Apollo Investigation

Apollo 12 and the Surveyor 3 Mystery

by Derek K. Willis

The Question of Dust on the Apollo 12 LM and the Surveyor 3 Probe

ApolloAccording to the record, on November 19, 1969 the Apollo 12 Lunar Module (LM) Intrepid landed on the Ocean of Storms. One of the objectives of the mission was to investigate Surveyor 3, the automatic probe sent to the Moon two and a half years previously. The astronauts who descended onto the lunar surface ─ Charles “Pete” Conrad and Alan Bean ─ had been tasked with making a precision landing. Just four months earlier the Apollo 11 LM Eagle had landed six kilometres off target. Conrad and Bean brought their LM down at a distance of only 155 metres from Surveyor 3.

Fig 1

Fig 1. AS12-48-7136, Surveyor 3 probe with the LM in the background

NASA’s official record of the mission, the Apollo 12 Lunar Surface Journal,1 describes how the surface activities got off to a bad start. Just minutes into the first extra-vehicular activity (EVA), Al Bean “accidentally” pointed the television camera into the Sun (despite the fact that the training manual said that should not be done) and partially damaged the sensor. Minutes later he “accidentally” pointed the camera into the Sun again, and this time totally destroyed the sensor. Due to this mishap there were no live TV images of the Apollo 12 astronauts on the Moon.

The Lunar Surface Journal describes how Conrad and Bean spent almost an hour examining Surveyor 3 during their second EVA. The three-legged probe, with an open aluminium frame, stood 3 metres tall and weighed 280 kilograms. The astronauts’ primary objective was to determine what effects the harsh conditions on the Moon had on Surveyor 3. As part of this examination the astronauts removed components, most notably the television camera and the soil scoop. These were then returned to Earth for analysis. A few moths later NASA famously announced how streptococcus mitis bacteria appeared to have survived on the Moon for two and a half years.

Even before Conrad and Bean had reached Surveyor 3 there appears to be an anomaly within the official NASA record. According to the Lunar Surface Journal, Ed Gibson of Mission Control said the following (the numbers in bold are the hours minutes and seconds into the mission):

133:54:33 Gibson: Okay Pete and Al, when you are looking at it there, would you also try to determine whether there is any effect from the dust during the descent? That is, could you determine whether there is more dust on either the west or the east side of any of the bays, and the north and south side of the camera?

Surveyor 3 had landed inside the upper part of a crater, “Surveyor Crater”, and the astronauts believed this would have shielded the probe from any dust from the LM:

133:54:57 Conrad: I’ll tell you, the way that dust was going it probably went right over the top of it.
133:55:15 Bean: You know, that’s right. Any dust you had on the edge would never go down to this crater.

When Conrad and Bean arrived at Surveyor 3 they saw the probe was discoloured. However, they seemed certain this was caused by the paint having been baked in the Sun rather than by a layer of dust covering the probe:

133:56:52 Bean: It’s kind of light tan or maybe that’s the way it’s changed colour. What colour was this one, Houston? White? When it started out?

Mission Control confirmed that Surveyor 3 was painted white, except for the scoop, which was light blue. Conrad then suggested why the probe had changed colour.

133:58:04 Conrad: It sure has. The sun’s cooked that paint brown.

The astronauts’ encounter with Surveyor 3 appears very odd for a number of reasons:

  • Mission Control seemed to know beforehand that the probe was covered in dust and that the distribution wasn’t the same on each side.
  • The astronauts were certain Surveyor 3 couldn’t be covered in dust because it was partway down Surveyor Crater, below the level of the LM.
  • The astronauts were certain the tan colouring of Surveyor 3 had been caused by the probe baking in the Sun, rather than by being covered in dust.
  • Despite what Mission Control had said about the dust, the astronauts didn’t make any attempt to see if the discolouring was caused by dust.

Adding to the oddness of this encounter, half an hour after arriving at the probe ─ and having already removed the camera and scoop ─ Conrad and Bean suddenly realised that Surveyor 3 was covered in dust after all:

134:29:50 Bean: Hey! Hey, lookit there, Pete!
134:29:51 Conrad: What?
134:29:54 Bean: We thought this thing had changed colour, but I think it’s just dust. We rubbed into that battery, and it’s good and shiny again.

But what is most odd is that the photograph in Figure 1 clearly shows Surveyor 3 is covered in dust ─ the same dust that is covering the astronaut’s shins. This dust is shown even more clearly on a close up of one of the probe’s legs and a footpad:

Fig 2

Fig 2. Close up of the Surveyor 3 footpad covered in dust

Adding to this mystery is how and why the Surveyor 3 probe was covered in dust. A photograph taken by Surveyor 1 in June 1966 shows there was no visible dust on the Surveyor 1 footpads or struts.

Fig 2a

Fig 2a Close up of the Surveyor 1 footpad and a strut – no dust present

Various questions are thrown up by the inconsistencies within NASA’s record of the Apollo 12 astronauts’ examination of Surveyor 3:

  • How did Mission Control appear to know Surveyor 3 was covered in dust, and that the dust wasn’t evenly distributed?
  • Why did Conrad and Bean doubt that Surveyor 3 would be covered in dust?
  • Why did Conrad and Bean say Surveyor 3 had been discoloured due to the paint baking in the Sun?
  • Why did Conrad and Bean suddenly change their minds and say Surveyor 3 was covered in dust after all?
  • Why was Surveyor 3 covered in dust when Surveyor 1 and later automatic probes were almost completely clear of dust?

The answers to these questions add credence to claims that the Apollo missions were faked, and as we will see, strongly suggest that persons unknown – ‘whistle-blowers’ – planted evidence to draw attention to the deception. The best place to start with the examination of this mystery is to investigate why Surveyor 3 was completely covered in dust.

Rocket Engines and Moon Dust

When researchers first began questioning the reality of the Apollo Space Project, one of the anomalies discussed was why there is no dust on the footpads of the LMs. Even in an environment of 1/6g it would be reasonable to conclude that the dust blown up by the LM’s descent engine would have settled back down, coating the footpads and other structures such as struts and equipment housings.

Fig 3

Fig 3. Apollo 11 LM footpad

This conclusion is based on the fact that when a Hawker Siddeley Harrier jump jet lands, the downward thrust of the engine causes an extensive cloud of dust to billow upwards, some of which then settles onto the aircraft itself. This dust settling occurs due to the Earth’s atmosphere. The particles of dust are initially blown in all directions away from the point where the exhaust gasses impinge on the ground. But very quickly the dust is slowed by the molecules of the atmosphere. The dust then swirls in vortexes, and moves upwards because of thermal convection currents. When the kinetic energy of the particles dissipates, the dust drifts back down. If there is no wind, the dust will settle onto the Hawker Siddeley Harrier.

Prior to the Apollo missions NASA had evidence from the Surveyor 1 probe that dust was unlikely to settle onto the LMs. The absence of dust has also been confirmed by other probes. In November 1970 the Soviet rover Lunokhod 1 returned images of its lander. No dust was visible. The same lack of dust was demonstrated in December 2013 when China’s Chang’e 3 landed on the Moon along with its rover Yutu.

The absence of dust is because the Moon doesn’t have an atmosphere. When a spacecraft lands on the Moon, dust doesn’t billow up. Instead, it flows out sideways at a very high speed and at a very low angle from the “boundary” of the descent engine’s plume of exhaust gasses. At Sea Level on Earth an engine plume takes the form of a narrow jet because atmospheric pressure prevents the gasses expanding. In the vacuum of the Moon, the plume expands into a wide cone. Dust can’t rise upwards within the plume because of the downward pressure of the exhaust gasses. Instead, the dust is forced outwards, and once beyond the plume it rises at an angle of no more than three or four degrees. Each particle then behaves like a small “projectile” and continues in a shallow trajectory until it lands on the surface (see Appendix 1).

If little or no dust is likely to settle onto a lander, then Surveyor 3 should also have been free of dust. For almost fifty years NASA has struggled to explain why the Apollo 12 photographs show Surveyor 3 covered in dust. To this end NASA has come up with a number of hypotheses. None of these stands up to scrutiny. It is worth examining the hypotheses and exposing their flaws. Doing so demonstrates how the hypotheses are no more than smokescreens. By commissioning research to investigate why Surveyor 3 was covered in dust, NASA is reinforcing its claim that the Apollo 12 astronauts really examined the probe, and is deflecting attention away from the anomalies within the official record of the mission.

1. Natural Deposition
The Moon is constantly bombarded by meteoroids, which are asteroids smaller than one metre wide. Whilst the vast majority of these meteoroids are tiny specks of dust too small to form craters, it is estimated up to 200 craters with diameters of 10 metres or more are formed each year. The circular rim of a crater is created by the shock-wave set up when a meteoroid impacts the Moon. At the same time, the impact sprays out ejecta consisting of rock fragments, particles, and dust. The ejecta then falls back to the surface in a disc extending out from the impact site. The net effect of meteoroid impacts is that the entire surface of the Moon is constantly “showered” by fine dust. However, on average the regolith ─ the Moon’s “soil” ─ thickens by only one millimetre every thousand years. That being the case, during the two and a half years Surveyor 3 was on the Moon before Apollo 12 arrived, the dust on the probe would be no more than 0.0025 (one fortieth) of a millimetre thick. Such a thin layer would have been barely visible to the astronauts, and couldn’t have accounted for the discolouring they saw on the surfaces of Surveyor 3.

2. Local Meteoroid Impact
Under the right circumstances a single meteoroid impacting the lunar surface near to Surveyor 3 could have coated the probe in dust. When ejecta are thrown from a crater, different sized fragments travel different distances. Large rocks travel the least distance because they collide, disintegrate, and lose their outward velocity. Smaller rocks travel further because collisions occur less often. Particles of rock travel even further. The ejecta which travel the furthest are the motes of fine dust. For this hypothesis to be valid, Surveyor 3 must have been at the outer edge of the crater’s “ejecta disc” because the probe was covered only in fine dust, and there were no signs of impacts by larger fragments. In addition, the crater must have been relatively small because no new large craters have been observed on the Ocean of Storms since Surveyor 3 landed. If the crater was small, then it must have been relatively close to the probe. The statistical likelihood of a meteoroid of the appropriate size impacting at the appropriate distance and at the appropriate time is extremely small. Consequently, other studies supported by NASA into the origins of the dust found on Surveyor 3 give this hypothesis little more than a passing mention.

3. “Lunar Fountains”
Images sent back by Surveyor 7 during January of 1968 showed a glow on the lunar horizon for a short period after sunset. This was believed to have been caused by sunlight refracting through a layer of dust above the surface. NASA scientists came up with the “lunar fountains” hypothesis to explain the origin of this dust.

Fig 4

Fig 4. “Lunar Fountains” caused by electrically charged dust

During the lunar day sunlight causes the Moon’s surface to become positively charged. This happens because of a process known as the photo-electric effect, in which photons of ultraviolet light knock negatively-charged electrons out of the molecules making up the surface material. Positively-charged dust particles are then repelled from the surface, and rise upwards. During the lunar night the charge dissipates and the dust settles back onto the surface.

It is believed the vast majority of particles rise no more than 15 centimetres, though a few may rise to tens or even hundreds of metres. A lunar fountain can’t explain how Surveyor 3 was coated in dust. Particles rising only 15 cm could not have covered the entire probe, which is almost 3 metres tall. The amount of dust rising higher is too insignificant to have deposited the layer shown on the Apollo 12 photographs.

4. Electrostatic Attraction
The surfaces of spacecraft are designed to be electrically neutral to avoid any interference with the instruments. It is known some landers have become negatively charged due to the exhaust of the descent engine. This would be caused by the friction between the exhaust gasses and the engine’s nozzle. If Surveyor 3 did become negatively charged in this way, then the positively-charged dust on the lunar surface may have been attracted to the probe. However, if the charge was strong enough to lift particles to the top of the probe, it would have caused damage to the instruments and other systems. Also, for six or seven days each month the Moon passes through the tail of the Earth’s magnetic field. Trapped within the tail is a plasma partially consisting of high-energy electrons. These electrons bombard the Moon, and reverse the photo-electric effect on the surface material. Consequently, for a few days each month the positively-charged dust on Surveyor 3 would have become negatively charged and hence be repelled from the negatively-charged surface of the probe. This would have prevented a layer of dust building up.

5. The “Difficult” Landing
The landing procedure of a Surveyor probe was supposed to be straightforward. Most of the velocity was reduced by firing a solid propellant retro-rocket, which was jettisoned at an altitude of 11 kilometres. Three liquid propellant engines then slowed the velocity to zero at an altitude of 3.5 metres. At that point the engines were shut down and the probe fell to the surface, impacting at a speed of 3 metres per second.

Unfortunately for Surveyor 3, spurious reflections from the surface confused the Doppler radar. Without data on altitude and velocity, the probe continued down to the surface at a velocity of 1 metre per second, but without the engines switching off. When it landed, Surveyor 3 lifted off again and hopped 20 metres before landing a second time. This was followed by a hop of 11 metres, before the probe finally settled onto the surface. The only reason this hopping ceased was because 34 seconds after the initial touch down a signal sent by mission controllers switched off the engines.

NASA has claimed this bouncing was why Surveyor 3 became covered in dust. The dust was supposedly kicked up by the footpads, and also blown upwards by the engines which were still firing during each impact. An analysis shows these claims are invalid. Under normal circumstances a Surveyor would have landed at a speed of 3 metres per second. This was slow enough to prevent dust being thrown up by the footpads and coming to rest on the probe’s instruments. The image of the clean Surveyor 1 footpad demonstrates this to be the case.

When Surveyor 3 first touched down the velocity was only 1 metre per second. If no dust is thrown up during a landing at 3 metres per second, how could dust have been thrown up during a landing at 1 metre per second? Even if some dust had been thrown up, it couldn’t have settled on Surveyor 3. During its first hop, the probe reached a height of 10 metres and travelled 20 metres horizontally. When the probe touched down for a second time it was well away from any dust thrown up by the first touch down. The second hop was less dramatic, reaching 3 metres high and 11 metres horizontally. Nevertheless, the third and final point of landing was well away from any dust kicked up by the second touch down.

As for dust blown upwards by the engines, rocket science demonstrates that wouldn’t have happened. At the time of the landing the thrust of each of the three engines had been throttled back to only 30 kilograms. The exit area of each of the engine nozzles was about 200 square centimetres. This meant the pressure of the exhaust gasses was only 0.15 kilograms per square centimetre, about as hard as a person can blow. By the time the gasses expanded and impinged the surface, the pressure was ten times lower ─ not even enough to blow out a candle. Consequently, little if any dust would have been disturbed by exhaust gasses. And in any case, if dust had been disturbed it would have been blown out horizontally by the engine plumes (see Appendix 1).

6. The “Double Event”
In recent years NASA researchers seem to have come full circle in explaining why Surveyor 3 is shown on Apollo 12 photographs to be covered in dust. Mission Control had asked Conrad and Bean to investigate the distribution of the dust:

133:54:33 Gibson: That is, could you determine whether there is more dust on either the west or the east side of any of the bays, and the north and south side of the camera?

The “double event” hypothesis also seeks to explain why there was an uneven distribution of the dust on the sides of Surveyor 3. This is based on NASA’s description of how the LM approached its landing site from the east, flying past Surveyor 3, and then curving partway around Surveyor Crater (Figure 5). NASA produced a diagram of the flight path, including distances, altitudes, and times.

Fig 5

Fig 5. NASA’s description of how the Apollo 12 LM approached its landing site

The closest the LM passed by Surveyor 3 was 109 metres, at an altitude of 67 metres. It was during this fly past that the descent engine is claimed to have covered the probe in dust. The LM then curved around Surveyor Crater and landed 155 metres from the probe. During the final descent dust is said to have sandblasted the side of Surveyor 3 facing the LM, cleaning off the dust deposited earlier.

This “double event” hypothesis was seemingly confirmed in 2010 by research carried out on the Surveyor 3 components which NASA claimed were brought back to Earth.

Fig 6

Fig 6. Plate cut from Surveyor 3 instrument bay

In his paper Further Analysis on the Mystery of the Surveyor III Dust Deposits,3 Philip T. Metzger claims the components are covered in “micro-craters” formed by the particles ejected when the LM made its final descent. Many of the micro-craters still contained particles. These particles are said to have sandblasted the dust from the side of Surveyor 3 facing the LM. By measuring impact “shadows” ─ for instance the one right of the ring on the image above ─ the researchers were seemingly able to triangulate the direction of the particles precisely to the LM landing site.

Alterations to the Official Record?

Both of the processes involved in the double event are open to question, or even flawed. I will come back to the sandblasting later, but for the time being I will focus on claims Surveyor 3 was covered in dust when the LM flew past at an altitude of 67 metres. As the LM was making its final descent, Al Bean said:

110:31:31 Bean: 190 feet. Come on down. 180 feet. Nine percent [fuel remaining]. You’re looking good. Going to get some dust before long. 130 feet. 124 feet, Pete. 120 feet, coming down at six.

It is apparent the astronauts didn’t see any dust until the LM was well below 180 feet (54 metres). In fact, an examination of the video made from the film footage of the landing shows there is no dust created until just after Bean says, “120 feet” (36 metres). At that point the LM is descending at a rate of 6 feet (2 metres) per second, so by the time Bean has said “120 feet” the altitude is nearer 34 metres.

If no dust is being created until the LM is as low as 34 metres, how can NASA claim Surveyor 3 was covered in dust when the LM was flying past at an altitude of 67 metres? 67 metres is pretty much twice as high as 34 metres. One answer could be that a very fine “mist” of dust was being created, but that the astronauts couldn’t see this. But could a fine mist, so tenuous as to be invisible, have coated Surveyor 3 in a layer as thick as the dust covering the astronauts’ shins? In the technical debrief carried out soon after the Apollo 12 mission, Pete Conrad claimed he saw first dust at an altitude of 90 metres. This altitude, which Conrad had given to NASA just weeks after the mission, was redrafted to a lower altitude when the Lunar Surface Journal was compiled in the 1990s. As we shall see, the redrafted altitude was very specific ─ and very convenient. The following note appears in the Lunar Surface Journal:

[Because Al is concentrating on the computer, Pete may already be seeing dust.]

[Conrad, from the 1969 Technical Debrief: "As soon as I got the vehicle stopped in horizontal velocity at 300 feet (redrafted by Thomas Schwagmeier: The Apollo 12 Mission Report indicates that he stopped almost all of his forward motion at about 220 feet), we picked up a tremendous amount of dust ─ much more than I had expected. It looked a lot worse than it did in the movies I saw of Neil's landing. It seemed to me that we got the dust much higher than Neil indicated. It could be because we were in a hover, higher up, coming down. I don't know. But we had dust from ─ I think I called it around 300 feet. I could see the boulders through the dust, but the dust went as far as I could see in any direction and completely obliterated craters and anything else. All I knew was that there was ground underneath that dust. I had no problem with the dust, determining horizontal (fore and aft) and lateral (left and right) velocities, but I couldn't tell what was underneath me. I knew I was in a generally good area and I was just going to have to bite the bullet and land, because I couldn't tell whether there was a crater down there or not."]

Pete Conrad twice said he had first seen dust from an altitude of 300 feet (90 metres). This, however, was redrafted by Thomas Schwagmeier ─ one of the compilers of the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal ─ to 220 feet. 220 feet is exactly 67 metres ─ the very same altitude the LM flew past the Surveyor 3 probe! This seems beyond a coincidence.

The redrafting seems to be part of an ongoing attempt to hide an inconsistency within NASA’s official record. According to the audio and film evidence of the descent, dust was first seen when the LM was no higher than 35 metres altitude. However, Mission Control seemed certain that Surveyor 3 was covered in dust when the LM flew past. For that to be true, dust must have been created at a greater height than 35 metres. Could it be that when NASA noticed this inconsistency Conrad was told during the technical debrief to say he had first seen dust at height greater than 35 metres? If so, this might explain why he emphasises the point by twice saying he saw the dust at 90 metres.F1

The entirety of this bizarre situation can only be explained if the Apollo 12 mission was faked. As part of this fakery a carefully crafted scenario was created by NASA in which Surveyor 3 became covered in dust specifically by the LM. Unfortunately for NASA, it appears that whistle-blowers were at work, and they have blown a hole in the official version of the account. They achieved this by changing the script used by Pete Conrad and Al Bean during the live audio transmission that was made when they were supposedly on the Moon examining Surveyor 3. The consequence of this change is that the conversation between the astronauts and Mission Control is totally nonsensical. Mission Control believed the astronauts were examining a Surveyor covered in dust, whereas the astronauts are describing a Surveyor apparently discoloured by the Sun.

Astronaut Memory Lapses

Before describing the faked scenario created by NASA and how whistle-blowers caused major problems, it will be informative to show how Pete Conrad and Al Bean ─ like the astronauts from other Apollo missions ─ suffered from “memory lapses”.

Fig 7

Fig 7. Surveyor 3 battery box (yellow circle)

Figure 7 shows how some of the dust was supposedly rubbed off when one of the astronauts brushed up against the box containing the battery. When Al Bean saw the box saw he suddenly realised Surveyor 3 was covered in dust rather than having been discoloured due to baking in the Sun.

However, when the Apollo 12 Lunar Surface Journal was originally compiled, neither Conrad nor Bean could remember the incident. After Conrad’s comment about the Sun cooking the paint, this insert is included in the Journal:

[At 134:29:54 they realise that the brown colour is the product of a fine coating of dust.]
[Conrad – (having read ahead) “You’re talking about it way out here at 134:29:54.”]
[Jones – “That’s where you rub it.”]
[Bean – “I don’t even remember that.”]
[Conrad – “I don’t either.”]

It is perhaps understandable the astronauts couldn’t remember specifically what they had said over twenty years earlier, but not remembering having discovered the discolouring was caused by dust seems very odd. This is especially so because just before the astronauts finished their examination of Surveyor 3, Ed Gibson drew attention to the astronauts having rubbed against the battery box.

134:33:18 Gibson: Pete and Al, we have comment on what you just said about brushing up against the battery case. Would you make sure anything which you picked up against that battery case you clean off your EMU?

Gibson is concerned corrosive chemicals leaking from the battery case might have gotten onto the astronauts’ spacesuits. Both astronauts then respond:

134:33:32 Bean: Yeah. We’re thinking about that …
134:33:34 Conrad: There wasn’t any signs of KOH anywhere …
134:33:36 Bean: Yeah. We’ve looked, and …
134:33:37 Conrad: The battery case was tight.
134:33:39 Bean: Nice and tight and brown.

So, Conrad and Bean had taken care to make sure no KOH (potassium hydroxide) had contaminated their spacesuits (EMUs, extra-vehicular mobility units). However, it appears this incident, which could have been fatal if the spacesuits were breached, was completely forgotten by both astronauts.

NASA’s Faked Surveyor 3 Scenario

Many people believe the Apollo missions were filmed in a large, well-equipped film studio, but the location of such a studio (or studios) remains Top Secret.

Of course, there was no need to produce live TV for Apollo 12 because of the accidentally damaged camera. However, there is some film footage of the astronauts taken through the LM window and other DAC 16mm footage. There are also 504 photographs taken during the two Apollo 12 EVAs. All the Apollo 12 lunar surface photographs would have been taken in the studio long before the mission began, possibly even using stand-ins for the astronauts. Copies of these photographs would have been provided to Mission Control.

The faked Apollo missions will have followed scripts and storyboards. The highlight of Apollo 12 was of course the astronauts encountering Surveyor 3, visiting a probe that had been sitting on the Moon for over two and a half years was bound to be of interest to the public. This was especially so because the Surveyor probes were well known to the American public. Up until the Surveyor project the Soviet Union had been ahead in all space exploration and lunar firsts. The Soviets had been first to take images of the far side of the Moon, first to place a probe into lunar orbit, and first to land a probe on the surface and send back images. The Surveyor project was seen as America’s opportunity to catch up with and then overtake the Soviets. To this end the Surveyor project received a great deal of publicity, paving the way for the Apollo missions. The public were made familiar with what the Surveyor probes looked like, and how they would transmit TV images and collect samples with scoops. The interest in the Surveyor project was so great the landing sequence of Surveyor 1 was shown live on American television.

During Apollo 12 there was to be no live TV images from the surface of the Moon, so a scene had to be created that would permit listeners to use their imagination. In the absence of any live TV, what better way was there to paint an image of what was going on than to provide a live audio transmission of the astronauts inspecting a Surveyor probe? Also, what better way of reinforcing the reality of Project Apollo than by describing how the Surveyor was covered in dust when the Apollo LM had flown past, and then partially sandblasted off when the LM had landed?

During the live audio transmission, the technicians at Mission Control would have been looking at images of the Surveyor 3 covered in dust. Pete Conrad and Al Bean would have been responding in a studio location looking at a Surveyor probe. This would have enabled them to go through the motions of inspecting the Surveyor and acting out the procedures asked of them by Mission Control. The scene was was set for the Apollo 12 astronauts’ exciting encounter with Surveyor 3. But everything was about to go wrong for NASA because both the script and the props had been changed, no doubt by the very people who were blowing the whistle.

The Apollo 12 Whistle-blowers

The view of many people who are convinced that Apollo was faked is that at the outset of each mission the astronauts were launched into low-Earth orbit, and remained there until the mission was over. Recent conclusions by long-term researchers suggests that the missions didn't even get into orbit, but rather ditched into the Atlantic (as with the Apollo 13 scenario described in The Odyssey of the Lost CM).

During the live Apollo 12 audio transmission “from the Moon” Pete Conrad and Al Bean were supposed to be examining a Surveyor covered in dust. Photographs in the Lunar Surface Journal show the granular nature of the dust on the lander that NASA claims is Surveyor 3. Conrad and Bean couldn’t have failed to see this dust.

Fig 8

Fig 8. Detail showing mounds of dust on “Surveyor 3”

But the astronauts didn’t see this dust simply because they weren’t looking at a Surveyor covered in dust. The new script scrubbed the lunar dust scenario, replacing it with the probe having been baked by the Sun and consequently discoloured (with tan paint). This would explain why the discussion between Conrad and Bean and Mission Control doesn’t make any sense. Mission Control is talking about a Surveyor covered in dust, whereas Conrad and Bean are talking about a probe discoloured by the Sun. By changing the script, the new script enabled the "live from the Moon" audio transmission to create confusion amongst listeners, and leave clues in the record that there was something seriously wrong the Apollo 12 mission.

After about half an hour, word must have been passed from Mission Control to Conrad and Bean telling them they are supposed to be looking at dust rather than discoloured paint. Suddenly ─ and implausibly ─ they then realise that after all, the Surveyor is covered in dust rather than having been baked by the Sun. But by then it was too late, the script writers had done their job. The audio transmission is now part of the record, and provides another example of how Apollo missions were faked.

The way Conrad and Bean realise they have been following the “wrong” script is interesting. Bean simply interrupts Conrad, who is discussing moving to Block Crater:

134:29:49 Conrad: Okay, what I wanted to do is to go to Blocky crater…
134:29:50 Bean: Hey! Hey, lookit there, Pete!
134:29:51 Conrad: What?

Bean then describes how they had rubbed into the battery box and how he could now see that Surveyor 3 was covered in dust. Mission Control makes no comment on this, other than mentioning the risks of corrosive chemicals (which would have been in the original script). Instead, they ask the astronauts to prepare for moving to Block Crater. Most likely, Mission Control wanted to move on because NASA’s carefully faked scene had turned into a disaster.

Conrad’s and Bean’s memory lapses now make sense. To avoid embarrassment over this debacle, when they were asked to contribute to the Lunar Surface Journal they simply claimed they couldn’t remember anything about rubbing into the battery box.

There is an interesting epilogue to the mystery of Apollo 12 and Surveyor 3. In 2010 the author of one of the papers used in my research visited Alan Bean, who after retiring from NASA became an artist. Philip T. Metzger, author of Further Analysis on the Mystery of the Surveyor III Dust Deposits, wanted to hear Bean’s account of what he had seen and done on the Moon. At the end of the discussion Bean said: “I can’t allow myself to get dragged back … I have to focus on art. So Don’t … Ever ... Call … Me … Again.” Alan Bean seemed to be emphasising his desire not to speak about what had really happened.

Fig 9

Fig 9. Apollo 12 television camera

One of the disappointments of the Apollo 11 mission was the poor quality TV images. According to NASA, the bandwidth of the radio equipment inside the Apollo 11 LM Eagle was too narrow to transmit high quality colour television images. So a monochrome system (using 10 frames per second) was used. In order to increase the bandwidth, the Apollo 12 LM Intrepid was to be provided with a three-metre dish antenna. Even then, there is something odd. According to the Apollo 12 Lunar Surface Journal, up until two weeks before the start of the mission it wasn’t clear whether the plan was to use a colour camera or the same low quality monochrome system used during Apollo 11. If the monochrome camera had been used, the Apollo 12 images would have been little better than those of Apollo 11. In the end the colour TV camera was supposedly flown. As has already been mentioned, at the start of the first Apollo 12 EVA Al Bean accidentally tilted the television camera towards the Sun.

More than one researcher has pointed out how there was a lengthy gap between the first transmissions of live TV images of men allegedly walking on the Moon, and the second. The Apollo 11 coverage was transmitted to the world on July 20 1969. It would be over eighteen months before the pictures from Apollo 14 were transmitted, on July 5 1971. The gap was because there were no live television images from Apollo 12 or from the Apollo 13 flight in April 1970 due to the accident.

This lack of TV coverage from the lunar surface was most convenient if the Apollo Moon landings were faked. The lunar surface TV transmissions from Apollo 11 were very poor quality. The public and the scientific community may have been willing to accept these images because Apollo 11 was the first landing. But higher quality colour TV pictures were expected from later missions.

Bacteria on the Moon?

NASA’s official record describes how the components removed from Surveyor 3, namely the TV camera, the sample scoop, lengths of cable and piping, and a piece of metal cut from an instrument bay were all brought back from the Moon and analysed.

According to NASA these components were returned inside an unused lunar sample bag. After Apollo 12 splashed down, the bag was immediately sealed inside a metal case and transported to the Johnson Space Center. Then, without being unsealed and/or inspected, the case was forwarded to the Hughes Aircraft Company in California.

Fig 10

Fig 10. Surveyor 3 camera at the Hughes Aircraft Company

Although Hughes Aircraft had manufactured the Surveyor probes, it seems odd that the Surveyor 3 components were handed back to the company for inspection. The Hughes Aircraft Company was a very secretive aerospace manufacturing business and were contractors to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the division of NASA responsible for space probes. JPL was no doubt better suited to carrying out a forensic analysis than were Hughes Aircraft. Moreover, the Surveyor 3 probe belonged to NASA, so this adds to the mystery. Nevertheless, the Hughes Aircraft Company carried out the initial investigation, and then in mid-1970 it handed the components back to JPL.

NASA’s own investigation of the Surveyor 3 components made headlines in the early-1970s when it was announced that streptococcus mitis had been found alive on a piece of foam from inside the television camera. Streptococcus mitis is a bacteria commonly found inside the mouth. NASA’s initial claim was that the bacteria were present due to the camera not having been properly sterilized before being sent to the Moon.5 If so, that meant the bacteria had survived two and a half years of bombardment by cosmic rays and extreme changes in temperature.

Twenty years later doubts were cast on this version of events by scientists who had worked on the Surveyor missions. NASA now describes the original claim as “speculative”.6 This suggests the bacteria were more likely present because the scientists who examined the components at Hughes Aircraft or JPL hadn’t taken adequate precautions to prevent contamination.

Sandblasting and Blast Craters

I described earlier how the claim Surveyor 3 was covered in dust when the Apollo 12 LM flew past is contradicted by statements in NASA’s own official record. What about NASA’s claim some of the dust was sandblasted off when the LM landed? I will now demonstrate how the lack of blast craters beneath any of the LMs demonstrates how such sandblasting couldn’t have occurred.

The Surveyor 3 components supposedly brought back from the Moon were re-investigated in 2010 by Philip Metzger and colleagues.3 The researchers concluded particles the size of small grains of sand ─ i.e. with diameters of 0.1 mm ─ impacted every part of the probe’s surface in line-of-sight of the place where the LM landed. Scans made using an electron microscope showed how ─ apart from a few “shadows” ─ every piece of metal examined was entirely covered in pits caused by the particles. Most of these particles bounced off after forming the pits. Some, though, became embedded in the metal and were later chemically analysed.

If the surfaces of the components were entirely covered in pits, it is reasonable to conclude the particles striking Surveyor 3 collectively amounted to a layer 0.1 mm thick, perhaps more. In order to have impacted Surveyor 3, this layer must have covered the entire surface of a disc extending out from the LM’s landing site and reaching to at least as far as the Surveyor 3 probe. What is the volume of this layer? It is reasonable to assume the layer would be thicker on the regions closer to the LM. However, for simplicity a layer of dust 0.1 mm thick and extending only to Surveyor 3 will be used in the calculations. The volume of a disc with a radius of 155 metres and a depth 0.1 of a millimetre is approximately 7.5 cubic metres.

The researchers claimed the material that sandblasted Surveyor 3 can be triangulated to precisely the location of the LM. This means the material must have come from immediately below the LM. If 7.5 cubic metres of material had been displaced from beneath the LM, then some sort of blast crater would have been formed. The size of this crater can be calculated. The diagonal distance between the LM’s footpads is 9 metres. Therefore it is reasonable to assume the blast-crater had a diameter of no more than 8 metres. If the blast crater is assumed to be a shallow cone or a saucer shape, the depth at the centre would have been about 0.5 of a metre.

The problem for the researchers, and for NASA, is that the photographs of the lunar surface beneath each of the LMs show no indications at all of any blast craters. For instance, the photographs of Apollo 11 LM (fig 3) not only show there is no blast crater, there are no signs of the surface having been disturbed in any way whatsoever. Nor are there any indications of the Mylar gold foil covering the landing legs having been damaged. If particles ejected from beneath an LM are supposedly able to pit metal components at a distance of 155 metres, then the Mylar at the base of the legs and on the footpads would have been torn away.

Without a blast crater beneath the Apollo 12 LM, there couldn’t have been enough material displaced to sandblast Surveyor 3. NASA’s own official record again demonstrates the claim about Surveyor 3 having been covered and then partially cleared of dust by the descending Apollo 12 LM can’t be true. NASA’s own photographs of LMs supposedly on the Moon demonstrate that the “double event” scenario created to add reality to the Apollo 12 mission is a complete fabrication.

The logical conclusion drawn from these findings is that the Apollo 12 mission was itself entirely fabricated.

The Role of the Hughes Aircraft Company

The Hughes Aircraft Company was a major manufacturer of communications and spy satellites. However, the company played only a small role in America’s projects to explore the Moon. In fact, the single NASA contract Hughes Aircraft received was to build the Surveyor probes. However, it is possible that the company played a more significant role in the Apollo space project than hitherto imagined.

Fig 11

Fig. 11. A Surveyor probe being assembled

If the Apollo 12 mission was faked, then obviously, components from Surveyor 3 can’t have been brought back from the Moon. It is now becoming clearer why the metal case supposedly containing the components was sent to the Hughes Aircraft Company. Maybe the box didn’t contain any components at all, and was part of perpetuating the ruse that Pete Conrad and Al Bean had examined Surveyor 3 on the Moon.

In recent years NASA’s faked scenario of the exhaust from the Apollo 12 LM having covered, and then cleared, Surveyor 3 of dust has been supposedly proven by the research of Philip Metzger mentioned above. Some of the particles that allegedly did the sandblasting were found in the pits on the Surveyor 3 components. These particles were chemically analysed and demonstrated to “show the presence of lunar regolith.” Consequently, their chemical make up must be similar to the Moon rock allegedly brought back by the Apollo 12 astronauts.

Of course, if Apollo 12 didn’t go to the Moon, then no rocks were brought back by the mission. Some researchers believe the samples said to be have been collected during the Apollo missions are in fact fragments of lunar meteorites. If that is the case, then perhaps Surveyor components were sandblasted inside the Hughes Aircraft Company’s facilities using particles from a ground-down fragment of a lunar meteorite. Prior to manufacturing the seven Surveyors which were sent to the Moon, Hughes Aircraft had assembled three test versions of the landers. Hence, the Hughes Aircraft Company already possessed Surveyor components which NASA could claim were returned to Earth by the Apollo 12 astronauts. Furthermore, only a few grams of a lunar meteorite would have been needed to sandblast the components.


The scenario I have described offers a plausible means by which the Surveyor 3 components were presented to the scientific community and to the public as having been returned from the Moon by the Apollo 12 astronauts. Firstly, the sandblasted components “prove” the reality of the “double event” in which Surveyor 3 had become covered in dust by the Apollo 12 LM. Secondly, the chemical analysis of the particles embedded in the components had to be similar to lunar meteorites. It is known that lunar rocks are substantially different in their chemistry from terrestrial rocks. This was confirmed when the Soviet Union’s probes Luna 16, 17, and 24 returned lunar samples.4 Consequently, the chemical analysis of the particles embedded in the Surveyor 3 components must be similar to lunar meteorites. This has provided NASA with more fake proof that Apollo 12 really went to the Moon

On the surface it might appear as though NASA fabricated the story about the streptococcus mitis bacteria having survived on the Moon. The news was bound to make headlines, and thereby reinforce the reality of Apollo 12. If NASA did make up this story, it backfired in the early-1990s when a former leading member of the Surveyor Project scientific team doubted the bacteria had actually been to the Moon. In November 1994 Dr. Leonard D. Jaffe published a letter in the Planetary Report of The Planetary Society in which he wrote, “It is, therefore, quite possible that the micro-organisms were transferred to the camera after its return to the Earth, and that they had never been to the Moon.”

Perhaps, rather than NASA fabricating this part of the Apollo story, whistle-blowers working within the Hughes Aircraft Company had seen an opportunity to draw attention to the situation by sowing seeds of doubt about the reality of the Apollo missions. Did individuals plant the bacteria not only to embarrass NASA scientists, but also to leave a clue suggesting the Surveyor 3 camera had never been returned from the Moon? Maybe we will never know.

Derek K. Willis

Aulis Online, April 2019


1. Apollo 12 Lunar Surface Journal, NASA website (1995 to present).
2. A Dynamic Fountain Model for Dust in the Lunar Exosphere, Timothy J. Stubbs et al (2005).
3. Further Analysis on the Mystery of the Surveyor III Dust Deposits, Philip T. Metzger et al (2010).
4. Universe (Eighth Edition), Roger A. Freedman and William J. Kaufmann (2007).
5. Surveyor III Bacterium Isolated from Lunar-Retrieved TV Camera, F.J. Mitchell (1971).
6. Earth Microbes on the Moon, NASA Science website, September 1998.
7. Cratering and Blowing Soil by Rocket Engines During Lunar Landings, Philip T. Metzger et al, (2008).


1. Conrad’s claim seems excessive, 90 metres is over two and a half times higher than 35 metres. Perhaps when the Lunar Surface Journal was compiled, a less excessive figure was decided on. The obvious figure would be the lowest altitude which was consistent with the claim Surveyor 3 was covered in dust when the LM flew past, i.e. 67 metres. It would seem, though, that by opting for such a precise altitude the efforts to hide the inconsistency in NASA’s official record has given the game away.

Some of Conrad’s other statements in the Technical Debrief don’t make sense either, which is why they too were “redrafted”. He said he’d first seen dust at the same time he’d stopped the LM’s horizontal velocity. If he was at the redrafted altitude of 67 metres, then the LM must have been at its closest approach to Surveyor 3. This was a distance of 109 metres. However, the LM landed 155 metres from the probe, reaching its landing site in a curved path. This means the LM must still have been moving forward. In fact, the spacecraft travelled for another 200 metres at a forward velocity of about 2 metres per second. This contradiction explains why Conrad’s statement was later redrafted to say, “… he stopped almost all of his forward motion.”

The “double event” hypothesis only works if dust was generated when the LM was at an altitude of 67 metres. However the film footage that makes up part of the official record, and the diagram NASA produced, both indicate dust wasn’t created until the LM was below 40 metres. This contradiction ─ and the failure of the other hypotheses ─ has resulted in a bizarre situation in which there is no tenable explanation for why Surveyor 3 is shown in the Apollo 12 photographs to be covered in dust.

About the Author

Derek K. Willis, who was born in 1960, has a Certificate in Astronomy from the University of Central Lancashire UK. He began his career as a Research Associate at Northumbria University, and has since worked in private industry and as a Department of Trade and Industry Advisor. Derek K. Willis is currently a freelance Innovation Consultant. He has recently written Faking Apollo, a book which examines some of the anomalies associated with the Apollo missions.

Appendix 1: Rocket Engines on the Moon

The principle of rocket propulsion is based on Newton’s third law of motion ─ for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Imagine a person throwing a heavy stone from the back of a rowing boat. The equal and opposite reaction to the force used to throw the stone will propel the person and the boat forward.

Inside a rocket engine’s combustion chamber the propellants ─ liquid, solid, or a hybrid of the two ─ are converted into high-pressure gasses which are expelled out of the engine’s “bell” nozzle. An equal and opposite force reacts against the closed end of the combustion chamber, and this propels the rocket forward.

The bell nozzle is designed to maximise the efficiency of a rocket engine. This is done by expanding the exhaust gasses until their “exit” pressure at the end of the nozzle is as close as possible to the ambient pressure outside of the engine. This ranges from Sea Level atmospheric pressure to the zero pressure in outer space, and on the Moon.

Fig 12

Fig 12. How a rocket exhaust plume behaves under different ambient pressures

At Sea Level the atmospheric pressure “pinches” the exhaust gasses and creates a series of shock waves within the plume. These waves reduce the efficiency of the engine. At a higher altitude, where the exit pressure matches the lower atmospheric pressure, the plume is essentially a column. At this point the engine is at its most efficient because all of the exhaust gasses are moving in the opposite direction to the force reacting on the closed end of the chamber. As the atmospheric pressure decreases at higher altitudes, the plume expands into a wide cone. This reduces the efficiency because some of the gasses near the boundary of the plume aren’t moving directly opposite to the line of the reaction force. In theory the efficiency can be improved by making the nozzle longer, but this becomes impracticable.

When a spacecraft descends onto the surface of the Moon the exit pressure of the exhaust gasses is relatively low. At the time the Surveyor probes landed, the thrust from each of the three engines had been throttled back to only 30 kilograms. The exit area of each engine nozzle was about 200 square centimetres. That meant the exit pressure of the exhaust gasses was only 0.15 kilograms per square centimetre. This is about the same pressure a person can blow air from their mouth. By the time the exhaust plume had expanded beyond the nozzle and impinged onto the surface, the pressure was ten times lower ─ not even enough to blow out a candle.

When an engine is close to the Moon’s surface, despite the low pressure of the plume there is enough force to disturb dust.7 This is primarily because of the Moon’s low gravity. However, the dust is prevented from moving upwards by the downward pressure of the plume. The dust moves horizontally and out towards the boundary of the plume. Once beyond the boundary, the dust continues to move horizontally over the surface. This is because there is no atmosphere, and so the dust particles aren’t impeded by colliding with molecules of air. Some of the particles collide with each other, or with surface features such as rocks, but generally speaking the dust rises at an angle of no more than three or four degrees. Consequently, the dust particles behave like tiny “projectiles” and travel in shallow ballistic trajectories before impacting the surface some distance away.

A simple experiment demonstrates the behaviour of lunar dust under the influence of a rocket plume. Grains of salt are sprinkled onto a table to mimic the dust particles. If a person then blows gently downwards onto the salt they will see how the “plume” of their breath blows the grains outwards. The grains don’t rise upwards because of the downward pressure of the breath.

NASA scientists will have known how lunar dust would behave when disturbed by a rocket plume. Consequently they will have been able to fake this behaviour when producing the film supposedly shot from inside the LMs as they descended onto the surface of the Moon.

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