From: Lan Fleming <lfleming5.nul> Date: Sun, 17 Nov 2002 23:51:37 -0600 Archived: Mon, 18 Nov 2002 06:12:23 -0500 Subject: Oberg's Mis-Statement Regarding Moon Hoax The Houston Chronicle ran an article on the "Moon Hoax" controversy in the Sunday edition ("Between a rock and hard place. NASA dogged by skeptics claiming Apollo 11 hoax" 11/17/02) interviewing people who claim that NASA never landed people on the Moon and included rebuttals from James Oberg and Phil Plait. All of the rebuttals given were perfectly sound, in my opinion, except for the last one. Aron Ranen, one of the moon landing skeptics, suggests, according to the Chronicle, that "the U.S. government overseen by independent scientists, could spin around a spy satellite to get a shot of the Apollo 11 landing area on the moon to see whether the base of the lander is still there." The Chronicle article concludes with Oberg's rejoinder as follows: "Not likely, Oberg said. Satellites are too far away to get pictures of things that small, and even probes designed to orbit the moon can't see that detail. 'You could see something the size of an oil tanker,' he said, 'but not something the size of the lander.'" Now Oberg is certainly correct that a spy satellite orbiting the Earth couldn't detect the lunar lander, which is what Ranen apparently had in mind. But the assertion that "probes designed to orbit the moon can't see that detail" is absolutely false. The Lunar Orbiters of the 1960's, equipped with analog camera systems, were capable of resolutions down to 1 meter from an altitude of about 50 kilometers. The width of the Apollo lunar lander was 4.27 meters, excluding the landing gear -- more than four times the Lunar Orbiter's resolution. That's not quite large enough to discern the shape or internal details of the lander, but with the lander's reflective foil covering, it would stand out quite clearly against the lunar background as an anomalously bright spot in an image taken at the resolution of the Lunar Orbiters. And the technology of the Lunar Orbiter cameras has been obsolete for decades. If employed on a satellite orbiting the Moon at the same altitude as the Lunar Orbiters, an imaging system similar to the one on the Mars Global Surveyor would be capable of almost 10 times the Lunar Orbiter's resolution. Objects a little larger than 6 inches in diameter could be resolved. The windows, landing gear, main body of the craft, and just about everything except the stars and stripes on the US flag would be easily visible -- if that technology had actually been used on a Moon probe in modern times. The fact that it has _not_ been used and there don't even seem to be any plans to ever use it may be close to the crux of the whole "moon hoax" affair. People who weren't even born at the time of the last manned landing on the Moon are now over thirty years old with the prospect of middle age looming nearby. To a whole generation, manned missions to the Moon are ancient history -- something that happened before their lifetime. It's not particularly surprising that to some of them, the distinction between history and myth is becoming increasingly blurred with the passage of time. A manned mission to the Moon may be out of the question for the foreseeable future due to the costs, but a robotic probe with a camera capable of resolving the Apollo landers and ending the moon conspiracy talk forever would be relatively inexpensive. And not only would it improve NASA's shaky public relations, but it would certainly be of considerable scientific value to be able to image the moon at high resolution. As for the absurd misstatement that the Chronicle attributed to Oberg, perhaps they misquoted him. If so, he should demand that the Chronicle print a correction. Or was it really something he actually said? Perhaps it was a comment he tossed out in a feeble attempt to explain the seemingly inexplicable: NASA's abject retreat from lunar exploration. NASA has sent exactly one robotic probe to the Moon since the end of the Apollo program: the Lunar Prospector, which had no cameras at all. The Defense Department sent the Clementine. It had two cameras, one with a resolution of about 100 meters and the other with a resolution of 10 meters. The higher resolution camera went unusused for most of the Clementine lunar mission because it was designed for imaging asteroids under dim lighting, not the bright glare of the lunar landscape. If you suspect I'm leading up to something relevant to the list here, I am. I think there may well be an explanation for NASA's lack of interest in lunar exploration: their repeatedly demonstrated aversion to looking too closely at things that show possible indications of artificiality, things like the so-called "Blair Cuspids" situated on the edge of a remarkably rectangular depression in the lunar Sea of Tranquility (not far from the Apollo 11 landing site that was the point of contention in the Chronicle article). A Lunar Orbiter took two photographs that showed these objects. Several years ago I put them up on a series of web pages. They can be seen at: http://www.vgl.org/webfiles/lan/cuspids/cuspids.htm These images were taken 36 years ago, and unless some commercial enterprise or foreign government independent from NASA sends a probe to the Moon, I think it will probably be at least another 30 years before we see any more images of them or other unusual features imaged by the Lunar Orbiters a very long time ago in those legendary days when humans walked on the Moon -- or so the old folks tell their grandchildren.
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