|What do NASA apologists have to say about a photo (AS17-137-20979)
that clearly shows a lunar rover at rest on the lunar surface ... minus any tire
tracks? Actually, on this
subject they're virtually silent.
I did manage to find one web page (http://www.clavius.org/rover2.html) that discusses the photo although contrary to the web page's title, Photo Analysis, little actual analysis of the photo in question is actually provided. Instead, the webmaster, Jay Windley immediately proceeds to analyze photo AS17-138-21039 (listed erroneously as AS17-138-20139) which we are told was taken of the lunar rover at exactly the same location but from a greater distance.
Explain this! (click for full size)
Keeping in mind that dust flies great distances when the astronauts shuffle about, it is reasonable to believe that the tracks have simply been obliterated by the astronauts' feet during the hour of activity at Station 2.
The two astronauts couldn't possibly have kicked around enough surface dust to effectively cover all traces of the rover's tracks that ought to be visible in this photo. First of all, keep in mind that this isn't just about the track that's missing behind the vehicle's rear wheel; there's also no discernable track between the front and rear wheels either. Secondly, there's no atmosphere to disperse the dust over a wider area, so the astronauts would have had to systematically "shuffle" in the direction of the tracks themselves in order to manage this feat at all. Even here on Earth, having the benefit of an atmosphere to support the formation of a dust cloud, you'd be hard pressed to accomplish this. You'd be especially hard pressed to do this without leaving behind any evidence. Notice that according to the photo in question this kicked dust that Windley implicates just happens to have covered the rover's tracks to the exact same level (not to mention surface texture) as that of the surrounding soil. Look closely and you'll see that this process of shuffle-erasing has even resulted in erasing the track right up to the wheel itself and yet amazingly, there's not even a hint of soil build-up along the base of the wheel. What's more, Cernan and Schmitt somehow managed to do all of this despite the fact that they couldn't possibly have spent much more than 5 or 10 minutes total working just 2 or 3 feet from the rear wheel that's pictured in the photo--they were only at station 2 for an hour and presumably they spent some of that time away from the rover actually exploring, collecting samples, etc.!
Windley would have us believe that the rover's track could be completely obliterated without even a trace in just minutes and yet curiously, we fail to find any substantial evidence of this phenomenon at work with regards to the lunar module's footpads in at least two cases, even though abundant activity is evidenced nearby in each case. Photo AS17-134-20388 shows a close-up view of the Apollo 17 lunar module's footpad. From this photo we can clearly see that there is indeed surface dust accumulated on the footpad; though, by no means does this dust completely obscure any significant portion of it. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to describe the layer of dust on the footpad as anything other than a thin film. This of course flies in the face of the kicked dust explanation considering the amount of activity that is clearly evident just inches away from the lunar module's footpad. See the footprints?
Even more detrimental to the kicked dust explanation is the case involving the Apollo 11 lunar module, the Eagle. Consider the photos, AS11-40-5917, AS11-40-5918, AS11-40-5902 and AS11-40-5920, all of which show what is believed to be the same footpad from a different angle. Here again, we see much evidence of activity in very close proximity to the footpad in the form of numerous footprints and yet amazingly, there's not even a speck of dust to be seen on the footpad. How can this be in light of the kicked dust explanation, if "dust flies great distances when the astronauts shuffle about"?
Here we have two cases that ought to support the kicked dust explanation but neither of them does so. Despite evidence of activity in close proximity to the footpad in both instances, one footpad is barely covered by a thin film of dust and the other doesn't even have a speck of dust on it. If not even a single speck of lunar dust found its way onto the Eagle's footpad as a result of being kicked around by the Apollo 11 astronauts and little more resulted when Cernan and Schmitt worked adjacent to the Apollo 17 lunar module's footpad, why should anyone believe that this same phenomenon could possibly explain the complete and total erasure of the rover's tracks at station 2?
Moving along, next we're informed that,
In the full version of the long-distance photo available from the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal the rover tracks can be seen faintly on the right side of the image. Part of the problem with the conspiracist reasoning is the expectation that rover tracks ought always to be prominently visible.
This of course is a completely irrelevant line of reasoning. What do tracks that are visible some distance from the rover in photo AS17-138-21039 have to do with tracks that are missing directly behind (not to mention virtually under) the rover's rear wheel in photo AS17-137-20979? Is Windley suggesting that the track is there behind the rover's wheel but that we just can't see it in this photo because the photo was shot from too far a distance? How on Earth could a tire track not be visible in this photo which was obviously shot from a distance of no more than 3 or 4 feet?
Apparently still discussing photo AS17-138-21039, Windley then continues by arguing that there isn't enough dust for tracks to be formed. He states,
Here, for example, the astronauts are high up the slope of a mountain. It is reasonable to expect the dust to be thinner there than in the valley floor near the landing site, or on the plains where Apollo 17 landed. Thinner dust means the tires don't penetrate as far, leaving shallower tracks that aren't visible from a distance.
Of course, being situated "high up the slope of a mountain" is completely irrelevant in light of the fact that in photo AS17-137-20979 (again, a photo taken of the rover parked at the same location as in AS17-138-21039, according to Windley) it can clearly be seen that there's enough dust directly behind the rover's rear wheel for there to have been left behind an easily discernable, well compacted, even sunlight reflecting footprint. You can't miss it--it's there at the very bottom edge of the photo. Certainly, if we can see the footprint in the photo then obviously there was plenty of dust available for tracks to have been left behind by the rover!
There's also no question that the soil in front of the rear wheel is deep enough for the formation of tracks as evidenced by the rough texture of the soil and the fact that we see shadows resulting from this rough texture. Were the surface completely devoid of relative "peaks" and "valleys", shadows like this would not exist; therefore, we know there had to be a sufficient layer of dust in front of the rear wheel which again begs the question, where's the track that was left from the front wheel?
First, we're told that the kicking around of surface dust would account for why we see no tracks left behind by the rover in photo AS17-137-20979. Such an argument of course implies that there was a significant layer of dust to be kicked around. Now we're being told that the reason for the lack of tracks is because there was not enough of a dust layer for tracks to have been formed! Which is it? Is there enough dust to kick about, or is there so little dust that tracks can't even be formed?
Perhaps recognizing the weakness of his arguments made thus far, Windley then quickly moves on:
The conspiracists argue that the rover may have been lifted into place as a prop. They may be half right. In lunar gravity the rover is not especially heavy. An astronaut can lift one end of it with little difficulty. And since the rover's turn radius, like that of any four-wheeled vehicle, is limited, the astronauts sometimes found it easier to lift one end of the rover and turn it so it pointed in the direction they wanted to go, rather than maneuvering through a three-point turn. When this occurred, there would obviously be no track leading up to the wheels.
First of all, not all "conspiracists" believe the rover had to have "been lifted into place as a prop". Why lift the rover into place when you can simply roll it into place? Better yet, why push a prop around at all when composite photography will do the trick? As for the suggestion that the astronauts lifted the rover in order to reorient it for the return trip, this is ridiculous given just how unlikely it is that the astronauts would ever find themselves in a situation in which they couldn't more easily just drive the rover away from a given location. The rover had the capability of being driven in reverse and performing this maneuver was simply a matter of pushing a button and pulling back on a lever. Although this may sound complicated to some people, I'm sure that it was actually a pretty straight-forward and easy thing for the Apollo 17 astronauts to manage given their background and extensive training. They did after all manage to make it all the way to the moon according to Windley!
Not that this really matters. A close examination of photo AS17-137-20976 clearly shows that there was nothing obstructing the rover's forward movement to begin with and at the time this photo was taken, we know that the rover hadn't been lifted and reoriented. How do we know this? Because photo AS17-137-20976 was shot of the rover at exactly the same location and orientation as in photo AS17-138-21039 and upon close examination of the latter photo, we can clearly see that the rover's passenger side track leads up to the rover's rear wheel.
Not only is there no evidence to suggest that the rover's forward movement was obstructed in such a way as to require the Apollo 17 astronauts to lift and reorient the rover, there's also no evidence to support that they actually performed this task. Windley merely makes the assertion that "the astronauts sometimes found it easier to lift one end of the rover..." Well, aside from the fact that such a generalization wouldn't serve as proof that the rover was lifted and reoriented in this particular case, we're provided with no evidence that this happened anywhere else either. Where is this generalization supported? Is it documented in an astronaut's biography? I'm sure it would have been worth writing about considering how unconventional this would seem to most people. It also would have been worth citing some sources, if in fact such a statement had any basis in reality.
More specifically, there's no evidence to be seen in the photo in question that this suggested lifting of the rover took place (aside from the missing tracks themselves, which are also evidence of fraud). I for one see no evidence in this photo that one end of the rover had been picked up and moved. Where is there any evidence of this to be seen in this particular photo? For that matter, where is there any evidence of this in any of the relevant photos on my missing tracks page? Show us something conclusive like a mark left in the soil by a wheel having been dragged. Show us a build-up of soil next to a wheel that was dragged. Show us a wheel that was obviously pivoted. Show us a track that has been "orphaned" by the wheel that made it when it was picked up and dropped elsewhere. Show us the boot prints that were left behind by this operation. Show us anything at all that proves that the rover was actually picked up and reoriented by the astronauts!
The fact is, there is no evidence that the astronauts lifted the rover and reoriented it. There's not even mention of any lifting of the rover in the Geology Station 2 transcript maintained on ALSJ by Eric Jones. According to the transcript, there's no indication that this was done or that anyone even suggested that it be done. Bear in mind that the Station 2 transcript hasn't got a single gap in it greater than sixty seconds where something wasn't said by someone. That means, if this truly bizarre event that Windley suggests actually occurred, then neither Schmitt, Cernan nor the guys at mission control breathed so much as a single word on the subject. So, we're to believe that the usually cheerful and chatty astronauts had to lift the rover's wheels off the ground... and no one made even so much as a witty remark?
Here, we have a photograph (AS17-137-20979) taken of the lunar rover at Geology Station 2 during the Apollo 17 mission in which not even a hint of tire tracks can be seen leading up to it's wheels despite its supposedly having been driven by the astronauts. Though NASA apologists would have us believe that there are various "legitimate" explanations for this anomaly, as we have seen, none of them are supported by the available evidence.
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