Over the past 50 years, billions of dollars have been spent visiting our nearest neighbor in space, the moon. It's the only extraterrestrial body humans have ever walked on. Besides the United States and Russia, Japan, China, India and the European Space Agency have all sent robotic spacecraft moonward.
Probably the most prolific of these missions, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), is stockpiling close to 1 million pictures of the lunar surface that are so sharp, you could see a coffee table nestled among the boulders.
Astrobiologist and physicist Paul Davies recently said that LRO's public-accessible photos should be perused by a citizen science program to look for any alien artifacts left on the moon.
But why bother? says a group of parapsychology sleuths who accuse NASA of hiding evidence of aliens on the lunar surface. Their wild tales sound like an amalgamation of Hollywood sci-fi movies: "Apollo 18," "Minority Report" and "Alien."
They say that a psychic technique called remote viewing allows people to take an armchair visit to other planets. The mind-travelers draw images of alien-looking things that are supposedly transmitted from a definitely out-of-body experience (potentially) millions of miles from Earth.
In the 1960s, when psychoactive drugs became widely popular, I assumed that claims of tripping to other worlds were purely imaginary. Consider this remote viewing experience reported in a discussion forum:
"...i relaxed in my chair, and pointed myself up there. I saw 6 or seven aliens looking right at me grinning and smiling. they had red eyes like the reddit alien but no antenna. As soon as I saw these creatures i immediately felt hurt ..."
The roots of remote viewing can be traced to several U.S. Government sponsored parapsychology studies from the 1970s to 1990s. When funding was canceled in 1995, an executive summary concluded that the remote viewing test results were at best "vague and ambiguous."
Government involvement (and gullibility) alone doesn't legitimize what is clearly a pseudoscience that ranks alongside astrology, ghost hunting, and "telekinetic" spoon-bending.
As with any pseudoscience, there are no physical underpinnings to the outlandish claims of remote viewing. In other words, no natural particles or fields capable of carrying information into the human brain, independently from the five senses, have ever been quantitatively measured in a physics laboratory.
And, as is typical of a pseudoscience, remote viewing claims contradict fundamental physics such as the speed of light barrier and causality.
Censored Spaceship
But pseudoscience dies hard. A group called Transception Incorporated, self-described as an Austin, Texas based psychic R&D operation, sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden that nominates the Apollo 16 crew for the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
But there are strings attached.
This is a very transparent quid pro quo because the medal is being recommended for astronauts John Young and Charles Duke allegedly coming upon an extraterrestrial "shipwreck" on the surface of the moon during their third lunar surface excursion on April 23, 1972. A prerequisite for the award is that the crew is "released from secrecy" about what they really saw on the moon.
A variety of "shipwreck elements" -- described as "structures, people/aliens, biological technology, and their plight" -- were reportedly seen through remote viewing by six experts at Transception.
House rockThe "wreckage" suspiciously looks a lot like just a big boulder, dubbed "house rock" (NASA video clip above). And, you'd expect to find big boulders on the edge of an impact crater.
Simply look at the high resolution images posted here from the public-accessible Apollo archives. A photo mosaic of the alleged spaceship (above) is either a boulder or afossilized alien vehicle.
The alleged crash site, as seen in the Lunar Orbiter photo on the left, is pretty bland-looking for a purported disaster location. It's like looking for a capsized cruise liner and just seeing a shoal of rocks.
If you listen to the audio transmission, the astronauts should get an Academy Award for acting instead -- if the conspiracy theorists are right. The crew never says "holy cow! look at that spaceship!" Instead, they say, "look at the size of that rock!"
Besides the Apollo photos, you can easily go online and peruse LRO image of the Apollo 16 landing site and go looking for the alleged spaceship on the rim of North Ray Crater.
But wait! As is typical of any pseudoscience, when reality doesn't fit the far-out claims, true believers turn to paranoid allegations of government cover-ups, monolithic global conspiracies and media censorship.
Supporters of the crashed spaceship tale say that NASA simply deleted the evidence from the Apollo 16 photos (and they would probably say the same for the LRO data). Because the Apollo images are recorded on photographic emulsion, not digital data, manipulating them would be no small trick.
Photo trickery allegations are a convenient back door for conspiracy buffs that is big enough to sail theTitanic through.
The Pluto Challenge
For any readers who think I'm being scientifically elitist, narrow-minded or protective, I'm presenting one simple challenge. Will somebody please remote view the icy dwarf planet Pluto for me from a close-up distance?
You must draw a map of both hemispheres that has detailed information about the coordinates and sizes of major features: impact basins, crater fields, ice flows, outcrops, tectonics rifts, cryovolcanoes, whatever -- even crashed spaceships.
The best pictures of Pluto to date, from the Hubble Space Telescope, only show variations in color and reflectivity across Pluto's surface, but not topography.
I'll leave the details to the remote viewers, who by their claims can supposedly do a better job than Hubble or any other spacecraft. (But, still, no peeking at the Hubble pictures!)
Please send me your detailed drawings and I’ll gladly publish them here. And, in 2015 we will be able to validate -- or invalidate -- this remote sensing experiment by seeing real close up photos from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft as it zooms by Pluto at 36,000 miles per hour.
If your drawings match the New Horizons photo maps, then we could have saved ourselves $650 million and a 10-year cruise to the remote planet.
Image credit: NASA