Monday, August 22, 2011

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.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Whatever happens, I'm right" --Richard Hoagland, pseudoscientist

        In Facebookistan, Hoagland is already positioning himself for Elenin being a dud squib when the closest approach rolls around (16th October, 19:51 UTC.) Responding to a challenge from Aaron Harris, he wrote:

You're[sic] "position" on our mathematical calculations re the "artificiality" of Elenin are as intellectually pretentious as they are demonstrably ignorant of the fundamental process of the scientific method itself.

Sorry, but that's the way it is.

The most basic rule of the scientific process states:

"There are NO 'special places' in the Universe."


The Laws of Physics work as well "a million light years from the Earth" ... as ON the Earth itself.

It is by using those ... UNIVERSAL LAWS of "gravitation" and "planetary motion" ... that we have PROVEN that the basic trajectory of Elenin has been, overwhelmingly--


Whether Elenin does ANYTHING on that artrificial trajectory ... beyond sailing through the inner solar system and returning to interstellar space ... is totally irrelevant to these fundamental questions:

Is Elenin an artificially DIRECTED object?


Is there "intelligent life" somewhere beyond the Eearth ... which has SENT Elenin to us ... for some specific Reason?

Clearly, based on our analysis of its orbit alone ... the answer to BOTH questions is "yes!"

"What" Elenin may (or may NOT) "do" ON that artficial orbit, is a totally separate (and currently unknown) question ....
I really hope there are "fireworks" coming in September or October around Elenin ....

To be brutally honest (and selfish), if there are, it will make my life MUCH easier. :)

But, if there aren't ... that still WON'T change ONE IOTA the demonstrable, scientific FACT now that Elenin's orbit is,



Regradless[sic] of anyone's "opinion" ... including, Elenin's. :)

Stay tuned. :)

        That last swipe was in reference to somebody else reminding him that Leonid Elenin himself, a qualified mathematician and astronomer with access to professional instruments, has characterized the idea that the comet is artificial as "trash."

        I guess he's learned a bit since last year. In 2010 he spent the whole summer shrieking that the EPSC conference in Rome would prove him right about Phobos. Of course, it didn't—so now he's saying "Maybe nothing will happen in October, but I'll still be right."

        The key to this nonsense, of course, is that expression "based on our analysis of its orbit." Hoagland has not presented any such analysis except to the punters in Leeds who sat through four hours of his drivel. Neither, for that matter, has he produced any shred of evidence for his other current claim: the artificiality of Vesta.

        Not to worry—a "paper" on both topics will appear on the enterprisemission web site in two weeks. Probably accompanied by Part II of "The Bees' Needs," Part III of "Von Braun's Secret," and Part VII of "Moon With a View." Oh, plus a MAJOR PAPER on the Gulf Oil Spill, promised more than a year ago.

Rampant paranoia

        Hoagland, in the same thread, left us in no doubt of a) his own rampant paranoia, and b) his capacity for bare-faced lying to suit his case:

There were (and still are0 a few other scientists like us ... Dr. Thomas Van Flandern ... Dr. Bruce DePalma ... Dr. Gene Malloff .. who were ALSO "independently funded" in their research, and therefore could speak the truth.

And, to a man -- they have ALL been murdered.

As "they" tried also to do to ME ... twelve years ago.

        Now for the facts:

        Tom Van Flandern was employed by the United States Naval Observatory, not noted for its independence. He died of cancer. NOTE: In "Dark Mission," Hoagland accuses Van Flandern of treachery because he missed an opportunity to worship his (Hoagland's) theories.

        Bruce DePalma was undoubtedly an independent thinker. He died in New Zealand of alcoholism.

        Eugene Mallove (please note the correct spelling) was, like Hoagland himself, a science journalist and commentator rather than a scientist as such. UNLIKE Hoagland, he actually had some university education. He was murdered in 2004.

        In April 1999 Hoagland had a heart attack while campaigning for something-or-other in Miami. Not unusual for a 54-year old man, one might think.

        I hope you noticed that expression "scientists like us." Hoagland must be simultaneously channeling Albert Einstein and Henry VIII.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wanted: Statistician. Must be willing to contemplate Hoagland-style nonsense

        I will definitely NOT be buying a DVD of Richard Hoagland's FOUR HOUR speech at the Leeds Exopolitics Conference yesterday. FOUR HOURS???? Merciful heavens, was anybody left in the audience when the marathon ended??

        Somebody called Mark Ward evidently stuck it out, and was very, very impressed. He reported to Facebooklandia:

BRILLIANT SPEAKER! Get this... the chances of the comet's data being naturally occuring coincidences is 44 billion to one! Worth every penny of my money.......and then some.

        I can only suppose that the 44,000,000,000 to 1 number was arrived at by reckoning the chances of perihelion being on 9/11/11 AND closest approach to Earth being 19.5 UTC AND the period being 33,000 years. Let's leave aside that all three "facts" are wrong.

        I'm not a statistician, but isn't this the CLASSIC fallacy of post hoc reasoning? I mean, suppose you choose any three different parameters at random, wouldn't the chances be the same?

        And more generally, isn't the probability of any event happening at any specific time rather remote, UNTIL IT HAPPENS, then the probability becomes 100%?

        Answers, please. But don't bother telling the Branch Hoaglandian cult members. They are deaf to anything that does not fall directly from The Master's lips.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Who are you going to believe, Branch Hoaglandians?

A: Three highly-trained scientists, who have been intimately involved in the Dawn mission throughout the Vesta encounter?


B: A pseudo-scientist without any training in astronomy, geology, or geochemistry, who has not been anywhere near JPL for years, and who has a record of ridiculously false interpretation of planetary images (Phobos, Tempel 1, Mercury)?

Group A were at a JPL press conference today, showing further imagery of Vesta. A few points:

o Vesta is surprisingly dimorphic: Heavily cratered in the northern hemisphere, relatively smooth in the south.

o The very pronounced equatorial grooves may have been produced by a massive south-polar impact, strong enough to have caused compression of the entire body, followed by relaxation.

o Landslides on the walls of deep craters are surprising — not only because of the very small gravitational field but because of light/dark streaking which is currently unexplained. Likewise some scattered dark spots outside craters.

o A preliminary look by the VIR shows very variable chemistry over the surface, which will be available for further study as the spacecraft drops into lower orbit.

Group B (Hoagland, as ever was) has been proclaiming ever since the first images of Vesta that there are "unmistakable" ruins of cities all over the surface. He says he sees straight lines, 90° angles, and grid patterns all of which can only be the work of a city-building civilization. Conspicuously absent from his FB ravings on the subject have been images to support that claim. Apparently he's saving those for the fee-paying customers at the Leeds Exopolitics Conference.

In an internet radio show with Howard Hughes late last week, Hoagland slam-hyped his own appearance at the Leeds meeting, promising...

o This is going to change EVERYTHING
o These images are MIND-BOGGLING
o I'm going to present A REVOLUTION
o Disclosure IS UNDER WAY

Well, we'll see about that, won't we?

Hoagland also claimed several times that the JPL press conference had been re-scheduled from 14:00 to 12:00 EDT because the artificial features on Vesta would be announced, and they wanted to be sure of getting the lead on the evening's TV network news.

Well, we'll see about that too, won't we?

Update 1: Hoagland has now commented, on FB.

Calling Vesta a "planet" and ... "a world" ... MAY make the Evening News ....

Stay tuned.

They're STILL in "drip ... drip ... drip" mode. :)

The geometric/artificial features on Vesta that we KNOW are there (which wewre not shown or commented on AT ALL ...) are NOT going away; time and time again Russell (the chief scientist) said-- "We need to wait for the HIGH-resolution images ...."


"We can't AGREE [on the Team] what the hell these things are! So, we need MUCH BETTER images ... before we're going to say ANYTHING in public!"

They were OBVIOUSLY "buying time" .... And, DELIBERATELY "burying" this Vesta data under the "debt-ceiling news."

As I said a couple days ago .... :)

This is classic Hoagland-twist. If they say what he predicted, it's "SEE I WAS RIGHT, NYAA NYAAA." If they don't it's "They were OBVIOUSLY buying time and DELIBERATELY burying Vesta data. JUST LIKE I SAID NYAAA NYAAA"

Except, that's NOT what he said. If this makes the network news before 1st commercial break I'll eat my scale model of Phobos.

Update 2:
Well, my papier-mâché Phobos is safe. Not a whisper of this on network news, as far as I can tell. As usual, Hoagland was wrong, wrong, wrong.

This is such a shame. There's plenty of real science interest in what Dawn is doing. Richard Hoagland, because of his eloquence, has the attention of thousands of inquisitive young minds. Instead of leading them to the real story, he's teaching them that everyone in NASA is a liar, and a press conference can mean whatever you want it to mean "if you know what to look for."