reflected light off the moon would be over 300,000 counts, and this is way above our dynamic range limit of 100 counts.  So while that star may be properly exposed in 50 seconds, the moon itself would be over-exposed and appear all white.

That is why the dynamic range of the film is not good enough to see both stars and the moon’s surface in the same length of exposure


To summarize, the basic reason there are no stars in the Apollo photographs of the lunar surface and sky is because the cameras were set to expose the lunar surface properly, and those exposures are too short to record stars.

In fact, you can easily do this experiment yourself:  On a night when there’s a fairly full moon out, or even a half-full moon out, go outside and try to photograph it.  If you use an aperture somewhere around 4.5 to 6.3, you will likely need a shutter speed between 1/200 and 1/100 of a second to properly expose the moon.  Now look at your photos.  Do you see any stars?  The answer will be “no.”

Now try to photograph the stars.  You will likely need to expose for at least several seconds in order to see any stars in your picture.  Now go back to the moon and use the same exposure settings, aperture and shutter speed.  You may get stars in the field this time, but the moon will be a pure white ball, over-exposed.

This simple experiment, along with all the arguments above, should clearly show why the claim that there are no stars in the Apollo lunar photographs does not mean that the lunar landings were faked.

September 7, 2008

Apollo Moon Hoax: Huge, Deadly Temperature Variation Claims


All posts in this series:

This second installment on bashing the Apollo Moon Hoax deals with the various claims that the moon gets to about -200 °F in the shade and up to +200 °F in full sunlight. According to conspiracy theorists, this range is way too much and would have (a) rendered the film unusable (because it would have shattered in the cold or melted in the heat), and (b) been very dangerous to the astronauts, if not deadly.

In order to properly understand why this claim really doesn’t present insurmountable odds, you must first understand how heat is transferred. There are three ways that heat moves from one object to another:

  1. Radiation: Radiation is the least efficient process of transferring heat.  It involves exactly what it sounds like – radiation, or light-based energy (photons).  The photon is emitted from the heat source and is absorbed by the target.  The act of absorbing the photon – a packet of energy – adds to the energy of the target material, thus heating it up.

    The Sun heats all objects in the solar system mainly through radiative heat transfer.  This is also the same mechanism behind “heat lamps” – those hot red lights that are oh-so-common in cafeterias, keeping the french fries or the pizza warm.

    There’s another aspect to this that does not play a role in the other two heat transfer processes:  Some surfaces will absorb heat faster than others.  This is because objects that are whiter will absorb less radiation because they reflect more.  Objects that are blacker will absorb more radiation because they reflect less.  Astronomers call this “albedo.”  You may have noticed this effect if you’re outside in the summer and wear a white shirt vs. a black shirt – you’ll heat up much more quickly in black.
     

  2. Conduction:  Conduction is the process where heat is transferred by one object physically touching another object.  For example, when you place a pot of water on the stove to boil, the heating element of the stove physically touches the pot, heating it up, and the pot physically touches the water, heating that up.
  3. Convection:  Convection is the most efficient process of heat transfer.  It involves the physical mixing of material of two different temperatures, which distributes the heat.  An everyday example of this is adding ice to a glass of water and then stirring it around.  This stirring physically moves the ice and water to better distribute the heat than if the ice just sat there (conduction).

    Another good example is a pot of thick stew or chili on the stove.  I learned this lesson the hard way – while soup convects quite easily, chili only conducts.  In other words, in most soups, you generally get a good boil going and the liquid circulates throughout the pot, carrying and distributing the heat very well.  Thicker foods like chili, however, do not convect; the heat conducts up through the pot to the food on the bottom, and then it just stays there.  The bottom will continue to absorb heat, but because the food is so thick, these warmer parts of the food don’t move anywhere, they just sit there, slowly conducting heat away at a slower pace than the pot is conducting heat to it.  This results in burnt chili on the bottom and barely warm chili on top.

There’s one more piece of information that you need to remember when trying to understand this claim:  The moon lacks an atmosphere – there’s no air!  This may seem like a basic, obvious statement, but it really makes all the difference.

On Earth, the Sun heats the ground (because the air really absorbs very little radiation) through Radiation.  The ground, in contact with the air, then heats the air near the surface by Conduction.  Because air is like soup and not like chili, it easily Convects, warming the whole planet.  This is part of why there is comparatively very little difference between the day and night air temperatures on the planet, as opposed to, say, Mars.

The the moon, the first step is the same – the Sun heats the ground through Radiation.  And then it stops.  There is no atmosphere to speak of, and so there is absolutely no way for the heat to distribute throughout the moon other than through the slow process of conduction (which doesn’t heat more than a few meters deep, called the “skin depth”).  The region of space directly above the moon’s surface does not change temperature any real amount even though the surface below it goes through 400 °F temperature swings.

With this in mind, let’s place an Apollo astronaut on the surface, with a camera attached to his chest (I’m using male pronouns not out of any sexism, but because they were all men).  The solar radiation is heating the surface fairly well, since the lunar albedo is about 0.08 (it reflects only 8% of the radiation it receives, absorbing the other 92%).  The astronaut and the camera, however, has an albedo fairly close to 0.90 (new-fallen snow, reflecting 90% of the light it receives, absorbing 10%).

So right away, you can tell that the astronaut’s suit – in the absence of any cooling or insulation – will heat up more than 10x more slowly than the ground just through the solar radiation.  However, to be fair, there is a very small contribution from the lunar surface because it has a certain temperature and so radiates, as well.  But, this contribution is very small compared with the Sun.

Now, with an astronaut standing on the lunar surface, there’s an additional heat transfer process:  Conduction.  The ground physically touches the astronaut’s boots, allowing them to conduct heat, and so contributing to heating up the astronaut.  This is a smaller effect, though, than conspiracy theorists may have you believe.  After all, the saying goes, if you walk down a beach on the dry sand with the sun out, your feet quickly roast.  But, the lunar surface material – regolith (we don’t call it “soil” because soil implies an organic origin) – is very loosely consolidated.  In other words, it’s more like trying to conduct heat through flour as opposed to sand or asphalt.  And the heat that was transferred was generally shielded by the insulation in the astronauts’ boots, preventing this fairly slow process from transferring too much heat.

So at this point in the discussion, we have pretty well shielded from any excessive temperatures.

This brings up my third (I think third) point:  The astronauts AND the cameras had insulation around them.  This insulation – like a nice warm winter jacket – prevented a lot of heat from being transferred both into and out of the suits and camera housing.

But this brings up a fourth argument:  Even if the astronauts were not properly insulated from the cold temperatures, where would their heat go?  The process of getting too cold happens when heat is transferred from you to the environment.  But there was no environment on the moon to which the astronauts or their cameras could transfer the heat.  The only way they could do it was conduction back through the insulation in the astronauts’ boots to the lunar regolith, or through radiative heat transfer to empty space.  And with their insulation, neither of these played any significant role.

My fifth and final point deals with the timing of the missions.  NASA knew that the moon’s surface went through these temperature swings.  But, that doesn’t mean that as soon as a square meter of lunar surface rotates into the Sun’s light that it suddenly, immediately goes from -200 °F to +200 °F.  It takes time to absorb the radiation and heat up!  And that is why all of the lunar missions were planned for “dawn” on the moon, before the surface had heated up to the +200 °F temperatures, but after it had warmed a little from the -200 °F temperatures.  So even while the lunar surface does experience wide temperature swings throughout it’s nearly 700-hr day, the astronauts did not experience those extremes!

 


Finally, to summarize why this claim does not hold up under scrutiny:

  1. The astronauts and the cameras were covered in reflective material, limiting radiative heat transfer.
  2. The lunar regolith is loosely compacted, resulting in very slow conduction of heat from it to the astronauts’ boots.
  3. The astronauts and the cameras were covered in insulation, limiting heat transfer.
  4. There’s no atmosphere on the moon to conduct heat to or away from the astronauts and cameras.
  5. The EVAs (Extra-Vehicular Activities, or moonwalks) were all during lunar dawn, so the astronauts did not even experience the massive temperature swings that conspiracy theorists report.

September 6, 2008

The Apollo Moon Hoax: There Is a “Prop Rock” Labeled with a “C” (Updated)


Introduction

This was my first entry is what is becoming a large series on the Apollo Moon Hoax — the conspiracy theory that NASA faked the Apollo moon landings. This is/was one of my first blog posts, which was relatively unorganized compared with my present posts. It was originally made on September 6, 2008, but it has been re-organized as of June 26, 2009.

All posts in this series:

The Claim

In Apollo photograph AS16-107-17446 (Apollo 16, film roll 107, photo #17446), shown below, there is a large rock in the foreground. After the photograph had been duplicated many times by many people and sent out to the public, an apparent “C” was superimposed over the rock (shown below). Conspiracists claim that this is obvious evidence of a hoax because it’s a prop rock — they believe that the prop man forgot to turn the rock over because NASA took the time to label all the rocks to make sure they go where they’re supposed to.

Apollo Photo AS16-107-17446

Let’s Think Logically

Before I actually get into why this “C” is there, there are a few basic logical questions that one should ask when presented with this claim:

  1. Does anyone actually label props on sets? When Penn & Teller addressed this claim on their Showtime program (I won’t name it because I want to keep this blog at least G or PG), they asked their propman if he’s ever labeled sets. The answer was a resounding “No.” You may claim this is an argument from authority, but you should really ask movie producers if they label their props. Seriously.
  2. Even if Hollywood labels their props, why would NASA? Why would they risk accidentally putting a prop “label-side up?” After all, they must have had literally thousands of “prop rocks” to keep track of and make sure that they were put in their exact locations, which leads me to …
  3. … If NASA had hundreds or thousands of props to keep track of, why didn’t they set up their scenes ONCE, make certain that it looked alright (as in no props with the label facing up), and then do all of their filming? They should’ve checked everything and then filmed. Which leads to …
  4. … A major problem with this conspiracy theory, and many others, is that it lends the conspirators incredible power. After all, they must have been able to keep the lid on this for decades despite the half-million people involved in the project (1 out of ever 360 Americans, according to the 1970 US Census). And yet, with all this incredible power at their disposal, they miss something like a rock that’s flipped the wrong way?

Refuting This Claim the Standard Way

If you have managed to get this far and still believe this claim, then let’s actually get to what’s really going on. Have you ever scanned or photocopied something? If so, you know that any little piece of dirt, hair, dust, or whatever that gets between your original and your imaging device will show up in the copy. That is what happened in the case of the infamous “C” rock – a hair (such as an eyelash) or a small piece of lint got caught between the image and the imager when they were making copies of it. Plain and simple. In the original photograph (closeup shown below), there is no “C.”

Refuting This Claim My Way

That is the fairly standard way to explain/debunk this claim – it’s simply a hair in the copy and the original doesn’t show it. But there’s another way: The ONLY photograph that conspiracy theorists point to with the “C” rock is AS16-107-17446. The photograph taken just before it, AS16-107-17445, shows the bottom-half of #17446, including the rock in question. The rock is in the exact same position, orientation, etc. And yet … there is no “C” on it!

No hoax proponent has ever looked at photo #17445 and claimed that it has the “C” on the rock. In other words, their conspiracy “theory” is not internally consistent even in this one single claim. The photo is shown below, first in full, then in detail.

Apollo Photo AS16-107-17445
Apollo Photo AS16-107-17445 Detail (Pre-C Rock)

Why This Claim Is Not Consistent with Another Hoax Claim

Another hoax claim that I have not addressed as of the time of writing or updating this post is that photographs that NASA claims from Apollos 16 and 17 that were taken hours and miles apart show “identical” backgrounds. This would seem to imply that NASA had one set that they used for each mission. The next logical assumption is that they would set up the set once, check it over, and then do all their filming. But, that can’t possibly be true given the differences in Apollo photos AS16-107-17445 and AS16-107-17446.

Final Thoughts

In sum, there are three main reasons why this claim doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny: (1) It simply doesn’t make sense that a rock would be labeled and “accidentally” left label-side up, (2) It is very easily explained by a simple hair getting caught in the copying device, and (3) the claim is internally inconsistent because no hoax proponent has ever looked at other photographs of the same scene and claimed that there is a labeled rock or a cover-up.

This is, hence, another example of anomaly hunting to create a false dichotomy: There is something that appears anomalous in the Apollo footage (anomaly hunting), therefore the moon landings were faked (false dichotomy).

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,240 other followers