Missing Tracks: AS16-110-18006


AS16-110-18006 (ALSJ)
This photo was shot at Station 5 during Apollo 16 as part of a panoramic sequence.1  Examine it carefully (here's an enhanced version that brings out the tracks) and you'll see that although there are tracks behind the rover, none of them line up with the rover's rear wheels.  The straight tracks are clearly offset from the vehicle's wheels by about 3 or 4 feet and the curved tracks (of which we only see one) are headed in the wrong direction entirely.  

How does NASA explain that no tracks lead to the rover's rear wheels in this photo?  According to the description for photo AS16-110-18006 on ALSJ (a website that is hosted by NASA's History Division), the astronauts lifted the rover off of its tracks and set it back down at its pictured location:

Rightward of 18005, showing the back of the Rover.  In this photo, note that the Rover is not sitting on it's own tracks.  After getting off, John decided at 145:11:16 that the Rover had to be re-positioned and, rather than spend any time getting back on, he and Charlie picked the vehicle up and moved it. (emphasis added)

This same explanation is reflected in the voice transcript that is also provided by ALSJ (and can be found here).  Following is the section of the transcript regarding these purported events (emphasis added):

145:09:30 Duke: (Acknowledging Tony's repeated '180') Rog. (Pause) That doesn't look like a secondary, John.
145:09:38 Young: It doesn't look like one to me either. Well...
145:09:41 Duke: It might be a primary impact, but I think those blocks - the rocks there - are from South Ray. I think we ought to get a rake sample here.
145:09:50 England: How big is that crater?
145:09:55 Duke: About 15 meters across.
145:09:58 England: Okay. Understand 15 meters.
145:10:03 Duke: That's affirm.
145:10:05 Young: Okay. Well, we're parked right on the rim of it. We'll let you see.
145:10:08 England: Okay.
145:10:11 Duke: The biggest blocks we see, Tony, are about 50 centimeters, or bigger. And they're in the bottom and all over the crater (with) no preferred orientation. Okay. We're parked at (heading) 174, (bearing to the LM) 353, (distance driven) 5.9, (range to the LM) 3.5, 100, 100...Okay. Excuse me, John. 65, 65, 100...(correcting himself) 90, 105; off-scale low, and off-scale low. (Pause) Wow!
145:10:58 Young: In a hole?
145:11:01 Duke: Well, it's downslope for me over here.
145:11:03 Young: It is?
145:11:04 Duke: Yeah. (Long Pause)
145:11:16 Young: Me too, Charlie. Fact is, let's bring the Rover back up here.
145:11:23 Duke: Well, I'm out. I'm not getting out again, and getting back in.
145:11:26 Young: No, I don't mean that. I mean let's bring the Rover back up here.
145:11:29 Duke: Oh, you want to pick it up, huh?
145:11:30 Young: Yeah.
145:11:31 Duke: Okay. (Pause)
145:11:36 Young: Okay, now. We've got to swing it around. (Pause) There we go.
145:11:50 Duke: Okay.
145:11:51 Young: That's more like it. (Long Pause) 

So, there we have it.  The reason why there are no tracks leading to the rover's rear wheels is simply because the astronauts picked up the rover and moved it, (boy, is my face red).  

There are a number of serious, (not to mention obvious) problems with this "Swartzenegger" scenario provided by NASA.  The first problem--admittedly a minor one--has to do with the artificial nature of the dialog itself.  For example, would Duke really react to the proposal by Young that they lift the rover and transport it by hand the way the transcript indicates?  What we'd expect is for Duke to respond in disbelief as if he thought Young had completely lost his mind:

145:11:26 Young: No, I don't mean that. I mean let's bring the Rover back up here.
xxx:xx:xx Duke: What?!  You want to pick the rover up?

No.  Instead, Duke reacts as if he and Young do this sort of thing three times a day (emphasis added):

145:11:26 Young: No, I don't mean that. I mean let's bring the Rover back up here.
145:11:29 Duke: Oh, you want to pick it up, huh?

To make matters worse, after Young confirms his intentions, Duke takes all of an entire second to respond in agreement (again, like this sort of thing happens all the time):

145:11:26 Young: No, I don't mean that. I mean let's bring the Rover back up here.
145:11:29 Duke: Oh, you want to pick it up, huh?
145:11:30 Young: Yeah.
145:11:31 Duke: Okay. (Pause)

There's no pause whatsoever before Duke--wearing a pressurized spacesuit--agrees to help lift the equivalent of a 90 pound barbell.  There's no laughter, no chuckle, no quip, no smart ass remark; just "Okay."  Gee, did these guys go to the moon or were they originally from there?

Then there's the motivation itself.  Young asks, "Are you in a hole?"   Duke answers, "Well, it's downslope for me over here." ...  Notice the implication that it's not a problem for the Rover in any way but rather, a problem for Duke himself.  Young soon agrees that it's downslope for him also and yet even before he has had a chance to suggest that they pick up the rover and transport it by hand, Duke has already gotten completely off of the vehicle!  And he manages this feat in just 22 seconds following his acknowledgement that the slope was a problem for him...  So, how big a problem was it for the astronauts to get off the rover if it only took 22 seconds for Duke--who was the first to even realize there was a problem--to circumvent it?  It took Duke no longer to get off of the rover than It takes most people to get out of their car when parked in their driveway.  More important, if the location where the rover was originally parked caused problems for the astronauts getting off of the rover, then how could they have gotten off of the rover in order to pick it up?  

Of course all of this is moot given that the slope of the ground where the rover had to have been originally parked is practically level and doesn't differ much, if any, from the slope where the rover was ultimately parked.  Assuming that the astronauts hadn't felt like doing extra exercise that day and they deposited the rover just beyond the rim of the crater and not an extra 20 or 30 feet beyond it, photos AS16-110-18009 and AS16-110-18010 should give us some idea of how bad the slope really was.  In fact, you'll notice from these two photos that there's no sudden break in the slope of the ground next to the rover as the rover's shadow doesn't suddenly "fall off" as one might expect were there really a slope.  To see the difference a sudden break in the slope makes on a shadow, take a look at photo AS16-110-18020 (or better, this close-up) which was shot with the rover at the same location that it was at in the prior sequence of photos.  Notice that there's a small crater in front of the rover's rear wheel and as a result, the rover's shadow falls off abruptly as it crosses over the edge of the crater.  This fall-off in the rover's shadow is pretty much what we'd expect to see in photos AS16-110-18009 and AS16-110-18010; but instead we see nothing of the sort.

That's not to say that we don't see a crater at Station 5 at all.  Certainly, frames 18011-18018 show what appears to be a crater but it would be almost laughable for anyone to conclude from these photos that the slope of the crater's wall is anything but a gentle one.  Examine the photos for yourself--do they suggest a problematic, perhaps dangerous slope or a gentle, almost level one?   So, where's this slope that's mentioned in the voice transcript that motivated these two astronauts to lift the equivalent of a 90 pound barbell uphill while wearing pressurized spacesuits (when all that was really necessary was for Young to simply push a button and pull back on a lever)?  It's got to be around here somewhere...

Not only is there insufficient evidence that a problematic slope existed, but had there actually been a problem with the slope at the rover's original location, it's inconceivable that the astronauts would've parked there in the first place.  How serious a problem could the slope have been if the astronauts hadn't even noticed it during their approach?  Even had these guys not exactly had the "right stuff", we could at least expect the dialog captured in the voice transcript to go something like this... 

xxx:xx:xx Duke: Hey!  Where are you going?  That's a pretty steep incline.  You park there and we're gonna have some serious problems!
xxx:xx:xx Young: Oh, right...  I'll park over here instead.

On the contrary, we're expected to believe that, despite years of training culminating in their supposed landing on the moon, these two guys are actually stupid enough to park the rover on an incline so steep as to cause them difficulties getting off of the vehicle!  I thought this sort of thing could only happen in a Naked Gun movie.

And speaking of where the rover was originally parked, the voice transcript fails to tell us explicitly where this location is but from the photographic evidence we can easily determine this.  You may have noticed from photo AS16-110-18006 that the curved track was deposited on top of the straight tracks.  This tells us that the curved section of track was more recently left behind than the straight section and therefore, if the rover had been picked up by the astronauts, it would have had to have been picked up off of this curved section of track.  You may have also noticed that the curved track clearly exhibits the distinctive "V" shaped "arrows" which--due to the orientation of the "tread" on the rover's wheels--always point opposite to the vehicle's forward direction of travel (again, see the enhanced version here).  In this photo we see that the arrows point up or away from the camera which tells us that the rover was heading towards the camera when the curved track was made.  

As you might expect, this curved track actually consists of two separate component tracks--one that was left behind by the vehicle's front wheel and the other which was left behind by its rear wheel.  At the very bottom edge of AS16-110-18006 we see that both of these components existed--the rear wheel component being on the left with its fully defined "V" markings and the front wheel component on the right with its incomplete, overdriven "V" markings.  What this tells us is that when this curved track was deposited, the rover's right rear wheel had to have been situated just to the left of the pictured rover's right rear wheel as seen in AS16-110-18006.

Why is all of this so important?  Take another peek at photo AS16-110-18020 and zoom in to the area about 5 or 10 feet in front of the rover's rear wheel so that the wheel is perhaps 2 inches in diameter on your computer monitor (you can also see an enhanced and pre-zoomed version here).  If the rover was headed towards the camera at the time the curved track was deposited and at some point during this time its right rear wheel was situated just to the left of where the rover's right rear wheel is pictured in AS16-110-18006 then we ought to see the rover's front wheel tracks extending into the foreground of AS16-110-18020 almost as far as the apparent length of the rover as seen in this photo.  See here for the above pre-zoomed version with red lines added to show approximately where the front wheel tracks should be based on the location of the curved track seen in AS16-110-18006.  

Despite the fact that the angle of the sun in photo AS16-110-18020 is ideal for our being able to view any such tracks that might run towards the camera, none can be seen--not even a hint.  Are we to believe that these tracks were miraculously covered over by kicked dust?  How could this be if there weren't even any footprints left by the astronauts when they purportedly walked the rover around to its final resting place?!

Also missing are any drag marks.  Why would the astronauts pick up the rover clear off of the ground just to reorient it (on the moon it still weighed almost 90 pounds)?  If you were at the grocery store and the wheels on your fully loaded shopping cart suddenly became stuck pointing straight ahead and you had to make a sharp turn at aisle 6 to pick up another 10  items, would your first inclination be to lift the cart completely off of the floor and rotate your body or would you simply pull up on the front of the cart just a little to reduce the friction between the wheels and the floor and then drag the the cart around?  So why on Earth (no pun intended) would Young and Duke have acted any different than you or I would?  Wouldn't they have simply dragged the rover ... over?  

Finally, the rover had a nice electric drive with both forward and reverse gears.  Why not just use it to move the rover?  Young, who was in the driver's seat, hadn't even realized that there was a problem getting off of the rover until Duke had virtually already gotten off the vehicle himself.  Why wouldn't he have just driven the rover backwards (or forwards for that matter) if it needed to be moved?  This brings up yet another curious inconsistency in the voice transcript.  Why would Duke have thought that he needed to get back on the rover just so Young could drive it to more level ground (note the error in the transcript at this point which suggests that Duke had objected to getting back out of the rover when in fact he was already out of the rover)?  Was the passenger required to be in the rover for it to operate?

As we have seen, there are serious problems with the official explanation as to why no tracks lead to the rover's wheels at Station 5.  This explanation, which is communicated to us via the Station 5 voice transcript, clearly contradicts the Station 5 photos.  Whatever motivated the astronauts to actually pick up and transport the rover simply isn't visible in any of these photos.  What's worse, the station 5 photos don't even agree with each other.  Photo AS16-110-18006 shows that the rover was originally parked at such a location that the tracks left by its front wheels would have been clearly visible in photo AS16-110-18020 and yet, to our surprise, this latter photo not only fails to show these tracks but it also fails to disclose any other evidence that the rover had once been parked at that location--including footprints left by the astronauts as they hauled off with the rover!  How can this be if the astronauts actually lifted the rover and swung it around to its pictured location?  One explanation that doesn't require a complete breakdown in logic not to mention the laws of human nature, is that some or all of the evidence that NASA has provided regarding Station 5 was manufactured!  

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1. This panorama consists of frames 17991, 17992, 17993, 17994, 17995, 17996, 17997, 17998, 17999, 18000, 18001, 18002, 18003, 18004, 18005, 18006, 18007, 18008, 18009, 18010, 18011, 18012, 18013, 18014, 18015, 18016, 18017 and 18018.

 

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