Thursday, May 23, 2019

Mike Bara does something useful for once

        I guess we all know by now that, whatever nonsense Mike Bara writes and talks about in his books and TV appearances, at least he's a firm advocate for the reality of the Apollo program. Many years ago, he co-wrote with Richard Hoagland and Steve Troy a 2-part essay titled "Who Mourns for Apollo?" (the title echoes the Startrek saga Who Mourns for Adonais?). It's still up, and you can have a look if you wish:

Part 1
Part 2

       Bara copied large swaths of that text into a chapter in his book Ancient Aliens and JFK. It was peculiar, I thought, because the chapter had no justification in a book that pretended to reveal the villains behind the assassination. It was just makeweight, I guess, and I wonder what Bara's co-authors thought about that.

       Well, now Bara's one of three frontmen re-hashing that material, just in time for the Apollo 11 50th anniversary, in a six-ep TV series for The Science Channel, Truth Behind The Moon Landing. First ep coming up on June 2nd.

        His co-presenters are former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin and former FBI agent Chad Jenkins. The online announcement continues:
Produced by MGM-owned Big Fish Entertainment, the six-episode series tests evidence and applies scientific reasoning to conspiracies.
The program will also test claims about how the Apollo 1 fire started; study one of NASA’s last existing Lunar Lander prototypes that Neil Armstrong trained on; gain access to NASA archives to uncover photos and footage never-before-seen by the general public, and more.
Dan Cesareo, Lucilla D’Agostino, Rick Hankey, Ron Bowman and Pat Twist serve as executive producers. Executive producers for Science Channel Caroline Perez and Neil Laird.
        Let's hope this six-parter gets a decent audience. Far too many people now believe the bullshit theory that the spectacular Moon landings of 50 years ago were all a spectacular hoax.

P.S. There's that dodgy "never-before-seen" claim again. It was made on behalf of the recent Apollo 11 movie. As a die-hard fan of spaceflight, I loved the movie but I didn't see any film sequences that were totally unfamiliar. The compo included higher-definition film than TV usually shows, but that's a different claim, isn't it? I'll watch Mike Bara's series but I'm not expecting to see anything new. Clavius Moon Base covered all this material very well years ago.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Mark Richards writes, and writes, and writes some more

        Mark Richards put finger to keyboard on 24th April to spew verbiage into the world-wide web, starting with this paragraph:
"My family and I found ourselves in an unenviable position this winter, as the Fake News pundits set some English cyber bully into full attack mode in our direction. He opened his attack with a series of interviews with some questionably one-sided ‘witnesses.’"
         Well, it doesn't take a genius to decode that. The "English cyber bully" is Kevin Moore, who is in production on a video documentary provisionally titled Richard Baldwin: A Murder in Camelot. We don't yet know who all the witnesses are—in fact, Moore seems to have run into a bit of production trouble and is said to be back in the USA doing some reshoots—but we do know that one of them is Richard Dolan. Dolan made a mortal enemy of Kerry Cassidy by agreeing to the interview, as I reported last October. Dolan is not a man to leap to conclusions or to speak hyperbolically just for effect. He considered the facts and came to his conclusion that Mark Richards the convicted murderer is dangerous, disturbed, and sick.

         Richards considers that a one-sided attack. But Moore also interviewed Kerry Cassidy at great length, and also shot video of a conference at which Richards' current wife Jo-Ann was speaking, last October. Now Moore has said he won't be including any of Cassidy's interview because she does not want to be on his show. As for Jo-Ann, she wrote a week ago:
"No, Kevin, I will not be in your documentary. You do not have my permission to use recordings of our phone conversations. You do not have my permission to use any video footage that you filmed of me when you showed up in CO."
        So that takes care of the only two people in the whole wide world who would speak kindly of Mark Richards. As a federal prisoner, Richards himself is not eligible for a video interview. In the circumstances I don't think Kevin Moore can be blamed for presenting a biased case. I'll leave it to him, if he reads this, to refute the idea that he was set to make his documentary by "the Fake News pundits."

On and  on and on....
        Richards did not stop with that one blogpost, which was 898 words. On the 25th, 27th and 29th April he let the keyboard rip again with Part 2 (1,600 words), Part 3 (1,767 words) and Part 4 (1.144 words). That's a bit over 5,400 words so far, and he threatens more. Even he himself describes it as a diatribe, and —God help us—Part 4 ends with the words "To be continued."

        In all that verbiage, what's missing is any sort of evidence of Mark Richards's claimed innocence, and any sort of evidence to substantiate his claims to have been heroically battling alien forces in outer space at the time he's supposed to have been masterminding the murder of Richard Baldwin. The closest we get to evidence is Jo-Ann's protestation:
"Mark graduated from high school in June 1971. I have proof of that. Mark has just sent to me additional proof as well – prison documents that verify his high school graduation and five college degrees. I will post these documents soon on my blogsite. I should also soon have their verification of his military career.
::
When the time is right, I shall point out flaws in what Kevin has been reported [sic]"
Let's see that documentary proof, Jo-Ann. The time is right RIGHT NOW.

Update 12 May:
        Part 5 (1,592 words) and Part 6 (1,461 words) are now up, and still nothing resembling evidence to support Mark Richards' tales of interplanetary heroism.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Lunar spectacular

        This year so far, all of us who try to follow spaceflight and space technology have been mightily impressed by SpaceX's incredible feats of rocket retrieval, by China's demonstration of prowess (not only soft-landing on the far side of the Moon, but providing the lunar orbiting relay station that made it possible), and by a fairly spectacular woopsie from Israel.

        I try to keep up on the private enterprises that are now seriously in the space business, but every time I read another magazine article or blog post on the subject I get humiliated by how much has been going on that has totally passed me by.

        Never more so than when I opened the current issue of New Yorker to find the 8-page article by Rivka Galchen, The Eighth Continent (sub-title The new race for the moon, for science, profit, and pride). Galchen is a Canadian author and magazine contributor, who has previously written for New Yorker on the topics of Quantum computing, weather, and earthquakes.

        Ms. Galchen has been out and about in what Tom Wolfe called the low-rent facilities of the new space pioneers. Check out what she found:

* The telerobotics lab at the NASA-funded Network for Exploration and Space Science, which is developing 3-D printing technology using lunar regolith as the print medium. "You could print the wrench you need to fix something," says Jack Burns, NESS's director.

* Celestis, a funeral service company that already launches its clients' ashes into space and plans to send them to the Moon.

* Astrobotic, a Pittsburgh company developing a lunar soft-lander.

* The Mojave Air & Space Port, where many of those new pioneers have set up shop. Masten Space Systems is developing reusable rocketry there, with plans to go to the Moon in 2021. The company's pet rocket is the Xodiac—remember that funky name, it'll be in the news soon.

* Honeybee Robotics, in Pasadena, is developing standardized lunar rovers and has its eye on asteroid mining.

* Moon Express, another lunar exploration company hoping to deliver its first lunar soft-lander in 2020. It was that company's vice-president, Alain Berinstain, who first called the Moon "The Eighth Continent".

        Experience leads me to believe that not all these projects will come to fruition. Most will be delayed, some will fail altogether. But that article convinces me that private-enterprise Moon exploration and exploitation is just a few years away.

        For the next week or so, the whole article can be read online at this link.

Update:
        More humiliation came my way when I read Bob Zimmerman's blogpost today and learned that the Japanese company Interstallar Technologies has just completed the first successful sub-orbital flight of its MOMO rocket.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Spring acrostic

Get out those pencils and erasers. It's time for another acrostic puzzle, with a theme appropriate for this blog.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/jo2qbox6bj9u5au/acrostic04.pdf?dl=0

Answers will be posted after Memorial Day, 28th May.

For general instructions on how to solve acrostics, see the previous 'Emoluments' puz.

Update:
I've now started a new blog specifically for acrostics. It includes commentary as well as a monthly puzzle.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

UFO Congress backpedals on Ken Johnston

        This is a laugh. The UFO Congress, promoting its 2019 meet-up, has tacked a VERY STRONG disclaimer onto its page about Ken Johnston. Having referred to him as "Dr. Johnston" in the blurb, the following has now been added:

NOTE: Ken Johnston is not a doctor and does not have an accredited Ph.D.

        In four paragraphs, the text explains that Johnston was deceptive in claiming the Ph.D. in the first place, stating that his doctorate was conferred by the Reformed Baptist Seminary. In fact it was “The Reform Baptists Theological Seminary,”  one of several diploma mills run by tax-protester William Conklin. In other words, a worthless piece of paper.


Resolution
        I also take issue with one other factoid in the blurb. It describes Johnston's Apollo photo collection as "...of a higher resolution than what is found on-line." It's a tricky point because they are attempting to compare the resolution of a 10x8 photoprint with that of a digital image, but consider these points:

Point 1. The online NASA Apollo image library generally offers its products in two different resolutions—low and high. Take a look at a typical listing, Magazine C from Apollo 17. The hi-res images, suffixed HR, are jpgs of at least 500kb, on up to 1600kb. They are typically 2400 pixels square and the numerical resolution in metres per pixel depends, of course, on how far away the subject is. But this resolution is more than adequate for inspecting the surface, and far more convenient than peering at a photoprint through a loupe.

Point 2. Any serious researcher for whom that resolution is inadequate can, by paying a modest fee, order up extremely hi-res digital images in .tiff format that are scanned direct from the camera negatives. This is what I did when investigating Hoagland's "Data's Head" claim, and I received a version of AS17-137-21000 that was 46.1 MB, 5190 x 6175 px.

AS17-137-21000HR.jpg

Point 3. The first exposure of Ken's photo collection occurred in early 1995, when he showed a selection to Hoagland after a lecture in Seattle. That means that these prints had been in Johnston's ring binders for at least 20 years and, even in glassine envelopes, some fading and discoloration would be inevitable (More on that here).

Point 4. Hoagland has always claimed that Johnston's print-set shows things that NASA's equivalents do not. But the fact is, he's not actually comparing a print to a digital image—he's comparing his own scan of a print to NASA's scan. Hoagland's scanner glass is quite clearly contaminated.

Part of Hoagland's scan of AS10-32-4820

        Bottom line, I do not think the claim made for this collection is sustainable.

Thanks to James Oberg for monitoring this

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Clyde Lewis: Ignorant speculator

« [T]he compelling question has to be asked – has there been a head start program in space and have we been conducting space war operations since Apollo? Has this program been ongoing or was it abandoned after 1979 and then rebooted during the S.D.I proposals of Ronald Regan – the program that was eventually called the Star wars Program. »
        The answers are no, no, no and no. The questions were posed by Clyde Lewis of the "Ground Zero" website/internet radio show, in a long article titled STRATOSFEAR, THE SECRET SPACE WAR published yesterday. The article summarizes a discussion in a TV studio between Lewis, Space Shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin, and Mike Bara. That's Mike Bara the self-worshipper who, according to the Rational Wikipedia, is homophobic as well as mysogynistic. He constantly claims to be a NYT best-selling author even though IT'S NOT TRUE.

Moonbase
        Well, the "secret space war" turns out to be the not-very-secret Project Horizon, a proposal drafted in 1959 to establish a military Moon base staffed by 12 U.S.Army officers, costing $7 billion. Lewis writes:
« As cameras were rolling, we discussed the lunar objectives that were pre NASA including the military’s plan to build a space station on the moon before 1969. Back in 2016, I presented a program where I uncovered documents about Project Horizon a secret space station that was supposed to be built on the moon. »
         "Uncovered", eh Clyde? The existence of Horizon was reported by Astronautix in 2005 and was probably public knowledge well before that. Wikipedia's first page on Horizon was dated 2 July 2005, and today it's a quite detailed exposition, last edited nearly a year ago.

        One key point to understand about Horizon is that it never happened. As the wiki reports (citing John Logsden in 2010),note 1 Eisenhower nixed it as NASA was created as a civilian agency in 1959. In two of his published books,note 2 Mike Bara has suggested that Horizon may not have been cancelled but may have been secretly built, manned, and declared operational. Clyde Lewis seems to agree:
« We were told that the military was not part of the moon shot in 1969. We are told that it was NASA that sent the astronauts there. So the question is, was the military already on the moon, sent on a secret away mission and was the astronaut’ giant leap merely a show for the public to cheer on.»
        Don'cha love those rhetorical questions? They allow speculators to hint that they know more than they're allowed to say, without requiring anything resembling evidence. Again, the answers are no and no.

Noise
        Well, I headed this article "Ignorant speculator" so perhaps I'd better justify the adjective. The report that Lewis cites estimates that construction of the base would require 61 Saturn I and 88 Saturn II launches through November 1966, with another 64 launches during the first year of operation. Anyone who thinks that program could have been conducted in secret cannot have been anywhere near a Saturn rocket launch. Those things were NOISY.

        Another key point is the actual structure envisaged for Horizon. Here are two illustrations from the report that Clyde Lewis himself cited (which, by the way, is included in the 2005 Astronautix report):



        This thing is not buried out of sight— it's right there on the surface. Before it was even half built, every amateur astronomer in the world would be saying "Er... excuse me... WTF IS THAT?"

        Lewis provides documentation of three other historical moonbase projects—one of which involved Carl Sagan—but these, like Horizon, never got beyond the planning stages.

        As part of his just-published article, Clyde Lewis seeks to link his speculations to Wikileaks and Julian Assange, who has been in the news lately. He cites REPORT THAT UR DESTROYED SECRET US BASE ON MOON.  This Wikileaks link references a report that seems to have been written in January 1979 and declassified in December 2012, but since there's no content here it's impossible to assess whether the original is credible. "UR" is supposedly code for The Soviet Union. As I've written many times before, we now have such excellent high-defintion photographic coverage of the Moon that any speculations about alien activities, military operations, or vast glass domes look a bit pathetic.

        I hope I've written enough to convince any doubters that Clyde Lewis's piece is worthless speculation from two arrivistes who know a great deal less than they think they do.

===================/ \====================
[1] Logsdon, John (2010). John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-11010-6

[2] "Hidden Agenda" (2016) and "Ancient Aliens and JFK" (2018). In "Hidden Agenda", Bara wrote (p.115) "I see no reason why these plans couldn't have been carried out behind the scenes, in parallel with the public NASA space program."  In "JFK" he wrote (p. 78-83) "It would have been a fairly simple thing to implement this plan over the next few decades.... My suspicion and speculation is that that is exactly what they did." [emph. added]

Sunday, April 14, 2019

UFOs and madness

        When people ask me if I "believe in UFOs", my immediate answer is "Yes, of course". I'd have to be totally crazy to deny that unidentified phenomena are fairly often seen in the sky. But of course, that's not what they mean to ask. They really mean to ask if I think some of those flashie-washies are intelligent messengers from interstellar space. This is very literally to ask if I think some UFOs are IFOs, and the answer is no. Carl Sagan would agree with me...
"[T]here are things seen in the sky which are unidentified--that's what an unidentified flying object is, it means we don't know what it is. It doesn't mean it's a space vehicle from somewhere else. And there ought to be things in the sky that we don't understand--the sky is very rich in phenomena--astronomical, meteorological, optical and man-made phenomena. And therefore only a very reliable sighting of an extremely exotic object ought to be considered in any way relevant to our problem of life elsewhere.  And to the best of my knowledge, there are lots of exotic reports, but none of those exotic reports are reliable."note 1
        Sagan was speaking 40 years before the release of military images by the five-year-long Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, that excited many people who have a fervent need to believe in extraterrestrial intelligence. But I'm absolutely sure that those images would not have changed Sagan's opinion one iota. He believed that mysterious things are seen in the skies but that there's no valid reason to jump to the conclusion that they are intelligently-guided spaceships. And I agree (of course.)

        So what should we say about those people—millions of them—who really do maintain that at least some of the woo-woo in the sky is ET observing us? Are they all crazy, or what?

The light years
        I was led to this question because on my reading list last week was Chris Rush's memoir The Light Yearsnote 2. Rush, now an aging and respected mainstream artist, abandoned his well-heeled New Jersey family while still a teenager and dropped into the drug culture of the '60s. BIG TIME. Publisher's Weekly wrote:
"Rush’s storytelling shines as he travels across the country and back again, searching for truth, love, UFOs in New Mexico, peace, something that feels like God, and a place to call home."
        I have no qualifications in psychiatry but I'm as sure as I can be that Rush really was crazy at that time. He took every recreational drug that was around, feminized himself to the point of absurdity, and wandered the Arizona mountains and deserts with no plan other than to "find God." And he really was a UFO believer in the full sense. He writes:
"I saw a flying saucer this summer. They're all over the place now. I think maybe this is also part of  the story, you know—the Space People and how they want us to change. I'm confident they'll be here soon. I hear that if we all visualize the ships, that'll encourage them to come even sooner."
        Rush was so convinced of the importance of the UFO phenomenon that he contacted, and eventually visited, the one-time write-in Presidential candidate Gabriel Green, founder of the Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America Inc. I have no hesitation in declaring that Green (1924-2001) was a nutcase. He declared that he had met the crew of a flying saucer, and that they came from the planet Korendor, a satellite of Alpha Centauri. A modern equivalent would be Corey Goode, who claims many such face-to-face meetings. Neither of them has any credibility whatever.

Misinformed
        The Heaven's Gate "away team" were all crazy, but what about Courtney Brown? It was he who through so-called "remote viewing" told the world that there was an alien spaceship accompanying comet Hale-Bopp, and it was precisely that IFO that the Heaven's Gate loonies believed they could get aboard by means of suicide. I doubt if Brown is really crazy, more likely just misinformed and arrogant.

        "Misinformed and arrogant" would apply also to Robert Morningstar, editor of UFO Digest, who gets castigated a lot in this blog because of his wildly erroneous declarations—a perfect example from last September would be this. He's an educated and reasonably intelligent man, but when it comes to the UFO phenomenon he loses all analytical skills, and peddles trash like this. The one thing that Morningstar will never, ever, do is admit that he was mistaken.

A business decision
        There's money to be made in the UFO business—serious money. Many people are so thirsty for updates that the market for books, magazines, videos and conferences on the topic has never been brisker. The quintessential exploiter of this market is Tom Delonge's To The Stars Academy, launched in 2014. TTSA was chosen as the conduit for the US Government's release of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification data, and Delonge recruited Luis Elizondo from that project once he retired from the Pentagon, plus several other former federal officials. I don't think any of those people are mad in the slightest—they just see a business opportunity and want to be part of it. They may be right, although a fairly recent article in Motherboard casts some doubt on TTSA's financial prospects. It's perfectly possible that Delonge and his collaborator Hal Puthoff don't themselves believe UFOs are IFOs—perhaps they're just very keen to promote themselves and their "research" to those who do.

        So in contemplating all this, I find no answer to my own question. Clearly, you don't have to be bonkers to be a believer, but it certainly helps.

========================/ \======================
[1] Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 1977

[2] Farrar, Straus and Giroux (April 2, 2019) ISBN: 0374294410

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Court of Appeals to Sean David Morton: "F off"

        You might remember from a blogpost of last November, "Sean David Morton takes his best shot," that the self-described legal scholar used a very dodgy version of the doctrine of judicial estoppel to argue that his conviction on 30 counts should be set aside and that he should be released from his cell in the Tucson penitentiary. Well, the wheels of justice grind slowly but they get there in the end. Yesterday the Ninth Circuit gave him the answer, and it's a major slap-down—basically not just "fuck off" but also "If you keep this bullshit up we'll gag you". The full text:
Before: O’SCANNLAIN, W. FLETCHER, and WATFORD, Circuit Judges.
Appellant Sean David Morton’s requests for summary disposition (Docket Entry Nos. 27, 28, 29, 30) and to expedite his appeal (Docket Entry No. 32) are denied. The motion to stay briefing (Docket Entry No. 31) is denied as moot. Further filing of meritless motions may result in the court withdrawing appellant Morton’s leave to represent himself on appeal. See 9th Cir. R. 4(d).
Appellant’s opening brief is due May 20, 2019; appellee’s answering brief is due June 20, 2019; and the optional reply brief is due within 21 days after service of the answering brief. Any further motion for an extension of time to file the opening brief must demonstrate extraordinary and compelling circumstances.
        I'm obliged to The Emoluments' unofficial legal correspondent, A.E., for tracking the case.

Sovereign Citizens? No way
        I'm obliged to ufowatchdog for drawing my attention to a nicely-written piece by Ashley Powers in the 29th March New York Times. The article is headed How Sovereign Citizens Helped Swindle $1 Billion From the Government They Disavow, and it slices SDM into tiny shreds and serves him up for dinner.
« When Mr. Morton reached adulthood, he sold unorthodox beliefs from behind a suburban-dad veneer: a flop of dark hair, a round, clean-shaven face, and a button-down-and-khakis wardrobe. He was charismatic but also childlike, friends said, his ego easily bruised. He branded himself an investigative reporter within the U.F.O. world, and in the 1990s, when Mr. Morton appeared on “The Montel Williams Show,” he made outrageous claims — more than 100 alien species had visited Earth! — with the certainty of a Nobel laureate. “I got close enough to one of these things that was floating around in the desert to actually get my face burned by it,” he said.
Even other U.F.O. enthusiasts considered him a kook, but Mr. Morton’s fans didn’t care. The truth was out there — and Sean David Morton had it. Branding himself a prophet, he plumbed the new-age convention circuit alongside specialists in animal telepathy, chakras, hauntings, angelic gemstone messages and the afterlife. »
        Morton has served 19 months of a six-year sentence. He may get out in another two years, perhaps (his wife Melissa is already in a half-way house). But I hope he's learned from this that his ridiculous posturing as a legal scholar is far from helpful. I'm quite sure he's been telling his fellow-crims "Just watch me, lads, I'll be outta here in next to no time". If he's told them the truth, they must be having a good laugh now.

Mini-update, 15th April
Royce Myers' ufowatchdog blog has posted more on this today: "The Kookiness continues."