Brian Cox: Seven Questions and a Request
Open Letter to Professor Brian Cox OBE
from David Orbell
See also: Follow up to Seven Questions and a Request – February 2015
Dear Professor Cox,
Dr Brian Cox, Horizon, BBC
I would draw your attention to statements you made during the filming of the Horizon TV programme What on Earth is Wrong with Gravity, first screened in the UK on 29 January 2008. One of these car journeys, Dr Brian Cox on Faking the Moon Landings is available to view on YouTube.
In this extract, the off-camera interviewer had apparently primed you for your piece to camera with a question relating to evidence proving or disproving the hypothesis that the Apollo landings were faked. He finishes priming you with “Where are we going? – What are we doing?"
Following preliminary objections you seem at a loss for words, after a couple of profanities, you state with some vitriol that "The Moon landings happened and it's [the question is] nonsensical ... it's like saying was America ever discovered? Right? Well, yes, it was. Did we, did we work out how to… did we discover penicillin? Yes. Did we go to the Moon? Yes. That’s the evidence. There is no information content or use in debating it any more."
Asked to clarify how this response completely proves the fact that they [the Apollo astronauts] went there, you reply, with a remarkable lack of cogency, "Well, first of all, I don't even accept that it needs proving, because you've got to be a complete moron anyway…” You then stop speaking.
Seemingly taken aback by your factually-challenged and myopic admonishment, your interviewer reminds you of post-production editing issues and the necessity of speaking in complete phrases. "Remember, if you [or the audience] don't hear my question your answer doesn't make any sense whatsoever."
You are obviously fed up by now, and further discussion ensues in which it is suggested that you could have used the Apollo laser ranging experiments for your response. You don't look entirely convinced that this is a good answer.
This leads to an awkward moment wherein it is revealed that your interviewer is also the scriptwriter, and that you have not actually read the script. When he then tries to go for another take, and again gives you the cues: “Where are we going? What does it prove or not prove? And who cares?” Your fluffed piece to camera is most revealing: “We are going to a loser, to a loser - laser thing, we’re going to the lunar… we’re going to. Where are we going?"
To which your scriptwriter wearily replies: "McDonalds." CUT.
McDonald being one of the observatories originally assigned to the Apollo Lunar Laser Ranging experiments, it dawns on the viewer at least, that one of the reasons for even discussing the Apollo landings and thereby eliciting your scripted reply, was simply to set up the next location. Ironically, although you had not read the script, you were right about the loser/laser thing, the presence of laser ranging receivers on the lunar surface is not proof that astronauts placed them there.1
Some 18 months later you stated: "My opinion is that you are not allowed to have an opinion unless you know something about the subject you are talking about. Well, you can have an opinion but you do not have the right for it to be listened to." See Brian Cox, Carpool at 21 min 47 sec, 24 July 2009.
Dr Carl Sagan
You had apparently forgotten the words of Dr Carl Sagan, cited by you as an inspirational mentor, when he said: “If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we’re up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious, who comes ambling along.”
With regard to Apollo, Carl Sagan rendered a beautifully poetic summation of the meaning of Apollo 11, it can be seen in the YouTube clip Carl Sagan on Apollo 11. While ensuring that Carl’s legacy remains intact – should NASA's Apollo achievements fall foul of future revelations, this carefully-nuanced oratory full of cryptic innuendo could well have been subtitled ‘Something's wrong’. Carl Sagan on Apollo 11 Credit ESA/Hubble, published YouTube, 9 Nov 2013.
Einstein wrote ‘Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth’.2 (Letter to Prof. Jost Winteler, c.1901)
Historic witness testimony from NASA contradicts currently accepted scientific principles and this lack of homogeneity in the Apollo astronauts’ portrayal of celestial views and other salient facts surely requires extremely careful cross-examination from academics, including yourself.
I therefore submit seven questions to engage you in helping to resolve those issues within your scientific purlieu. Also – through using your considerable influence as a leading physicist and science media personality – you may wish to consult CERN or NASA to explain any of these questions for which you might not have the answers.
In view of your usage of extraneous analogies and a quixotic assent of the Apollo record, and your stated belief that there is no evidence, no information content and therefore nothing useful to discuss, I feel obliged to offer some information content relative to these questions, in the hope that this may rekindle your own academic curiosity. The scientific method, Sagan, and Einstein hopefully will inspire your assistance in resolving long-standing and polemical controversies around the Apollo missions.
Why might it be that NASA's expert witnesses have testified contrarily? Why do they continue to befog in a manner that is incompatible with accepted scientific criteria, including those of your own disciplines, physics and astronomy? What is the rationale?
Question 1 Astronomy
Please explain the contradictory testimony given by the named astronauts regarding the ‘naked eye’ visibility of stars and planets in cislunar space.
John Young (Gemini 10) "Standing there in the black void of space was truly amazing. Everywhere we looked there were stars, even below us. They were a little brighter than what we saw from Earth, but what impressed us was that they didn't twinkle. That was because there was no intervening atmosphere to cause what the astronomers call scintillation.”
The planet Venus was so incredibly bright it appeared like it was a UFO. Mike Collins later commented that “it looked like a 50-watt bulb in the sky".3
Michael Collins (Gemini 10) "My God the stars are everywhere; above me on all sides even below me somewhat, down there next to that obscure horizon. The stars are bright and they are steady. This is the best view of the Universe that a human has ever had. Venus appears so bright that I have to convince myself that it really is Venus, not by its appearance, but by its position in the sky at the spot where Venus should be."4
Bill Anders (Apollo 8) "The sky was a sort of grey, you couldn't see stars very well..." describing cislunar space in An Evening with the Apollo 8 Astronauts (Annual John H. Glenn Lecture Series).
Neil Armstrong (Apollo 11) “The sky is a deep black when viewed from the Moon as it is when viewed from cislunar space, the space between the Earth and the Moon. The Earth is the only visible object other than the Sun that can be seen although there have been some reports of seeing planets. I myself did not see planets from the surface but I suspect they might ...er ...be visible." Armstrong speaking to Patrick Moore on the BBC astronomy program The Sky at Night in 1970.
Michael Collins (Apollo 11) How telling is it, that during the morose and lugubrious post-Apollo 11 press conference, that Michael Collins could only reply with comatose timidity to Patrick Moore's query concerning the visibility of the stars. "I don't recall..." Not a hint of surprise, no incentive to expound upon Apollo's dull vistas comparative to his awesome visions from the beguiling Gemini 10 (see above).*
Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14) “The Stars were ten times brighter than when viewed from the Earth" [in cislunar space].**
Charles Duke (Apollo 16) "You couldn't see stars, it was too bright" [in cislunar space]. Speaking to me at Autographica in 2012, and reiterated at various public speaking engagements such as this event with Charles Duke.
Mike Melvill, SpaceShipOne "Seeing the bright blue sky turning pitch black and seeing stars appear while it is daytime is absolutely mind-blowing."5 So the first civilian to reach space in a privately-financed spacecraft nullifies assertions from Apollo 8, Apollo 11 and Apollo 16 astronauts.
*Apollo 11 Before a large audience at Autographica in 2012, Edgar Mitchell (in response to my reference concerning Armstrong's affirmation that he couldn't see stars in cislunar space) shot down my assertion that Neil Armstrong was entitled to be credited with great expertise in astronomy with the retort: "He didn't know what he was talking about!"
This emphatic statement, resounding with such certainty, reduced the audience to a jaw-dropping silence. Neil Armstrong was in fact, by far the most qualified astronomer in the astronaut corps. The YouTube clip Neil Armstrong Misleads Patrick Moore sensationally contrasts the incompatible viewpoints of the two NASA operatives.
**Apollo 14 Following his euphoric sermon at Autographica citing no less than a metaphysical rebirth as a result of the effects of observing stars in cislunar space, Mitchell was asked by a audience member to describe his thoughts whilst observing the Earth from the Moon. "We didn't have time for that many things," he replied vacuously.
Edgar's sudden volte-face of passion, his inability to equate the spiritual component of the lunar surface vista with his cislunar epiphany were laid bare. From the front of the audience, I was able to focus on Ed's eyes which, to my thinking, unequivocally betrayed his inability to step from truth-based oratory to opaque illusion.
The man from MIT seemed unwilling to leave the pulpit with a conflicted conscience. His only other option was to dissociate himself from the question and the questioner. This he did. However, unable to convey one iota of the emotional conviction that had accentuated his cislunar soliloquies, Mitchell's virtually instantaneous Jekyll and Hyde behaviour soured even his most fervent acolytes, who now winced with incredulity.
Question 2 Physics
Please explain the contradictory testimony given by Gene Cernan and Alan Bean regarding noise levels on their final approach to the Moon.
Alan Bean (Apollo 12), describing his descent to the lunar surface in the lunar module (LM) 'Intrepid': "When you were in it you couldn't hear it in the vacuum of space," when interviewed by Bart Sibrel in Astronauts Gone Wild in 2004. Al Bean’s full statement is at 12 min 57, to 13 min 40, Astronauts Gone Wild (An Investigation Into the Authenticity of the Moon Landings).
Gene Cernan (Apollo 10) "Without thick insulation around us, every firing of a 'Snoopy' jet sounded like someone was beating on a garbage can with a hammer."6
Revealingly, in The Last Man on the Moon p213, Cernan was emphatic in describing the high noise level of the engine on Apollo 10's ‘Snoopy’. And yet so hesitant to confirm the truth regarding the Apollo 17 LM to Bart Sibrel.
There is a juxtaposed edit at 27 min 31 in the Sibrel documentary that dramatically highlights the fact that two legendary astronauts inexplicably contradicted each other in their description of the lunar descent. Cernan can be seen squirming with acute angst as he is finally forced to confirm that Challenger's engine did indeed generate noise and was not silent.
Displaying excruciating evasiveness, Cernan reluctantly concedes his opinion, leaving the viewer transfixed by the turmoil in his expression, apparently undermining the impression of a truthful witness. Clearly, Cernan feared his answer might conflict with contemporary accounts of engine noise levels. Unfortunately for him, it did!
Question 3 Gravity Issues
Please explain NASA's logic in sending a medical liability such as Michael Collins to the Moon.
Dr Brian Cox in the centrifuge, BBC
Professor Cox, in your recent Wonders of the Universe series, you were subjected to 5Gs during a centrifuge test. Momentarily the flesh on your face attempted to depart from your skull. Brian Cox endures extreme Gs – Wonders of the Universe, Brian Cox, BBC.
Observing your reactions to 5G the technicians would have considered it unthinkable to increase the G load. Abandoned by your idiosyncratic smile you exclaimed: "Oh very foggy, very foggy, yeah take it down."
You withstood 5Gs for approximately 15 seconds. Michael Collins (Apollo 11) endured 10Gs just months after having anterior cervical fusion surgery. Given Michael Collins’ medical condition (the operation resulted in a permanently compromised spinal cord). NASA's responsibility to field prime condition astronauts and your fortuitous comparative experience in only 5G, do you find the following account by Michael Collins plausible?
"The centrifuge in Houston clamoured for our attention, because coming back from the Moon we could experience a force of 10 or more Gs, eyeballs in, far more taxing than the acceleration produced by any of the earth orbital flights."
"The day began [14 April 1969] in Houston with the centrifuge, never pleasant, but especially bad when imitating lunar returns. At 10 Gs my chest caves in and my vision narrows, and when I finally reeled out of the torture chamber, I dared not turn my head left or right, lest I tumble my gyros and fall over in an undignified heap."7
Michael Collins’ report is one of a multitude of similar implausible Apollo narratives that incredulously clash with contemporary logic to those versed in the present day world of aerospace. Additionally, a Royal Air Force fighter pilot recently informed me that his similar cervical fusion condition had been judged potentially lethal – given the risk of ejection and other G force endurances – and he was consequently grounded.
Question 4 Physics
Please explain why Edgar Mitchell refers to the ‘two minute barbecue mode’ in contradiction to the actual documented historic record.
William S. Widnall, Director of Control and Flight Dynamics at MIT Instrumentation Laboratory describes the actual plan. "For long periods of coasting flight, provide passive thermal control by implementing a 'barbecue mode' – a very slow rotation (one revolution per ten minutes or slower) about the spacecraft roll axis and with the desired roll axis fixed in space."
Wikipedia (Apollo 8) Rotating about once per hour along its long axis to ensure even heat distribution across the surface of the spacecraft.
Michael Collins (Apollo 11) "We roll very slowly at three-tenths of one degree per second or one complete turn each twenty minutes."8
Ed Mitchell (Apollo 14) "We were rotating every two minutes to keep the thermal balance…on the spacecraft its called the barbecue mode."
Revealingly, Mitchell and other Apollo astronauts favour the expression ‘returning from space’ as opposed to ‘from the Moon’. If the lives of the astronauts depended on a combination of optimum timing in relation to rotation so as to ensure that they were not alternatively roasted or frozen, then Mitchell's arbitrary deviation from the fundamental Apollo record is quite extraordinary.
Further, if the aforementioned extracts cement the essential nature of ‘barbecue mode rotation’ in preserving the astronauts on their long voyage, this leads to the following conundrum. How the LM survived in its static position on the lunar surface, where parts were exposed to the relentless bombardment from the unfiltered Sun and compounded by the effects of depressurisation and it's accompanying temperature differentials.
I have been reliably informed by a thermal protection engineer at Airbus Industrie that currently one of the biggest problems in aerospace engineering is metal work warping and distorting due to the effects of solar bombardment.
The first time that I heard Mitchell speak I noted his anomalous statement concerning the ‘barbecue mode’, the revolution every ‘two minutes’ of the spacecraft whilst travelling to the Moon. Assuming that a slip of the tongue was responsible for the implication that the craft revolved at such a rapid rate, I reserved judgment.
However, a video Mindshift Institute Interviews Dr. Edgar Mitchell confirms that at least as late as 2005 (the year at which he was nominated for a Nobel Prize referred to in this clip) he is still informing his listeners of the erroneous two-minute version of the rotational manoeuvre. And he was still doing so at Autogoraphica in 2012.
Mindshift Institute Interviews Dr. Edgar Mitchell at 3 min 4 sec, 14 Mar 2012.
Question 5 Physics and data discrepancies
Please explain how a flight director of Gerry Griffins stature could be unaware of the existence of Velcro during the Apollo Space Project.
On the 30th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 flight in July 1999, Jon Snow hosted the UK Channel 4 programme Real time Apollo: One small step. Violet Berlin, presenter and writer for Bad Influence, the junior version of the technology show Tomorrow’s World assisted Jon Snow and, despite her youth, was conversant with the controversies.
Featuring interviews with 'legendary' NASA personalities, whose expertise was cited as being crucial to the success of humankind’s first expedition to another celestial body. The programme proceeded to review, as if in real time, the events of those epic days in July 1969, a time when our faith in the participants was such that our analytical faculties often took a back seat.
Gerry Griffin, former aeronautical engineer who contributed strongly on Apollo 11 and 13 and lead flight director on Apollo missions 12, 15 and 17 was Jon Snow's chief guest. On this programme Griffin confirmed fellow NASA doyen Pat Norris's erroneous statement that problems relating to space craft storage management on Apollo 11 were compounded by the fact that Velcro had not yet been invented.
The Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral invented the original hook and loop fastener following ten years of R&D from 1941-1951. He submitted his patent for Velcro in 1951, it was granted in 1955 (expired 1978) entered into commercial use in the USA in 1957 and was taken up by the aerospace Industry.
Given his position within the Apollo Project it was inconceivable that Griffin could have been unaware of Velcro's prominence prior to and during his tenure. Indeed NASA's early association with the product was credited as the catalyst that established Velcro's success. Sadly, it was also cited as being a prime source in fuelling the tragic Apollo 1 fire in which astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee perished.
Velcro is referenced countless times in the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal and one example is the Log of Apollo 7, Part 1 at 12 min 36 sec. (Be sure also to witness at 11 min 58: "Someone else must have been holding the camera.")
Mr. Griffin also introduced Pat Norris to Jon Snow. In 1967 Mr. Norris was head of the team at NASA’s Houston base where the computer software was written to both predict the gravitational pull on the Apollo craft and track its journey from Earth to the Moon and back again. In Mr. Griffin’s terms, this translated as "…designing the navigation software and the math involved with how to get us to where we were going.” Mr. Griffin credited Mr. Norrris’s software development as being absolutely crucial for the successful conclusion of the Moon landing and that "Without him we wouldn't have gotten anywhere." High praise indeed.
As if to add some grist to a story so rose-coloured as to provoke implausibility, Gerry Griffin suddenly launched into a technically-illiterate anecdote citing the difficulties of stowage – securing objects inside the LM. Griffin stated that unsecured objects would fly out of the hatch door during egress. The bizarre inference being that pressure differential would exist between the interior and exterior of the lander during each astronaut’s exit.
Of course this was impossible. The hatch could only be opened following pressure equalisation. In fact astronauts often cited concern that the hatch was difficult to open unless absolute equality was achieved either side of its barrier. Additionally, even in the Moon’s reduced gravity the laws of physics still dictate that objects would not float as in zero or micro gravity. What could Gerry Griffin NASA's top flight director possibly be talking about?
Amazingly, more was to follow. Pat Norris interjected with the inexplicable claim that "this was before Velcro was invented." Gerry Griffin immediately confirmed this remarkable anachronistic misinformation with "that's right". Jon Snow's co-host Miss Berlin immediately attempted to interject with derision, "pre Velcro?" she questioned. Jon Snow quickly cut her off mid-sentence – possibly squandering the potential scoop of his career.
This clip highlights these extraordinary statements from Gerry Griffin and Pat Norris: NASA's flight director denies existence of Velcro (Invented in 1948).
Michael Collins (Apollo 11) in 1974: "The walls of the spacecraft are adorned with hundreds of squares of the male variety, [Velcro] which is a course material from which protrude thousands of tiny stiff fabric hooks. These hooks intermesh with the wool of the female, and together they constitute a simple and practical solution to the problem of how to keep equipment from floating away when there is no gravity to hold things in place."9
Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11) in Norman Mailer’s Moonfire: "OK for those of you that don't know, this is where we log most of our data for each of the Lunar Module manoeuvres … we have to hold these in place in zero G, so we make use of the Velcro patches on the back and on the table so we can attaché these down here."10
It appears that flight director Gerry Griffin had neither read Michael Collin’s book nor was he aware of how the Apollo manoeuvre data was stored during his tenure at NASA. Something was wrong – incredibly wrong!
Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC)
A prior incident had occurred in the Jon Snow programme that reinforced my fantastical thought that the participants were engaging in a cynical act of byplay. Banter ensued regarding the power, or rather lack of power available to the Apollo 11 on-board computer, the AGC. Pat Norris was questioned regarding its capacity.
Looking decidedly sheepish, Norris started to reply that "Apparently it was, ah..." then realising this vague phraseology indicated his third party status to the event, Pat abruptly reverted to his authoritative role and re-stated "If my memory serves me right it was about 32K." The glaring contrast of these two personas should have stimulated cross-examination from Jon Snow, but to no avail. He wallowed in journalistic acquiescence throughout.
Now remembering that Griffin had eulogised over Norris's programming input being so critical that, "Without him we wouldn't have gotten anywhere". It was to my mind inconceivable that Norris, following possibly the greatest achievement of his career, would have to struggle to recall the original amount of available K on Apollo 11. Even if his priority had been programming the Earth-based mainframes.
Surely dealing with such storage disparities would have indelibly imprinted the capacity of any computers on the Apollo craft into Pat’s own memory? Seemingly surprised in retrospect, he cited the usual claim that "A wristwatch in 1999 probably having more K than the Apollo computer". I wrote to Jon Snow via his TV Network soon after the programme asking for clarification with regard to the preceding events, but no reply was forthcoming.
Question 6 Physics
Can CERN and/or NASA confirm that the medical risks highlighted in the film by its personnel are the reason why all manned flights have remained in LEO since 1972 – so as to protect against ‘DNA multiple damage’.
A NASA production Destination Tomorrow, Episode 25 Radiation and Space Travel exposes the horrendous risks that Apollo astronauts would have encountered beyond Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). Released June 2006, published on YouTube, 28 Oct 2012:
At 4 min 26: "We have to measure this radiation as it's very damaging biologically to the crew… It's also a legal requirement, astronauts are classified as radiation workers… Now, when we’re going back to the Moon and we are outside of the Earth’s protective belts, it's going to be much more dangerous for the crew – it can cause acute effects, the crew can get sick very rapidly unlike they can on the space station or space shuttle." Mark Weyland, SRAG manager, NASA. (Space radiation analysis group, NASA Johnson Space Center.)
At 6 min 20: "In fact between the Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 missions, a large solar particle event occurred; if astronauts had been in space during the event, the doses of radiation they would have been exposed to could have produced severe health effects within a short time."
At 6 min 47: "It's actually very difficult to predict space weather (solar flares, solar particle events). We are trying to predict when there is an all-clear period, that will allow us to do an EVA on the surface of the Moon – when we know there is a ninety per cent chance we won't have a bad solar flare within the next two days." Mark Weyland.
He added "From the Galactic cosmic radiation [GCR] it's very heavy ions we can't predict; high energy types of particles that we cannot shield against; it would take too much shielding and it's cost prohibitive to put that mass up there. The reason we try to keep the crew’s dose as low as is reasonably achievable is [that] any increase in dose is directly proportional to the probability that they will get a fatal cancer."
At 9 min 14: "Did you know that some astronauts from the Apollo mission through today have reported actually seeing radiation as flashes in their eyes. The flashes the astronauts experience is space radiation zipping through their eyes like sub-atomic bullets. When the radiation strikes the retina it triggers a false signal that the brain interprets as a flash of light this is problematic because this type of radiation kills brain cells and also can trigger long term problems such as cataracts. For astronauts on the ISS exposure has been somewhat limited”.
At 14 min 02: "Imagine this, these heavy [cosmic] particles travelling out through your body traverse your cells, your skin, your brain, your liver and we know for a fact by our basic research, [that] when these particles traverse a cell they produce DNA multiple damage."
"...For NASA and the plans to return to the Moon and go to Mars, radiation is a really, really critical risk to be studied, so our research will play a critical role for future plans." Destination Tomorrow, NASA.
Question 7 Context: NASA, CERN and space exploration
Please explain whether CERN and/or NASA are a party to the protective ‘layer’ referred to by Neil Armstrong during his 1994 speech at the White House on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of Apollo.
To put it into context, Neil Armstrong addressed a group which he called ‘the future taxpayers’ of the USA and told them that "We’ve only completed the beginning. We leave you much that is undone. There are great ideas undiscovered, breakthroughs available to those who can remove one of truth's protective layers". Neil Armstrong's cryptic speech.
Professor Cox, in anticipation of your kind co-operation, I can only thank you, and trust that you concur with John Maynard Keynes, who was credited with the adage:
"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, Sir?"
Aulis Online, August 2014
See also: Follow up to Seven Questions and a Request
1. Dark Moon: Apollo & the Whistle-Blowers, Bennett & Percy, Aulis Publishers, 1999 pp322-330
2. Letter to Jost Winteler, c.1901. Highfield, Roger; Carter, Paul 1991
3. Forever Young, John W. Young with Jaes R. Hansen, University Press of Florida, 2012, p94
4. Carrying the Fire, Michael Collins, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009, p221
5. Cape Times March 30 2005
6. The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America's Race in Space,
--- St Martin’s Griffin, 2009, p213
7. Carrying the Fire, op. cit. p321
8. Idem, p380
9. Idem, p363
10. Moonfire, Norman Mailer, Taschen.com, p169