More Lunar Anomalies – Part 1

by Duncan Lunan

Fig. 1. ‘Crossing the Crater’ by cosmonaut artist Andrei Sokolov

In Orkney News, 25th October 2022, I reviewed The Apollo Murders, by astronaut Chris Hadfield.  In the novel the second mission objective is to investigate the landing site of the Soviet Lunokhod 2 rover, which landed in the crater Le Monnier on the rim of Mare Tranquillitatis, in 1973  (Fig. 1).  There was a story at the time that Lunokhod 2 had found a mysterious ‘monolith’ on the Moon, and the late Prof. Edwin Morgan wrote a poem about it, ‘Instamatic the Moon 1973’, in which scratches at its base proved to read ‘K space BRI query space K query’.  But there are no photographs, nothing in Lunokhod’s driving log, and nothing in overhead photos of the site by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (Fig. 2), though the rover and its tracks are clearly visible.  In the novel the mystery turns out to be a highly radioactive rock, and when Apollo 18 gets there, Lunokhod 2 is standing guard over it.  In 2018 the Chinese Chang’e 4 lander set down on the lunar Farside in the crater Van de Graaff, and last year its Yutu-2  (Jade Rabbit)  rover spotted what appeared to be a monolith, or at least a cube, on the rim of a crater in the middle distance  (Fig. 3).  It took several weeks to reach, and turned out to be a boulder which was itself shaped like a crouching rabbit, ‘with two small potatoes in front of it’ – smaller rocks, positioned just like the one being guarded by Lunokhod in The Apollo Murders  (Fig. 4).

Reported sightings of strange events involving the Moon go back for at least a thousand years – I noted quite a number of them in Children from the Sky  (Mutus Liber, 2012), without finding any particular pattern.  One event which particularly stands out is the apparent multiple impact event on the lunar Farside in 1178, which I mentioned in ‘The Green Children of Woolpit, Part 2’  (ON, June 26th, 2022)  and in ‘The Lunar Farside’  (ON, 4th June 2023).  Another, equally strange, comes at what might be the end of that mystery, in 1366, and that’s worth a later article of its own.

Strange events continued, both before and after the invention of the telescope.  Many of them were listed by Charles Fort, in a series of books which made a great impression in the 1930s, particularly on science fiction writers.  But when I went to research the more interesting ones while writing Man and the Stars in the early 70s, I discovered that Fort had written his books from memory, having destroyed his notes in a fit of temper.  I managed to find some of the events, more or less by chance  (one, for instance, was in another book with the same title but by a different author), but not one was where it was supposed to be. 

When the craters were thought to be volcanic, there were many reports of eruptions, but these are now thought to have been mountain peaks catching the Sun while their foothills were still in darkness.  The different lighting conditions on the Moon were far from well understood, and indeed it wasn’t until the 1960s that it became certain there was no atmosphere.  For the same reason, reports of changes in lunar features increasingly came to seem unlikely.  Patrick Moore, who believed the craters were volcanic, was particularly keen to find instances and studied the alleged cases in the first edition of his Guide to the Moon, but was forced to admit they were almost certainly down to observer errors.  Some might have been genuine landslides, but others, like the ‘Bridge’ on the rim of Mare Crisium which I mentioned in ‘Observing the Moon’  (ON, May 28th 2023), were optical illusions, again due to the lighting conditions.  Claims by observers such as Pickering, that they’d seen changes due to plants or migrating insects, were still less probable.

Fig. 5, Luna 9 landing site, far left

In the 1970s, when I was writing Man and the Stars, Art Rosenblum of the Aquarian Research Foundation sent me a copy of their Nov.14 1970 Newsletter.  Most of it was concerned with the ‘Blair Cuspids’  (see below), but there was also an insert about the pictures sent back by the Soviet Luna 9 probe in 1966.  Luna 9 landed in western Oceanus Procellarum, on the left of the useful mid-1960s map in Fig. 5, and returned the first pictures from the lunar surface, several months ahead of the US Surveyor series.  They were scooped by the Daily Express, which took a picture-receiving machine to Jodrell Bank and succeeded in capturing the images before the official Soviet release  (Fig. 6).  There was obviously something odd about the perspective, starting with what appeared to be a skull or bust of William Shakespeare in the foreground  (Fig. 7).  But significantly, the craters nearest to the camera appeared to be circular although the ones near the horizon looked elliptical.  It turned out that the Express settings were wrong and the photos were actually in landscape format, not square  (Fig. 8). 

What the Aquarian Foundation Newsletter suggested, attributing the idea to a Soviet scientist, was that the boulders in the photographs were arranged in straight lines, and since that didn’t happen in Nature, the structure must be artificial.  But as we’ve seen in the previous Moon articles, ejecta from lunar impact craters are thrown out in straight lines, forming secondary crater chains and bright rays of debris across the Moon’s surface.  The supposedly artificial lines in the Luna 9 images led towards a sizeable crater in the distance and were presumably thrown out from it.

In 1973 or thereabouts, a correspondent in Majorca sent me a Spanish newspaper cutting, alleging that as Neil Armstrong made his descent of the ladder during Apollo 11, amateur radio listeners had heard him report to a secret control room in Houston, “What devils you are”, going on to describe large number of big spaceships watching him from ‘the far side of the crater’.  My colleague James E. Oberg, with NASA in Houston at the time, analysed this story in his book UFO’s & Outer Space Mysteries, a sympathetic skeptic’s report  (Donning, 1982.)  His main point was that although the astronauts could be taken off air for confidential conversations with their doctors or families, there was no secret communications channel, much less a second control room, and nowhere in the building to put one.  He invited anyone who doubted it to take a tour and see for themselves, and treated that as the end of the matter.

I was more interested because I had an idea where this story might have originated.  While at University I had lunch one day with Jim Mangles, chairman of the Strathclyde University Space and Science Fiction Society, who told me he had just written to the Manned Spacecraft Centre in Houston.  It had occurred to him that if time travel ever become possible, one of the places to look for time machines would be at the Apollo 11 landing.  The published schedule called for Armstrong to bring the Lunar Module to a hover before landing, and Jim had suggested that he should make an unscheduled 360-degree turn to see if there was anybody behind him.  NASA replied that it was an interesting suggestion, but Armstrong was likely to be too busy at that point to follow it.

One obvious flaw in the UFO story was that when coming down the ladder, Armstrong was facing the Lunar Module and taking great care where he put his feet, so he couldn’t have seen anyone watching behind him.  But, although I didn’t publish it for years, I was accumulating material for a time-travel story called ‘With Time Comes Concord’, and I had read a book on hoaxes and how they’re structured.  If the intention is for the hoax to be revealed and make the victims look stupid, one common tactic is to include impossibilities or inconsistencies, so the hoaxer can say, ‘I left all those clues that it was a hoax and still they believed it’.  The Apollo 11 story had enough of both to suggest that might be what was happening, so I decided to pursue it one stage further.

Fig. 9. Coverage of initially released Apollo 11 images, Duncan Lunan, c.1973

I gathered all the photos taken by Armstrong and Aldrin which had been published in the first two weeks after the landing, and painstakingly constructed my own map of the landing site  (Fig. 9.)  It became obvious that the only feature close enough and large enough to be called ‘the crater’ was the one named ‘Little West’.  The Lunar Module had overshot the target landing site by 4 miles, due, it’s now believed, to an unwanted push from residual air in the docking tunnel as it separated from the Command Module.  Armstrong found the automatic pilot was bringing him down into a Crater filled with blocks ‘as big as Volkswagens’, and taking over manual control, he flew on and made a helicopter-style touchdown beyond it.  Not only was he too busy to search for UFOs or time machines, he couldn’t hover, or even spare words to tell Mission Control what was happening.  The late John Braithwaite and I both realised something was wrong and were exchanging alarmed looks, as I’ve described in the lunar chapter of New Worlds for Old  (David & Charles, 1979).  On EVA, Armstrong walked back to the crater and took two photos looking across it  (Fig. 10), which have since been edited into a dramatic panorama  (Fig. 11).  It’s gratifying that my Fig. 10 analysis was subsequently confirmed by the overhead photos from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter  (Fig. 12).

What Fig. 9 revealed, however, was that the one part of the surroundings not covered in any of the early released photos was directly up-Sun, back along the descent track and directly facing the rear of the spacecraft.  Because Armstrong had landed down-Sun, to get maximum contrast in the shadows, he couldn’t have seen anything ‘on the other side of the crater’ as he came down the ladder, and the reason why no photos in that narrow arc had been published was that they were looking up-Sun and badly affected by lens flare  (Fig. 10;  Lunar Photographs from Apollos 8, 10 and 11, NASA SP-246, US Government Printing Office, 1971).  But you can see across it, and there are no spaceships or time machines out there.

I put it to Jim Oberg that this hoax required careful planning, and possibly had been inspired by Jim Mangles’s letter, so the hoaxer might have been someone in Mission Control.  He replied indignantly that they were all of the highest integrity and would never do such a thing;  but having read about the practical jokes which the astronauts frequently played on one another, I confess I’m not entirely convinced.

In his book, Jim Oberg deservedly had a go at a UFO writer called Joseph F. Goodavage.  US readers had sent me his article ‘What Strange – and Frightening – Discoveries Did Our Astronauts make on the Moon?’  (SAGA, March 1974)  in which he not only led the charge in misquoting me, but gave an unintentionally hilarious account of trawling through transcripts of the Apollo missions, looking for UFO sightings, with no idea of what was really happening or even what the acronyms meant.  For example, the maps which the astronauts used at the landing sites had local features informally named after members of their families.  Since those names weren’t on official Moon maps, for Goodavage they had to be code-names for UFOs.  Dave Scott’s description of the wholly unexpected layering in Mount Hadley Delta, “the most organised structure I’ve ever seen”,  (Fig. 13)  had to be about an artificial structure rather than geological strata  (Fig. 14).  The astronauts used both colour and black-and-white film, but when they said, “We’re going to Bravo Whisky Victor Romeo”, they had to be walking towards an alien installation rather than shifting to Black and White Visual Record. 

Goodavage’s excesses, however, were wholly outdone by two books published in the 1970s. 

Somebody Else Is on Our Moon, by George Leonard (1977), made out that the Moon was covered in artefacts, which anyone could confirm by walking into the Lunar & Planetary Receiving Laboratory and helping themselves to photos which were freely available to the public.  More extreme, Our Mysterious Spaceship Moon, by Don Wilson  (1975), made out that the whole Moon had been manufactured elsewhere and brought here.  Interestingly, the Moon’s core is strangely displaced towards the Earth, and the crust on the Nearside is thinner, as if it had formed under acceleration.  But a far more likely explanation for both phenomena is that the Moon’s Farside is covered by a thick layer of ejecta from the multiple big impacts it suffered on the Nearside.  You can get the measure of both books when one of them refers to ‘Velikovsky, that insightful genius’.  Interviewed by the BBC during a Glasgow University seminar, the late Prof. Archie Roy said, “The thing about Velikovsky is that he’s not just wrong, but magnificently wrong,” in his ideas about the history of the Solar System.

Archie Roy was one of the world’s leading astrodynamicists, who took a sabbatical working on Lunar Orbiter for NASA, and came back to place a tenner each way with William Hill on a manned Moon landing before 1970.  On the blackboard in his study he had the payout slip tacked at the top, and underneath was chalked, ‘Go and do thou likewise’.  Archie Roy was also the anonymous astronomer whose lecture formed the first chapter of my Man and the Stars  (1974).  He felt that the topic of interstellar travel was too speculative to link his name with, though he regretted it afterwards.  But that rather convoluted link brings us to the matter of the Blair Cuspids on the Moon.

In December 2011 Professor Paul Davies and research technician Robert Wagner of the University of Arizona proposed a search of the new, highly detailed photographs by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, looking for extraterrestrial artefacts.  (Paul Scott Anderson, ‘ASU Researchers Propose Looking for Ancient Alien Artifacts  (sic) on the Moon’, Universe Today, December 29th, 2011.)   The Universe Today article included a link to the partial solution of a mystery which has haunted me for many years.

Early in the 1970s, when I was researching Man and the Stars, the late Chris Boyce gave me Peter Kolosimo’s book Not of this World, first published in Milan, 1969 and translated for Souvenir Press in 1970.  The book is not a reliable source for information, but it included an intriguing photograph of supposed ‘pinnacles shadows’ and a ‘rectangular trench’, taken by the second of the Lunar Orbiter probes before the Moon landings  (Fig. 15).  The feature was highlighted by Dr. William Blair of the Boeing Institute of Biotechnology, and claimed to be artificial  (Fig. 16).  The Aquarian Research Foundation Nov.14 1970 Newsletter, reprinting an article from Argosy, August 1970, included Russian calculations of the supposed heights of the objects, up to 250 feet high, and comparing their layout to the Pyramids of Giza, and finding similar relationships between boulders in the photographs returned by Luna 9 in 1966  (see above).  These are evidently ejecta from an impact crater over the horizon, and the general view was that the ‘Blair Cuspids’ would prove to be similar.  Jim Oberg found and sent me the original NASA photograph, but he also sent me photographs by Lunar Orbiter of the Surveyor 1 probe on the surface  (Fig. 17), illustrating how shadows, in the absence of atmosphere, could give a false impression of objects’ height.  The low Sun angle made the Surveyor look like a tall pinnacle, but actually it was a broad cone, wider at the base  (Fig. 18).

The article gave the coordinates on the Moon as 15º 30’ East, 4º 30’ N, and the NASA Guide to Lunar Orbiter Photographs in Glasgow University Library put that within a photo designated II-66M, one of a strip covering a potential Apollo landing site in the western Sea of Tranquillity.  I requested it from the US National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC) and they sent me a large print, but I couldn’t find the ‘Cuspids’ within it.  Subsequently I requested the entire strip, and for ASTRA’s ‘High Frontier’ exhibition in 1979 we had a large blow-up made of 66M, which we examined inch by inch with magnifying glasses, to no avail.  The NASA print which Jim Oberg sent me  (66-H-758, November 20 1966), confirmed the coordinates on the rear;  if it was wrongly numbered, he said, nothing more could be done.

Fig. 19. Lunar Orbiter image 2061_h3

However in 1996 the problem was re-examined by Lan Fleming, who recalculated the Sun angles and was able to identify the original frame with help from NSSDC.  (‘The Blair Cuspids: A Mystery Revisited’,  The Cuspids are at centre right of a high-resolution image within the area of photo 63, LO2-63H, now accessible in the online catalogue of Lunar Orbiter photographs as 2061-H3  (Fig. 19).  In theory they would be on photos II-59 to 65, but they’re not easy to see even in the high-resolution image and were out of frame in our blowup, so it’s no wonder that we missed them.  (If I had known in 1996 that they had been found, I would have included it in the seminar on ‘Heresies in Archaeoastronomy’ which I organised for the Edinburgh International Science Festival that year.)

The exact height of the objects casting the shadows depends on the contours of the ground  (Mark J. Carlotto, ‘3-D analysis of the “Blair Cuspids” and Surrounding Terrain’, New Frontiers in Science, Vol. 1 No. 2, Winter 2002.)  Similar but shorter shadows are found around and on the rim of the nearby crater Ariadaeus B, and the most likely explanation is that they’re all boulders ejected from the impact, like the ones in the Luna 9 photo.  But it still seems they range up to fifty feet in height, and some of the profiles of them reconstructed by Mark Carlotto are intriguing, so it’s to be hoped that the LRO spacecraft turns up some interesting views, as it has done already for the Apollo landing sites. 

The lunar anomalies currently making waves  (as it were)  are in crater Paracelsus-C, on the lunar Farside, north of Mare Ingenii, near the rim of the Aitken Basin and the radioactive crater Van de Graaff  (Figs. 20, 21).  They have been compared to mining structures on Earth.  (Mark J Carlotto, Francis L Ridge and Ananda L Sirisena, ‘Image Analysis of Unusual Structures on the Far Side of the Moon in the Crater Paracelsus C’, Journal of Space Exploration, September 2016.)  Undeniably they look strange  (Figs. 22, 23).  But after the false alarms above, due caution is indicated. 

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