Apollo Questions Censored
Questions put to Apollo astronauts censored at Autographica, 2014
A David Orbell
See also follow up article: Re-Entry Matters
A Detailed Investigation into Apollo Command Module Returns
"Chris Kraft is a bad guy. If we could feed him to a bomb, we would.”
Col. Alfred M. Worden – Autographica, September 2014
Lost For Words
At 4mins 55secs:
"...I remember I, I was up close to that feature, I could see that thing from 60 miles away. Errm, the thing about going to the Moon is that it's a little like going to a movie. Errm, you get totally involved in the movie and, and, and, and – you know, you really – you tend to forget the rest of the world is out there; but then when the movie is over you walk outside, you see people, you see cars, and everything. You’re back in the real world and the movie is kinda just something, a memory. Errm, and that's kinda the way going to the Moon is too. As the years go by, it [Worden’s Apollo 15 adventure] gets further and further in the, in the distance, I don’t think about it quite so much…" Al Worden
Alfred M Worden
Now call me an old cynic, but when an Apollo astronaut equates his Moon voyage as akin to going to a movie (citing 'movie' four times in 15 seconds) and describes the Moon as ‘that feature’ (film?) ‘that thing’ and accompanies the whole narration with significant hesitation and a telling nose scratch when getting to the word ‘distance’ – I get very interested.
Especially since I only discovered this revealing video after the bizarre events at Autographica on 21 September 2014. Among the NASA astronauts present, this year’s star guests were Lt. General USAF, Thomas P. Stafford (Gemini 6A & 9A, Apollo 10, ASTP) and Col. Alfred M. Worden (Apollo 15) – and I wanted to ask them some questions.
From Apollo 10’s Stafford I sought to clarify this NASA quote: "Without the optics, the men could see no stars at all for a long time. Finally, Stafford spotted a few dim orbs after he had traveled 190,000 kilometers into space."
Thomas P Stafford
Naturally I was interested in asking Thomas Stafford what cislunar phenomenon had occurred so that the astronaut had ‘night blindness’ for the first 190,000 kms into the voyage.
I was also curious about the little-known Hasselblad camera failures on the Apollo 10 flight. In his biography Gene Cernan had written:
"They took many pictures; then Stafford's camera failed as the film started to bind."
"…After Stafford's camera failed, he [and Cernan] had little to do except look at the scenery until time to dump the descent stage."
Then, during Apollo 10's eight-hour excursion in lunar module 'Snoopy', Tom (Stafford) had run into problems with the cameras supposed to map the future Apollo 11 landing sites. Cernan writes of Stafford’s frustration:
"This goddamn filter has failed on me. My Hasselblad just failed. This fuckin’ camera." He then tells us that Stafford then tried the substitute camera and it also jammed.
As a result of reading Gene Cernan’s book, I wrote to Hasselblad on the matter of the faulty cameras on Apollo 10. They replied saying that they had no record of these catastrophic camera failures ever taking place.
Now I was mindful that the LM was a difficult beast to manage, and that not having pictures of a mission could also be because the astronauts weren’t actually on that mission – at least according to the Apollo record. So I also noted with interest, that during 2009, the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, Steve Bales (the ‘guido’ who had famously cleared Apollo 11’s LM Eagle for landing when all the computer alarms were going off) had a moment of candour in a magazine interview, when he 'came out' with the following revelation:
“When we came in that morning, [July 20 1969 Eagle Landing on Moon] the lunar module was dead. We had to power it up, get the thing aligned and checked out. In the simulations, that’s where we’d always had the biggest difficulty, really. We had never completed without some major problem – and I don’t know if we ever completed successfully in training – what we called a power-up and initialisation of everything, and then gone ahead and done a landing." [emphasis added]
Which statement not only endorses my 2006 Letter to Dr James R Hansen. It makes any earlier LM power-up and initiation processes all the more unimaginable – and casts extreme doubt as to the authenticity of Thomas Stafford's activities in the Apollo 10 LM. If Gene Cernan’s anecdotes provided a convenient explanation for the lack of photographs taken during Apollo 10, Thomas Stafford’s presence at Autographica 2014 provided an opportunity to clarify these apparent disparities in the Apollo 10 narrative.
So with night blindness and camera questions for Tom Stafford, and a question on re-entry procedures for both Stafford and Al Worden, I set out for the Hilton Birmingham Metropole Hotel, for the Sunday 21 September session. I had purchased the ‘early bird’ admission ticket together with further tickets for these two astronaut’s lectures, and as part of my research into the history of the Apollo project I had pre-written my technical questions. As is the custom at Autographica, I anticipated conversing during the day and clarifying my queries with these astronauts. Little did I know that I’d soon be subjected to a duplicitous scheme ostensibly designed to stop me from doing just that. Nor that I would only be allowed to pose the same single question at each lecture.
The first lecture was given by Thomas Stafford. Just before it started I had been asked by a member of the audience (or so I thought at the time) to explain the question about skip re-entry I was going to put to Tom Stafford. I let this person read my pre-written note and asked him if this helped his understanding of the matter. He had replied, somewhat reproachfully I thought, that he did, but that "he didn't like where this was going!" At the time I thought no more of it, I was accustomed to the wide diversity of opinion at such meetings. And Tom Stafford raised no objections when I asked him my question about the skip re-entry procedure at the end of his lecture.
During his forty-minute presentation he had emphasised that Apollo 10 featured in the Guinness Book of World Records, credited with the all-time re-entry speed record of 28,547 statute miles per hour. Now, on hearing my question, he was initially pensive and sidestepped into an unrelated subject. Returning him to my question, I quoted a statement made by Christopher Kraft.
"Because the velocity is so high, if you tried to come in directly, the heat-shield requirements would be too great. So what we did was get them into the atmosphere, skip it out to kill off some of the velocity, and then bring it back in again. That made the total heat pulse on the heat shield of the spacecraft considerably lower."
Stafford replied that Apollo 10 had used the conventional (non-skip) re-entry method, but his voice was more subdued than previously. So I asked him if I could visit his desk to discuss the Kraft quote in more detail. While he nodded his tacit approval, his gesture lacked any notable enthusiasm. I didn’t get the opportunity to ask any more questions at this Q&A session, but so far so good I thought, looking forward to a cordial discussion with Tom Stafford. I went on to the next lecture, Al Worden’s, with a spring in my step.
Lots of Words
Alfred Worden's lecture was delivered in a lightweight, happy-go-lucky manner. He said that he didn't really see the necessity of remembering the numerical statistics of Apollo – he reserved this task for colleagues such as Thomas Stafford. Al Worden stated that Apollo 15 effected passive thermal control by rotating "every two minutes" in the 'Barbecue' flight mode. He also dismissed NASA's involvement in calculating his Earth re-entry trajectory, claiming outright credit for the calculation and execution of this manoeuvre. This opinion is in contrast with the Apollo 15 flight journal as recorded by Mission Control at 288 hours, 55 minutes.
These Apollo items were minimal, the major part of his talk being devoted to eulogising the Gemini program. When he did refer to Apollo it was almost in a cursory, dismissive manner – going so far as to state the obvious "Without Gemini, Apollo would have been a disaster."
Clearly the achievements of the manned space program were built the one upon the other: 1-man Mercury, 2-men Gemini, 3-men Apollo crews. So perhaps Worden was inferring something else? During the Q&A session that followed, I raised my hand and Al Worden asked me to state my question. A lady steward walked towards me and placed a microphone in my hand, which turned out to be momentarily inactive. After that slight hiatus (with hindsight it was to be an interesting portent) I put to him the same question that I had asked Tom Stafford:
"Did you use the skip re-entry technique when re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere," I inquired politely. Given Stafford’s reply, I thought I already knew the answer I would get, especially as Apollo historians stated that although the engineering for skip re-entry was built into the Apollo CMs, it was never used.
Al Worden paused and then responded as I expected, in the negative. He also told me of the six and a half degree ‘straight-in’ approach. All of which agreed with NASA's historic record. He waited for my response and I told him that my question was prompted by a statement made by Christopher Kraft in 2009, repeated here:
"The heat-shield requirements would be too great. So what we did was get them into the atmosphere, skip it out to kill off some of the velocity, and then bring it back in again. That made the total heat pulse on the heat shield of the spacecraft considerably lower."
Well, that got a response, but not initially from Al Worden. Immediately, a member of the audience lurched forward and loudly issued an instruction to Alfred Worden not to answer my question. Pointing at me he shouted “He's a conspiracy theorist!" It was the same person from the audience of the previous lecture, who hadn’t liked my Tom Stafford question. Ignoring the ill-informed interjection, Al Worden focused on my eyes, his jocular manner evaporating as he launched into one of the most amazing statements ever delivered by an Apollo astronaut at a public event:
"Chris Craft is a bad guy. If we could feed him to a bomb, we would."
Christopher C Kraft Jr
Upon which pronouncement, stewards moved forward and abruptly ushered astronaut Al Worden from the hall, leaving the audience unenlightened as to the reasons behind Alfred Worden's monumental animosity towards NASA legend, Chris Kraft; wondering who exactly ‘we’ were and astonished at ‘feed to a bomb’ (which immediately brought to my mind at least, the vision of Major TJ ‘King’ Kong riding the bomb in the movie Dr. Strangelove). I privately wondered if other criticisms Chris Kraft had made were anything to do with this astronaut’s fury. But those wonderings would have to come later. Right there, in the auditorium an event official was making her way towards me.
"Thank you dear,” the steward said, smiling as she retrieved the microphone. Her politeness indicating that she and her fellow stewards took no exception to my question and my delivery of Christopher Kraft's statement.
Yet someone had, as just over an hour later, at 2.15pm I was confronted by Richard Austin of Protegimus Security Ltd and advised that he had been ordered to remove me from the event and the hotel! According to an event organizer I had "been rude to an astronaut." I stated that this was untrue and therefore was likely to be an act of slander. I requested to meet said organizer. Austin stated his instructions were to prevent any such encounter! This was becoming completely ridiculous.
I informed Mr. Austin that I had left my purchases for safe keeping at the stand of a major exhibitor, David Bryant's Space Station and would need to visit his exhibit. Mr. Austin accompanied me, I duly retrieved my belongings and was then chucked out – or escorted from the premises in securityspeak. The direct result of my forced departure was that any further conversation on skip re-entry (or anything else) at the respective desks of Astronauts Stafford or Worden was rendered impossible.
I needed to look further afield to find out who was behind this undemocratic process of eviction from a public event for which I had paid my hotel room, my entry, my tickets, and conformed in every way to the regulations of an event which I had been attending for years – see PDF of email document below. It is quite clear from the recordings made at the lectures that I had at no time been rude; nor had I been booed, hissed or generally disapproved of, by the majority of the audience, nor indeed the speakers themselves.
Given that I am known at these proceedings, if there was an embargo on my asking questions it would have been exercised before this year. Given that Kraft is critical of NASA’s future space plans, it might be that this year my Q and Worden’s A created a perfect storm. The extreme response of chucking me out only serves to highlight the fact that Al Worden’s ‘we’ must be more anxious than before.
This whole episode smacked of cultural censorship of the worst kind – the censorship of ideas and free speech (both mine and Kraft’s in this instance). As I thought about everything that had occurred, it seemed to me that the prime candidate for wishing me to be absent was the very rude person who had interrupted the Worden lecture and who had monitored my question to Stafford. He apparently sought to control the tone of the event, through censoring any questions that he either did not understand or did not approve of. I thought that the astronauts would be used to handling people like myself, although Worden’s extreme response rather belied my wishful thinking on that count.
However for rudeness, it was this audience member who should have been chucked out. Although, for all I knew, he could have been a part of the event’s ground staff (or should I say moles?). As someone who was generally perceived by the pro-Apollogists to be anathema, thinking like this was only going to incur another inaccurate ‘conspiracy theorist label’. For those who like to use this label as an insult, I should point out that asking questions of a subject when the related science does not add up, is hardly a conspiracy.
An awful lot of the science on Apollo does not add up; those doing the sums are mostly associated with the astronautic community – in this instance a NASA astronaut and a NASA flight director – and the lack of corroborating answers provokes a lot of questions, (from myself and other researchers). In seeking answers to those questions it would therefore be counterproductive, illogical and detrimental to any research efforts, mine or others, to effect or display any act of rudeness to guest speakers or indeed – any other person.
Further, I am fully aware of the necessity of the organisers of such events as Autographica to maintain professional and amiable relationships with their contracted guests. Even if other members of the audience choose to leap up and interfere, I would never step beyond the bounds of polite questioning. That the questions asked might be sometimes difficult to answer is a different matter altogether.
In retrospect Autographica may find that censorship merely encourages in others a desire for a full and truthful disclosure relating to the many enigmas concealed in project Apollo. If all were well, there would be no need to be so aggressive, and surely there would be no divergence of facts in such a basic matter as re-entry?
On returning home I wrote to the organisers D. Phillips and J. Joiner at some length as their defamatory allegations were not only circulated at the Autographica event as slander but are now on the Internet as libellous to both my name and reputation. I not only asked them to cease and desist from any further defamatory and untrue statements but that they also offer a correction, retraction and apology for their actions. I also asked them to inform me as to the origin of these allegations and offered to clarify any issues concerning the astronauts themselves. See email document below.
While I still marvel at the candour of the astronauts and will do my best to ascertain through research, not only the origin of Christopher Kraft's apprehension regarding the fragility of the Apollo heat shield, but also the answers to my other Apollo 10 camera question, something else occurred to me as a result of this bizarre turn of events.
If my skip re-entry question, derived from a quotation from Christopher Kraft, deserves such vigorous censoring – then should Chris Kraft ever visit an Autographica event, would he have to endure the same censorship and expulsion as myself? Would he too be defined as a 'rude conspiracy theorist?' Of Chris Kraft it is said:
"Chris Kraft did it all for NASA. He was the space agency’s first flight director, overseeing the nation’s first human spaceflight, first human orbital flight and first spacewalk. He was a senior manager and planner during the Apollo program. After Apollo he directed the Johnson Space Center for a decade and oversaw development of the Space Shuttle. Mission Control at Johnson Space Center is named after him. In short, Kraft is a legend, and therefore not afraid to speak his mind.”
And Kraft had certainly spoken his mind when in 2009, he said this:
“…If you think about the practical aspects of going into space, there’s no practical reason for going to Mars. But there is a practical reason for going to the Moon. And furthermore, if you really want to go somewhere, get out of this solar system. Eventually that’s what you’re going to have to do. I don't know how to do that, but we'll figure out how to do it one day."
If Chis Kraft was seriously miffed that we had not returned to the Moon – did that mean that he (along with thousands of others) was out of the loop concerning certain aspects of the Apollo missions, and if Al Worden and others (‘we’) were seriously miffed at Kraft’s statements, the Apollo astronauts must be in a different loop – whatever it might be – from that of Kraft. Having a different view of their Apollo experience and ‘that thing’ (as Worden put it) they might well be less than thrilled by Kraft’s apparently innocent outpourings.
If so, it would bear out Al Worden’s forcibly stated opinion, that
"Chris Kraft is a bad guy. If we could feed him to a bomb, we would.”
Read the full email to David Phillips and Jason Joiner here
Aulis Online, October 2014
See also follow up: Re-Entry Matters
A Detailed Investigation into Apollo Command Module Returns
Skip re-entry is a re-entry technique involving one or more successive skips off the atmosphere to achieve greater entry range or to slow the spacecraft before final entry, which helps to dissipate the huge amount of heat that is usually generated on faster descents. Guidance of a skip trajectory can be tricky due to trajectory sensitivity. The Apollo Skip Guidance was engineered, but never utilized in a manned mission. (More recent work relies on advances in computing technology to compute a trajectory on board the vehicle). Wikipedia
See also Any Hope for a Moon Base?
and Faked Apollo Re-entry from Space
by Andrei Bulatov and Alexander Popov Ph.D
1. Michigan Alumni: Al Worden - A U-M Alumni Exclusive Interview Al Worden
2. Apollo 10: The Dress Rehearsal para 5.
3. The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America's Race in Space,
St Martin’s Griffin, 2009, p216.
4. Apollo 11 Mission: No Margin for Error
5. Letter to Dr James R Hansen David Orbell
6. Christopher Kraft, Popular Mechanics "Apollo 11, The Untold Story" 26 May, 2009
7. NASA History – Apollo 15
8. Apollo legend on NASA: "It’s a tragedy. It really is"
Professor Colin Rourke