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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.

One of Apollo 12's mission objectives was to land as close as possible to the Surveyor III unmanned spacecraft.
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.

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 troublesome.


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 retracted.


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 four months.

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 questions.

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.

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