Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Tenth anniversary of the ‘Norway spiral’

The Birth Of An Internet Mythology

by James Oberg

In northern Norway in December, the sun never rises. For a few hours around noon the southern sky glows with bright twilight of the hidden sun, passing just below the horizon.

But human activity remains fixed on artificial timekeeping technology, and on December 9, 2009, residents awoke 'on schedule' to prepare for work and school. Many were outside shortly before 8 AM, the sky still dark, when an amazing light rose into the eastern sky where the sun would have appeared in a different season. But it wasn't a single bright shining orb they saw, it was an amazing spinning spiral that left a blue trail and lingered a few dozen seconds and then was swallowed up by a totally black nothingness.

Many of the witnesses had grabbed their pocketcams or cell phones, then quickly raced for their Internet connections.

That's how the sensation of the 'Norway spiral' was born, ten years ago. Combined with some tantalizing terrestrial coincidences, and soon reinforced by similar subsequent "sky spiral sightings" in Russia and Australia, an entirely new folklore phenomenon sprang up. A dozen bizarre theories burst into life, spread across the internet. As search engines can demonstrate, they still thrive.

It soon turned out that it really "just" was a rocket, performing strangely to be sure under unusual illumination conditions, but entirely terrestrial in origin [as were all the others]. It was a military missile code-named 'Bulava', with three solid-fuel stages, designed for launch from submarines.  But in the modern Internet culture, that prosaic [if 'Space Age'] explanation has been vehemently rejected in favor of more exciting theories, all of them mutually exclusive but all of them firmly based on the conviction that no human rocket could ever look like this [and subsequent] events.

Aside from the delightful story of how the mystery was correctly solved there is a less pleasant challenge. It's a sad realization that vast pockets of popular culture are not merely uninformed about the basics of 'rocket science', they are actively and enthusiastically misinformed. Worse, they are often cynically DISinformed by on-line media outlets which make their money by attracting credulous visitors.  What can be done to remedy this remains as uncertain as any genuine outer space mystery.

Almost immediately, a dozen different explanations for the 'Norway spiral' sprang up on the Internet. Aside from the stock claim of UFO aliens, there were proponents of 'wormholes' [widely depicted in movies and video games], an ionospheric manipulation of a local research facility called ' HAARP', a similar secretive lab called 'EISCAT', or a mythical Pentagon secret weapon called 'Blue Beam', an upward projected hologram, or some other fictional device designed by Nikola Tesla, or some kind of supernatural manifestation such as a demon or an angel, or a magical warning [or congratulations] to the Nobel Committee which was about to grant Barack Obama a 'Peace Prize in Oslo, or another stab at space aliens.

Disbelief in the 'official explanation' was both instinctively distrustful and based on a number of serious questions. The apparition appeared very close, stopping dead still in the sky in Norwegian airspace, yet no advance warning had ever been given.  It didn't look like any rocket most folks had ever seen before, and the weirdly glowing cloud implied an unknown energy source.  It appeared to float and defy gravity by drifting horizontally. At the end of the perfect spiraling the apparition the plume was swallowed by an expanding 'black hole' that closely matched Hollywood SFX. And previously failing rockets as shown in videos always dropped in flaming zig-zags  after exploding loudly, leaving wreckage falling to Earth.

The event was quickly identified as a Soviet missile test, an explanation just as quickly rejected by dubious netizens. The 'missile explanation' united all the different theory promoters into harmonious derision. Here's a selection of typical comments on youtube videos .
Agumonkk -- if it was a rocket, then how is it that the "exhaust trails" are in a PERFECT spiral? that thing has to be pretty far away, and that would mean that the spiral is HUGE. how can the exhaust from a rocket stay in a perfect spiral for that long? the wind surely would have dispersed it.

phuckoff mmkay -- Bright blue circular light from a failed missile? They usually explode and fall down in a flaming fireball, wouldnt you say? 
Vladolenin --A missle? L.O.L. They DO think we're stupid. Missles dont grow into dark spheres that CONSUME LIGHT.  
Sxr5a -- a Russian missile flies DIRECTLY over Norway, violating their airspace, and the Norweigians do not make a peep about it? Does this make sense? 
Poopdome56 -- its sad that there are still ignorant people out there that actually believe this is a rocket. 
The.PhantomPain -- that is not a missile i don't care what anyone says. the large hadron collider created a wormhole. it even behaves like a wormhole. it doesn't behave like a missile  
NassimHarameinVedas -- ANYONE who thinks this was caused by a "failed missile launch" is beyond brainwashed and retarded. Missiles have been launched since the 50's ok . . . and we've NEVER seen anything like this or heard about it.

Sylph Viper -- That UFO was seen during NIGHT HOURS. And rocket fumes or exhaust DO NOT GLOW OR EMIT LIGHT. The missile theory is by far the most idiotic thing presented yet.  
WinduChi6 -- The other major problem for this being a rocket is, a rocket normally will be traveling at velocities in range of 1,000s mph. For anybody having knowledge of the dynamics of motion; a slight change in trajectory angle of a object traveling at several 1,000mph will generate enormous g-forces or centrifugal forces that will tear a rocket in to pieces, that will generate a, with combustive fuel on board, a explosive fire ball of bright orange-yellow-red color. So, the ICBM missile story is a LIE!
Special conditions
It would turn out that missile and space activity could [and had been] creating various forms of sky spirals for many years. The key feature which made them unusual ['once in a lifetime' for most observers] was the requirement for a narrow range of illumination conditions that rarely coincided. The rocket had to engage in plume-forming activity, either thrusting or dumping leftover fuel.  The sky had to be dark [and clear], but to illuminate the plume, the sun had to be only slightly below the horizon, preferably lighting the plume from behind [as seen by observers]. Calculations with Internet-based astronomy tools showed this was exactly the situation in these two December 2009 spiral events.

Mathematics also helped solve the initial mystery: WHERE exactly was the source of the apparition? How far away was it, really, since judging distance to an unknown-sized out-of-focus blob in the night sky is notoriously prone to random guesswork. That's especially true for objects near the horizon, which based on analogies with familiar objects such as aircraft lights, can be imagined to be nearby, perhaps within tens of meters, perhaps a few tens of kilometers at most.

Trigonometry came to the rescue, aided by old-fashioned 'orienteering' [finding true direction]. Accurate line-of-sight azimuths could be derived from the photos, which showed recognizable silhouettes of nearby mountains [and star backgrounds]. Combined with exact knowledge of the observer locations this gave quite accurate angles.  Because such azimuths could be derived from several sites along the northern Norwegian coast, they allowed triangulation of the geographic location of the object forming the spectacle. It was far to the east, over Russian territorial waters. This was fully consistent with the explanation that a military missile test aimed at the normal impact zone in Siberia was the cause of the sightings.

An entirely reasonable follow-on question is to ask why, if the rocket was over Russian coastal waters, it was only seen from Norway and Sweden, but not from Russian cities in the northwest corner of that country that were much closer. The valid explanation involves timing and the round shape of the Earth. 

Over northern Norway [the only part of the country that wasn't cloud-covered, as weather satellite images show] the skies were still dark. At the same time, regions farther southeast would be experiencing pre-dawn sky brightening, when stars become invisible behind the sky glare. Meanwhile, any object at very high altitude [such as an artificial satellite or long-range missile] would be fully lit by the still-not-risen sun [as indeed the missile plume was].

So even if the skies were cloudless over Murmansk and Arkhangelsk and nearby regions, the dawn sunlight would have masked any space objects passing nearby. Numerous websites [such as, or] offer programs to determine exact solar illumination conditions for any site at any date/time. One can also obtain the sun's "depression angle" for a  nighttime location, and from it then approximate the altitude required to be in sunlight ["Grahn's Law" states that the altitude of the overhead shadowed region boundary in kilometers is close to the square of the depression angle in degrees].  

The TIMING of this launch near dawn at launch site meant that while observers to the west still had a dark sky, the plume was high enough to be in sunlight. So it was visible from regions to the west but not in sky-brightened regions east of the launch site.

Some skeptics of the missile explanation suggested that a missile test would have been announced in advance, and the "missile explanation" would not then have appeared until only AFTER the event, as a made-up ad hoc excuse.  

But the missile test launch was indeed openly discussed ahead of time. Moscow's "Kommersant" newspaper reported on November 3, 2009, that the launch would occur in a few weeks. Closer to launch, official warnings [called NOTAMS]  were released for the period in early December where the test had been delayed to. An article by Vladimir Voronov, "Bulava Stupidity", in Moscow's 'Sobesednik' newspaper, reported on November 17: "The Bulava missile complex with which it is intended to equip our submarines is terminally unfortunate: either it doesn't fly, or it flies -- but off course, or it completely explodes. The next tests have been officially announced for 24 November, but there are major doubts that these, too, will be successful." A few days later, Moscow Interfax-AVN news agency reported on November 24, "The next test launch of a Bulava sea-based intercontinental ballistic missile is expected to be carried out in early December, a missile industry spokesman told Interfax on Tuesday."

As already stated, all worldwide activities that are hazardous to air and sea traffic are announced in advance in a system called 'Notice to Airmen and Mariners' or NOTAMS. The USSR and China did it, too. There are standard public-accessible data bases containing all such notices that sea and air traffic controllers consult regularly. The notice contains the locations, altitude ranges, and the time intervals that traffic is warned to avoid. True, the messages are written in technical formats that must be used for interpreting them, but the coding is straightforward. News agencies rarely if ever note or publicize such routine information

All these precursor warnings in both the Russian news media and on world air/sea travel websites effectively answered the 'not-a-missile' claim that an absence of such warnings prove it was not a missile. Just the opposite is true.

Some 'rocket science' may cast more light on the nature of the apparition, and of the failure. 
The frequency of spiral effects for Russian missile tests, and their rarity during US military missile tests from Florida and California, may merely be due to a difference in geography. The central issue is the distance to the target zone and how this influences the missile's ascent performance. The US has entire wide oceans to shoot missiles to full range, but although Russia  is a wide country, even the farthest part of eastern  Siberia is still well short of matching the range needed to reach North American targets, which determines the maximum operational capability of any ICBM.  Full-range Russian tests [which do occur occasionally] would impact in mid-Pacific, near Hawaii. They are rare because they are easily tracked by US surveillance systems and may leave top secret hardware where it can be retrieved by US devices. 

This range limitation means that to avoid overshooting the far end of the in-country test range, Soviet missiles had to restrain their final velocity well below the maximum. They had to cut off thrusting earlier than what they were designed for.

Thrust termination
Rocket engines that use liquid fuels could accomplish this easily, by just closing the fuel flow valves. But solid rocket motors, burning not from the hind end but from a length-wise central cavity, were next to impossible to extinguish on demand. So a design was developed [both in the US and the USSR] to allow the engines to continue burning to fuel exhaustion, but while doing so, just stop thrusting forward during this terminal phase. 

This was accomplished by installing openable windows ["thrust ports"] near the nose of the booster, to enable venting exhaust gasses forward so as to null out the continuing [but much reduced] backwards flow.  Since usually there was a nuclear warhead sitting directly atop this stage, the thrusting had to be accomplished with twin opposite-side vents facing sideways but canted forward, like a letter 'Y'. As a result, at the moment chosen by the control program, it could cut off pushing forward while continuing to burn harmlessly until all fuel was consumed.  

Solid-rocket builder THIOKOL discusses this on its website: "Thrust Termination Port. == A port provided in the rocket motor case to vent combustion gases so that rocket operation can be terminated. The port usually is provided for in the head end of the motor so that gas flow is effectively diverted from the nozzle. The port is formed by firing a shaped charge of explosive placed against the outside of the forward end of the motor."

As an additional flight technique, the last stage also usually also rotates rapidly, both for stability and also as countermeasure to the effects of anti-missile energy weapons. This rotary motion creates strikingly regular double-spiral patterns similar to rotating twin-nozzle lawn sprinkler. As with the lawn sprinkler, nothing is spinning AROUND the central point, every particle is moving directly AWAY from the origin, but each subsequent particle is ejected in a slightly different direction, creating the visual impression of a solid, moving ring. 

This is worth repeating. A spiral form can be created by linear expulsion of material from a spinning object. Nothing is actually MOVING in a spiral AROUND the central object.  


What exactly HAD gone wrong is still a deeply guarded military secret in Moscow. The Bulava ICBM program was most troubled Russian missile development effort in half a century. Officially, this failure occurred late in ascent during the third stage performance. Its exact nature has never been disclosed, but it might have been loss of attitude control and tumbling, or partial rupture of propellant casing wall, or [my preference] the premature activation of thrust venting. But it any case, the malfunction was high enough for its consequences to remain visible for a minute or so. 

The second Russian test may not have been pure coincidence, but merely reflect practical operational limits. Sometimes, different missile tests that rely on common tracking facilities are timed close together to keep special deployed teams on station. The December 10 launch [announced in Moscow] was part of a new program to test maneuverable warheads to evade US missile defense system [ten years later, the test program continues, it most recently launched on November 29, setting off new UFO panics in Russia and central Asia]. Launch of a surplus 'Topol' missile from Kapustin Yar [on the lower Volga] to Sary Shagan [in Kazakhstan] was right over ground observation points just after sunset, on purpose, presumably to enable high-precision optical tracking.

To sum up, the technological puzzle was straightforward in its iron-clad solution, but the sociological/cultural puzzle is more amorphous and daunting. 

The spectacular apparition observed in Norway on December 9, 2009 was created by a Russian sub-launched ICBM, called 'Bulava'. The missile was following a standard test profile into Kamchatka. Weather was clear and plume was backlit by the pre-dawn sun. Some anomaly during third stage caused the object to eject plumes laterally. This spiral-forming phase lasted unusually long but there had been a few earlier precedents. Because of its great distance, it was easy to misinterpret speed and location. 

These kinds of events will be occurring more frequently [and video recordings will be spread even wider] in years to come. Only by recognizing these 'new-normal' prosaic stimuli will people be able to identify and isolate any truly anomalous aerial phenomena.

Monday, December 2, 2019

George Noory, oracle of our age

        In case anyone doesn't already know all too well, George Noory is the principal host of the four-hour overnight radio show Coast to Coast AM. He also sometimes appears as a talking head on the ridiculously popular History Channel series Ancient Aliens, now in its 14th season. He therefore joins such well-known numbskulls as Mike Bara, David Childress and Giorgio Tsoukalos as custodians of the astounding mendacity of a show that Jason Colavito has mocked better than I ever could.

        Noory isn't the sharpest knife in the box, especially when the topic is physics or astronomy. He has two standard questions for any physicist that comes his way as an interviewee: "How did the Big Bang happen, I just don't get it?" and "What could Einstein have accomplished if he had had a modern computer?"

Mining the Moon
        Last night's interviewee wasn't exactly a physicist, but a sort-of-expert on space science, Rick Sterling. Sterling didn't commit any howling errors, and said several times that the future of US space exploration was mostly in the hands of private enterprise now. He's right about that, of course, but the show's own titular science adviser Bob Zimmerman could have said the same thing only better.

        It was in discussing the possibility of the remnants of an ancient civilization on the Moon that George Noory brought the level of the conversation down to Ancient Aliens -style pseudo-fact. He remarked that the late Ingo Swann had "remote viewed" the far side of the Moon and had seen structures, buildings, roads and all the features of a civilization. He then pushed the topic even further away from any semblance of truth or logic by stating that he believes humankind was once very advanced, technically, with H-bombs and spacecraft and all the trappings of modern society, but then "something happened." He clearly thinks it quite possible that this former version of mankind inhabited the Moon and built stuff before, for unknown reasons, it lost all that capability and reverted to a hunter-gatherer society.

        It just astounds me that the moon-anomaly crowd don't go to the obvious place to find out what's up there. Why TF would you get your information from a laughably inaccurate form of woo such as "remote viewing" when you can simply look up the library of images returned by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter? That marvellous piece of engineering has been in orbit now for more than ten years and has sent us images of more than 75% of the lunar surface at 0.5m/px resolution.

        Case in point—Sterling said his group (The Society for Planetary SETI Research) has been investigating some "anomalous" features near the satellite crater Paracelsus C that look a lot like mining operations. Paracelsus C is at 21.7° S, 165.1° E. Here's the LRO image at 64 m/px:

        I can offer Rick Sterling better. Here's a permalink to the zoomable version, and the lunain can be examined all the way down to 0.5 m/px. See any mining, Rick? See any of the solar panels that would obviously be required for a technical civilization to do its thing???

Social media
        By sweet coincidence, that interview aired on the same night as Lesley Stahl's in-depth interview with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki on CBS's 60 Minutes. Wojcicki, a very confident and appealing personality, talked about the difficulty of policing YouTube content considering that 500 HOURS OF NEW MATERIAL ARE UPLOADED EVERY MINUTE. She basically admitted that the best her reviewers can do is to remove content that can be defined as actually harmful, and allow generalities that most of us would consider trash. The example she gave was nix to “Don’t hire somebody because of their race," but OK to “White people are superior.” She also said that the platform is viewed for A BILLION HOURS A DAY, making it the most-used of the social media after Google itself.

        So it seems we have raised a YouTube generation, exposed to inevitable lies. Facebook is full of propaganda. Lightweights such as George Noory are considered in some sense opinion leaders. Truly, my friends, our culture is in danger.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

UFO over France?

        James Oberg has collected a whole slew of excited UFO reports from French observers, occasioned by the Falcon-9 second stage deorbit burn on 11th November. The orbital path passed over the Pyrenees and the display was visible from much of Western Europe and North Africa.

A selection of reports:
« [Y]esterday evening, Monday 11/11/2019 around 17h55, I observed  above the end of
the Ardeche river canyon, between Saint Martin d'Ardèche and Saint Just d'Ardèche . Flying
slowly in a West-East direction, at an indefinite altitude but definitely in our sky, our atmosphere. The "main lighting" in the form of a camembert was noted, the arc of a circle to the front, coming from two sources side by side at the front of the object, and a line or a ray slightly offset towards the 'front’ left. [I had] no time to focus with my poor smartphone, just a photo and a seven-second blurred video, all in maximum optical + digital zoom, too bad. What a surprise...»

--Jérôme JAQUIN - Link to video

« Hello, seen on LSA 38260 at 17:52 too, Flight Radar helping it was Lyon-Ajaccio at sunset. The image does not do justice to the magnificent plume of light generated by the aircraft's headlights on the clouds Yes! You are not accustomed to observe the sky: last night the conditions of light and humidity allowed good observations like these. I saw the phenomenon and cross checked on Flight Radar in RT! What evidence do you have that it was not an airplane? »

--Cyril Bargeton, pilot

« Strange object in the sky that I filmed near Gretz Armainvilliers this Monday 11/11/19 before
18h. I do not know what it was, it looked like a plane with landing lights, but I did not actually see a plane, it made no noise at all. I do not know if it was an aircraft, a drone, a helicopter, a glider, a weather balloon, a cloud of insects, a  meteorological / spatial phenomenon / paranormal or UFO ... We do not know .. No clouds other than the fog that followed the object like a luminous cone.»

--Mahé Abbad

Oberg's comments:
        In recent years I’ve collected an amazing range of analogies and metaphors from witnesses trying to relate the appearance of a space rocket plume to some familiar earthly item. Aside from the spirals and spheres and other highly unusual forms, the descriptions of simple exoatmospheric plumes has inspired analogies to headlights, to parachutes, to ice cream cones, but never before this France overflight had I ever heard a witness compare it to a slice of Camembert cheesenote 1. But the French being French, I should not have been surprised. Mais pourquoi pas!?

• Witnesses exhibited standard inability to judge distance
• Witnesses exhibited good ability to describe shape variations
• Stronger than usual delight in imagining it was an alien UFO
• Bizarre coincidence with moderate [5.4 Richter] local earthquake
• Some witnesses accurately noted unusual feature that plume PRECEDED rather than FOLLOWED the object [it WAS a deorbit burn]

===========================/ \======================
[1] Note that the French call a pie chart "a camembert." So it's a very common descriptor of a circle segment.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Robert Morningstar's faulty memory

James Concannon writes...

        Just over a year ago, as a Central American migrant "caravan" was making its way northwards through Mexico, Robert Morningstar re-posted on his Foolbook page this nasty piece of propaganda:

He added his own comment, as follows:
"[T]he democrats favorite group of people want to leave their sh*thole and turn our country into one too. Democrats have already been moving it in that direction here. Why not more? Right?"
       As this blog reported at the time, these images have nothing to do with the migrant "caravan" proceeding through Mexico. The most shocking image, of the bloodied policeman, is taken from a news story about student riots in Michoacan dated 16th October 2012.  The top photo is taken from a report of a 2016 teachers' union rally in Salina Cruz.

        Just the other day I asked him if he'd seen this report by Beatrice Dupuy of AP confirming that the images were unrelated to immigrants. His reply?
"James Concussion," You old fakir, I've never posted that. :) You are a cur, a scoundrel, forked-tongued con man and a habitual liar. 
        Excuuuuse me, WHO is the liar here??? Is it me, or is it the man who agreed with recently-convicted official liar Roger Stone that Hillary Clinton murdered JFK Jnr.?

Update: ...and the man who said he had a copy of the "1968 edition" of the Brookings Report. There is no such edition—the final report was issued in 1960. When challenged, Morningstar was unable to come up with any text from his so-called edition that varied in any way from the authentic version.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Mike Bara, Brooks Agnew, and Xenon depletion

        Mike Bara, the bullshit artist who will say anything you want if you pay him, once said that he's hired an investigator to track me down and that he will soon file a restraining order against me. That was in October 2012 and I'm still waiting for the process server.

        At the time, Bara was being interviewed by Brooks Agnew on something called X-Squared radio, which still exists and calls itself  "the #1 talk radio program in America on Sunday nights." Agnew is a strange fellow indeed. Some of his on-line résumé is probably true ("an internationally acclaimed lecturer on energy, manufacturing, and quality improvement"), but Metabunk has outed him as a fake Ph.D., and his ideas about a hollow Earth and time travel make me giggle a bit.

The secret door
        What made me think about Agnew recently was the fact that he was one of the guests "behind the secret door" for George Noory on 24th October. I dozed off for some of it but I heard Agnew say that Earth's atmosphere has 60% less xenon than the solar system average. Well, this blog and its readers seem to like xenon as subject matter—my article Yes, folks, it's the xenon isotope show from May 2016 has had 5,418 page views so far, and 48 comments—both figures well above average.

        So is Agnew correct? I had to research the question (xenon abundance not being something I discuss on a daily basis) and in fact xenon is even less abundant in the atmosphere than he said. The solar system in general has 18.25 times as much xenon as has Earth's atmosphere. Earth shares its relative lack of Xe with the Sun, and most known comets and asteroids. Wikipedia tells me that the explanation may be that the missing gas is trapped inside quartz.

        Agnew seems to think that Xe depletion supports the hollow Earth hypothesis. My opinion is that Agnew's books support the hypothesis that he's a dreamer. It's more likely that Mike Bara will get his restraining order than that time travel will be possible in our lifetimes.

© 1975 Columbia Records, John Berg

Saturday, October 19, 2019

SDM tries it on yet again

        On 4th September, responding to the US Govt Answering Brief that I covered in August, Sean Morton filed a five-page document with the Ninth Circuit titled INFORMAL APPEAL RESPONSE TO GOVERNMENT BRIEF. It was signed by SDM in his jail cellnote 1 but served by someone called Scott Cartwright. Reading it through, I'm struck by the fact that it lacks SDM's style. For one thing, there are no spellling errors. And then there are no pompous self-justifications or absurd digressions, as for example in this extract from Morton's 2018 Expedited Motion for Summary Disposition:
"Sean has made a showing of exigency. A delay will substantially further harm Sean who claims he is entitled to have his life, property and rights restored. An expedited schedule for briefing an oral argument will be insufficient to prevent that harm. This is especially true because Sean's free speech, media, loss of life and property considerations are at stake. Sean's imprisonment causes an avalanche of irreparable injury including injuring the public right to have Sean be protected media. The longer the delay the more the public has cause to distrust the government and think the IRS targeting scandal is above reproach and the courts are not protecting the peoples rights to be free of oppression. Expediting remedy will restore trust in the courts and government after deep abuse and fractures in the system. "
        So I conclude that somebody else drafted this document. Perhaps Morton finally has the public defender he should have had right from the start of the legal process (and which he did not have, thanks to his own pig-headed stupidity). Or perhaps somebody found some $$$ to pay for a legal service.

        The document may not have SDM's stamp on it, but that does not stop it from advancing some utterly daft arguments. An example:
"The offense Mr. Morton is convicted of is in error because the statute expressly requires the conduct to be in the geographical location of the 10 square miles of United States. By the governments own admission the conduct falls well outside the scope of the statute because the indictment alleges all conduct was expressly in California, a separate sovereignty. Sean is convicted in error because his conduct was not in United States as required by the letter of the law. Statutory authority and Federal jurisdiction is exceeded because the conduct was purely intrastate California conduct and therefore outside the power of Congress to regulate."
I can't imagine that one succeeding.

        There are a few issues that might have a better chance, but since I'm not a legal scholar I can't say how much merit, if any, they have. For example:
  • Should a Faretta hearingnote 2 have been held before the court allowed Morton to act pro se?
  • Did the government provide adequate discovery? (There is talk here of 55,000 pages of evidence that should have been provided on CD, but the CDs turned out to be blank)
  • Document alleges that the jury instructions did not include willfulness or mens reanote 3 as required by common law.
  • There's a repeat of the allegation that Sean and Melissa were selected for prosecution because of their political beliefs. The Govt. has already answered that one and it certainly won't fly.
        Nobody knows when the Ninth Circuit will issue a final judgement on appeal. They've certainly now got an avalanche of paperwork to pore over. Morton has served just over two years of his six-year sentence—if the appeal court manages to delay for another two years or so, its judgement may be moot.
Thanks again to AE for monitoring

======================/ \==================
[1] Morton signed it "Dr Sean David Morton." His PhD (in therapeutic psychology) was purchased from the International Institute of Health and Spiritual Sciences in Montreal, Canada

[2] See this for an explanation. This might be his best point.

[3] Mens rea simply means the legal principle of a defendant knowing that his or her behavior is illegal. At least I know that much. I also know another fine latin phrase, Ignorantia legis neminem excusat  (Ignorance of the law excuses nobody).

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The mystery of Apollo 10

[For a general refresher on the Apolllo 10 mission, the wikipedia article is good]

James Concannon writes...

         In their 2009 book Dark Mission, Richard Hoagland and Mike Bara wrote (p. 280)  "While the spacecraft [the Apollo 10 LM, Snoopy] was theoretically fully capable of landing on the moon, inexplicably, it was not given the capability to do so."

        In expat's critique of the book, he wrote: « FACT: Snoopy was emphatically NOT capable of landing (well perhaps, technically, it was, but not of successfully taking off again.) Grumman engineers had not yet implemented SWIP (the Super Weight Improvement Program) and the spacecraft was too heavy. More accurately, it would have been too heavy if it had been fully-fueled for a landing and takeoff. »

        It's not a widely-known fact that George Mueller, Director of NASA's Office of Manned Spaceflight, was actually in favor of a landing by Snoopy. He felt that, even if the astronauts couldn't exit the LM and walk on the lunar surface, just the fact of a brief touchdown would sufficiently fulfill JFK's challenge to land a man on the Moon.

        In Foothold in the Heavens (2010), Ben Evans wrote this, on the basis of an interview with Tom Stafford:
"Stafford told Mueller in no uncertain terms that if Apollo 10 was rescheduled to make a landing, "The flight crew won't be on it. There was just so much to do." The main problem was that 'his' lunar module, designated LM-4 and shortly to be re-named Snoopy, was overweight; it was only by a few kilograms, but still too much to satisfy the safety margins for a successful lunar liftoff. Grumman engineers had long known that LM-4 was earmarked for an Earth-orbital or lunar-orbital test flight, rather than a lunar landing, and had not subjected it to their Super Weight Improvement Program (SWIP)."
STATS: The mass of Snoopy, unfuelled, was 9,484 lb cf. 9,287 lb for Apollo 11 's Eagle. An overweight of 197 lb or 89 kg.

        On the basis of an online discussion with a space fan (in French, as it happens) I fell to wondering how come, if 197 lb overweight was a show-stopper for Apollo 10, it became possible to add a Lunar Rover weighing 463 lb for the later J Missions (Apollos 15-17). I'm a member of a Facebook group that regularly discusses space history and has several experts (James Oberg is one) who take an interest. So I posted to that group yesterday and got immediate response:

James Concanon: Snoopy was too heavy to have landed on the Moon and taken off again, right? The Descent Stage was 220lb heavier that that of Apollo 11. So how come for the J Missions it was OK to add a 463lb LRV?

Ronald Purviance:  Many things. Saturn V mods to increase payload, changes in way the LM was released for descent to the surface, and changes to the LM itself.

Alan McEwen: ...

Rolf Karlastad: Alan: If you're not too heavy to take off, more fuel = more delta V.
Even if you had too much fuel for takeoff, due to a lack of thrust, one could simply burn fuel until the thrust to weight ratio was greater than one, and you would lift off.
Sort of the opposite of a plane where you rely on lift.

Alan McEwen: I deleted my previous response because I realized it was wrong. Snoopy was short fueled in the ascent stage. That is why it could not have completed and an ascent to orbit. Thrust was not an issue. As I said it could lift off. There was just not enough energy potential in the amount of fuel to carry out a full ascent. The weight issue came into play with The descent. As you may remember , Buzz and Neil landed with almost empty tanks. If I'm not mistaken they also had 2 PLSSs and basic science cargo. Snoopy did not have those things if I remember correctly. Had Snoopy been fully fueled, plus carrying the cargo, it would not have enough descent propulsion fuel to make a landing.

John Breaux: Bigger descent engine is the main thing. Also in later missions the LM would be taken closer to the surface before undocking meaning it needed less fuel for the descent. I'm sure some of the bigger brains here can give you exact figures.

Shane Barry Penington: Absolutely Correct...BINGO you get the $64,000.00 prize! They also figured a more direct descent trajectory from a lower orbit...

David Paul:  Yes, in later missions they used the SM engine for the initial descent orbit insertion, letting that engine do some of the delta-v needed. Also, by the J missions, they had changed the fuel mixture ratio on the Saturn (I think it was the S-II) so they could get more payload up.

Greg Bigelow: At approx. 2:20 Tom Stafford himself says it was too heavy to land.

Rolf Karlstad: he over simplified. Perhaps it didn't have enough delta V to land. Unless for some reason the landing legs were weak. See? Weight doesn't really factor in, only delta V. It didn't have enough delta V to land because it didn't have enough fuel, perhaps because it was too massive, and the tyranny of the delta V equation Delta V = natural log (mass fueled/mass empty) *isp *g
It's really the only factor at play here.

That's the History, now for the Mythology
        So, OK, I got my answer. But perhaps predictably it stirred up a well-known controversy about that mission. Gene Cernan must take part of the blame for this, because he himself suggested an alternative reason why Apollo 10 was not cleared to land.
 "A lot of people thought about the kind of people we were: 'Don't give those guys an opportunity to land, 'cause they might!' So the ascent module, the part we lifted off the lunar surface with, was short-fueled. The fuel tanks weren't full. So had we literally tried to land on the Moon, we couldn't have gotten off." --Cernan, quoted in Rocket Men by Craig Nelson
...and of course, some of those Facebook experts couldn't resist reviving the controversy:

Steve Pietrowski: NASA intentionally short-fueled the LEM so there was no way they could have landed and gotten back. Management assumed that the X crew would have tried for the surface if they had a viable chance. For the J-missions, they had better PDI, as well as a redesigned engine bell for the descent stage. I don't think the engine was uprated powerwise, just made more efficient.

Sarah Bowyer:  I don't think NASA short-fuelled the LM because they didn't trust the crew not to try and land on the surface! Yes, they were competitive, but not to the extent of ignoring orders and trying to land before the procedures had been worked out. Remember, when A10 flew, they had a good chance of being on a later lunar mission.

Steve Pietrowski:  I'm pretty sure I read it in "Chariots for Apollo." I don't recall management explicitly forbidding a landing either. They sort of just didn't bring it up; then mentioned, "by the way, you won't have the fuel." I know I've seen this story in the wild elsewhere. If anything it adds a layer to the legend.?????

James Concannon: That was not the reason for the half-empty tanks. The reason was they needed the spacecraft's mass at the moment of rendezvous to be exactly what it would have been if it had taken off from the surface.

Tom Faber: Will this myth that Snoopy's ascent stage was short fueled to keep the crew from trying to land ever die out? No, that is NOT the reason. It had a reduced propellant load so that the rendezvous maneuvers with the CSM were flown with the ascent stage at close to the same mass as one had after an actual ascent from the surface. If it had a full load its handling characteristics would have been very different.

Besides, these men were professionals. They would not have disobeyed orders. And what would have happened if they did? They would NOT have been heroes. They would have forever been branded as the crew who would follow orders. It would have cast a pall over the whole program. Congress may have pulled the plug on the rest of the program right there.

Ronald Purviance: Every time I hear this BS rumor, it makes me mad. It totally dishonors the crew.

Greg Kennedy: I’ve posted to similar threads several times. Suggest you check NASA history publication “Apollo by the Numbers”. It has statistical data for all the missions including vehicle weights, propellant loads, etc.

Just the facts
        I took Greg Kennedy's recommendation, and looked up the document. Here's a link to the ToC. In the tabulations labeled Spacecraft Key Facts, I found two very interesting facts.

FIRST, Although the Descent Stage of Snoopy is confirmed as overweight, the Ascent Stage was actually lighter than that of Eagle: 4,781 lb cf. 4,804 lb. So if that's true, why would there be any concern about Snoopy's capability to take off?

SECOND, The rated thrust of the Apollo 10 Ascent Stage engine is given as 1,650 lbf cf. 3,218 lbf for Apollo 11 and all subsequent missions. Even the Apollo 9 figure cited is 2,524.

        Nobody in the expert group ventured any explanation. So there is a mystery—two mysteries—about Apollo 10 after all.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A murderer writes...

        Kerry Cassidy definitely seems to have a soft spot for the convicted murderer Mark Richards. She has undertaken the 300-mile round trip from her home near Malibu to Vacaville eleven times to interview Richards at length. Richards is 66, Cassidy is 60-ish, and they're both reasonably well preserved, so it's perhaps not surprising that there's some mutual attraction—however, rumour-mongers who hint that Kerry's visits may be "conjugal" are undoubtedly fantasizing. A California State prison visiting room is no place for hanky-panky.

        Last Sunday Kerry gave Richards a platform for a complaint he has about attacks on him and his family by "a group of internet thugs," in the form of An Open Letter to the Modern Judas. Throughout this 4-page anti-panegyric, names of those he accuses of betraying him are redacted.
"Horrid, weak, evil people like [REDACTED]—who are incapable of doing anything good or creative so they feed off ruining anyone who isn't as limited as they are—move through the history of our world like a poison. People like [REDACTED] who claimed to be 'friends' at one time ... have time and time again been talked into cutting the throat of someone who showed them nothing but kindness. ... They either let an agent of evil, like [REDACTED] convince them that betrayal is justified, or they tell themselves that there is a legitimate reason for them to turn on their friend."
        The problem with this editing (done, he writes, so as not to give any publicity to the attackers) is that as a reader I can't make any assessment of Richards' complaints. He neither identifies those he calls thugs, nor gives us any information about the content of their attacks, still less provides any documentary proof that the attacks are false. In default, I bear in mind that:

  • Richards is a convicted murderer. Kerry Cassidy has said that he is a"political prisoner" of the Illuminati, but the truth is that he was convicted by a jury that deliberated for four days. A man who is serving life without parole is not in a good position to talk about other people ruining him. He ruined himself.
  • Richards styles himself "Captain" despite never having attained that rank.
  • Richards has spun preposterous tales of his personal heroism fighting aliens in outer space, without even a shred of corroboration.
  • His defense to the charge of murder has been inconsistent. Kerry Cassidy's transcript of the tenth interview includes this passage: "He was framed for a murder he is accused of having masterminded while he was on a mission off-planet in service to humanity. He was Captain of a starship enterprise type vessel, fighting the war against aliens bent on the takeover of Planet Earth." Yet on pp. 13-24 of the transcript, we read that a trial witness known as "the chimney sweep" stated that he had a receipt proving that Mark Richards had bought lunch for his crew prior to the murder. The account continues "But Mark claims he simply paid for the lunch and then did not eat with the crew but continued on to have lunch with his parents at their home." How can a man who is supposedly off planet fighting alien wars also be having lunch with his parents??? 
A Murder in Camelot
        It's hard to guess exactly what all of the redacted names in Richards' open letter might be. One might be Richard Dolan, perhaps, who, as I noted a year ago, called Richards "a deeply, deeply, dangerous, disturbed and sick man." That was in a preview of a documentary video by Kevin Moore. Moore has had his problems, but he now says that his video will be out this coming December. A trailer is available.

        It's perhaps tempting to think Kevin Moore himself might be one of the redacteds. However, it's fairly plain that Richards is complaining of people who were on his side at one time. That does not describe Kevin Moore—far from it. Perhaps, however, he's the "agent of evil" who convinces the Judases that betrayal is justified.

        My opinion? I think Kerry Cassidy ought to have better things to do than hero-worship a murderer, a boastful self-promoter and a liar.