Yes, It's Another Moon Hoax Thread

The avalanche of pro-NASA evidence from the last moon hoax thread I participated in was quite impressive; more than enough (combined with the equally impressive avalanche of personal attacks) to cause me to cease and desist. But on Saturday I saw a program (ABC’s “The Century”) with a small clip of moon footage that stirred up some new questions. I know this topic has been beaten to death on the SDMB, but dammit, I need some answers (and besides, at least this isn’t another WTC thread).

Okay: two questions, and that’s it. I don’t want to discuss any footage, photos, transmissions or evidence of any sort other than these two things, because then things spiral out of hand way too fast. The more we stay focused, the quicker this thread will be over and done with.

(1) I sent this question to the Bad Astronomy site as soon as I saw the ABC special, but I haven’t heard back from The Bad Astronomer yet, so here goes…

There is a very famous scene of the ascent of the Apollo 16 LEM, often cited by hoax buffs regarding the presence/absence of flames from the takeoff. But the presence or absence of flames in the scene isn’t of concern to me. What is concerning is the way the camera filming the launch zooms out and pans up into the sky to track the ascent of the lunar lander. (I found a copy of the film at this conspiratorial address: Despite the dubious source, tt looks, to me, the same as what I saw on TV.)

Now, obviously, no astronauts were left behind to film the ascent. That, to me, leaves only two possibilities: (a) that NASA had some sort of radio-control zooming mechanism
set up in the camera and a panning mechanism set up in the tripod, operated either automatically upon ignition or by astronauts watching the live feed from within the ascending capsule and panning up accordingly, AND that this mechanism was installed for the sole purpose of getting the “pan-to-the-sky” shot of the astronauts’ departure from the moon or (b) somebody’s pulling our collective leg.

I’m guessing the astronauts didn’t have a live feed from the camera inside their capsule, and would probably have been too busy trying to get home alive to worry about cinematography. That leaves the possibility of an automated motor system designed to zoom out and pan up in synch with the ascent of the lander. One debunking website claimed such devices WERE installed, but gave no evidence to support the claim. Can anyone help?
2) Okay, now this one REALLY freaks me out. If I’m perceiving things correctly, this one is so obvious it’s hard to believe NASA would put it on their site. It’s at, under the “Human Space Flight” heading as “Apollo Video Clips.”

Apparently, this is the footage of the flag being put up on the Apollo 14 mission. The hoax buffs tend to cite this one for evidence of wind on the “moon,” due to the strange fluttering of the flag. But I can accept that, somehow, that’s all coming from the rotational motion of the flagpole in the astronaut’s hand.

The thing that gets me is the astronaut who starts out closest to the camera. Look how long his shadow is (reaching above the other astronaut’s knees), and watch how short it gets as he approaches his companion. Then watch how long it again gets as he returns. Check out the point about 2/3 through the footage at which the shadow of the astronaut’s head reaches about, oh, 80% up what is presumably the shadow of the LEM. Observe how the flag-planting astronaut’s head-shadow doesn’t reach beyond about 90% of the shadow of the LEM (and neither does the other guy’s, when he’s out by the flag). And you can tell that the heads don’t just stretch out to some unseen point “over a hill” because the shadow of the flag held over the astronaut’s head is clearly visible, and even it does not extend past the shadow of the LEM.

This looks, to me, like a very obviously artificial light source. Can anyone explain to me how even a sun extremely low on the horizon at lunar morning could account for what appear to be radically shifting shadow lengths? Without calling me a troll? Please???

Well, I don’t think you’re a troll, Bicky. :slight_smile:

And I’m not an astronomer or photographer or anything, but even I can explain #2 (I think): the moon is a tiny, tiny place, 1/6 the size of earth, and its surface is much more sharply curved between you and the horizon than the same distance on earth would be. Your “earth eyes” expect the surface to be more flat, and the shadows to behave a certain way. But it’s actually more curved, and the shadows shift oddly.

For #2 - There was an artificial light source. The brought lights with them to the moon.

Yes, the camera used during the launch was remotely controlled from Earth. The camera was mounted on the Lunar Rover, which had its own dish antenna capable of exchanging data with Earth. Ground control used the remote control quite often during the longer expeditions in the Rover.
There was considerable calculation put into the camera controls for the LEM launch, they had to account for the radio signal propagation delays due to the extreme distance, as well as mechanical delays in the camera’s remote control machinery. And even then, they decided to fudge it a bit. If you watch the LEM launch again, notice they start zooming out almost immediately after the LEM gets airborne, it appears to recede into the distance unnaturally quickly. That’s the zoom effect. They decided that they better zoom out so as to capture a wider view, in case they were off a bit on the calculations.
#2 has already been debunked by more clever people than I, and I haven’t seen the video yet. I’ll get back to it if noone else tackles it.

OK, I saw the video, I’ll tackle this one.
The reason why the shadows are of different lengths is because they’re standing next to a ridge, and the ground is uneven. You can clearly see this as the second astronaut approaches, his shadow stops at the ridge and as he gets closer, it reappears on the other side of the ridge briefly.
The hoaxer’s shadow analyses are all bunk, they are all based on analogies to shadows cast on flat surfaces. But the lunar surface is not flat. Bad Astronomer went into this in depth, IIRC.

I don’t understand your second question. The LEM is taller than the astronauts and the astronauts are standing close by it. (The wide-angle lens and featureless landscape exaggerate the distances.) So of course the LEM’s shadow extends beyond the astronauts’.

Why, exactly, is this supposed to show an unnatural light source rather than a natural one?

(And what, exactly, would finding an unnatural light source prove? Did NASA swear that only natural light was used in the making of the clip? I didn’t realize they were adherents of the Dogme 95 manifesto.)

Also, you might want to check out a more-complete video clip of the launch of Apollo 17 (the film of the launch of 16 wasn’t as nifty).

The Apollo 17 Lunar Surface Journal has a link to a video clip over three minutes long at 188:00:06. Launch is a little over a minute into it. The ascent module is only followed for about 26 seconds (about), then the cameraman on Earth loses it. At close to three minutes, he gives up looking and tilts the camera back down to stare at what remains on the surface for a while.

(I just stumbled across a really-well done joke while looking this stuff up.)

Wumpus & bup: It is my understanding that the astronauts brought no artificial light with them to the moon. I don’t really have a source for this, but it comes up so much in pro- and anti-conspiracy discussion that I can’t imagine it not being true. I’m sure others here can “shed some light” on the issue (wa-ha!) but my guess is that the light bulbs would have exploded. As for the height of the LEM issue, Wumpus, I guess I wasn’t very clear, but it seems to me that the proportions are all out of whack, so that things close to the camera (and, as a pro-conspiracy perspective would have it, the light source), are much larger than things farther from it. This goes for the foreground astronaut as well as the legs of the LEM. Chas.E seems to have a good explanation for that, which I’ll get to in a sec…

Duck Duck Goose: As always, I appreciate your optimism regarding my character! So I hate to disagree with ya, but even though the moon is smaller than the earth, the horizon shouldn’t change that much in the at-most twenty feet between the two astronauts. BUT…

Chas.E: As far as point 1, I’d appreciate a cite of some sort. It’s a 2-second delay, right, between the moon and the earth? Which makes a 4-second round trip? So wouldn’t it take NASA two seconds to find out that the engine had fired, then they’d hit the zoom-and-pan button immediately and it’d take two more seconds for the signal to get there? I suppose it’s possible, but I’ll need more than your word for it. It seems like a hell of strange thing—it’d make far more sense for the LEM to communicate directly with the rover and bypass ground control, wouldn’t it?

As for the shadows, you make a good point about the ridge—it’s definitely there, and you can see it not only on the approaching astronaut but the stationary one and, it seems, the LEM. The problem I have with it is that (assuming you agree with me that the ridge goes through the LEM shadow; that’s what I see, so that’s what I’m going with) the ridge appears to cross the LEM’s shadow immediately above the joint of one of the LEM’s “spider legs.” But just above the ridge, we see the area where the “launch pad” for the returning LEM runs tangent to the spider legs, right about where we’d expect it if there were no ridge at all, or if the ridge were of negligible height (I sure hope that made sense!). But then the “head” of the LEM shadow is drastically smaller than one would expect, consistent, I would argue, with an artificial light source low to the ground, extending the LEM’s and astronaut’s legs’ shadows greatly while shortening their upper bodies. I may have made some errors here, so of course let me know what you think of all this.

As for the fact that the lunar surface is not flat, well, I think that’s a red herring. The astronauts by necessity touched the LEM down on the flat plains of the lunar maria. If this were a rover scene, you might have a valid point, but we’re clearly not too far from the Eagle’s roost. The ground can’t be SO uneven, can it?

And as I preview this I see DaveW’s comments. My computer at home is far too slow for me to download that footage now. I’ll check it out at work tomorrow! I’d still be interested to know how they pulled off the time delay problem. It doesn’t seem, from looking at the transcript, like NASA was relying on any time source other than the astronauts saying “10 seconds,” “3, 2, 1” etc. I guess I’ll check that out too…

I’m still confused, Bick. I don’t see anything funny in the shadows, but even assuming there is something odd, you need to expain why this oddity is only consistent with an artifical light source and not with a natural one. As you yourself said, you can easily get a natural light source close to the ground just by shooting at daybreak. Why, exactly, would an artificial light produce the effects you see? Why, exactly, couldn’t the sun produce the same effects?

Sorry to be so picky, but if you can’t answer those questions, you just don’t have any mystery to fret over.

It’s pretty straightforward, BB. They knew ahead of time when the LM was supposed to take off to the second, and they knew how quickly it would rise, based on the thrust of the rocket and the weight of the spacecraft. So they can calculate when the camera needs to begin tilting up and how fast to do it. They also knew what the total delay would be between the time the camera controller sent the camera telling it to move, and when it actually started to move.

If you watch the excellent mini-series ‘From The Earth to The Moon’, there’s a short segment covering this exact event, and the cameraman sweating about not screwing ip up. :slight_smile:


Why would light bulbs explode on the Moon? There’s a vacuum inside them already. How would that make them explode? :confused:

AHA! - I think that proves the point; you see the cat’s shadow isn’t parallel with the astronaut’s, so there must have been multiple light sources.

[sub]BTW I’m going to post this link: NASA Fakes Moon Landing in every moon hoax thread I see from now on.[/sub]

Very impressive, but can the NASA-paid stooges out there refute the evidence presented by this page?

Oh, poop. Mangetout beat me to it. :frowning:

First of all Bick, a major nitpick.
At least to a DP/Camera Op. A camera tilts up and down.
It pans left and right.
So anyway, if NASA had really faked the moon landings,
they wouldn’t have called attention to themselves by having a camera(with operator) follow the ascent module on liftoff.
Easy enough. Next?

jimpatro: I just knew “pan” wasn’t right (sixth grade A/V club memories tickling my brain). Thanks!

Also, I never said NASA faked the moon landings. I’m asking whether they might have faked the footage. There is a difference. And in any case, I just don’t buy the “well, if NASA faked it, they wouldn’t have made any mistakes, therefore any mistakes you think you see aren’t really mistakes” line of reasoning. It doesn’t work for fundamentalist Christians, and it shouldn’t work here. Next?

DaveW: Okay, I was able to check out the footage this morning. It’s pretty pixilated, unfortunately, making it hard to figure out, for example, why the sky seems to get “cloudy” and the LEM to increase in luminescence at about 1:12—and why the “cloud” radically dissipates as the camera tilts down at about 2:44. As a side note, the amount of dust kicked up around 1:09 seems inconsistent with some of the things I’ve heard about the behavior of dust on the moon, but I don’t really know enough about that to comment.

Still, though, I can’t figure out how the cameraman could have pulled off some of these moves with a 4-second time delay. How does he possibly manage to reacquire the LEM after losing it for 10 seconds at around the 1:38 mark? At that point, they were in the midst of a “4-minute loss of uplink voice, and tracking data” (see 188:01:39’s notes), though I’ll be the first to admit I’m not sure what exactly such a loss implies.

Regardless, why does the LEM seem to shift trajectory greatly when the cameraman does reacquire, coming up at about a 45-degree angle, then shooting straight up, then disappearing briefly only to move horizontally)? Presumably these shifts are due to movement in the camera, not the LEM, but they occur so quickly that I just don’t see how there could be a 4-second delay between the feed and the controls—the cameraman seems to immediately react to the 45-degree movement, correcting it into the vertical movement we see within the space of one second.

The last-minute centering move at 3:13 is suspicious as well, but admittedly less so. At 3:09 the image is clearly going to end up off-center, so there is, technically, enough time to react. Yet to compensate for this while the camera continues to zoom in seems like it would be especially tricky—and it would have been one hell of a move to adjust the LEM into the dead center of the image the way he does at 3:14. Try it—pause the footage at 3:10 and tell me how easy it would be to get it to look like the picture at 3:14 on the first try, with nothing to go on but the footage up until 3:10. (You might also notice that there are no long morning shadows evident—the shadow seems to be directly beneath the LEM. Tenuous evidence, I realize, but I feel obliged to point these things out.)

And though I still don’t want to get too far off topic, I’m perplexed by the comments at 188:01:39 that mention “the lunar module (engine) plume,” a plume which The Bad Astronomer says doesn’t exist ( Can anybody clarify that one?

Wumpus: Well, the thing that gets me is the disproportionately large nature of the shadows of objects close to the camera. If you compare the NASA footage I cited with a photo of the LEM sitting on the ground, you can see that the shadow of the LEM’s spider legs is stretched disproportionately vertical.

Yet the shadow of the flag the astronaut is holding is almost perfectly proportioned, not stretched vertically like the LEM legs (or the foreground astronaut’s legs). Yes, the sun low on the horizon would produce vertical stretching of shadows, but it should do it consistently, shouldn’t it?

Duck Duck Goose: Hey, I don’t know! It was just a guess. But I’ve heard it said often that NASA did not bring lights, and no debunking sites have stated anything to the contrary (which, you’d think, would be a rather effective argument against the conspiracy theory, were it the case).

Santos L Helper: I guess that makes sense. But how come, in the transcript cited by DaveW (time reference: 184:04:59), mission control says the astronauts will lift off at 188:01:43.85, but the astronauts claim to be “on their way” at 188:01:40, ignition having occured at 188:01:39? What am I missing here? Was 188:01:43.85 the time NASA was supposed to SEE the ignition or something? I don’t get it…

Mangetout wrote:

No, no, no! Geeeez. Isn’t it obvious that the astronaut pictured is having trouble with the scoop? It’s clearly not designed to work with kitty litter. The clods at NASA really don’t know much about felines.

  1. The distance to the moon is just over one light-second. So the round trip delay is a little over two seconds.

  2. They didn’t bring lights with them to the moon because they were in daylight the whole time - remember, a day on the moon lasts about 27 days (half of that dark, half light). Also, lights would have used power, which would have required more weight, more fuel, etc.

  3. The surface of the moon is very uneven. The LEM was made to land on that kind of terrain. Those ungainly legs on it are that way to allow for a lot of movement. The astronauts were skilled enough at maneuvering it to put the four legs on fairly level ground, even though just beyond the lander, there may have been little hills or ridges.

Some of the landings were made on a fairly steep slope. I bet it was uncomfortable in that little module trying to eat, change clothes, and sleep.

Sorry DDG but you aren’t necessarily right. This site explains it.

All halogen bulbs are gas fill–the halogen gas reduces filament deterioration (and according to some theories I have heard actually help the filament regenerate)

BTW, I should tell you a story I still vividly remember from watching the Apollo flights on TV. They showed how the astronauts inside the capsule had difficulty seeing some controls, because of the extreme difference in brightness between sunlight coming in the windows and the rest of the cabin which was relatively dark in comparison (especially if your eyes were dilated from seeing bright sunlit spots). NASA’s solution was to teach the astronauts to reflect the stream of sunlight off their hand onto the unlit areas. The actually demonstrated this in a spacecraft mockup under simulated flight conditions. I thought it was a wonderful trick, it even comes in handy on earth sometimes.

The point of this story is, yes, there are multiple light sources in EVERY Apollo photo. The ground reflects most of it. It’s diffuse, reflected light, but sufficient to fill in the scenes. Compare photos taken during spacewalks (with fewer reflected light sources, just the capsule) and moonwalk photos. The spacewalk photos are stark and contrasty, with deep black shadows. The moon photos don’t look anything like that.