Science

Yes We Really Did Land On The Moon – Part 2, On The Moon Itself

By Duncan Lunan   

Why can’t you hear the rocket motor during descent on the Moon?

In supersonic aircraft like the Concorde, the cabin goes quiet when the aircraft passes the speed of sound.  That’s because the engine noise carried by the air outside is much more than the sound transmitted through the structure.  Not only was there no air outside the Lunar Module to carry sound, but inside it was pressurised with pure oxygen to a mere five pounds per square inch, which doesn’t carry sound very well  (it was a real problem in the larger internal volume of Skylab).  But in addition, the astronauts were in full spacesuits, sealed, and their microphones were on the inside.  

However, what you could hear from the Moon provides strong evidence that they really were up there.  When the Apollo 10 Lunar Module Ascent Stage separated from the Descent Stage, ten miles above the lunar surface, a mis-set switch caused it to make a sudden ninety-degree gyration in yaw.  Gene Cernan, taken by surprise, uttered the first swearword to be broadcast in the history of the space programme.  Thereafter Houston imposed a seven-second delay on the retransmission of capsule communications, to allow judicious editing if necessary.  But if you listened closely to the TV, you could still faintly hear the incoming sound in real time, ahead of the sound synchronised with the pictures.  Are we supposed to believe that the pictures were pre-recorded but the sound was in real time?  If so, presumably the astronauts weren’t even in orbit but somewhere in a studio, in which case they would have been hard put to fake the timelag – a discrepancy which only one person notices in Capricorn One.

Why are there no blast craters under the descent stage engines, and why weren’t the Lunar Modules covered with dust?

The shape of a rocket flame in vacuum is quite different from the one it takes in air, spreading out much more widely.  The entire category of ‘Jellyfish UFO’s’, seen over the Soviet Union and South America, was a piece of disinformation invented to cover night launches of spy satellites from Plesetsk.10  The programme showed some NASA artwork which mistakenly portrayed spearlike flames from the Lunar Modules and craters below them (Fig. 20), but it wasn’t accurate.  As mentioned above, the engine was throttled back in the final stages of descent in any case.

Fig. 20. LM with crater below descent engine (NASA. 1966)

Nevertheless, there was serious concern about the amount of dust which might be raised during the landing, because it would be in one-sixth gravity and vacuum and had never been done before.  The results from the Surveyor unmanned landings were encouraging, suggesting that blast damage would be minimal, but nevertheless the Descent Stage motor was to be cut before touchdown.  In shots of the Lunar Module in orbit you can see probes extending from the landing pads, and after landing they can be seen bent upwards.  When they touched the ground, the co-pilot called “Contact Light!” and the pilot was then to shut down the engine.   The Module dropped the last couple of feet, as was clearly shown in Tom Hanks’s television series dramatising the Apollo programme.  On Apollo 12 the object of the flightplan was to achieve a pinpoint landing at the site of Surveyor III in Oceanus Procellarum, and having seen it on approach, Alan Bean was so excited that he forgot to cut the power, with the result that the Surveyor suffered more sandblasting from the touchdown than it had in its entire stay on the Moon  (Fig. 21).  In Apollo 11 and 12 blast marks can be seen under the Descent Stages  (Fig.22), and the light patch of disturbed soil around the Apollo 17 Lunar Module was photographed from the Command Module in orbit, and later by Japan’s Kayuga orbiter  (Fig. 23).11  Because there was no air, all the dust flew radially outwards, every grain on its own ballistic trajectory, so none of it fell back on the module.  The effects of the blast on takeoff were also very obvious – see below.

Surveyor 3, Apollo 12, with lunar module behind
Fig. 21. Surveyor 3, Apollo 12, with lunar module behind

Why can you see the astronauts backlit, when they’re coming down the ladder in shadow?

All the Moon landings occurred just after sunrise, to make sure the pilot had plenty of contrast to judge heights by.  Lighting conditions on the surface are very different from those on Earth:  the lunar soil has a ‘fairy castle’ structure, uncompacted by Earth gravity or moisture, so every surface facing the Sun acts a miniature reflector.12  The soil is shot through with beads of glass formed by impacts, so when the Sun is low on the horizon, the ground throws a lot of light back towards the Sun and also scatters it to the sides, so the shadowed side of the Lunar Module was by no means in total darkness.  It was the same for all of the landings  (Fig. 24), not just Apollo 11, so if it had been a mistake it wouldn’t have been repeated.

Fig. 24. Alan Bean exit, Apollo 12

Why do the shadows run in different directions?

Even on Earth, human perception is easily fooled as to depth of view, especially when studying photographs.  The late Dr. Jack Cohen was fond of demonstrating, with a photo of shafts of light from the setting Sun, that the Sun can’t be more than ten miles up and a few yards across  (Fig. 25).  In vacuum, there’s none of the blurring of detail with distance which we unconsciously use as a guide, even although it’s unreliable.  In the Apollo 15 photographs, for example, the mountains are much higher and much further away than they look  (Fig. 26).  (That’s why the programme was able to show a shot of mountains with the LM in view, and an apparently identical one without it.)  All the Moon landings occurred just after sunrise, to make sure the pilot had plenty of contrast to judge heights by, so the shadows are very long.  Since the lunar surface is uneven, it’s quite easy for them to look as if they’re going different ways.  But in some cases there really are multiple shadows because of the lighting effects mentioned above:  the spacesuits themselves were white and reflected a lot of light, as well as heat, and in some photographs you can see halos round them because they’ve overexposed.  One of the experiments deployed on the lunar surface was even a polished aluminium sheet facing the Sun, to trap particles from the Solar Wind  (Fig. 27).

The astronauts couldn’t have worked the cameras while wearing spacesuits.

Spacesuited US astronauts had been taking Hasselblad pictures of each other and of other spacecraft, in vacuum, during the Gemini programme and on Apollo 9.  If the cameras worked in Earth orbit, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t work on the Moon.

Why are all the pictures so perfect?

Because the imperfect ones weren’t released to the press at the time.  The catalogues of lunar photographs contain lots of shots which were spoiled in one way or another – lens flare was the most frequent problem, but some were fogged by cosmic rays.  The entire archive of 9000 photographs taken has now been released, and ‘citizen scientists’ are processing them all, with dramatic results.  One group was distressed to find that there seemed to be an extra light source in the Apollo 11 photos, until they found that its position coincided with Neil Armstrong’s every time, and sunlight reflecting from his suit was the explanation. 

Why can’t you see the stars?

“This may be a good point at which to correct an almost universal fallacy – the idea that one would see the stars during the daytime on the Moon.  (I am indebted to Dr. W.H. Steavenson for pointing this out.)  They would be there all right, because there is no atmosphere to swamp them with scattered sunlight.  But the eye would not see them, because the intense glare from the brilliantly illuminated landscape would have made it too insensitive.  To observe them, one would have to stand in shadow, shield the eyes completely from all sources of light, and wait a few minutes.  Then they would become visible, first in tens and then in thousands – but they would vanish again as soon as one re-entered the sunlight.”13

Arthur C. Clarke published that as long ago as 1951!  The light level above the Earth’s atmosphere, or on the Moon, is 10% higher than it is at ground level here.   Even at the distances of the outer planets, where the light level is 99% or more lower, stars don’t show in the Voyager photographs unless they’re deliberately over-exposed to show them for navigational purposes  (that was how the volcanic plumes on the edge of Io were discovered).

Why does the flag wave as it’s erected?     

Again, as far back as school in the 1950’s, I designed a British mission to the Moon  (“as one does”, to quote Alan Bond ref. Project Daedalus).  I realised that the Union Jack wouldn’t fly on the Moon but just droop at the mast, and my solution was to put it in a plastic bubble with a solar-powered propeller inside.  The US solution was to run a spring along the top of the flag, with a deliberate kink in it to make it look realistic.  But with every ounce of weight at a premium, both that spar and the supporting mast were extremely light.  As the Apollo 17 astronauts were struggling with their flag, Harrison Schmitt was heard to say, “Did you ever see a vibrator like that?”, to which Gene Cernan replied, “No, I’ve never put a flag up on the Moon before.”  During one of the liftoffs the entire mast can be seen whipping violently, bending like a fir tree in a nuclear blast as the exhaust reaches it.  In all the film shots in the programme where the flag is waving, one of the astronauts is moving it at the time.  Buzz Aldrin saw the Apollo 11 flag (Fig. 28)  fall over as they lifted off, and it’s not visible in the image of the landing site by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter  (Fig. 29), but at all the other sites the flags are still standing, with all the other details exactly where they should be  (Fig. 30).  I haven’t heard since from the sceptic who offered to bet me £1000 that those images would show nothing. 

Fig. 28. Flag in Apollo 11 panorama, only photo of Neil Armstrong on lunar surface

Why are some of the features apparently in front of the reference marks on the camera lenses?

The marks appear incomplete because they’re washed out by the glare from sunlit objects behind them, particularly sunlit edges of objects  (Fig. 31).  I’m obliged to Dr. Martin Hendry of Glasgow University for providing that explanation, which was part of a talk he gave to schools, financed by the National Lottery, proving that the Moon landings did take place,.  The markings, called ‘reseau marks’, have now been removed from most of the high-quality Apollo images, so it’s quite hard to find examples nowadays.

The moonwalks must have been faked because their spacesuits couldn’t have coped with the heat of the Sun or the cold in shadow.

If so, then all the EVA’s ever, in both the Russian and American programmes, would have to be faked as well – in vacuum, the heat and cold are the same whether or not you’re on the Moon.  That would mean that none of the satellite rescues took place, including the repairs and refurbishment to the Hubble Space Telescope;  nor external repairs to Skylab and Mir;  nor the work currently being done on the outside of the International Space Station.

(To be continued)

References

10.  James E. Oberg, UFO’s & Outer Space Mysteries, a sympathetic skeptic’s report, Donning, 1982.

11.  Harrison H. Schmitt, ‘The Great Voyages of Exploration’, in Edgar M. Cortwright, ed., Apollo Missions to the Moon, NASA SP-350, US Government Printing Office, 1975.

12.  Jeffrey Kluger, Journey beyond Selene, Little, Brown & Co., 1999.

13.  Arthur C. Clarke, The Exploration of Space, Temple Press, 1951.

See also:

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