In the introductory article of this new series of columns, we looked back on the Adam Ruins Everything episode on Conspiracy Theories and saw how its dubious ‘gotch-ya!’ premise was recirculated among propagandists and news websites like the metaphorical and intellective equivalent of The Human Centipede. Long story short: anybody can debunk Adam Conover’s claim that only millions of laser lights could recreate ‘parallel’ sunlight in Apollo photographs simply by taking the time to watch The Making of ‘From the Earth to the Moon’, which demonstrated that the same effect could be done by shining an array on xenon spotlights into a large convex mirror.
That episode of Adam Ruins Everything first aired in October 2017. The fact that propagandists continue to cite its weak premise as their trump card is indicative of the power of Big Lies. The masses will believe anything if it is circulated long enough and loud enough. But again, the episode from which this Big Lie originated first went to air only four years ago. What if the Big Lie was given nearly an entire decade to flourish? Well, in this article we are going to dismantle one such Big Lie.
The sheer number of websites repeating this nine-year-old Big Lie are too numerous to count. News sources and even astronomy websites echoing the Big Lie include Sky History,1 SkyEarth,2 Wired Magazine,3 Popular Mechanics,4 The Take,5 Open Culture,6 The Washington Post,7 The Science Times,8 Slash Gear,9 The Daily Express,10 Gizmodo,11 and Space.com.12 It has even appeared in news articles not specifically making the claim! Stephanie Paggas’ Live Science article 15 Far-Out Facts About Area 51 makes a brief summary of the Apollo Hoax theory and concludes by simply providing an embedded clone of the video from which this Big Lie originated.13
I am of course talking about the Big Lie that: The slow-motion technology required to fake the Apollo 11 television transmissions did not exist in 1969. This claim originated with Dutch filmmaker and fiction writer S.G. Collins who runs the production company Postwar Media.
Fig 1. S.G. Collins, writer and director of Moon Hoax Not.
In 2012 Collins published a video called Moon Hoax Not. Collins took down his video years ago, but clones of it continue to appear in other places. Most notably on Space.com’s YouTube channel Videos From Space.14
The key premise of Collins’ video is summed up in the statement he made in this video:
The pivotal claim for the Apollo hoax theory, without which it all falls apart, is that what we saw on TV was slow-motion footage of astronauts running around in a film studio. Because if it wasn't slow-motion it couldn't have happened on Earth, right?
Well actually, the claim is that what we saw on television was slow motion video of astronauts suspended by wires.15 This distinction is very important.
Let's talk about how slow-motion works in film and video, there are two ways to make motion slow. One is you shoot it at normal speed and play it back slow. The other is to shoot it fast and play it back normal. The second way is called ‘overcranking’. It looks smoother and more realistic because you're sampling natural motion at a higher frame rate. But that means we would have had to shoot it on film using high-speed film cameras, right?
Why? Because in 1969 there were no high-speed video cameras yet, the electronics just weren't there. Some people did have a [Ampex HS-100] magnetic disc recorder that could capture normal speed video and play it back slow. They used it for sports replays. It could record up to 30 seconds. Playback at 10fps and you've got a whopping 90 seconds of slowmo. I’m sticking with 10fps because that was the video frame rate for Apollo 11. They had a non-interlaced slow scan TV camera especially made by Westinghouse. All the later missions were using regular NTSC cameras running at 29.97fps. That would be three times harder to fake.
I’m trying to make this easy. […] So if we're faking this with electronic slowmo at 1/3 speed we only need to record about 47 minutes of continuous live-action video. Well, that's a lot more than that disc recorder can hold!
Fig 2. The Ampex HS-100 disc recorder (right) and HS-200 Teleproduction System (left).
It is true that the Ampex HS-100 and also HS-200 disc recorders could only store thirty seconds of footage. But this is irrelevant, because ultimately it would not be the disc recorder storing the finished product. Obviously, if you are using the disc recorder to playback sporting events in slow motion, you need to feed a video source into it. Either a live TV signal or something previously recorded to videotape.
Fig 3. The magnetic disc recorders used in the HS-100/200 slowmo systems were previously used in the Ampex Video File Information Retrieval System. Scans of documents were stored on videotape and then copied to the disc recorder for stop-action playback.
This technology behind the Ampex HS-100/200 disc recorders had previously been used their Video File Information Retrieval System.16, 17 A system in which photo scans of document pages were stored on 2-inch Quadruplex video tape. To see these pages, one would feed thirty seconds worth of videotape into the disc recorder (about 1,800 pages worth) and play them back on a video monitor in stop-action format. Such scans of documents could then be printed to paper as we would today using modern computers and printers.
Additionally, in order that the user would not need to search randomly through reels of 2-inch tape to find the document in question, an ‘address’ or ‘VTR cue’ was recorded on the videotape’s audio track so that the disc recorder would know exactly which scans to copy and where to find them on the tape.
There is no reason why the same could not have been done with motion video tape recordings. In fact, the product literature for the HS-200 specifically discusses frame-accurate video tape capturing:
The computer controls on the HS-200 actually give each frame a number and 'address' which can be displayed on a numerical readout. To assemble recorded material in the order you choose, simply locate the frame you want and cue it by using one or more of the memory stores. […] Animation can be pre-programmed and requires only two passes of videotape on the VTR. On the first pass, before using the HS-200, cues are recorded at the appropriate places on the tape during the take. On the second and final pass (while you’re off on other programs) the HS-200 automatically compiles the animation sequence using the VTR cues.18
I realize all this talk of "VTR cues" may not make sense to laymen. Or even filmmakers of the digital age. So I will break it down. In the 1960s, television was generally broadcast with mono sound. But the videotapes in fact had stereo audio tracks. One track stored the mono sound, while the other was used to record “VTR cues” also known as “cue tones”. In other words, a sound tone was recorded at designated places on the second audio track to cue an action by the editor or the editing equipment. As stated above, Ampex’s Video File Information Retrieval system used cue tones to assign an ‘address’ to the document scans stored on the tape for easy access. Television stations generally used these cue tones as a prompt to cut to commercials. But they were also used to cue the computer when to start or stop the video capture.
I responded to Collins’ original video by pointing out that if one was to fake the moonwalk videos using an Ampex HS-100/200 disc recorder, it could be accomplished using the following method as described:
Fig 4. Diagram of my proposal to fake the Apollo telecasts with magnetic slowmo and workaround for the disc recorder’s limited storage capacity.
Collins liked this idea. He somewhat recanted on his original claim in a follow-up video, admitting that this method was possible and could be accomplished for Apollo 11 – albeit expressing his opinion that he didn’t think it the way it was done.
Fig 5. S.G. Collins acknowledging that frame-accurate edits between two VTRs and a disc recorder were possible, retracting his claim and that 'faking the Apollo 11 telecast was impossible’.
That's a good theory, whether you can do it depends on whether you can make 95 frame accurate edits between the quad machine and the disc recorder in the days before time code editing. What they did have was a system of cue tones and multiple heads which I'm told WOULD enable frame accurate edits between those machines. So theoretically, what you're suggesting could be done! Therefore, if slow motion does give the appearance of low gravity, and if you can perform frame accurate edits between a disc recorder and a quad machine, then I think we have to promote faking Apollo 11 from ‘impossible’ to ‘not bloody likely’. That’s progress right? 20
Collins’ retraction concerning the Ampex disc recorders only applied to Apollo 11. For the later missions, he doubled down on his claim that high speed video cameras were not available. He argued that colour machines only came out long after the Apollo program ended. He stated:
Now I know there was something called the 'Video Logic Instar' system from 1970 it could overcrank but it was black and white; Chris Balch mentions a color high-speed system [the NAC HSV-200] that appeared in 1979; a TV engineer tells me there was one from Sony using a wide band 1-inch recorder that could deliver 90fps when that came out in the mid-80s. To fake the surface telecast from Apollo 14 onward what we need is a color video system that we can overcrank to at least 60fps and not just for short bursts but for longer durations and we need it by January 1971. I haven't found that system yet, if you find it let us know.
He curiously didn’t say anything about Apollo 12, which also used a colour NTSC camera and supposedly landed on the Moon in November 1969. Then again, the TV coverage died very early in the mission and only showed partial glimpses of the astronauts. Maybe Collins didn’t think slow-motion video was required for Apollo 12’s television transmissions (or lack thereof)?
In any case, the Video Logic Instar system that Collins refers to was the first commercially available high-speed camera capable of recording an hour of broadcast quality slow motion. It was released in March 1970. If not for the ‘fact’ that it was in B&W, as Collins stated, this would be ideal for faking the later Apollo television transmissions. However, upon further researching, it turns out that this camera was capable of both B&W and colour.
The engineering history textbook titled Standard Handbook of Industrial Automation contains a section on page 49 written by a member from the Video Logic Corporation who answers to the name of M. Chan. It reads as follows:
One system can record 120 full screen pictures per second or 240 split-screen pictures per second. The system features a variable-speed slow-motion playback with high motion resolution (3% to 15% infinitely variable). The system is designed for adverse environments and is quite portable. Television pictures can be in black and white or color. As shown in Fig. 44, the system consists of a high-resolution camera, a video tape recorder, a CRT monitor, operating controls, and a high-intensity stroboscope.21 [emphasis added]
Figure 44 of the textbook is a photograph of the fabled high-speed video system just described by Chan, and it is clearly captioned: 'High-speed video-tape instant playback motion analysis system (InstarTM, Video Logic Corporation)'.
Fig 6: The Video Logic Instar system of 1970, capable of recording long duration high-speed video in B&W or colour. Image: M. Chan, Video Logic Corporation
It should be clear that colour high speed video technology was available in time for Apollo 14 and the subsequent Moon missions. When coupled with Collins’ retraction concerning Apollo 11 and the Ampex disc recorders, this means the premise of his video is false. I brought this up in a YouTube video titled MoonFaker: Disk Recorders and High Speed Video Cameras.22 Collins has remained quiet on the subject ever since.
This wasn’t discussed in my MoonFaker video, but I will bring it up here now. Even if, for argument sake, we assume that the NAC HSV-200 system of 1979 was the first colour high-speed video system commercially available – Collins’ argument is still flawed. While to the casual observer the television transmissions from the later Apollo missions were broadcast in colour, the truth is what we were watching was in fact colourized black and white video.
Let’s talk a little bit about how colour video signals were created back in the '60s and '70s. Back then, conventional colour TV cameras used three vacuum tubes: one for reds, one for greens, one for blues. The RGB signals that these tubes generated were composited together to create a colour video signal. But such cameras were big and heavy. Heavy means extra weight and added expense in the form of fuel at launch, and thus inappropriate for space missions. Moreover, these cameras could easily overheat in the extreme temperatures of the lunar environment.
Both the Westinghouse Lunar Color Camera and the RCA Ground Controlled Television Assembly (GCTA) mounted on the lunar rovers used a more primitive but lighter colour encoding system. They were what’s called Field Sequential Colour Systems.23 Collins even pointed this out in his video response! In this scenario, the camera has only one vacuum tube and is essentially a monochrome camera. To convert the video feed to colour, a rotating colour wheel was mounted in between the camera lens and the tube.
Fig 7. The Westinghouse TV camera and colour wheel assembly removed from the outer casing.
Fig 8. Close up of the colour wheel as used in the Westinghouse Lunar TV cameras. Image: Stanley Lebar
The wheel would spin at a rate of ~180 fields per second: 2 scans x 3 colours x 29.97 frames per second = 179.82 fields per second. With the colour wheel turned off or otherwise removed, the picture would be in black and white.
The first field sequential camera used in television studios was ‘invented’ in 1940 by CBS – it was essentially an off-the-shelf RCA TK10 monochrome camera modified to house a colour wheel.24 CBS also sold some consumer colour television sets in the 1940s, which in fact had a rotating colour wheel between the screen and the B&W cathode ray tube.25
Fig 9. CBS’s field sequential colour camera used for ‘colorcasts’. The colour wheel can be seen mounted above the lens turret.
CBS would transmit their colourcasts as a raw B&W signal with an RGB sync code, which would tell the colour wheel in the consumer television when to spin and what filter should be in place in order that the colour TV picture could be reconstructed. Former Goldstone engineer Bill Wood explains in his Apollo TV essay how NASA’s Manned Spaceflight Network (MSFN) technicians had to use a series of multiple VTRs and magnetic disc recorders to buffer the B&W TV and RGB fields to reconstruct the video feed into something the TV networks could broadcast, while Mission Control Center (MCC) in Houston was sent the raw uncolourized B&W feed.
Fig 10. Diagram explaining the conversion of the Apollo field sequential color camera feed to NTSC video. Image: Bill Wood
So if a colour high speed camera could not be ready in time for the latter Apollo missions, why wouldn’t NASA just modify an existing B&W system to include a colour wheel? Obviously, the wheel would need to spin much faster. But the mechanism to rotate a colour wheel is not very different to the mechanism that advances film in a movie camera. In fact, 1962 saw the release of the Wollensak Fastrax High Speed 16mm film camera capable of overcranking up to 10,000fps.
For clarification, I’m not saying a Fastrax was used to fake the Moon landing footage – at forty frames per foot and 10,000fps, the record time would only last two seconds if a 500ft magazine was used. But if was possible to overcrank film cameras in the 1960s, there shouldn’t be any reason why the same could not be done for colour wheels.
High speed video cameras of the 1970s maxed out at 120fps. Using the spin rate we established above, the colour wheel would need to spin at: 2 scans x 3 colours x 120 frames per second = 720 fields per second. That’s the extreme scenario. I have found that the MythBusters’ wired recreation of the Apollo 16 jump salute video matches the original NASA video near perfectly when slowed down to 67%, about two-thirds normal speed. If the playback speed of 30fps was only two-thirds of the record speed that means the record speed was 45fps. Our colour wheel speed then becomes: 2 scans x 3 colours x 45fps = 270 fields per second. I cannot see any technical reason why such a modification could not have been done. Colour wheels are mechanical, not electronic.
The only other technical necessity of installing a colour wheel in a B&W high speed video camera would be that the conspirators would need two videotapes of the faked moonwalk. One to record the raw B&W video and one to record the RGB field information. These two tapes would then have to be played back and transmitted simultaneously to an unmanned lunar lander acting as a repeater, such that the MSFN technicians could reconstruct the two feeds into a colour NTSC signal without suspecting that it was pre-recorded. But again, given that the MSFN used separate VTRs to record the B&W video and colour field information they received anyway, I can't see any reason why the conspirators could not have separately stored this information in advance.
As stated above, Collins even points out that the later Apollo missions used field sequential cameras:
The Apollo 11 camera used what they call a secondary electron conduction tube, built by Westinghouse. The SEC tube was better in low light than a vidicon and more rugged and lightweight than an orthacon. The later Apollo missions also used an SEC tube but now with a colour filter wheel spinning behind the lens. So the black and white sensor could capture red, green and blue image info one after the other. Back on Earth the sequential RGB colour fields had to be buffered using multiple heads on a disc recorder and then put back together to form a colour NTSC signal. That's why you see colour blurring on fast moving objects in Apollo videos. Because the different colour fields were registering at slightly different times.
He goes to reiterate the problems I outlined above as to why normal colour cameras would have been inappropriate for space missions.
A traditional three-tube camera would have been too heavy, too fragile, and too power-hungry for the mission constraints. Well, the mission people knew that. But I don't think anybody else did. I mean you don't need a colour filter to fool the public. So why would they go build such a cockamamie colour system if they didn't really need to bring it to the Moon. I can't figure that out, maybe you can.
I am confused as to what he is trying to get at here. The functionality of the field sequential cameras was widely reported in newspapers and magazines at the time, so the public would have known why to use such a camera over a conventional camera. So he kind of answered his own question. The real question he should be asking is, what was his point of ‘challenging’ me to find him a colour high-speed camera released before January 1971 when he knows that the colour TV transmissions from those missions were reconstructed from a colour filter RGB signal and B&W video feed? Again, why not just install an overcranked colour wheel into a B&W high-speed system?
Record speed has to be 246% of the playback speed?
Whilst writing this article I was surprised to find that not everybody fighting for the same cause as Collins has propagated the Big Lie he created. Amazingly it has been refuted by perhaps the most unlikely of sources. Mark Schubin, the guest ‘technical expert’ for the Adam Ruins Conspiracy Theories episode, published a blog article titled No, Virginia, the Moon Landing Could Not Have Been Faked in 1969.
Fig 11. Mark Schubin, the guest consultant for Adam Ruins Conspiracy Theories, disputed Collins’ claim that lengthy slow motion video was not possible in 1969.
In this article, Schubin gives credence to many of the typical (demonstrably incorrect) talking points by propagandists and endorses many dubious Apollo hoax “debunks” that had gained attention in the media in recent years. Such as the deceptions perpetrated by the MythBusters26 and NVIDIA, a manufacturer of high-end graphics processing units (GPUs).27, 28
Given the title and content of Schubin’s article, I expected him to give yet even more unwarranted credence to Collins’ Big Lie. To my surprise, he refuted it and offered yet another way to achieve slow motion in 1969.
Some of my colleagues like to say that the necessary type of slow motion wasn’t really available in 1969. I disagree. Lengthy slow motion could have been achieved with multiple cameras sharing a lens through a beam-splitter optical system.29
He goes on to claim however that this could not be used, because the finger twitching and other human motions would have to be “extraordinarily fast – too fast for humans.”
No examples are given. So I assume that he’s echoing the myth that the record speed would need to be 246% of the playback speed to match Earth free fall (any motion of a body where gravity is the only force acting upon it), and speeding up the video by that amount produces unnaturally fast movement. Collins also propagated this lie in his response video to me. I have no point of contention with the math from where this percentage was derived. However, such claims are built on the assumption that the astronauts were falling in free fall. As stated above, the argument put forth by Apollo investigators is that what we saw was slow-motion videos of astronauts suspended by wires filmed on Earth. A man suspended by wires from falling from a given height would not have the same fall time if he were in free fall.
One propagandist on YouTube, who answers to the name of Shane Killian, attempted to propagate this 246% lie by dropping an object from knee height and playing it alongside the Apollo 16 video of John Young’s jump salute. First with Young’s video sped up to 246% and Killian’s video at normal speed; then with Young’s jump as broadcast and Killian’s video slowed down to 41%. In both cases, Young and the object Killian dropped had the same fall time. He concluded that this was:
More evidence than anybody could ever want. But Jarrah White made his video after seeing me perform this very same demonstration. But okay, he’s just some idiot on the internet.
If you’re feeling the hostility and character assassination, that is typical of all Apollo propagandists. To demonstrate the absurdity of Killian’s preconceived 'conclusion', and to kill two birds with one stone, I took his demonstration and decided to play it alongside Adam Savage’s wired recreation of the jump salute. As stated above, when slowed down to 67% of speed, it matches almost perfectly with the Apollo 16 video.
So I made an mpeg2 copy of this MythBusters video at 67% speed. I then imported that copy into Sony Vegas, sped it up to 246% and played it alongside Killian’s drop test. Savage and Killian’s object had the exact same fall time. Then I repeated the test with Adam Savage falling at 67% normal speed and Killian’s test at 41%. Again, they had the exact same fall time.
It is worth emphasizing that Adam Savage was not in free fall. He was suspended by wires which reduced his fall rate in real time. And yet when slowed down or sped up as specified above, Savage had the exact same fall rate as an object free-falling from the same height. To further hammer this one home, I then played the 67% speed MythBusters clip alongside the Apollo 16 video and sped them both up to 246%.
Again, not only were they a near perfect match, they both had the same unnaturally fast motion of the arms. My comparisons were published in a YouTube video called MoonFaker: Hanging Sixteen.30 So ended the insistence that the record speed must be 246% of the playback speed. Despite their best efforts to prove otherwise, these pro-Apollo propagandists have merely reinforced the point that these images were indeed shot on Earth.
Fig 12: Apollo 16 jump salute played alongside the MythBusters’ wired recreation slowed down to 2/3 normal speed.
Fig 13: Shane Killian’s drop experiment with Apollo 16 video sped up to 246%.
Fig 14: Killian’s video drop experiment with his own video slowed down to 41%.
Fig 15: Killian’s drop experiment with 67% speed copy of MythBusters' wired jump sped up to 246%. Note how despite being suspended on a cable, Adam Savage falls just as fast as Killian’s object falling from the same height.
Fig 16: Killian’s drop test slowed down to 41% played alongside the wired MythBusters' jump at 67%. Again, note that they both fall at the same rate.
Fig 17: Apollo 16 jump salute and 67% speed copy of MythBusters’ wired jump both sped up to 246%.
Whether you believe Apollo was faked or real, it doesn’t matter as far as the technology goes that was required to fake it at the time. It demonstrably did exist. But despite pulling his original video, Collins himself has made no attempt to clean up the mess he created. Thankfully most of the original news articles published at the time now point to a dead link as a reference, but most others cite copies of that video uploaded by other YouTubers. As the owner of that original video, it is Collins’ responsibility to ensure these copies are taken down. Either by asking the uploaders’ to remove them or filing DMCA takedown notices if they refuse to remove them.
In fact, not only has Collins failed to do either of those things, but during the writing of this article I discovered that he had reuploaded his original video in 2018,31 and earlier this year he had published a Bulgarian translated version of it.32 In neither upload did he even amend his video to have his retracted claim removed! This demonstrates that Collins’ knowingly promotes false information. And consequently that false information has become enshrined on the internet.
Even today, I still receive emails and YouTube comments from people harassing me over how Collins’ video has ‘debunked’ me. Naturally, I try to set them straight and my question to them becomes:
In light of the fact that the premise of Collins' original video is clearly wrong, do you not recant on his claim that the slowmo video technology needed to fake the Moon landing videos did not exist during the Apollo program?
Some of his fans have retracted his claim, while others venomously stand by it. It’s absolute madness. In fact, ironically enough, it was the harassment by one such Collins follower on YouTube that actually compelled me to write this series of columns. Thanks, Lamster 66!
Fig 18: The feedback from Collins’ fans regarding my sound rebuttal to his nonsense has been mixed, to say the least. Enlarge
This entire myth about the supposed lack of slow motion video technology during the Apollo program started nine years ago and has ultimately evolved into a Big Lie. All of the unwarranted praise and credence that this Big Lie has since garnered may have been understandable nine years ago. Back before Collins ‘retracted’ his original claim concerning disc recorders and unwittingly pointed us in the direction of the Video Logic Instar system. But the fact that news articles, Apollo hoax 'debunk' websites, and NASA followers in forum threads and social media continue to flog his original video and uphold its demonstrably false premise is, to say the least, infuriating.
To give an illustration of this mindless parroting, Howard Berry of The Conversation stated in his July 2019 article:
If you can’t overcrank your camera, but you record at a normal frame rate, you can instead artificially slow down the footage, but you need a way to store the frames and generate new extra frames to slow it down. At the time of the [Apollo 11] broadcast, magnetic disk recorders capable of storing slow motion footage could only capture 30 seconds in total, for a playback of 90 seconds of slow motion video. To capture 143 minutes in slow motion, you’d need to record and store 47 minutes of live action, which simply wasn’t possible.33
However as a reference, Berry cited, not Collins’ original video, but his response video to me – the one where Collins acknowledges the possibility of transferring "30 second buckets" of video between two VTRs and a disc recorder! In addition, the YouTube timecode that Berry chose to include in his reference takes anyone who clicks the link to 5min and 48sec into the video – or about eight seconds after Collins made his retraction!
This is deliberately deceptive and dishonest in the extreme. And this deliberately deceptive article was repeated word-for-word by other news outlets looking for something to fill the conspiracy quota of their Apollo 11 50th anniversary coverage. Including ABC News Online34 – Australia’s most reputable independent news service! I’m speechless.
Earlier in his original video, Collins made this derogatory comment about Apollo hoax investigators. A comment which, in actuality, is much more applicable to the propagandists giving his and other Big Lies oxygen:
When you listen to them, they seem not to know very much about photography or video or lighting or even perspective. And I think they're hoping you don't either.
He also made this statement:
In 1969, it was not yet possible technically to fake what we saw on TV. Why are people missing this? I think maybe they forget how primitive video was in 1969.
People are not missing it, because it is simply not true. Collins is clearly preying on his viewers not knowing or not remembering much about the technology available at the time. Which he then uses as a springboard to plant seeds of doubt in his viewers’ minds.
Sure, the video technology of the 1969 was primitive in comparison to what we have today. But as we have seen, it was more than capable of faking what needed to be faked. Frame accurate slowmo editing between two VTRs and an Ampex disc recorder was technically possible in 1969 and the Video Logic Instar system of 1970 was capable of both B&W and colour.
Alternatively, a B&W only high speed camera could easily have been converted to colour using a field-sequential colour wheel; and, as Mark Schubin points out, long duration slow-motion video could also have been achieved with multiple cameras sharing one lens through a beam-splitter optical system. Every aspect, every possibility, and every alternative has been covered. And they all suggest that despite their primitiveness it was technically possible to record long duration slow-motion videos in the 1960s and 1970s. As the saying goes: sometimes the old ways are the best.
Aulis Online, October 2021
About the Author
Jarrah White is an Australian filmmaker, astrophysicist and geologist. He has Certificate III & IV qualifications with distinctions in Screen and Media at the Sydney Institute of TAFE NSW, Australia; and a BSc with Major in Geology and a Minor in Astrophysics completed in November 2017 and July 2019 respectively.
This is the way people thought the Moon looked at the time. If you look at old science fiction pictures of the Moon, even if you look at the film [Project Apollo: Manned Flight To The Moon] from 1963 by NASA, showing what the Moon would look like in an animation when they go there, it looks very spikey and pointy and craggy. And then when you get to Apollo 16, which is the place where they went to some very mountainous places like with hills that were 5,000 feet high or something, it doesn't look like that. And what's going on, before anybody actually went to the Moon, people thought it looked very spikey because there was no atmosphere to erode the mountains. And so people assumed it looked like that.
Collins then cuts to a title card explaining that the opposite was true. That the mountains on the Moon were rounded, not jagged, because of constant micrometeorite bombardment.
He then asks: “The question in my mind was this: if they were faking the Moon telecasts, why did they not make it look like the way we all thought it would look?" The short answer is because it would not have been consistent with the pictures we have from pre-Apollo missions. I can confirm that many of the early science fiction depictions of the Moon and even illustrations in old science books showed jagged mountains.
While such depictions may have continued to linger in the public’s mind well into the late 1960s, as I showed in my previous column, pictures from the Lunar Orbiter series of space probes revealed mountains and hills that were more rounded. The alleged Apollo 16 landing site at Descarte Highlands which Collins refers to and also the alleged Apollo 17 site at Taurus Littrow were both photographed in advance by Lunar Orbiter 4 (1967) and the pre-landing pictures of both these sites, as well as more recent post-Apollo pictures from orbit, clearly show the mountains to be rounded. Even the Clavius webmaster Jay Windley pointed this out in his webpage about 2001: A Space Odyssey:
The lunar landscape is wrong. Kubrick shows us sharp-pointed mountains even though high-definition close-range photographs from Lunar Orbiter 2 (1966) showed the rounded mountains familiar in Apollo photographs.36 [emphasis added]
The alleged Apollo 15 site is a unique case scenario however, as photos from orbit show the area to be populated by both rounded mountains and pointed mountains. Mount Hadley looks distinctly pointed from orbit, while Mount Hadley Delta with Elbow Crater is more rounded in appearance.
For Stanley Kubrick’s purposes, it doesn’t matter. 2001: A Space Odyssey never claimed to be anything other than a work of fiction. And jagged foreboding mountains certainly add suspense in a film about investigating alien monoliths on the Moon. But for a work of fiction purporting to be an actual event, it is imperative that the locations supposedly visited matches up with reality. Thus it would make more sense to model these sets and props on unmanned satellite imagery of the lunar surface, rather than outdated fictional depictions.
Editor's Note: Jarrah White’s opinion of Kubrick’s motives notwithstanding, it should be noted that Jay Windley is entirely incorrect in his analysis of Kubrick’s work – but a full commentary must wait for a more detailed riposte. Here we simply point out that Kubrick had the benefit of working closely with NASA while making 2001. And when it comes to jagged mountains, following those 1966 Lunar Orbital images Windely cites, the Grumman LM 7 1970 patch produced for Apollo 13 also depicted jagged mountains. As do the orbital images of Mount Hadley (the Apollo 15 landing area).
As Professor Colin Rourke has pointed out, photographs taken by telescopes from Earth, as well as images taken from orbit, also show jagged mountains with strong vertical striations. These differ from images of the same mountain supposedly taken by Apollo astronauts. Mount Hadley at the location of the Apollo 15 landing site is a case in point. The surface images depict a smooth, sloped and rounded mountain. The same mountain taken from orbit, to quote Professor Rourke: “The real photos all show a strikingly angular mountain with a sharp peak and many interesting features quite dissimilar to the bland outline shown in the faked ground photos.” See Hadley: a Study in Fakery.
And as stated by Richard C. Hoagland and Mike Bara in Dark Mission (2007):
Noticing the difference between the astronaut’s reports and the photographic record, we began to question everything … especially the validity of the TV recordings and immediately released NASA prints. It was soon clear that the orbital photography and the ground-based images simply didn't match.
Windley also chooses to start his critique of the Apollo-related movie world by attributing his first paragraph to David Percy, without providing a reference. Writing of matters relating to Fleming’s 1956 book Diamonds are Forever and the eponymous 1971 film, Windley’s first paragraph: "Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series of spy novels, knew something of the conspiracy and introduced as a piece of whistle-blowing the interior lunar surface set as a scene in the James Bond motion picture Diamonds Are Forever. [David Percy]" is a total distortion of material featured in both the Aulis publication Dark Moon: Apollo and the Whistle-Blowers and the Aulis production What Happened on the Moon?
Windley’s gross manipulation of the facts provides the backbone for his dismissal of both Aulis and the Apollo related scenes in the 1971 film as misinformed and irrelevant. For the record, Aulis authors Bennett & Percy have always clearly stated that since it did NOT exist in the 1956 original book by Ian Fleming. The Apollo material in the movie Diamonds are Forever had been grafted onto the screenplay, and whether the moon set scene was either a whistle-blow or inserted by somebody in the know was a moot point.
However, when Windley writes “Ian Fleming could hardly have introduced such a revelation in the novel Diamonds Are Forever (1956) he qualifies that statement with “…at least not with a lunar landing conspiracy in mind." Which infers that he either does not recall the contents of the book or that he has never actually read it.
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