Monday, June 17, 2019

The flying bedstead

         Ask anyone what the acronym LLTV means, and they'll either say "Whaaaaaa??" or refer to this epic crash on 6th May 1968, when Neil Armstrong used the ejection seat from ~200ft to escape his Lunar Landing Training Vehicle which was out of fuel tank helium pressure and out of control in high winds at Ellington AFB.

        Sticklers for accuracy will quickly note that this was not actually a LLTV, but its forerunner the LLRV (Lunar Landing Research Vehicle)—Armstrong's was the last of the LLRV flights. Three LLTVs were built by Bell Aerosystems, the helicopter people. Only one survives (and is on display at Armstrong Flight Research Center adjacent to Edwards AFB) because Armstrong's was not the only crash. The chief test pilot Joe Algranti ejected from LLTV#1 in January 1968, and Stuart Present likewise survived the prang of LLTV#3 in January 1971.

        The training program sounds like a failure, when narrated like that emphasizing the prangs. But in fact, it was considered a resounding success at the time. Not only Armstrong but all the other Apollo commanders completed several very successful training flights in the bedstead. It was a requirement.  Armstrong later said his practice flights in the LLTVs gave him the confidence to override the automatic flight control system and control Eagle manually during the epic Apollo 11 descent to the Sea of Tranquility.

Apollo 12 CDR Pete Conrad hovering the LLTV

More pretense on TBTLL
        Mike Bara, the world-renowned jet aircraft designer and mendacious self-promoter, clearly does not understand the LLTV program and what it achieved. Last night's episode of Truth Behind the Lunar Landing (Science Channel) reduced the entire program to that one spectacular crash by Armstrong, and Mike Bara commented "I call bullshit on the lunar landing based on the fact that Armstrong could not control the training aircraft." 

        Not only is that portrayal of the program a complete travesty and Bara's statement untrue, but, just as in Episode 1 of this show, Bara is only pretending to be a disbeliever. In the second part of his essay Who Mourns for Apollo?, co-written with Richard Hoagland and Steve Troy in 2004, he devotes three paragraphs to explaining the sophisticated inertial control system that made soft landing of the LM possible. Bara can never resist the opportunity to insult somebody, and in this case he calls physicist Ralph Rene "a complete idiot" for questioning the stability of the LM in lunar gravity. 

        Fans of this show should be aware that Bara is here functioning as a mere actor rather than any kind of expert (and astronaut Leland Melvin is, at times, so obviously delivering a memorized script that it's a joke).

source: Dryden Flight Research Center fact sheet

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Sloppy compilations for the Apollo anniversary

James Oberg writes...

The recent blizzard of Apollo-11 anniversary programs was a fine tribute to that historical achievement of the American space program. The events of half a century ago came back to life in the dramatic portrayal seen on millions of television screens. But at the same time, many of the programs also displayed the sloppy errors, distortions and revisionist dramatizations which have come to characterize much of television journalism.

The wrong ship
To put the shortcomings of many of these programs into perspective, imagine the following practices for other historical documentaries or news, and ask whether they would ever be considered acceptable.

A Civil War film discusses Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, but since there is no photograph of Lincoln actually giving the speech, a photograph of him at his 1865 inauguration is shown instead.

A program on the loss of the Lusitania in 1915 needs dramatic video of an ocean liner sinking, so with a voice-over describing the Lusitania, news film is shown instead of the Andrea Doria going down.

A sportscast of the World Cup is in progress, but since video difficulties prevented receipt of the views of the Colombia-Rumania game which was the subject of the report, an already-used clip of a goal from the recent Germany- Thailand game is shown instead.

Clearly, none of these hypothetical cases can be considered acceptable. Anyone trying to do so would be considered irresponsible, even unethical. And since there are legions of history buffs, ship buffs, and sports buffs out there, any such attempts would be immediately recognized and widely criticized.

"Apollo Two"
But since spaceflight has always been an esoteric subject with a relatively short "history" and usually only superficial news coverage, similar misrepresentations are easier, even if by accident. Catching them and complaining about them is harder. But an effort must be made both to discourage future historical errors and to encourage those other programs which took the extra effort and got it right.

There's no need to exaggerate the inevitable innocent "bloopers" that any human effort is prone to. A TV network had a national newscast where the announcer kept seeing "Apollo-11" on the teleprompter, misinterpreted it as "Apollo-II", and pronounced it "Apollo Two". The N.Y. Times deserves minor embarrassment for twice referring to the "Apollo-1 moon landing" in a book review a few weeks ago. That's life.

In illustrating a Mercury splashdown, the TBS special 4-hour program "Moon Shot" used views of a Gemini splashdown instead. The difference is that Mercury capsules landed vertically beneath a parachute while Gemini capsules were slung horizontally from two separate lines. On July 20, CNN showed Apollo-11 graphics of a moon-walking astronaut whose spacesuit had red leg stripes not introduced until Apollo-13. "Space buffs" gleefully spotted the errors, but viewers were unlikely to be misled by these minor slipups.

Such naive bloopers even struck the White House during the July 20 ceremony honoring the Apollo-11 astronauts. In an otherwise fine speech, President Clinton related in his folksy style how "on the third day" Armstrong and Aldrin's Eagle lunar module descended toward a dangerous boulder field and Armstrong had to take manual control. But since July 16 was the first day of the flight, the landing on July 20 actually occurred on the fifth day. But again, it was no big deal.

Some historical visual scenes are certainly "interchangeable" by even the tightest standards, since no viewer is misled by showing one Gemini launch for another, or one group of engineers in Mission Control for another (unless, say, their actions are allegedly keyed to some event being described), or one "out the window" Earth or moon view for another. The criteria is clearly whether viewers will gain an authentic impression of the event, or not.

The serious distortions of space history which characterized many -- but by no means all -- of the anniversary documentaries went beyond this allowable flexibility, and include outright historical falsifications such as the following:

To compress events, Neil Armstrong's comments about making "One small step" have often been matched with video of him dropping down from the Lunar Module ladder. Actually, he landed on one of the vehicle's footpads, made several comments, jumped back up on the ladder to make sure he could, jumped down a second time, discussed his impressions of his surroundings, and only after that did he make the "small step" onto the moondust. So the rearranged video completely misrepresents what he meant by "one small step". For similar time compression, the dozens of immediately post-landing words from the crew about their spacecraft status are usually edited out, so that viewers get the false impression that "Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed" were the FIRST words from the Moon.

To make use of a recently released Russian filmclip showing burning men running from a rocket pad fire, Ted Turner's "Moon Shot" used the shocking scenes to illustrate a 1969 Soviet moon rocket explosion, with a narrator comment about reminders of the dangers of space flight. The horrible film was actually from a military missile mishap in 1960 that killed 165 men, but really had nothing to do with the Russian space exploration program. The "Moon Shot" producers must have known this, yet evidently decided to misrepresent it for dramatic effects, even though nobody was killed in the actual 1969 Russian moon rocket explosion which was the subject of the sequence.

Flag-waving at the wrong time
To stress the "ordinary humanity" of excited space workers, they were often falsely shown behaving unprofessionally. In the prize-winning film "For All Mankind", right after the Apollo-11 landing, the Mission Control Center is shown erupting in cheering, flag-waving, and cigar-smoking. The historical truth is that the duty controllers stuck to their jobs, and the filmclips which were used really show them celebrating four days later after the successful splashdown of the crew and the end of their official responsibility.

Also, for the sake of visual impact and dramatic effects, film has often been misrepresented for what it was not. Viewers were told they were seeing authentic footage of space events which were not actually there.

Beginning with "For All Mankind", and copied by "Moon Shot", a striking view of the reentry plasma trail behind a descending Gemini capsule was presented as the rocket plume trail of an Apollo capsule heading for the Moon. The film invokes a marvelous image of speed across Earth's surface, but the Apollo's Saturn booster actually left no trail, and was never filmed since there was no view in that direction.

To stress the dangers of early manned space shots, sequences of rocket explosions are shown. Most of the explosions were identifiable as Jupiter and Titan rockets which had no connection at all with the Mercury program. But for colorful excitement and tension enhancers, they have been widely presented as unsuccessful Mercury tests.

The most egregious misrepresentation in "Moon Shot" was during the treatment of the Apollo-1 fire in 1967. As the narrator discusses the death of the three astronauts inside their burning capsule, a video is running of flames dancing behind a spacecraft window. TV critics who previewed the show called the scene "wrenching". But the video was actually a view from inside a Gemini capsule looking outward during the flames of reentry, and it had nothing to do with the Apollo fire. Instead, for emotional impact. the view was falsely described.

Some of these Apollo-11 historical video howlers have wider national implications, beyond mere questions of TV documentary ethics and practices. At the "Space Center Houston" museum developed for NASA by Disney consultants and their contractors, the feature movie "On Human Destiny" uses the false Gemini reentry plume for the Apollo lunar burn, then falsely portrays the flight control team in an orgy of irresponsible celebration immediately after the lunar touchdown, and then inaccurately overlays the view of Armstrong's descent down the ladder with his later words about "one small step". The film was reviewed and approved by NASA public affairs officials, who evidently did not recognize the errors. But if this is the level of Disney's historical reliability, it bodes ill for any similar Disney history projects elsewhere.

Accuracy sacrificed
Documentaries such as these shows have presented exciting views of the dramatic historical events, but providing entertainment was clearly their primary goal. Historical accuracy was repeatedly sacrificed to do so. These measures certainly are acceptable when the goals are well understood, such as in the delightfully entertaining Hollywood version of "The Right Stuff", where all pretence of respecting the book's historical accuracy is subordinated to clear-cut visual stereotypes and amusing oversimplifications. And deadline- driven TV news programs often use stock footage, not always carefully labeled as such, to "fill in" for unavailable authentic scenes. But when TV programs pose as "true history" and are presented as documentaries, a higher standard of authenticity should be required.

The Apollo-11 anniversary programs showed again that such standards are not universally met. Some programs, such as Discovery's "One Giant Leap", were strikingly accurate, showing signs that some producers took the extra trouble to "get it right", and knew how to do so. But the widespread misrepresentations in other shows are more reminders that people should seek truth where it can be found, and the TV screen, with its need for visual excitement and compressed action, is not an environment always conducive to historical accuracy.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Follow-up on Mike Bara's dishonesty

James Concannon writes:

        We don't need to go back 15 years to what Mike Bara wrote in Who Mourns For Apollo to understand how dishonest he was on last week's ep of Truth Behind the Moon Landing. In a book he wrote just last year, he copy/pasted the same text as this blog cited on 3rd June, and added this:
"NASA spent millions to develop the necessary technology to insure [sic] that the astronuats that went to the Moon were protected from the the physical threats of deep space and they were monitored at all times with dosimeters while travelling to and from the Moon. So the notion that the Van Allen belts would have turned the astronauts to crispy critters is simply false."
--Ancient Aliens and JFK (2018), p.183

        So his pretense to be a Van Allen skeptic for the purposes of television production exposes him as a charlatan (technically, the reverse of a charlatan—an anti-charlatan, perhaps), willing to say anything a tv producer asks just for the thrill of being seen. Pathetic.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Review of "Truth Behind the Moon Landing" S1E1

        The first of six eps of Truth Behind the Moon Landing (Science Chan) went on the air last night. It featured Mike Bara as one of three supposedly clued-up gents investigating whether the Apollo 11 landing really happened. Bara was billed as a "former aerospace consultant", which is a bit of a stretch considering that his experience in aerospace was as a contract CAD-CAM technician.

        The other two gents were NASA astronaut Leland Melvin (STS-122, STS-129) and former FBI agent Chad Jenkins. The three charged around the country (Portland, Seattle, Florida, Washington DC) in search of witnesses who could clear up some of the doubts that have been expressed about Apollo. This engendered far too many shots of our intrepid lads driving cars as they talked about space history.

Long-cancelled military projects
        First up was Clyde Lewis, whose dodgy opinions I wrote about last April in "Clyde Lewis: Ignorant speculator".  Lewis is a radio host in Portland OR, and Bara/Melvin interviewed him in his studio. As I wrote in the April piece, he went way out on a limb about secret military space ops. Here he re-iterated the fairly well-known facts about Project Horizon, and we saw (too briefly) all the declassified drawings and other artwork. But what in the name of all that's holy does this have to do with Apollo? Given that Horizon was cancelled in 1959 just as NASA was born, and long before any plans for a manned lunar landing were made, I'd say the answer is "nothing at all".

Paperclip Nazis
        What next? Oh, a long, long segment about Operation Paperclip—the US government scheme to swipe all the best German rocket scientists at the end of WW2 before the Russians could get them. It was a stunning success, netting around 1,600 rocket boffins, among whom Wernher Von Braun and Kurt Debus are the best known. The Science Channel investigators went off to Florida to interview Linda Hunt, who as a journalist (not to be confused with the distinguished actress) wrote extensively about Paperclip. Hunt declared "They covered up the Nazi past of these scientists", which as far as I know is not true. I think the very term "paperclip" came from the fact that a note about their service to the Third Reich was attached by paperclip to their immigration papers. The point was to waive restrictions on immigration by possible war criminals (NOTE: No paperclip scientist was ever convicted of war crimes).

        All this apparently came as fresh news to astronaut Leland Melvin, for he said "It's really hard to come to terms with that". Again, though, I have to ask what this has to do with Apollo? Chad Jenkins had a brave attempt to connect Paperclip to Apollo by stating "It shows what our government was willing to overlook in order to get to the Moon". I LOLd at that, because at that point the USA hadn't even put a satellite in Earth orbit—manned lunar landings weren't yet on anyone's To-Do list.

Van Allen radiation
        Finally, almost half way through the show, we got some material that was actually relevant to the questions about Apollo. The investigators confronted head on the question "Could Apollo astronauts have got through the Van Allen radiation belts unscathed?" They went to the Seattle Museum of Flight, where the actual Apollo 11 Command Module is on display, and measured the thickness of the shielding with a Lidar device. Then it was off to the Carnegie Institiute for Science for some experiments.

        Dr. Michael Walter took them through the science of the question, showing that even plexiglass attenuates alpha particles by about 50%, and about 3mm of aluminum is pretty good shielding against both alpha- and beta-particles. Walter also made the point that Apollo was free to select the least dangerous path though the belts, and make sure the astronauts were exposed to potentially harmful radiation for the minimum time.

        This sequence was quite good, and at the end of it, Mike Bara said "It changed my mind. It seems it was possible to go through the Van Allen belts." At that I didn't just LOL but LMFAO. Bara was completely faking skepticism about Apollo. Fifteen years ago, in an essay titled Who Mourns for Apollo, Bara wrote this:
"[T]he scientists working on the problem of Van Allen radiation considered it to be minor compared to other design hurdles to be conquered. Their solution was simple -- avoid exposure by keeping the spacecraft at low Earth orbit altitudes while in parking orbits and then send it through the belts at high speed. The eventual escape speed, some 25,000 miles per hour, would have passed them through the belts in less than an hour, keeping their dose well below 1 rad. There was a modicum of shielding from the equipment, but in the end this was not necessary as the extraordinary transition speed kept the dose below harmful limits -- both going to and returing from the Moon."
         So for Bara to now go on television and proclaim that he had doubts about the Van Allen passage should have brought on a severe case of Pants on Fire. It remains to be seen whether he'll keep up this totally fake attitude for the rest of the series.

"Truth Behind the Moon Landing" was produced for Big Fish Entertainment by Mick Kaczorowski, David Bruinooge and Steve Bronstein.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Sean David Morton "Completely incompetent"

        That's his own self-description, taken from the apellant brief filed with the Ninth Circuit US appeals court on May 23rd.

        The 18-page affidavit that I wrote about last November was not an appeal as such, but what he called an expedited motion for summary disposition. It was denied on 12th April this year, so now he has no recourse other than a formal appeal. This document runs to 15 pages, and even a summary of the whole thing would be a trial to read. Here's the opening sentence, word-for-word:
Sean David Morton presented his own defense whilst completely incompetent and unable to properly prepare a defense due to not being informed the nature or having discovery.
        That's his badly-worded argument for appeal, in a nutshell. He writes that he was denied counsel although it was at his own request that he appeared as his own attorney. Basically he's saying the judge erred by allowing him to appear pro se because the judge ought to have recognized that he was incompetent

        This is quite an impressive climb-down for a man who boasted "I'm a legal scholar" during the 2016 Conspira-Sea cruise (YouTube link, quote  at 06:16).

Thanks again to AE for tracking this case

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Mike Bara tells us about another "Secret Space Program" that never happened

        Mike Bara is just obsessed with the false idea that there's a secret US moonbase. He's totally wrong, as I pointed out in critiquing his books Hidden Agenda and Ancient Aliens and JFK. Just last month, I reviewed a long article by Clyde Lewis that repeated a couple of Bara's fantasies, namely:

  • Project Horizon may not have been cancelled but secretly built.
  • Wikileaks posted a reference to a report that the USSR destroyed a secret US moonbase (but not the report itself, or even a link to it).

Tell the truth
        In last night's vlog, titled "Tell the Truth Wednesday", Bara mentioned both those fantasies all over again, and spent quite a long time talking about what he called another US secret space program. "It was totally secret," he stated. It was something "that nobody ever told you about." He even said "we were lied to back in the 60s".

        OMG, a real secret??? What could this be??? Well, it turns out that he was talking about the USAF's dream project, the Manned Orbital Laboratory. Just like Project Horizon, the point to bear in mind about MOL is that it never flew. As for its secrecy, it might have been classified for a year or two but it became public knowledge in December 1963. It was cancelled in 1969.note 1

        Bara got all excited about this image posing 14 of the 17 MOL astronauts. This, apparently, is what he meant when he said "we were lied to"—meaning, we weren't told about these astronauts. Well, we sure were when this picture was released, weren't we?

        See that guy in naval uniform, bottom row extreme right? That's Dick Truly, who switched to NASA immediately MOL was cancelled and flew STS-2 and STS-8. He became the 8th NASA Administrator, in office 1989-1992.

        Other Shuttle astronauts in that picture are Henry Hartsfield , Bob Overmyer, Gordon Fullerton, Bob Crippen, Don Peterson and Karol Bobko.

        So if Mike Bara wants us to believe that MOL, like Horizon, may not have really been cancelled, he's going to have to explain how it could have continued when at least seven of its key crewmen had moved on to NASA.

Bait 'n' switch
        Bara obviously thinks dark hints about seekrit space programs have consumer appeal, and perhaps he's right. But his problem is, he can't deliver what he promises his consumers. In 2016 he wrote Hidden Agenda: NASA and the Secret Space Program, but he was forced by lack of honest material to pad it out with Vimanas, The EM Drive (which not only has nothing to do with space but is also notably UN-secret), Explorer 1 (which he totally mis-reported for the third time), the early unmanned moonshots, and technology transfer from the Roswell "crash." When it comes to actual space programs, all he has in his black bag is these military dreams that were cancelled before ever coming to fruition. I hope his readers are suitably annoyed with him.

==================/ \========================
[1] Personally I doubt it would ever have worked as intended. The crew would have been launched in a modified Gemini, then had to float through a hole in the heat shield into the main space. A very dangerous design.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Solution to the Spring acrostic

"As she watched him work, Andrea wondered what it would be like to be his girlfriend. She knew he had money, that much was obvious from the way he dressed and the silver-gray Maserati he always drove up in. But more than that, he was sophisticated, mysterious and interesting."

Mike Bara, Lightbringer

A. M*A*S*H Theme
B. Isleworth
C. Kvass
D. Everywhere else
E. Bathhouses
F. Adam Parfrey
G. Rat without
H. Ancient Aliens on the Moon
I. LeHigh University
J. ITtude
K. Godaddy
L. Hyperdimensional
M. Tobias Owen
N. Backwards
O. Reacted with
P. Inkwashed
Q. Netherwards
R. Ghost of Tsushima
S. Edward White
T. Rumbaed

Lightbringer is Mike Bara's first and so far only work of fiction. I chose this excerpt to mock Bara for his simplistic views about women. Feel free to roll your eyes as I did when I first read these words.

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 bizarre, 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.

P.P.S. It's been pointed out that many of the shots of the spectators at the launch were original. OK, I guess I have to concede that.