18 April 2003. It comes down to whether NASA intended this
video (Real Video 252 KB) to be actual film
footage taken during the landing of the Apollo 12 lunar module. Mary
Bennett and David Percy say NASA did just that. But when it comes
down to it, Ms. Bennett and Mr. Percy don't even know if NASA produced
the film, much less intended it to depict the actual landing. But
they're quite willing to backpedal for us.
In the sidebar on page 160 of Ms. Bennett and Mr. Percy's Dark
Moon three still frames from this clip are attributed to "NASA"
and the caption identifies them as television frames from the Apollo
12 lunar module, filming the Surveyor III spacecraft as it landed.
Problem is, the 16mm film camera in the LM's window wasn't able to
point in the direction of the Surveyor. And it didn't land as close
to the Surveyor as the clip depicts. And the motion in the clip is
all wrong for a descending lunar module. And the "feel" of the clip
is utterly unlike any of the other lunar module touchdown clips, which
are remarkably consistent.
One of Apollo 12's mission objectives was to land as close as
possible to the Surveyor III unmanned spacecraft.
Now a critical researcher would look at all that inconsistency and
consider that the clip in question wasn't really flight footage, but
instead one of the dozens of simulations cranked out during the Apollo
telecasts. That's certainly what we thought when we first saw it.
And then you have to go back to the recordings and transcripts where
no mention is made of filming the Surveyor. In fact, when they do
talk about the Surveyor, they say it's 600 feet (200 meters) away, not
right on the doorstep as the clip suggests. And the clincher is that
we can't find this clip anywhere in the NASA archive. The NASA
archive has a different clip, consistent in look and feel with
the other missions, purporting to be the Apollo 12 touchdown.
If this clip is really from NASA and really supposed to show the
Apollo 12 descent and landing, all those inconsistencies would be
But if, in fact, the clip is some simulation cooked up by NASA JPL
or NBC-TV as a visual aid, the inconsistencies aren't important.
So it would be important to prove that the clip actually came from
NASA and actually was meant to depict the landing. The proof offered
by Ms. Bennett and Mr. Percy: We had no reason to believe otherwise.
Yes, that's it. They didn't actually verify that the clip
was made by NASA, supplied by NASA, or that the people who made it
meant for it to be the actual flight footage. The authors just didn't
consider any other possibility. Apparently the Aulis authors don't
agree that scholarship is mostly about considering possibilities and
choosing between them.
So where did Aulis get the clip? From a television documentary
called "Conquest: A History of Space Achievements From the V1 to the
Shuttle" made by GMH Entertainment in 1987. In other words,
not from NASA. But because the documentary made heavy use of
NASA-supplied materials, and sandwiched the simulation between clips
of actual flight footage, it was "reasonable" for the viewer to
conclude that the Surveyor clip came from NASA.
But since the exact origin and intent of the Surveyor clip is the
keystone of Aulis' argument, we would expect the authors to make very
sure of it before publishing their case. After these questions
arose, David Percy contacted the producers, who can simply say that to
the best of their recollection -- fifteen years hence -- all the
material concerning Apollo was sent from NASA.
We're perfectly willing to stipulate that the clip may in fact be
from NASA. We're also willing to point out that the vast amount of
Apollo material delivered to GMH Entertainment to produce "Conquest"
may very well have included flight footage, training footage,
simulation footage, and so forth. Stock footage is often a grab-bag
and it's up to the producer to choose what he wants to show.
Mary Bennett seems very upset that GMH didn't emblazon this clip
with flashing yellow titles reading, "This is a simulation -- do not
take literally". Television documentaries rarely intend to be
rigorously-documented historical depositions. Documentaries rely
heavily on reconstructions, simulations, and archival footage which
may be irrelevant but still similar in appearance to the topic at
hand. The documentary filmmaker has to weave a sense of continuity
into this assemblage in order to tell a connected visual story. This
is undoubtedly why the GMH Entertainment producers interleaved actual
flight footage with simulated footage.
We can forgive Ms. Bennett for not realizing this. But we can't
forgive documentary filmmaker David Percy. Oddly enough,
Mr. Percy doesn't stick with ambiguity in his own work. Although he
shows the cover of "Conquest", he later emblazons the ambiguous clip
with the title "Apollo 12 Footage", thereby removing any doubt in the
viewer's mind. There's no doubt expressed in Dark Moon either.
The sidebar assertively states this clip is Apollo 12 flight footage.
It doesn't read: "This is simply the authors' conclusion because they
had no reason to think otherwise and that they traced the clip only as
far as a secondary source and that they did nothing to
determine the intent of the clip."
This is purely and simply intellectual dishonesty. The viewers of
"Conquest" have a choice whether to think the clip is real or
simulated. The Aulis authors remove that choice in their own version.
Readers of Dark Moon have no way of knowing that there was an
intermediary, and no reason to think the authors were simply guessing
when they identified it as official flight footage. They're going to
come away with the impression that NASA admits this is their footage.
Ditto viewers of "What Happened On the Moon?"
Unlike "Conquest", the Aulis publications purport to be
scholarly. So let's be clear on this. If Mary Bennett and David
Percy wish to be considered scholars, let them first behave like
scholars. No more misrepresentation of sources or intent. The
Surveyor III footage claim needs to be fully and unambiguously
AULIS DISCONTINUES READER
18 March 2003. For the second time in its existence, Aulis Publishing has cut off reader
feedback at its web site. They cite reproduction and discussion of
their reader submissions elsewhere on the web as the reason for
discontinuing the moderated reader forum.
Aulis at one time operated a free web forum for anyone to discuss
the findings of Aulis' book Dark Moon and its companion video
What Happened on the Moon?. It soon became a lively exchange,
including professionals and pundits from all disciplines. However,
when the regular participants began to doubt the sincerity of the
authors, the forum was taken down for "maintenance" for approximately
The forum reappeared as a guestbook in which readers could submit
articles to moderators, who would edit them as appropriate and then
post them to the site. In the weeks prior to the closure the
editorial policy became more lenient and finally allowed serious
questions into the authors' conclusions. Now it appears Aulis
Publishing will offer no official forum in which to ask the authors
We at Clavius have to wonder what Aulis is so afraid of. Mary
Bennett and David Percy maintain that their arguments are
"irrefutable." What should it matter that they are discussed in
forums that the authors cannot control? Irrefutable evidence should
be able to withstand even the most vigorous attempts at refutation.
Keep in mind that these are the authors who appeared on
U.K. television's Channel 4 in 1997 and asked the world's scientific
and intellectual community to restore their faith in Apollo. It seems
the "reluctant conspiracy theorist" image was all a wash, and
Ms. Bennett and Mr. Percy won't be taking any more questions.
The authors mock NASA's brush-offs by quoting a NASA spokesman:
"We don't have time to answer their questions, the truth is in the
photographs." Yet their own policy is eerily similar, "Everything we
have to say on the subject is in our book and video." The authors get
a lot of mileage out of NASA's seeming reluctance to discuss the
evidence for and against a hoax. Now it seems the people most
reluctant to talk about hoax claims are the claimants themselves.
The premise of Dark Moon is the same as its predecessors.
Apparently we've all been the victims of a massive, systematic
campaign to suppress information. But when push comes to shove, we
see that Ms. Bennett and Mr. Percy, like most conspiracy theorists,
are themselves the most adept practitioners of the systematic
suppression and evasion they claim to fear.
It's silly for Aulis to think they can control the discussion of
their claims. The heavy-handed moderation of the Aulis guestbook
largely eliminated free debate there. So it was taken to places where
readers could speak their minds without Aulis trying to control what
was being said. And that will continue. Mary Bennett and David Percy
cannot control what people say about their statements. They can only
choose whether they will participate themselves and defend their
arguments, or whether they will abdicate their intellectual
responsibility and simply content themselves with silently cashing
their readers' checks.