Robert Morningstar, the frisbee wiz and reliable source of wrong opinions, was even more wrong than usual as he guested on Coast to Coast AM this week. He was invited to announce the discovery of yet another "UFO" in Apollo photography.
This one was in a 16mm film sequence from Apollo 17, depicting the undocking of the Lunar Module as seen from inside the Command Module. Astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt are unseen in the LM, and Ronald Evans is seen briefly in the foreground, as Command Module Pilot. They were all experiencing zero-g.
About 20 seconds after separation, a piece of debris floats through the frame and the error-prone Mr. Morningstar convinces himself that it's some sort of intelligently-guided craft observing the LM-CM sep. He provides this still frame.
His accompanying text is, in part:
"The UFO is to [sic] seen spinning and changing aspect in a controlled fashion as it passes, clearly observing and monitoring the Apollo spacecraft maneuvers.I'm not sure whether balderdash or poppycock is the appropriate adjective to apply to this latest fantasy -- perhaps both. The extent of AM*'s delusion is best appreciated by viewing the actual film sequence. Here it is -- undocking occurs at 11:42, and the "UFO" is seen from 12:01-12:10, drifting from top center to lower right. Anybody who believes "controlled fashion" and "clearly observing" should please report to the nearest loony bin.
"The reaction of the astronaut, Ronald Evans, is one of stunned surprise (and dare I say "shock" and "disbelief") at the moment that he spots the UFO emerging into view from behind the LEM."
Now take a look at this -- the famous lift-off as the last of the six Apollo landers left the Moon. See all that debris spewing out at the moment of ignition of the ascent engine? Most of that is insulation fragments -- exactly what was seen on many other occasions in Apollo videos, and almost certainly what the deluded Morningstar saw.
I was not the only one to ridicule AM* on the Book of Farces. A somewhat acrimonious exchange developed between him and Don Davis, a renowned space artist who has a great deal more knowledge than AM* about the history of spaceflight.
DD: "You are typing nonsense. The presence of the spacecraft affects the local environment, and the separation of spacecraft components often caused bits of debris to drift away. This can be seen in multiple examples. The presence of something that doesn't belong near the moon next to something else foreign to the environment is best explained by association.I chimed in wondering why AM* had announced that it would take until Christmas for him to present the actual film (the answer was that he intends to "enhance" it) and asking what basis he had for describing Ron Evans' reaction as "shocked." Don Davis and James Oberg took the (edited) dialog on:
RM: "Nice try, Don, but ANY insulation breaking off should be BETWEEN the LEM and the Command module NOT a mile BEHIND IT immediately after separation. The shocked reaction of the astronaut belies your explanation(s). -> M*
DD: "What is your basis for the distance guess? And for your guess about the mindset of the astronaut doing the filming? You are reaching for something that cannot be supported by the evidence.
RM: "As I said/wrote before, you are blind as a bat and devoid of insight, and I would add now "common sense." Your [sic] are a prisoner in a false matrix of your own construction. -> M*
DD: "He just panders to ignorance. And the people who put him on radio are contributing to the degeneration of American science education."There was much more to the conversation, and lest you should think Don, James and I were piling on unfairly, there were Morningstar-worshippers around as well, telling him how brilliant he is. Perhaps he should stick to frisbee, I believe he's actually brilliant at that. At interpreting spaceflight videos, he's a total dunce.
JO (who knows more about this than any of us): "Don, it's more despicable than mere pandering, he manufactures not just ignorance, but misinformation. It's worse than not knowing stuff, it's falsely 'knowing' wrong stuff, that's culturally toxic and corrosive. And all for fun."