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, with Arrowhead Products.

        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.

Update 1:
        In S1E4, Mike Bara came across as a right moron as he continued his daft pretense. He faked not understanding why there are no stars visible in Apollo still photographs. In Who Mourns For Apollo?, the same Mike Bara wrote this:
"Anyone with the slightest knowledge of photography can easily put this one to rest. Any brightly lit foreground object must be photographed with a very short exposure time. Otherwise, the image will be badly overexposed. Any background pinpoint light sources -- like, say, stars that are literally trillions of miles further away -- will not show up at all."
Update 2:
        The overriding theme of S1E5 was the race between USA and USSR to see who could build the biggst moon rocket. Melvin, Jenkins & Bara visited an abandoned facility in the Florida Everglades which was once the development site of a biggie solid rocket when "Direct Ascent" was the plan. The script makes it sound as though Von Braun's competing design of the multi-stage, liquid-fuelled Saturn V was a brilliant new idea. It was brilliant all right, but new? I remind the scriptwriters that Von Braun was also the designer of the Juno rocket that launched USA's first satellite back in January 1958, long before any detailed plan for a manned Moon landing was in place. Juno was 4-stage, mixed liquid and solid motors.

        In March 1959, Juno took Pioneer 4 all the way to the Moon

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


expat said...

There are two habits of documentary directors these days that get on my tits. One is stringing together a run of one-second shots, too fast for anyone to take in the content, but supposedly giving a feel of something dynamic and urgent.

The other is shooting interviews with two cameras, one for the interviewee to talk directly to, and the other at a 45-degree angle to the through line. Then edit so that the majority of a statement is to camera A, cutting to B for just the last few words. Of course, in practice "cameras A and B" may well be the same actual camera, with the interviewee obliged to do everything twice.

I realise that I'm being an old fogey muttering about "young people these days..." but honestly, doesn't that style of directing drive anyone else up the wall? There's plenty of it in this series.

OneBigMonkey said...

I think 1600 was the total number of Germans brought over under Operation Paperclip, rather than specifically rocket scientists.

If I've understood Annie Jacbosen's excellent history of it correctly those paperclip rocket scientists they did bring over were pretty much sidelined (and not entirely trusted) for much of the early period of the USA's space programme development. It wasn't until several spectacular and very public failures of rockets to launch that they were involved to any great extent.

I've seen many conspiracists simultaneously argue that the moon landings didn't happen because nazis were involved (apparently racist German equations don't work), and that they had superior secret technology in their Antarctic bases that would have got them there.

I'm glad at least that they explored the VAB properly. I'm tired of pointing out to the scientifically literate that just because something doesn't have the word "shielding" stamped on it doesn't mean that it won't shield someone. I remember our physics teacher stopping alpha particles with a cigarette paper!

Anonymous said...

Watched one of Bara's YouTube videos talking about the show and he actually described himself as the "brains" of the 3. Got a good laugh at that.

Trekker said...

Expat, is this blog listed as 'spam' by the powers that be? I tried to link to it on a FB post on on the series, but the link wouldn't post, either as a link to the blog in general, the permalink to the post, or as a tinyurl conversion of the permalink. I get a notice saying 'You can't share this link'. What's up?

Here's the post on Facebook:[0]=68.ARCmTh5eyeyhWhczsQ7S0M5vRJie-RSVsFdJZBXbZNXkxoAfbDEotQPyQytZK3QJdf43i-ojfiI7bvRR48tXzAE8MVmiHa9eSuim3EH6p3cREQN6MzcJRZV_l3vjRykufZb8MedXXNPV63M05LQYsVSzPdiQS6aZw56EMcHEcrPreQEN3dfMyWFn2bw4EdmBh_ZQ8hMmllXWP5VAedKeFNMDzqfD_0_uCSjCnJQxFtEBsm-Fmlx5ul4hFbUw9TaCOarQjgGMFbVYuUxGTN_3bLL3Ez3O20eY7sxaT5wOQEsf6Pds9sOj4_fVymk78f5yHxaYRoZJUCv_AP19NA&__tn__=-R

Tom in Plano, TX said...

Simplest explanation to show we did land on the moon is the fact so many people were involved & it wouldn’t be possible for all those people to keep a hoax a secret for 50 years.

expat said...

Trekker: I'm baffled. I tried it and got the same result. AFAIK the blog isn't of any spamlist. It's annoying.

James Concannon said...

I've posted to that FB page including some of the material here.

Trekker said...

Expat, I wonder why it seems to be 'blacklisted', then!

Chris Lopes said...

I'm thinking that in FB's attempt to keep impure thoughts off of their platform, the artificial non-intelligence they employ slipped a widget.

Anonymous said...

They used the same actors to play radiation specialists and so called fire specialists. Both experiments were with the same people. How can anyone take this seriously? I’m a believer in the moon landings, but this is crap.

luismartinez said...

Aerospace Consultant? I WANT TO SEE Bara's academic credentials. Otherwise is just another Nick Pope phoney expert. This Brit turned a secretary's desk job into a whole MOD UFO expert.

expat said...

1. Chief Sealth High School, class of 78
2. Dropped out of Seattle Pacific University without graduating
3. Er...
4. That's all

Unknown said...

There is no way a us astronaut would not realize that werner von braun was part of nasa.

expat said...

I agree