Friday, August 19, 2011

Acronyms of the day: NASA, ALSEP, RTG & RCH

        Say what you like about the science in the Apollo Program (and, let's face it, who doesn't?) but at least they tried. Dave Scott, CDR of Apollo 15, actually made his fingernails bleed with the effort of drilling a deep enough hole for the heat probe.

        The majority of the time of EVA-1 (Apollos 12-17 -- there really was no science on 11) was devoted to setting out an array of science instruments near the landing point. The instruments included seismometers, atmosphere and solar wind analysis, and a gravimeter, as well as the more famous laser retro-reflectors that are still being used today (albeit degraded by dust.) The kit and caboodle was known collectively as the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package—ALSEP. Electrical power that most of the instruments required was provided by a Pu238-loaded Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator—RTG.

        Right out of the box, the RTG provided nearly 80 watts of power, but its oomph fell off quite steeply over time. The figure below is from page 4-47 of the official ALSEP Termination Report. It shows that after 63 lunations—five years— the Apollo 17 RTG had faded to 61% output and three instruments had already ceased to function. The Apollo 12 ALSEP, planted three years earlier, had declined to just 20 watts. Its design life was only a year (ref. p.2-16 of the same report.)

        In late 1977 the decision was taken to stop monitoring the telemetry. To turn ALSEP off, basically, except for passive experiments like the reflectors. Scientists Frank Press and Gary Latham protested, but were overruled. Not only was the ultimate life of the RTGs obviously in its terminal phase, but the room in Houston used for ALSEP data reception was badly needed for Skylab Ops. The cost of running the operation may also have been a consideration.

Turning off the Moon

        On 30th September 1977 ALSEP was switched off. It so happens that I was personally present on that occasion, covering it for television. The engineers invited Frank Press to poke the button that would complete the power-down sequence. He looked for a moment as if he'd refuse, but he finally steeled himself, stabbed at the button and turned away with a look of disgust.

A Pseudoscientist speaks

        Imagine my surprise, therefore, when on 6th October 2009—a full 32 years later!—I heard Richard Hoagland say on Coast to Coast AM that ALSEP seismometers would record the forthcoming impact of the LCROSS Centaur rocket. The notion that ALSEP was turned off in 1977 was, he announced, "another NASA lie."

        Editors at wikipedia noticed this too, and made a point of it on Hoagland's page. Yesterday the topic of lunar science came up in Facebooklandia, and Neville Parchemin asked Hoagland whether he had personally seen any ALSEP data since 1977. Hoagland replied quickly:

No, I said "in all likelihood [based on NASA's proven OTHER lies -- as documented in "Dark Mission"...] the ALSEP network -- especially the critical seismometers -- was NOT actually shut down on that highly publicised date in 1977"; if that is, indeed, the case, then why would there be ANY evidence in "the public domain" to contradict the official NASA statement re ALSEP's "budget termination" ...?

Incidentally, that Wikipedia entry has been TOTALLY edited (and re-edited) by NASA -- many times -- thus, it is full of outright lies about me ... AND my work. :)

        It's safe to decode that first part as "Actually I don't have any evidence whatsoever to support that ignorant and malicious allegation."

More paranoia

        As for the second part, the edit history of that wikipage is available for anyone to inspect, and it shows no official action by NASA at all. One editor works at NASA Goddard but specifically states that his wiki-activities are not wiki-official.

Out of power

        Bet you didn't think it could get any more ridiculous, didya? Well, stand by. Parchemin followed up by asking specifically what were the chances of the RTGs providing any useful power after the elapse of 40-odd years. Here's what RCH said about RTGs:

I looked into this (briefly), back in 2009, as LCROSS was approaching its impact with the Moon; I was wondering if "a still working ALSEP seismic network" could, secretly, provide unique data from the coming LCROSS impact (as well as the planned impacts of the two Japenese and Chinese lunar orbiting probes ...).

The case, in 2009 (if I remember the numbers correctly) was "marginal."But, of course, that's NOT counting on the capabilities of the "secret space program" to quietly REFUEL those ALSEP SNAP power systems, or even to emplace an entire new generation of sesimic (and other) sensors on the moon ... in the decades SINCE Apollo ....

SO MUCH is being hidden re the REAL space program, it's almost impossible to have a rational discussion on these points -- as Mike Bara and I point out repeatedly, with evidence, in "Dark Mission."

        If you read that travesty of a book, Dark Mission, you'll discover that what he calls evidence is what most of us would call idle and paranoid conjecture. As for the RTG power being described as "marginal" 35 years after its design life had expired, that's just poppycock as usual.


Chris Lopes said...

actually I'm surprised rch is still talking to neville. As to the substance, notice the mix of real nasa tech and the secret space program. It's another attempt at rendering his statements unfslsifiable. Nasa is lying and even if they aren't it's the space nazis.

Biological_Unit said...

I'm looking forward to dying before we really get humans to the Moon.

strahlungsamt said...

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
when first we practice to deceive.

William Shakespeare.

expat said...

What's that referring to, strahlung?

Strahlungsamt said...

I thought it would be self-explanatory.

It's the first thing I think of anytime I read anything by Hoagland, Bara or any pseudoscientist. He meant, once you start telling lies, you need to tell more lies to cover the holes in the first lies and then more lies to cover those. Until, one day you find you're so deep in s**t you can't move.

Describes Hoagie and Mike perfectly. Every new article I read about them gets even sillier and more desperate than the last. They should be thankful more people DON'T read their works.

expat said...

Yes, I see what you mean. Pretending that there's a possibility the RTG could have delivered enough power to the seismometer after more than 30 years does count as somewhat desperate.

Chris Lopes said...


That web is a product of 4 decades of silliness. It may be hard for some people to remember, but for Hoagland it started with the "face on Mars". That led to the "City on the Edge of Forever" (Harlin Ellison call your lawyers), which led to the "discovery" of HD physics.

Once the data proved such things were total nonsense, Hoagland had to find a way to discount that data. Hence the NASA lies meme. He went on to extend this meme to pretty much every image and data set NASA has provided since.

NASA lies then became part of an ancient and vast conspiracy that includes space Nazis (thank you Robert Heinlein), million year old space relics (thank you Arthur C. Clark, Ben Bova, and Greg Bear), and the JFK assassination (thank you, the producers of Dark Skies). I think it is safe to say that at this point, Hoagland is using everything and anything to cover the planet sized holes in his theories. How he has managed to avoid including Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster in his model, I'll never know. Perhaps he missed the Six Million Dollar Man and Doctor Who episodes about them. :)