This was an edition of Strange Universe, nearly two bloody hours long, hosted by Sean David Morton's wife Melissa—SDM himself being off gallivanting around Europe with Kerry Cassidy (I've heard no reports of Europe sinking under a thick layer of bullshit, but I fear it may be imminent).
photo credit: project camelot
Mike and the Mortons are very tight IRL, so there was never any danger of anything other than powderpuff interviewing and enthusiastic agreement with everything Bara, guru of the New Age, had to impart. No phone-ins were accepted—that was no doubt thought to be too dangerous.
Mike got right off on the ziggy story (damn it, I was hoping I'd written my last on that topic.) He complained not once but several times that Stuart Robbins and I accused him or Hoagland of personally concocting the ziggurat. That, of course, is entirely untrue. The basis of our mockery is not that he faked it but that he found it on a sci-fi web site and considered it reliable enough to include as the "centerpiece" of his forthcoming book. Let me write that again, with slightly more emphasis: He does not trust the Apollo 11 image, he does not trust the LROC WAC or NAC strips, he does not trust the Japanese Kaguya images, BUT HE DOES TRUST THE WORK OF SOME RANDOM TEENAGE SCI-FI FAN. And by the way, both Mike Bara and Richard Hoagland have said in so many words that they "enhanced" the zigpic, whatever that means. Enough said.
Mike's next complaint was equally laughable. He stated that the attacks on the ziggy-story were couched in vile, offensive, insulting language and were personal as opposed to factual. Melissa Morton, of course, would neither have known or cared that the party using the words "asshole", douchebag", "sack of protoplasm" and "psychopath" was none other than Mike Bara, guru of the something-or-other (ref. my previous blogpost "Mike Bara, Olympian insulter").
There was more in the same vein, with Melissa interjecting stuff like "The nerve of these people!! Who do they think they are??" Mike had only just gone live with his 5-part blogpost at the time, and he spent some time crowing about how he'd blown the "haters" away with his impeccable logic and L33T SKILLZ at Photoshop. Now, of course, we know that he achieved nothing of the kind.
The art of the airbrushI want to skip on, however, to another "strange allegation" because it goes to the heart of the Hoagland/Bara accusations of NASA cover-up and it's so very, very easy to undermine. Backing up his thesis that Apollo astronaut photography is not all it seems, Mike cited that least reliable of witnesses, Ken Johnston, the so-called "NASA whistle-blower." He told how Ken, working in the Lunar Receiving Lab, wandered one day into a secure area and discovered people airbrushing Apollo photography. Not just prints for distribution to the media, mind you, but the actual original camera negatives.
At this, Melissa positively gasped. She swallowed the story hook, line and sinker. "My God!" she practically screamed, "That means that the photos are changed for ever, the original versions can never be retrieved." "YES, that's exactly what it means," enthused Mike Bara, guru of photographic processing. And the only problem with the story is, it's not true. How do I know it's not true? Very simple—there was no such thing as the original camera negatives.The film the astronauts shot on the Moon was reversal film, not negative. The kind we all used to shoot to make slide shows (Oh, probably some of my readers are too young to have done that. Reversal film produces a positive image but it's transparent, fit for screen projection.) Technical note: The film stock was 70mm double-perforated Ektachrome E-3 on a special Estar thin base. The stock was specially made for high-altitude surveillance photography.
To be sure, an internegative would have been made from the reversal original, and distribution prints made from that. I believe, in fact, that it was even more complicated. For distribution to high-quality magazines like Life and Saturday Evening Post, a master large-format print was made, that print was touched up, then a second interneg was struck. One thing they wanted to avoid was any sparkle in the sky which might have been misinterpreted as stars (although in fact the planet Venus is bright enough to be seen in a few Apollo 14 shots.)
Here's why it MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL to airbrush a negative, whether it's a camera original or an interneg. The photo-paper that the neg will be printed to starts off as all white, OK? The degree to which any given area darkens is governed by the density of that spot on the negative. To take the two extremes: If the negative is totally opaque, that spot never sees any light so remains pure white. If the neg is fully transparent, the print goes all the way to black, more or less. Now, here's the point. You cannot retouch a negative to make an area of the print blacker because there's no setting on an airbrush labeled "make more transparent." See?
So either Ken Johnston's memory is faulty, or Mike Bara is telling it wrong, or possibly both. Please note, I'm not claiming that no retouching of these images happened. On the contrary, I have every reason to believe a retouching tool was used. But NOT ON THE CAMERA ORIGINALS. AND NOT TO OBSCURE EVIDENCE OF A LUNAR CIVILIZATION.
If you're masochistic enough to want to suffer through the whole thing, follow this link >>.