Moondust is journalist Andrew Smith's book about Apollo. Well, it's about a part of Apollo – the astronauts' stories. Actually not all the astronauts, just those who were said to have walked on the surface of the Moon.
In an attempt to stem the rising tide of questions about Apollo, Jim Oberg – a NASA ex-employee – was the agency's first choice of author to defend the Apollo program against the nay-sayers. Ultimately, NASA went for the 'never complain never explain' mode of operation and while this decision seemingly made a change from the usual 'never a straight answer', perhaps it didn't: Oberg subsequently didn't write the book that would justify Apollo. He did, however, give an interview to Andrew Smith and it is reasonable to conclude that this particularly attractive morsel from Smith was ordered out by NASA.
This food analogy is deliberate, because if all the books about Apollo were considered as dishes, then I would think of Andrew Smith's idea of interviewing the moonwalkers as a summer pudding, knocked together to look substantial, but on closer examination lacking in substance. Of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating, but no doubt some would think of Dark Moon as the Alka Seltzer!
This particular summer pudding is skilfully based on the hyper macho 'Right Stuff' recipe (created by Tom Wolfe, the man who still does it best). Smith's method of inserting paragraphs relating to the then pop culture and political situation satisfies the fruity emotional content of that long ago 'golden summer of space 1969-1972'. His analysis of how Apollo is relevant to the current state of the world seemingly confers intellectual gravitas to this concoction. The juice-soaked bread if you like.
Smith's version of the basic Wolfian ingredients would most certainly tempt the appetite of someone of about forty years of age or younger. And completely satisfy someone with no previous background on the Apollo missions. No doubt it will have very little impact on the taste buds of those critics who do know something about NASA's endeavours to get a man to the Moon and return him safely to Earth.
This book's neat separation of the 1960s from the following decades cunningly transforms the whole jolly adventure of manned space travel, and Apollo in particular, into an action adventure myth for the last century. However, Smith cannot quite disguise the very obvious fact that we've not been back there. Or the fact that despite Bush junior's brave new words concerning forthcoming missions to the Moon and Mars, even today astronauts don't ever travel deep into and beyond the Van Allen radiation belts. As Jim Oberg told Andrew Smith '...the most effective argument lunar hoax theorists have is that we don't go to the Moon any more.'
Andrew Smith tells us that his adolescence was defined by the Punk era, industrial strife, unemployment and a feeling that the world would inevitably get worse. He then applies his view of the world to us all, by informing us that 'This is why the Sixties are still fascinating to us, whether we experienced them or not. Like the Beatles and the Stones, Apollo's bizarre tilt at the Moon could only have happened in that decade.' According to Smith we are all looking for the meaning of Apollo, the reason why it happened at all, and its relevance to us today – if any. Again, with this generalisation, the fact that not everyone has been brought up with his particular world view doesn't seem to have occurred to him. Or perhaps the skill of his own writing has persuaded the author himself of hypotheses that he might otherwise recognise as invalid.
Smith, like many other defenders of the Apollo faith, does not care to make the distinction between those who say 'we never went to the Moon,' and those who question the authenticity of the Apollo record. Understandably so. To make such a distinction could lead to difficult political and scientific discussions. The safer option is the wholesale dismissal of anyone who questions the validity of an historical event of such proportions. A tactic increasingly being applied to other 'historically certified' events, come to think of it! However just shoving everything, whether it be political, cultural, or moral, into a time warp called 'The Sixties' contributes nothing towards dealing with the numerous Apollo anomalies. And devoting a mere half page of Moondust to addressing a very few of the issues voiced by the 'heretics' cannot in any way dismiss the legitimate and valid questions raised over the years.
But let's not quibble, let's stay with the drama. Smith sets out valiantly to find his astro boys, but majors on the difficulty of getting to the first-footer, Neil Armstrong, and ruminates for pages on end as to what he would really like to say to Armstrong, should he be successful in actually interviewing him. This quest forms the emotional thread running through the book. Here's how it unfolds.
In September 2002 Andrew Smith goes to Nevada, on the apparent off-chance of meeting Armstrong. Some of the astronauts from both Apollo and Skylab missions are appearing at a reunion dinner held during the Nevada National Air Races in Reno. (Think Star Wars pod races with aircraft, and you're mostly there). I hope he had a decent advance for this project from whomever, because by page 122 Smith has spent rather a lot of money on research, including $500.00 or so for this particular rendezvous alone.
Luckily for Smith and perhaps not coincidentally, his time and money were well spent. Armstrong turns up, plays hard to get with most of the assembled crowd. Then, guess what, on page 134 their eyes meet across a crowded room. Truly, he really does write 'our eyes meet...' So later on that evening, after a select dinner Armstrong walks near to our questing author who feels emboldened enough to plant himself in his path – and Armstrong has to stop.
Whereupon he is told that Smith is writing a book about 'the idea of Apollo' and that he would like to tell 'First Man' more about it. Then when Armstrong is asked if he will provide Smith with an address, this most reclusive and uncommunicative of all the astronauts leans obligingly towards this apparently unknown journalist and quietly breaths his address into his ear! Wow! Scribbling this down on the nearest available piece of paper, Smith then shakes hands with Armstrong and that's it – for several more chapters. Well actually, until virtually the end of the book.
Is this the account of what really happened?
It feels to this reader rather more like the dramatised events of a previously arranged meeting. And the way in which Andrew Smith dramatised his exchanges with my co-author lends credence to this hypothesis. While understanding that the authors of Dark Moon: Apollo and the Whistle-Blowers might not rate the same consideration as an Apollo astronaut, it must be said that Armstrong was given a better idea of Smith's intentions than was David Percy.
When he initially contacted David Percy, Smith seemed not only to have forgotten that there were two people involved in writing Dark Moon but also that he, Andrew Smith, was writing a book. Percy was told by Smith that he was writing 'a piece' about Apollo. That was all. A piece. And there was certainly no indication that he had been working at it at least since 1999 (as was subsequently revealed on publication). Even if Smith considered as his 'piece' the chapter in which we and other heretics feature, this was being severely economical with the actualité (as one A. Clark famously said. No, it wasn't Arthur!)
According to Andrew Smith (page 271) 'a full account of my attempts to get in touch with David Percy, who now lives in France, would read like a passage from a Graham Greene novel and eventually recedes into a fog of suspicious questions and identity checks and furtive promises which are whipped away at the last moment. In the end they issue me with a statement confirming what I already know about them and their ideas.'
Perhaps the attempts to fog the brain of the discerning reader got to the writer himself, since this dramatised version of events actually writes itself into its own grammatical fog, and could not have come about from the stark reporting of the actual email correspondence, which went like this:
Just a quick note to remind you that I'd still be very interested in interviewing you for the piece I'm writing, should you be able to find time. If you're pushed at the moment, perhaps we could start with a few e-mail questions, as you initially suggested? The reason I'm not keen on doing things via mail is that – particularly on a controversial issue such as this – expert testimony is much more powerful if the person giving evidence has a physical presence in the piece. That way, I can assure readers that you are not a crazed 'conspiracy theorist' and should be listened to. Readers are like everyone else: they are suspicious of what they cannot see.
Anyway, I hope to hear from you at some stage.
All the best, Andrew Smith
ps – I don't think I ever mentioned that, if you'd like confirmation of who I am/to see the sort of work I do, you should be able to find some examples of my work on the Observer website.
There were no 'furtive promises' on the part of Percy, only an agreement to consider the questions Smith offered:
To get the ball rolling why don't you ask some initial e-mail questions, so fire away!
It would become clear that Percy was being asked to spend considerable time in providing Smith with an in-depth personal profile, while still not being told the exact nature of the 'piece' he was writing:
I suppose the first questions are these:
1. How did you get interested in the subject of Apollo? Is it something that meant a lot to you before you began to doubt the official version (ie were you interested in space as a child/youth)? Can you remember where you were on the day of the first landing?
2. When and why did you begin to question the official version of events? Was there an epiphany, or was it a gradual process?
3. The 'surrogate' astronaut theory which you advance in 'Dark Moon' is an interesting one. Have you had any contact with any of the astronaut figureheads? Did you know that Edgar Mitchell has stated his belief that there is a US government cover-up over UFOs?
4. Have your ideas developed, or have you learned anything new since writing 'Dark Moon'?
5. Have you found people becoming more receptive to your ideas over time? Did you hear about the Jim Oberg book and how jumpy NASA got over it?
I don't want to overload you at this stage, so I'll leave you with those for the moment!
Thanks in advance for your time.
In fact 'the fog of suspicious questions' from David Percy turns out to be just one question! Asking Smith to confirm where he could find some of his previous writing:
My apologies for being so late in getting back to you and trust that I am still within your time frame. I would indeed be interested in taking up your suggestion of reading some of your work before finalising my response to your email questions. However, since a search of the Observer magazine section is not returning any recognition of your name and since the site is apparently only indexed by the title of article, would you be so kind as to indicate precisely where, and how I would find extracts of your work on the Observer site?
Not, as is implied by Smith, for identity checks but to see the sort of tone the author used. Since David Percy still assumed that it was to be a lengthy piece for Smith's newspaper.
All at Sea
Nevertheless, despite our likely position in his world view of somewhere near to the bottom feeders, it appeared we were still in the time frame. In the muddle that followed over actually locating his articles on the web we were informed that 'the most relevant pieces to what I'm doing here are probably All at Sea, Brought to Book, When a Child Dies, in that they're long, heavily researched pieces.' Long pieces perhaps, heavily researched we had no means of knowing, but they weren't nearly as long as this book of 309 pages. Back to Smith:
I've been on sabbatical recently, so you won't find anything of mine in recent issues, but there's still a ton of my stuff there. The best way to access it is to go to the GuardianUnlimited home page, then look for the little 'Go To' box in the top right-hand corner of the page; click on the arrow to get the menu, then choose 'Archive Search'...
Hope this helps.
While noticing that 1) the Observer had changed into the Guardian, previously unmentioned as anything to do with Smith, and 2) knowing that a sabbatical is in principle a paid year of leave from a job, naively, neither of the Dark Moon authors (I had been informed of these emails at this stage) felt suspicious of his intentions, even at this point. However, on reading Moondust, and seeing that it had been worked on since 1999, we retrospectively wondered about that sabbatical. Especially since a true conspiracy theorist might suggest that Smith was trying to tell us something by his specific listing of his three titles. For irrespective of their content, these particular titles could be stand alone metaphors for Apollo: NASA was 'all at sea' in its attempts to present the public record of getting a man to the Moon and back safely; thanks to new technology the agency is now being 'brought to book'. As the death of innocence, 'when a child dies' is a powerful metaphor for the realisation that not everyone is worthy of trust since not everyone is of good intention. Serendipity can work in ways that not even a rocket scientist or a journalist can fathom.
State of the Art
Since it was perfectly obvious that Dark Moon is the work of two people, and that everything required to evaluate the presented subject matter was included within its pages i.e. references, appendices and an index – this last a feature lamentably lacking in Moondust – it became clear that whatever tone the 'piece' would eventually take, the nature of the questions being asked of only one of the authors indicated the strong possibility of an emphasis on the personal rather than the message of the book Dark Moon itself. In the light of all these considerations we conferred and decided that ultimately Andrew Smith should have a joint statement from both authors, so David Percy wrote:
Thank you for your questions which I have considered carefully and have decided that I would prefer to make a statement concerning our research findings published in Dark Moon: Apollo and the Whistle-Blowers.
Which is why Smith concludes his account of his singular interaction with David Percy with the words 'they issued a statement. . .' and here it is:
Both co-author Mary Bennett and myself are passionate about the destiny of mankind to travel into deep space. We consider that once equipped with a safe and trustworthy means of transport, manned spacecraft should explore our nearest neighbours at the earliest opportunity and then travel into the far reaches of our solar system and beyond.
When we were much younger, we were both overjoyed at the sight of Armstrong and Aldrin setting foot on the Moon. We looked forward to going to Mars by the turn of the century as per Wernher von Braun's original plan – and the stated intentions of NASA. However, as the years passed, it has become increasingly apparent that when it comes to manned space travel, technological abilities are sadly lacking. Since the 1960s and '70s it seems that the very best that humans could do was to build some space shuttles and a few orbiting space stations. This 'sliding around on the surface of space' has made precious little impact on those great visions of the earlier space pioneers. Moreover, at the same time space engineers are scattering junk in ever-increasing quantities around our planet. This residue of former missions currently endangers the new space station as well as every mission that ventures into space using what we call 'old fashioned blood and thunder' vehicles – rocket technology.
In view of the lack of progress that we felt could have been possible, we began to question the record of Apollo, and the very obvious question that emerged was whether there were any barriers to mankind's ability to travel freely in space. We found that according to DERA, the greatest showstopper preventing our exploration of the universe is Radiation. We then began to examine the Apollo record in detail to see how this serious problem might have been overcome in the '50s, '60s and '70s. On checking out the construction of the craft involved in the Apollo missions we discovered, to our amazement, that there was no protection whatsoever for the craft. It follows that there was no protection for the occupants in the craft either. Furthermore, there was insufficient protection on the lunar surface from any Solar Particle Event (SPE).
Given the absence of protection, we seriously doubted NASA's ability to guarantee the safety of their Apollo astronauts. Then again, since SPEs cannot be predicted (and even today this still holds true) perhaps it was decided that there wasn't much point in attempting to protect these early travellers. As we came to appreciate during our investigation, manned space travel is incredibly dangerous – again, this fact remains true today, even at the current and supposedly superior levels of 21st century technology.
Further, according to the post mortem reports on the Apollo 1 command module and the shuttle accidents, human error and mismanagement contributes to the risks and dangers of space travel. Standards of management within NASA seems to have progressed very little over the last forty years, if the judgement of the US Senate in 2002 is anything to go by.
We therefore asked ourselves a) how could a US President be confident that those astronauts would be returned to the Earth alive and well? And b) as there was no such thing as a 100% guarantee of a safe return, would a US President permit even the faintest possibility of an American astronaut being reported lying dead on the lunar surface?
So in the light of these findings and concerns we started to look more closely into the possibility that the record could have been faked, whilst still actually sending unknown astronauts (our surrogates) to the Moon. This is one reason why we should not be confused with those who state that mankind did not go to the Moon. To our great horror, disappointment, distress and upset, we began to find a number of possible flaws in the images, and the 'live' TV coverage that formed the public face of the Apollo record. And that was only the start.
It is now widely known that part of the documentary record of WWII was either faked or staged as the emulation of an event. It is therefore not unreasonable to conjecture that a method that is proven to work could have been repeated in the early days of space exploration – especially since It has now been admitted by Pravda that Yuri Gagarin was NOT the first Russian in space. Indeed this technique is still being used. Only weeks after the end of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq it is already acknowledged that some events were staged for the TV cameras and journalists embedded into the troops on the ground. The witnesses to one such event stated that they were treated to a totally superfluous scenario 'straight out of Hollywood'.
Given that despite potentially inadequate technology, the US still went ahead with manned space missions, there had to have been pressing reasons for not taking the alternative (but slower) route strongly recommended by Wernher von Braun – namely to build a space station FIRST and then launch from there to the Moon and on to Mars. What could have been so pressing that they by-passed a key step, the building of a staging post – an orbiting space station?
Our investigation then led us to examine the possibility that there could have been more than one reason for faking the record – while still attempting to carry out manned missions to the Moon.
It is completely reasonable to experience catastrophic failures in the exploration of new frontiers, especially when employing new technologies. During Project Apollo, we were told that six highly complex manned craft landed on the Moon, took off and returned to Earth using a relatively low level of technology.
An 86% success rate for Apollo.
By the turn of the century, twenty-five simple, unmanned craft with increasingly higher levels of technology have attempted to fulfil their missions to Mars. Only seven succeeded.
A mere 28% success rate. Was Apollo blessed?
Given the problems that NASA is having with the space shuttle (it only travels some 250 miles up) is it not highly suspicious that Apollo was so successful?
However, any suggestion that we are conspiracy theorists looking for a hook to hang our hats on clearly does not apply here. During our research we uncovered inconsistencies within the official Apollo record, and unearthed matters that nobody will address (the Apollo 11 neutral point discrepancy is but one example). We were fobbed off with misleading and dubious statements from officials within the space industry – concerning not only Apollo but also space in general – and time and time again we have been given half a dozen or so different answers (all inaccurate) to the same problem. None of this necessarily infers a conspiracy to deceive. However, the results of our research strongly indicate that during the manned exploration of space, a decision was made to carry out Project Apollo in a way that would guarantee a public success – whatever might have actually occurred.
Since the publication of Dark Moon several people have come forward with supplementary information that either confirms our research or indeed adds to it. Many of the new ideas examined in our publications are now being openly discussed within the scientific community – such as our findings concerning gravity propulsion; the possible relationship between gravity and light, and our reasons for concluding that the speed of light may not be a constant.
We can't wait for the day when astronauts go to Mars in an appropriate craft – the journey should not only be rewarding but also be much faster than space scientists envisage right now. Our vision, as discussed in our works since 1991, is for the total conceptual renewal of spacecraft using very different technologies to those currently under consideration.
We believe that acquiring the ability to travel safely into deep space is an integral part of our evolutionary development, and that during the process of developing the appropriate craft we will all learn more about who we really are and where we come from.
Mary Bennett and David Percy
Our previous suspicions that Smith might not entirely be sympathetic to the Apollo critics were confirmed on publication of Moondust. Within its pages he describes a technique of information gathering that he has used many times before: '...It's understood in the modern media and the modern world that everyone has something to sell: you talk to them about whatever it is, then guide or drag them on to the things you really want to know.' By which statement Smith also reveals that the idea of people working at something from the point of view of integrity, and for no personal gain other than ensuring matters be clear and transparent, is anathema.
No wonder he is unable connect with our point of view. Although Smith writes that this statement confirms 'everything I already know about them and their ideas', he does not choose to get the facts right as to why Dark Moon was written in the first place. Clearly Smith has no wish to inform the reader of our real intentions in writing Dark Moon without elaborating on our statement he merely states that we claim radiation killed surrogate American astronauts. This sentence is very dramatic but not entirely accurate. One wonders if he has even read the book.
The fact that he could not even present the full title within the pages of his book (although he does so in the bibliography) indicates that Smith doesn't particularly want to go anywhere near this issue of 'whistle-blowers'. Going instead for a form of character assassination via a whacky paragraph insinuating that one of Dark Moon's authors is suffering from paranoia and – full of mistrust of all enquirers such as himself – is now living in exiled secrecy! Was this the punishment for not having given him a conventional interview? And was his earlier comment really a warning? 'That way,' he wrote, 'I can assure readers that you are not a crazed 'conspiracy theorist'.
Whatever the motivation and even though, in this instance, Smith was obliged to adapt the entire emailing episode for his purposes, the printed result on page 271/272 looks like an attempt to remove the sting of this particular critic of the Apollo record – a man who just happens to be an award winning filmmaker and photographer. Then again, to make such observations could incite the response 'conspiracy theorist'! Is it of any significance that we are not alone in being singled out for this sort of treatment?
Smith writes about heretics who question Apollo in what is intended to be descriptive terms. On closer scrutiny these turn out to be plainly insulting. Compared with the 'old bird' Kaysing, and the 'conspiracy lord' Sibrel, if you ignore the inferences of furtive secrecy, we got off quite lightly as 'a pair of Brits'. However, the Anglo-American Andrew Smith knows exactly what he is doing, because in American terms this is a very dismissive descriptive. Remembering that the US flag was the symbol of the Apollo missions – and forgetting that 'We came in peace for all mankind' moment, perhaps the Americans are genuinely outraged that other nationalities are daring to criticise their sacred ASP – the American Space Program.
Smith has another problem with the heretic Bart Sibrel. He 'turns out to be disconcertingly bright and articulate' thereby inferring that those heretics opposed to the historical version of Apollo are more generally considered to be both stupid and inarticulate. In fact, whenever Smith uses the term 'conspiracy theorist' or 'conspiracy lord' it merely demonstrates that there is neither a desire nor an ability to counter the awkward questions with real answers.
Sibrel's activities might be somewhat questionable in their execution, but his desire to have real questions treated seriously is not. His discussion with Smith is summed up in one paragraph. Moreover, the answers given to Sibrel's questions are inadequate, totally unresearched and unsubstantiated. To take only one example concerning shadow photographic detail: sunlight reflecting from the Earth (earthshine) CANNOT be responsible for selectively lighting the shadow side of an astronaut, whilst leaving the shaded sides of lunar rocks totally BLACK.
Smith could have asked Jack Schmitt:
'How did the lunar rovers manage to reach locations without leaving any tracks in the lunar dust?'
see Apollo Studies
Indeed, the technical domain of the Apollo problem is territory that assuredly this book does not want to address. Nor should it, when he does venture into anything other than his summer pudding's tasty looks, unfortunately for Smith's valiant defence of Apollo, he exhibits a sloppiness of detail that does nothing to support the notion of a truthful Apollo record. In the main the astronauts' reminiscences in Smith's book do not square with the Apollo photographic and recorded TV coverage. It bolls down to the astronauts' testimony versus the hard evidence of the official Apollo record. Quite simply, both accounts cannot be correct.
Again, taking but one example from page 14, according to Smith's account of the Apollo 11 descent Armstrong and Aldrin landed in such a cloud of dust they could not see anything. Allegedly at some 57.5ft from the lunar surface, Armstrong 'suddenly found his view stolen by an eruption of dust and rock that arced away in dense sheets obscuring the landing area completely'. And on the next page (hold your breath!) 'they were now hanging[!] twenty feet above the surface of the Moon...' and then with thirty seconds of fuel remaining 'Through the storm of dust, whiskery probes attached to the LM's feet had made contact with something.'
All of which is totally at odds not only with Armstrong's post-mission statements and every single official record detail (including the NASA reports that Smith credits in his bibliography) but it also contradicts the actual DAC movie footage released by NASA as the very official record of the Apollo 11 landing. And in the detail of this dusty moment, it also differs from fellow author Andrew Chaikin's version of this same event.
Where Was I When...?
It should go without saying that in the recording of any exploration there can only be one version of the physical event. Whether it be reporting on the hardware, the physical environment or the explorers' biological data, accurate descriptions relating to a first examination and interaction with an alien environment is of prime importance to those who will eventually follow. Accurate references and repetition of such data is a requirement of ALL those who subsequently discuss the mission(s) in any media – even if that should be decades later. Particularly so in the case of Apollo because there were no truly independently verified accounts as there would be for any news event unfolding on Earth.
Using such wording as 'when you've shared a moment with the whole world, it can be hard to know precisely where your memories end and everyone else's begin' might work for the emotional content of an astronaut's memories; or anyone else's 'where was I when they landed the Moon?' moment of introspection – but nothing justifies the differing descriptions of the same technical events.
Smith does present other opinions about the space race – notably in discussing author JG Ballard's view, set out in his collection of short stories Memories of the Space Age. Smith agrees with Ballard in that the space age would come to seem an historical anomaly – surely Smith means the 'manned' space age – or more precisely the 'Apollo missions'? Because if not, he is saying that the entire space age is a done deal. Finished. The current White House incumbent is seemingly unaware of this matter. Perhaps he should be told.
The entire planet's scientific community is also unaware that, according to Smith '...the Moon rides an ellipse around the Earth, but doesn't spin, always presenting the same face, keeping the other one hidden. Thus the 'dark side' doesn't exist. There's only a meteor battered far side, sometimes dark, sometimes light when its facing the Sun – where today no-one has trodden.'
Current scientific understanding is that the Moon spins once on its axis during the same amount of time it takes to complete one revolution around the Earth. Thus when completing a rotation of 360 degrees it has orbited the Earth in an ellipse with its nearest distance from Earth just over 221 thousand miles and at its furthest distance over 253 thousand miles away. Thus we get the averaged and oft quoted figure of 'a mean lunar orbital distance from Earth of some 237/238 thousand miles'. All of which might have muddled more than just Mr Smith.
However, this potential misunderstanding of Smith's might explain another important science blooper: On page 21 he tells us that Aldrin, standing on the lunar surface 'looks up at the half-dark Earth and can make out the slowly rotating shapes of North Africa and the Middle East, then returns his eyes to the Moon...' (emphasis added).
The above statement is a total impossibility within the time frame of a single glance as described in Moondust.
Further, as Buzz Aldrin is an acknowledged expert in orbital mechanics, he would know that it takes four whole minutes of time for the Earth to rotate through one degree of arc. So if Smith was reporting Aldrin's words verbatim, we have four possibilities as to why it is incorrect: 1) His statement is a mistake; 2) Aldrin was not on the Moon at all, and his remark is theory converted into statement; 3) Aldrin was in low Earth orbit, reporting what he actually saw, and 4) Aldrin is whistle-blowing.
However, on the off-chance that Mr Smith's research has revealed that NASA (or any other space agency, come to that) has evidence that our understanding of lunar rotation is entirely wrong, then I think we should all be told – to paraphrase Private Eye magazine once again. Because if such basic scientific facts are incorrect, then what does that say for the rest of the 'facts' presented in this book?
This is a book about some of the astronauts, so the final say should rest with them, and Smith tells us that JG Ballard's short story News From The Sun (from the space age collection) was not completely fictitious. This tale refers to the astronauts' reactions to their adventures, 'Ballard knew where he was coming from.' writes Smith, 'Like so much in this tale, what he says is not true, but it has truth'.
Smith laments the fact that there is a distinction in the minds of the public (it's everyone's fault then!) between those who actually walked on the lunar surface and those who stayed in the CSM. Their post-Apollo financial 'value' is less than the moonwalkers. Yet, the CSM crewman had to be the best pilot of the three, since the CSM was the only lifeline home. If he felt as strongly as he writes about it, then why did he not include all these unrecognised crew members in his book? Or more pertinently – why bother to write a book about the Apollo astronauts that excludes one-third of each lunar mission crew?
But why should I quibble when the astronauts themselves can't count? John Young tells Smith that '...we had eighteen people up there for twelve days so we don't really know beans about the Moon'. But Young forgot to mention the nine men from Apollo 8, 10 and 13 who were also 'up there'.
However, Young begins his statement with the interesting observation: 'I think the Moon would tell us a lot'. And then seemingly corrects himself by saying 'I mean I was up there and we flew around...' Then he gets his tenses in a muddle again: '...and there's lots of interesting craters up there that are really strange-looking, and once you explore 'em, we'll find out stuff. Moreover, that previous sentence contained a further problem with his tenses: 'I mean we had eighteen people' etc. (emphasis added). These tense-challenged moments suggest that Young is tripping-up over his story.
Radio Blah Blah
It would be tempting to conclude that from the myriad sideways swipes at the problems and questions that we raise in Dark Moon, and that others have raised elsewhere, Moondust is an attempt to deal with the dissidents in a covert way. Smith offers us a selection of 'reasons' for Apollo, but inviting each of us to the pick'n mix counter isn't a good enough get-out for the inadequacies of the Apollo record, revealed even by this well-written, beautifully presented and interesting book.
There are many more of these inadequacies to discuss, but they will have to wait for another day. I've got indigestion from too much summer pudding. So before I reach for the Alka Seltzer, I shall simply add that – unforgivably – Smith has had the temerity to impute that we consider the named Apollo astronauts to be 'fakes'. This is his interpretation of a complex issue, not ours. And is an insult both to the Apollo astronauts and ourselves.
We have always asserted that the named Apollo astronauts were in a position where they had no choice. And our sympathies were with them. This is still the case. If you listen carefully to the rhythms of the writing in Moondust through the words spoken to Smith, you can hear the astronauts faintly paphrasing Smith's own words: 'Like so much in this tale, what has been said is not necessarily true, but it has truth'.
*It is known that NASA used digital image processing technology in the late 1960s when analog signals from the Ranger spacecraft were converted into digital images with computer enhancement at the NASA JPL Image Enhancement Laboratory.