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This brief presentation shows the 16mm Data Acquisition Camera (DAC) footage that was shot during the Apollo 17 ascent from the valley at Taurus Littrow. In this ascent footage, the DAC motion picture camera was mounted in the right side forward-facing (LMP) window of the Apollo 17 Lunar Module "Challenger", providing us a view looking down at the Moon's surface as the LM ascent stage fires and sends the spacecraft on its way back up to lunar orbit for rendezvous and docking with the CSM "America".
Rather than just showing the raw footage here as it is cataloged in the NASA film archives, I instead show two examples of the same clip, presented in a side-by-side style format to allow for a direct comparison between the two versions. On the right side, you see the raw ascent footage just as it is archived by NASA, showing the full scene from the standard, unmoving camera angle. On the left, I show the same scene, however in that example, the footage has been rotation-corrected in order to always keep the scene in it's proper "horizon up" viewing orientation throughout the duration of the clip.
This proper "horizon up" perspective can be established based on some simple criteria, with the goal being to ensure we are viewing the footage with the lunar surface being shown so that the Moon's horizon that is closest to the camera's current principle point always remains aligned and level towards the top of the field-of-view (even if the horizon itself is not actually visible at the time). This ensures that the surface scene you are viewing can be accurately interpreted.
As you can see in this footage, the rotation correction to align the scene to the "horizon up" viewing perspective is an absolutely vital adjustment that must be applied first in order to be able to even begin attempting to analyze and interpret scenes such as this one accurately. Because the DAC camera was hard-mounted in the window of the LM during liftoff from the lunar surface, this meant that the standard locked display perspective that NASA provides in their archive clips showing the Apollo ascent footage is ALWAYS displaying the lunar surface scene below in an inaccurate perspective. For 40 years, the public has actually been watching ascent footage like this from the various Apollo missions where the lunar surface after liftoff is being shown essentially upside down (between 140 to 180 degrees off of the "horizon up" viewing perspective).
The point to this simple presentation is to merely serve as a reminder to everyone who is interested in doing their own analysis of ANY of the Apollo DAC footage or still frames of the lunar surface to always consider the question of "what is the proper viewing perspective for each scene?" The ugly fact is that the vast majority of the Apollo DAC footage and still frames, as they are archived by NASA, are not presenting their lunar surface scenes to you in the proper "horizon up" viewing orientation that our eyes expect to see. Obviously, unless this improper viewing perspective is corrected for first, you have very little chance of being able to analyze the scenes you are looking at with any degree of accuracy at all.
When attempting to analyze any NASA footage or imagery, always keep in mind that perspective really is everything. You better believe that NASA is very well aware of how difficult it is for anyone to properly analyze footage or imagery of the lunar surface if it is being presented in the incorrect viewing perspective, and that is precisely why the vast majority of their footage and imagery is archived that way. This is a simple, deliberate, and highly effective obfuscation technique they employ that must be appreciated in order for us to accurately interpret what NASA is showing us in their archives.
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Why do you suppose the footage doesn't show liftoff of the LM ascent stage and start five seconds after APS ignition?
I remember reading something about unknown advanced tech in the LM for ascent. Considering your research has verified the use of classified high tech before (fiber optics in the WEC camera), I'd like to know your view on this. Is it as simple as they forgot to turn on the video or might they be hiding some tech that assist in getting them off Luna.
LunaCognita wrote:Hi KingJamesCorona -
Great question, because one really should consider it rather bizarre that the camera officially was not activated by Jack Schmitt till after liftoff. That is NOT the only liftoff where this happens either by the way! During Apollo 11, the EXACT same thing happens, with the DAC motion picture camera footage available in the archives for that first lunar liftoff only showing us the scene beginning after liftoff (six seconds after). I also did the perspective-correction of the Apollo 11 liftoff footage and I have that here, and I can render it off in HD and post it up on Youtube as well, because, like ALL the ascent footage for all the Apollo flights, it too has been shown to the public upside down for forty years.
In reference to this Apollo 17 footage, the NASA explanation is rather questionable in my opinion. Before getting into that though, one interesting first point is that NASA do not list or describe this particular DAC camera anomaly in the Apollo 17 Post-Mission Report. They have an "anomalies" section in every Mission Report precisely to account for and offer an explanation for things like this, but in the case of the missing Apollo 17 DAC liftoff portion of the ascent footage, they are strangely silent on the matter.
Astronaut Cernan does however briefly describe this anomaly in the post-mission "Technical Crew Debriefing" report. Here is what is essentially NASA's official description of the anomaly.
From the APOLLO 17 TECHNICAL CREW DEBRIEFING (January 4, 1973)
CDR CERNAN: "Our camera equipment had only one anomaly that I know of. A 16-millimeter camera failed to start during ascent. The LMP tried to start the camera in 12 frames per second. He couldn't start it. He had to hold it and it would run in 24 frames per second. He’ll have to describe the details. It did run by itself 12 frames per second later. So we might have to go back and make a check and pick up with Jack on that camera."
(page 6 and 7 of this PDF here show Cernan's statement)
LMP Jack Schmitt also describes his experiences with the cameras during the mission in this debriefing, but for some reason he totally avoids mentioning anything at all about the 16mm DAC camera anomaly that Cernan talked about. I found the fact that Schmitt did not discuss this incident during his debriefing to be very bizarre, considering he was supposed to be the one most affected by it and who had to deal with it.
Just for a little background that is relevant, the 16mm DAC motion picture camera used during the Apollo flights had two operating modes - "automatic" mode and "24fps" mode. In "automatic", the DAC was capable of filming at three different frame rates - 1, 6, or 12 frames-per-second. While in this "automatic" mode, the camera would be simply activated by depressing the front button to start rolling film, and the camera would continue recording until you pressed the front button again to stop it (or until the camera runs out of film).
The other operational mode - 24fps - meant that the camera was filming at it's maximum declared frame-rate of 24fps, but in order to do that, the astronaut could not simply click the camera on and leave it to record. He would have to physically stand there with his finger literally holding down the front "operate" button the entire time, because that "24fps" mode was a manual mode ONLY.
So, according to Cernan's testimony in the post-mission technical debriefing, apparently just seconds before liftoff, Schmitt attempted to activate the DAC camera in 12fps "automatic" mode, but Cernan says Schmitt "could not start it". Cernan claimed Schmitt was forced to put the DAC camera into 24fps/manual mode and "He had to hold it and it would run in 24 frames per second".
From the actual Apollo 17 mission audio and transcript, we see that 29 seconds before the LM lifted off from Taurus Littrow, LMP Jack Schmitt stated the words "Camera is not going to run without me holding it". This comment was apparently in reference to the camera malfunction that was affecting the DAC camera which was going to prevent it from running in 12-fps automatic mode. Just a few seconds later - and you can hear this actual comment being spoken in the video I posted (at the very beginning of it) - Cernan says to Schmitt "Okay. Now, let's get off. Forget the camera", evidently telling the LMP to not worry about getting the DAC to run and instead concentrate on the coming lunar liftoff that was only a few seconds away.
For a bit of visual reference, here is a photograph taken during pre-flight training inside the Apollo LM simulator, showing Jack Schmitt standing by his right side window. The accurate declared mounting position for the 16mm DAC camera camera can be seen here. I put a red box around the DAC camera, and the small arrow is actually pointing to where the front "operate" button is, just beside the lens on the front face of the camera.
Now, what this all means is that we are supposed to believe that immediately after liftoff from the lunar surface, LMP Jack Schmitt - wearing his full A7-LB spacesuit (with helmets and gloves on remember) - reached up and physically held the front "operate" button on the DAC camera down in order to keep the camera running. I do not believe this.
One reason I do not believe that story is because of what was happening in the LM during Apollo 17 immediately after liftoff from the lunar surface. The instant the LM ascent stage lifted off from Taurus Littrow, there was a rather bizarre incident, where a sudden loss of all uplink voice and tracking data to MCC in Houston occurred because the two-way lock with the LM transponder system was lost. This loss of LM transponder lock at liftoff lasted for a full four minutes, which was a simply ridiculous amount of time for something like this to officially go unsolved, particularly during such a critical juncture of the mission.
From the Apollo 17 Mission 5-Day Report:
"On lunar module ascent, two-way lock with the lunar module transponder was lost. This resulted in a 4-minute loss of uplink voice, and tracking data during ascent. It was necessary to have the Command Module Pilot pass comments from the ground to the lunar module crew during this period. The initial loss of lock was attributed to attenuation by the lunar module (engine) plume. Communications should have been re-established in less time (than 4 minutes). A review of data indicates that a normal re-acquisition by Goldstone should have been attempted earlier. Approximately 4 minutes after lunar module lift-off, a normal re-acquisition was accomplished."
Astronaut comments from their ALSJ interviews -
Schmitt - "As I recall, at the moment of ignition, all we had was static - loud static. And I was looking to see what happened, to see if I'd lost lock."
Cernan - "Jack spent half of the lift-off trying to get comm back."
This 4-minute loss of transponder lock was not a minor issue, and was something the astronauts (and the guys at MCC and running the DSN on Earth) had trained for. You can hear on the audio portion of that video that after liftoff, Cernan and Schmitt in the LM cannot hear Mission Control. MCC hears them, but not the other way around. Near the end of the clip, you even hear Cernan say the words "01:30, Houston. We're in the blind, and we're Go".
Just to clarify, Cernan's "We're in the blind" radio call is just a pilot/astronaut's way of declaring that the spacecraft is currently not receiving any signal from Earth, but that he will continue broadcasting his calls out "in the blind" as he monitors the spacecraft's engine performance and vital systems as well - doing what he is trained to do.
Now, while CDR Cernan's job during this "loss of lock" scenario at liftoff/ascent was to just keep flying the spacecraft to get to the proper lunar orbit, LMP Jack Schmitt on the other hand was trained to do something else. Schmitt's primary job during liftoff/ascent became to immediately focus on maintaining two-way contact with Earth, and as soon as this loss of lock happened at the very instant of liftoff, he would have aggressively began to attempt to troubleshoot this uplink failure inside the LM, trying various contingency techniques and checking settings to attempt to reacquire Earth - just as he was trained to do. The moment the loss of lock occurred, both Cernan and Schmitt would have been immediately aware of it because their earphones were suddenly filled with static. Schmitt himself states "As I recall, at the moment of ignition, all we had was static - loud static. And I was looking to see what happened, to see if I'd lost lock."
So, we are supposed to believe that as they lifted off, the LM transponder lock with Earth was lost, but instead of immediately trying to troubleshoot this problem, LMP Schmitt instead, some 5 or so seconds after liftoff, decided to first reach up with his spacesuit clad arm and pressure-gloved hand and depress the DAC camera's front "operate" button to start the camera filming. Then, Schmitt supposedly stood there with his arm cocked up and physically held the front "operate" button down with one of his gloved fingers in order to keep the camera running at the same time as he was supposed to be troubleshooting this loss of lock issue, using his one free arm to change switches I guess. I don't really buy that version of events.
One other factor that I believe is VERY significant to this missing DAC footage of the actual liftoff is the fact that there is footage of the actual Apollo 17 liftoff that was shot by the GCTA-TV camera aboard the LRV (the rover), which was parked behind the LM to the east and was filming the launch from Littrow, with the camera being remote-controlled from Earth. The fact that the GCTA-TV camera on the LRV captured the liftoff meant that if the DAC camera inside the LM had also been running, then we could have conducted a comparative analysis between the DAC and GCTA-TV versions of the actual liftoff and check and see that the scenes matched up correctly. That would be a standard investigative method of searching for any variances between the two clips that might point to evidence of fakery, fraud, obfuscation, etc. Conveniently, we are denied the ability to conduct that comparative analysis here.
I think it is also worth noting that there is some published misinformation/disinformation/truth (you choose which!) that has come from NASA related to the Apollo 17 DAC camera in the LM. For example, on the LPI website, on the page related to the Apollo 17 camera systems, they make the direct claim that the footage shot through the DAC camera during Apollo 17 is supposed to have fiducial crosshairs recorded on the 16mm film at time of exposure (just like with the lunar surface 70mm Hasselblad still frames). The exact quote they use is "fiducial marks were recorded on the film". So, why is it that there are there no fiducial marks detectable on the Apollo 17 16mm DAC footage then?
There are actually a host of other reasons that cause me to question both the authenticity of this footage and the accuracy of the official claims made regarding this missing DAC liftoff footage, but I will have to get to those in a follow-on post, because I have been staring at this computer screen too long and need to take a break.
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