Sooner than many people expected, the first images taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter have been released – and they’re pretty stunning… click on these pics to bring up full size versions, as usual…
The images are of an area of the Moon close to Mare Nubium, and amazingly, they have a resolution 0f 3m. Three metres!! Ok, so that’s not as good as MRO’s HiRISE camera is capable of but it’s still pretty stunning, and the thing is, these are nowhere near the highest resolution images we’re going to get from LRO. The real goodies and treats will come when everything’s checked out and working properly, then we can expect to see, and drool over, images with a resolution of just half a metre…
Half a metre. Oh, wow…
Why is that such a big deal? After all, it’s The Moon, so even at that resolution all you’re going to see are smaller and smaller craters, and big boulders, in grainy close-up, right?
Wrong. If LRO can see things half a metre across on the surface of the Moon, then it will almost certainly be able to see “things” left behind by the Apollo astronauts. By “things” I don’t mean flags and footprints, but definitely the lunar rovers, the tracks made in the lunar dust by the rovers – and, most importantly perhaps, the boxy, 4-legged descent stages of the lunar modules that landed those astronauts on the Moon all those years ago.
Is there really anyone out there who would bet against July 20th – the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing - being a massive day for NASA, which will see them releasing, with great fanfare, an LRO image showing Tranquility Base, with the Eagle’s descent stage clearly visible? Not me! Not when the picture might show something like this…
That fascinating picture is the work of one of my image mage friends on unmannedspaceflight.com, AndyG. Andy (who gave me permission to use the image here, thanks Andy! ) very cleverly simulated LRO’s view of the Apollo 15 landing site by taking a frame from the 16mm camera’s footage of the Apollo 15 ascent module and giving it the same resolution as LRO’s camera, approx 15cm per pixel. Even at that resolution you can clearly see the boxy descent stage, its four legs, and dark trails on the surface where the light lunar dust was disturbed by the astronauts. How stunning is that?!? If LRO returns an image like that of Tranquility Base I might actually shed a tear… :-)
Inevitably, LRO’s capabilities mean many people are excited about this mission because they believe it will be a knockout blow to the “Apollo Hoax Believer” brigade, you know, the people who insist that NASA faked the Moon landings. Forums and bulletin and message boards are full of posts from Apollo supporters telling Hoax Believers (or “HB”s for short) that their time has come to an end, that NASA is about to prove, once and for all, that they did in fact send people to the Moon, and didn’t just mock the whole thing up on a sound stage deep in the American desert, like the one shown in the classic conspiracy movie CAPRICORN ONE, where NASA faked a post-Apollo manned Mars landing…
The HBs are never, repeat, NEVER going to be convinced that NASA went to the Moon. It doesn’t matter how many times they read, or you explain, that there were no stars in the Moon’s sky because the photos were exposed for the bright surface and foreground, so obviously teeny tiny faint starse wouldn’t be picked up by the camera. You can tell them a million times that the flags left by the astronauts aren’t “blowing in the breeze”, they’re actually flapping about because they’ve got supporting wire frames to stop them hanging there all limp and embarrassing for the photographs. They slap their hands over their ears and sing out “lalalalalala!” when you try to explain that the shadows cast by objects on the Moon look different to shadows cast by objects here on Earth because LIGHTING CONDITIONS ON THE MOON ARE NOTHING LIKE THEY ARE HERE ON EARTH!!
No. Sitting there, in their bedroom or basement, surrounded by old pizza boxes, posters of Gillian Anderson and Xena and piles of musty smelling X-Files t-shirts, HBs’ minds are totally and completely closed, so closed, in fact, that if you picked them up, flew them to the Moon and actually dropped them onto Eagle’s dusty descent stage they’d STILL insist it was just a prop, left there by an unmanned probe, and wasn’t proof that Armstrong and the others walked on the Moon..!
So trust me, when – not if, but when – NASA releases its first image of an Apollo landing site, the HBs aren’t going to be swayed an inch. They’ll dismiss them as Photoshop jobs, or insist that they aren’t detailed enough to show anything, that the feature labelled “LEM descent stage” is actually some rocks in a vaguly LM-like pattern. They’ll ask “Why, if we can see a small rover on Mars, can’t we see a huge lunar module on the Moon?” and when you patiently explain to them that MRO’s HiRISE camera is simply better than LRO’s camera, and that comparing the two probes is grossly unfair, they’ll just smile their knowing Muldur smiles and say, in that smug, self-satisfied tone they have, “Ah ha…”, leaving you wanting to follow Buzz Aldrin’s example and sock them one.
But I’ve always though that’s the one fundamental flaw in their argument. If NASA faked it, they didn’t just fake “it”, thay had to fake it SIX TIMES! There were six succesful Moon landings, so that means they had to fake six landings, six sets of EVAs, six of everything.
Think about that.
How expensive would that have been? How complicated would that have been? How difficult would that have been?
We’ll come back to that later. In the meantime, let’s go back to basics for a moment and, taking a bright blue Stoopid pill, imagine NASA actually did fake the first Moon landing. What would that have required?
Well, it would have required that hundreds if not thousands – if not TENS of thousands – of people would have had to have been in on the secret, and have kept that secret, faithfully, to this very day. For even a single faked landing to have worked, everyone in the Astronaut Office, everyone at NASA HQ, everyone in Mission Control, every one of the astronauts themselves, would have had to be in on it and kept silence ever since.
( But they didn’t do it just the once, remember, they did it six times! More on that later… :-) )
Still not convinced? Sigh. Ok, then think of this. If the landings were faked, then they would have had to have been faked somewhere – our mysterious “sound stage” inside a mysterious “hangar” – so, everyone working there had to have been in on the secret. That’s every technician and engineer, every computer operator, camera man and cleaner too. Every pilot who flew people there was In On It, every driver who drove people there, too.
Look at this picture…
Now, if something like that happened, if somewhere like that was built, then how many people would have been involved? Well, that’s not a one man operation. At least a few different people would have had to build the set – the spacecraft, the landscape, etc – and build it convincingly. Someone else would have had to light it to make it look realistic for the cameras. Someone else again would have had to use those cameras to film the “Moonwalk”, and still other people would have had to broadcast those pictures to Mission Control, taking great care to adjust for the time difference, of course. And while all this was going on, other people would have had to provide security, inside the hangar and outside, to ensure no-one got in who wasn’t meant to be there. How many people are we talking to operate a joint like that, bare minimum? A dozen? Two dozen?
… and you’re telling me that not a single one of those people, 40 years on, now doesn’t desperately need money for something? Not one of them needs expensive medical treatment for one of their family? Not one of them is facing having their home reposessed or having their business taken over by the bank? If they were involved in an Apollo conspiracy, all their problems and worries could be ended in a moment, just by coming clean about what happened. It would just take one of them, just one of them, to walk into a newspaper, magazine or TV station office and hand over a grainy, creased old photo they sneakily took way back in 1969, and that would be it: cat, bag, whoosh!
To be honest, I can almost imagine such a big secret being kept for a few months back in the late 60s, maybe even for a year. The world was, after all, a hugely different, increasingly paranoid place then. People might have been convinced to play their part in such a huge conspiracy by appealing to their patriotism, by telling them that even if it meant cheating, and lying, the US had to be seen to have beaten the evil Russians to the Moon for the sake of freedom, etc…
But the world has moved on. It’s now four decades since the Apollo landings, and in that time the US and USSR have gone from being enemies to being partners. They no longer compete in space, but work together in it. That means that there’s been ample opportunity for someone to have opened the Apollo can of worms and spilled its wriggling contents all over the floor.
And then there’s basic human nature to consider, and by human nature I mean, of course, greed and stupidity
Let’s look at greed first. Today, money really does – as Liza Minelli said – make the world go round. Newspapers and magazines are happy to pay out absolute fortunes for photographs and stories that would cause shock, scandal and rewrite historty, so can you imagine how much one of them would be willing to pay for proof that the Apollo landings were faked?
The other day I saw, on the front page of a magazine, a picture of Michael Jackson, oxygen mask over his mouth, being carried into the ambulance that took him from his home after his heart attack. It was grainy, blurry, clearly taken on the sly by someone, but that didn’t matter, the magazine bought it and used it, probably paying an absolute fortune for the “privilege”. And you’re telling me that in this climate, when there’s so much money on offer for sensational pics, that not one of the people who worked on Apollo fakery is going to keep hidden away in a drawer somewhere a picture they took that would blow the whole thing wide open? Get real. They could name their price. Proof that the Apollo landings were faked would be the Biggest Story EVER, making Michael Jackson’s death look like a p26 sidebar by comparison.
And if that’s hard for you to imagine, well, consider this: even if everyone involved in the fakery is still happy to keep silent and hold on to their secrets, forty years after Apollo, NOTHING CAN BE KEPT SECRET ANY MORE. No computer records are safe from hackers, viruses and troublemakers. NASA’s own files were famously hacked into not so long ago by a British hacker looking for evidence of UFOs and captured extraterrestrials. And even leaving Neo-wannabe hackers out of it, today’s journalists have an arsenal of modern technology at their disposal, too. Modern computers and the internet mean 21st century hacks can access computer files, scan databases and search records with ease. They have “sources” and “insiders” everywhere, in every agency, company and organisation. If there are secrets to be found, they will be found. So I cannot believe for a moment that if any aspect of Apollo had been faked, a journalist somewhere wouldn’t have uncovered it by now.
I mean, come on, in the US journalists have uncovered countless political scandals, financial and extramarital, which have led to the resignations of high profile politicians. Over here in the UK a daily newspaper recently shookthe political establishment to its very foundations by revealing details of the extravagant and some would say downright criminal expenses claims made by members of the British Parliament. Is it really possible that a faked Moon landing could have stayed secret for so long? Get real!
Then there’s just the sheer klutzy nature of human beings in positions of power to be considered.
People are, generally speaking, idiots. I don’t mean that nastily, I just mean that if they can mess something up, people usually will. That’s why in the past few years there have been countless scandals here in the UK involving lost Government and military laptops, data sticks and files. People have left them on buses, on trains, even in the street. Details – names, addresses, bank records – of tens of thousands of people have gone astray. It’s a long shot, I know, but I can’t help thinking that just because of the cruel, impishly mischevious nature of the universe, if the secrets of a staged Apollo program are hidden somewhere they would have been lost by some poor sap, and found again by – or passed on to - some gleeful journalist, by now.
And if none of those arguments have convinced you, then what about the role of the Russians in all this? Does anyone really think that with their enormous network of spies and surveilance equipment back in the 1960s and 70s, having been beaten in the Space Race, the Russians wouldn’t have uncovered The Truth and told EVERYONE? They’d have been desperate beyond words to embarrass and humiliate the US! Make no mistake, if Apollo had been faked, the Russians WOULD have found out and they would definitely, I’m 10000000% sure, have shouted out “Liars! Liars! Pants on fire!” from the top of the Kremlin’s highest, pointiest tower, as soon as possible.
None of those things has happened, of course, which means one of two things is possible: either a) the Moon landings happened, and the HBs are mistaken/deluded/idiots, or b) the Moon landings were faked, and the HBs have been right all along, and we’re the ones who are mistaken and/or deluded.
What have they got to say about it? Here are a couple of HB classics for you, mined from various websites…
Why does this rock have a letter ‘C’ on it? There is also a ‘C’ on the ground in front of the rock. The use of the letter C on film props is well known by the people in Hollywood and is used to show where the centre of the scene should be.
Neil Armstrong never talks about the Apollo landings. That’s because he’s stricken with conscience. Proof positive that we didn’t go to the moon.
But back to what I think is the real deal-clincher for people who insist the Apollo landings actually happened – that NASA did the whole thing more than once. Actually, not “just” six times, as I said before, but SEVEN TIMES, because there were seven Saturn V launches, in full view of the world. Think about that. Even if everything after them was a fake, they still launched seven bloody great rockets, each costing a frakking fortune. Why? Why bother? With Russia’s rocket already blown to bits, if I was Head of NASA at the time, and I was determined to fake it, for whatever reason, I’d have launched Apollo 11 and had them “abort” at the last minute because of some “technical problem” and then pause the whole program while that “fault” was fixed, deadline be damned. Or I’d have shut down the Apollo program AFTER Apollo 11 because with the successful landing of Eagle in the Sea of Tranquility that was it, NASA’s job was done, they’d beaten Kennedy’s deadline. Why go another six times? Why spend all that money? Why risk those astronauts? Why not just land one crew then say “Ok, we did it. Our work here is done.”?
It doesn’t make sense.
That’s all in the past though. Today, as the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11′s triumphant landing on the Moon approaches, NASA is preparing to go Back To The Moon, and LRO is the first stage of that return. And, depressingly and inevitably, already the HBs and conspiracy fans are denouncing the mission, saying that its pictures won’t prove the Apollo missions took place because they will either be doctored or faked altogether to show things that aren’t there. A quick Google search will bring up outrageous claims that would be comic if they weren’t so pathetic. One posted comment – referring to the lack of cameras onboard recent unmanned Moon orbiters powerful enough to resolve Apollo hardware – on Phil Plait’s popular (but, unfortunately, frequently troll-infested) BAD ASTRONOMY blog for Discover magazine is typical of the **** out there. Referring to the lack of cameras onboard recent unmanned lunar probes with sufficient resolution to resolve Apollo hardware, he says:
Nevertheless, they did suspiciously fail to send cameras of sufficient power to resolve and independently verify Apollo landing site remnants. It’s absurd that none sent such a camera when any and all should have.Very strange until you recognize it all as a hoax.
Funnily enough, that was written by the very same Hoaxer who made this confident prediction as the day of LRO’s launch approached…
I predict a major malfunction of LRO. Silence is an easy cover for lies.
Oops. Didn’t quite turn out that way, eh?! :-)
So no, in a couple of weeks, when NASA releases to the world an LRO portrait of the Apollo 11 landing site it won’t bury the Apollo Hoax conspiracy theories, as much as we’d all like it to. Despite the heart-stoppingly huge expense, the possibility of being exposed to the world as liars and cheats, and the condemnation of future generations if discovered, NASA faked the whole Apollo adventure, the Hoaxers just won’t be told otherwise. And nothing, absolutely nothing, is going to convince them that six pairs of great clod-hopping astronaut boots really did crump down into the lunar dust for all Mankind between 1969 and 1972.
That used to frustrate and bug the hell out of me. For a long, long time if an HB spouted off to me – or even if someone innocently brought up the subject at a party or something – I would do a very convincing impression of Bilbo Baggins turning into Evil Bilbo in LORD OF THE RINGS – gritted teeth, clenched fists, the works. And believe me, if I had been granted a superpower it would have been to have the ability to round up each and every HB, transport them to Tranquility Base, slam them bodily against the Eagle’s descent stage and scream into their pasty, computer-monitor bleached faces “SEE??? SEE THALL THIS STUFF?!?!? WHO DO YOU THINK PUT IT HERE?!?!? LOOK! WE WENT TO THE MOON, OK!?!?!? STOP IT!!!!”
Now I can’t be bothered.
After all, they’re a minority, and what they think really doesn’t matter. Truth, and common bloody sense, is on our side, not theirs, and I’ve come to realise that absofrakkinglutely nothing will ever change their minds. So I just let them get on with it, and if someone brings up the subject during one of my Outreach talks I make a quick slap-down defence and leave it at that. I really can’t be bothered. In my mind we’ve already won the argument.
Which is why I’m not sitting here getting excited about the (surely) imminent LRO images if Tranquility Base thinking “They’ll prove the HBs wrong once and for all!” because, simply, they won’t. No. I’m excited about seeing them because they will be postcards of a familiar place. A place we should never have left in the first place.
A place we will go back to.
Note: if you’re a hoax believer who, after reading this, feels moved to leave a comment defending your woo-woo, tin foil hat-wearing beliefs, then of course you’re free to do so; freedom of speech and all that. But please be aware that the vast majority of people reading your comment, including myself, will laugh themselves silly reading it, and might actually wet themselves, because, come on, you know it really, everyone thinks you’re really, really silly. With that in mind, maybe you should just not bother leaving a comment and spend the time on one of the sites written by someone who actually shares your views, which you’re entitled to, but are absolutely cuckoo. :-) :-)
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