Thursday, December 2, 2010

FACT OR FAKED: Lunar Landing Hoax - Tropical Intruder

SyFy - Original Air Date: 12/2/10

The show starts with the usual rundown of videos that might be worth investigating. Lancaster PA Mothman is filmed through a window and shows a creature taking off near a clothesline at night.  It looks like a bird (owl) to me, but the video quality is low, and the team passes.  Texas Explosions fill the sky with blue light, but it looks like weather to me (and Chi-Lan, too).  Which leaves us with the two cases to be investigated this week.  Apparently, one-quarter of the world's population doesn't believe the Moon Landings actually happened.  (For those of us alive then, this theory is really insulting/annoying.)  They show the hammer falling at the same rate as a feather; the moon jump salute to the flag, and an astronaut "assisted" to his feet - supposedly done on a Hollywood set.  Gulf Breeze UFO shows one of the classic glowing UFO shapes (with apparent portholes) gliding through the trees; it vanishes suddenly.  "Too good to be true," springs to my mind, but let's see what the team thinks.

Aron Ranen started as a documentary filmmaker, and now believes that NASA is hiding something.  He has a good story, but is any of what he says true?  He hedges though, and says, "There is a possibility that man's first landing on the moon might have been a hoax."  So, the team (Ben, Austin, Chi-Lan) builds their moon landing set, and Austin gears up.  Then they do the falling bodies test with a hammer & a weighted feather; video looks very similar.  Chi-Lan then suits up, and Austin uses spring boots to make the salute jump; this looks terrible - and I can't imagine how the spring boots would have been used with 1960s tech (no CGI)  to remove those boots.  They try again with theatrical fly wire (which is what the conspiracy buffs claim the moon suit's radio antenna is); it looks better, after a few takes, so they continue with the wire.  (Note that the physics of the jump is still wrong; the suit drifts with the wire.  Note also that the early moon landings were broadcast live.  Want to get that right in one continuous take?)  They then try the assisted stand, which looks pretty good with the wire, too.  But a pressurized suit would have a natural spring-back motion, explaining what's seen in he original footage anyway.

Conclusion: Yes, the "stunts" can be replicated, but no one in the cast believes they were faked.  (They don't mention it, but watch the physics of the moon dust in the original footage.)  Ben points out that because these tests were done on earth, it doesn't mean that similar results wouldn't happen on the moon without SFX, and 400,000 NASA workers are a lot of people -- too many, to involve in such a conspiracy.  If you are interested in this conspiracy, you should see the excellent Mythbusters show on moon conspiracies, as well as Conspiracy Moon Landing from Nat Geo.  Sorry, conspiracy buffs, the moon landings did happen (in the age before the politics of personal destruction), and it's insulting to all mankind to think they didn't.  Good recreations, though.

On to Gulf Breeze, on the coast of Florida near Alabama, home of an Air Force base.  They talk to Mike Hawkins, the witness responsible for the video, and he claims he wasn't involved in a hoax.  He says the UFO was hovering over the bay, and he and the other witness moved through the trees to get better pictures before the UFO disappeared.  The team (Bill, Jael, Larry) makes a mock UFO with foam sheets, a beach ball-type thing, lights, and tape ($20 of materials), and then attach it to a zip line outfitted with pullies.  A remote turns the light on and off, to simulate "disappearance."  It looks amazingly similar, aside from light cast on a tree and lack of vertical motion -- which I think they could have solved with a different rig further back in the trees.  They then try attaching a UFO to an RC helicopter and repeat the test; again very similar, but the UFO is flat, and when it swings in the wind that hurts the effect.  So they doubt that's the solution. Next they use a GOBO (Go Before Optics lighting) setup rear projected onto a screen, like the Bat Signal.  Again, it's amazingly similar, and a camera move makes the craft disappear.  Looks like a hoax, so they subject their interview to voice analysis.  Initially, the tape shows Hawkins is telling the truth about seeing the thing, but, later on, he's being deceptive about not knowing what it was.  (I remain dubious of this technique, but...)  Conclusion: he may not have been in on the hoax initially, but he likely did know what it was later.

Again, this episode presents two tough looks at famous videos and shows how they could have been faked (though the moon landing was not).  I wish they'd done some more proof about the good evidence for the moon landing (scientific mirrors left by the astronauts, etc), but that's a small quibble for a show that is more and more bringing hoaxes into the light.  Good job, gang!

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