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Re: An E-Mail To BadAstronomy On Apollo 11 UFO -

From: Brad Sparks <RB47x.nul>
Date: Sat, 24 Mar 2007 07:52:25 EDT
Fwd Date: Sat, 24 Mar 2007 08:06:58 -0400
Subject: Re: An E-Mail To BadAstronomy On Apollo 11 UFO -

>From: James Smith <lunartravel.nul>
>To: ufoupdates.nul
>Date: Thu, 1 Mar 2007 17:01:57 -0500 (GMT-05:00)
>Subject: Re: An E-Mail To BadAstronomy On Apollo 11 UFO

>>From: Lan Fleming <lfleming6.nul>
>>To: UFOUpdates <ufoupdates.nul>
>>Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2007 21:55:24 -0600
>>Subject: Re: An E-Mail To BadAstronomy On Apollo 11 UFO

>>>From: James Smith <lunartravel.nul>
>>>Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2007 17:07:35 -0500 (GMT-05:00)
>>>To: ufoupdates.nul
>>>Subject: Re: An E-Mail To BadAstronomy On Apollo 11 UFO

>>>>From: Lan Fleming <lfleming6.nul>
>>>>To: UFO UpDates <ufoupdates.nul>
>>>>Date: Sat, 24 Feb 2007 11:56:11 -0600
>>>>Subject: An E-Mail To BadAstronomy On Apollo 11 UFO


>>>>If the panels were traveling at a speed of 2.5 m/s relative to
>>>>the Apollo spacecraft, the distance between the panels and the
>>>>spacecraft would have been about 517 km, or 320 miles after
>>>>that amount of time.

>>>I don't think its so easy to deduce anything like this.

>>True. That's why I made it a conditional statement, not a deduction.

It's not that simple and not correct at all even as a
"conditional" ("if") statement. Over the long 57 hours from the
SLA panel ejection to the time of the object sighting the Apollo
11 had gone from the earth's vicinity about 4,000 miles above
the surface to within an hour of passing into the moon's
gravitational dominance very roughly 200,000 statute miles from
earth. The earth's gravity had progressively slowed the Apollo
11 and its ejected SLA panels from about 17,000 mph to about
2,000 mph but the velocity is lost very quickly closest to the
earth's strong retarding gravity (down to about 11,000 mph
within just an hour of SLA panel ejection then to about 9,000
mph, 7,000 mph, then 5,000 mph, at each succeeding hour, etc.).

Hence any delta-V between the Apollo and the SLA panels of about
2.5 meters/sec or 5.6 mph would be reduced by a factor of how
much of the 5.6 mph velocity is in the radial direction with
respect to the earth, where gravity would slow it over the
course of the long 2-1/2 day flight path to the moon's gravity
domain. If I read the mission report correctly it looks like at
panel ejection the Apollo 11 was heading about 45 degrees from
earth-radial direction. This angle gradually steepened to about
10 degs from radial (80 degs from horizontal perpendicular to
radial) or almost directly away from the earth or radially, at
the time of the sighting.

At that time gravity would be reducing the reduced-5.6 mph
(gravity-reduced to about 3 mph see below) very little further
because that SLA panel ejection velocity was now roughly
perpendicular to the line of flight. Now that the spacecraft and
SLA panels were both headed almost directly away from the earth,
the vector angle of the separation velocity (now down to about 3
mph from 5.6 mph) would be pointed almost perpendicular to the
earth's gravity vector hence almost unaffected by it.

When at about 45 degrees and for the next four hours or so, the
SLA panels' separation velocity of 5.6 mph from the Apollo (if
5.6 mph is assumed correct) would be cut down to about 4 mph due
to earth's gravity slowing the radial component of that
velocity. This would gradually reduce still further to roughly 3
mph by the time of the sighting, by which time there was little
earth-radial component left to it and thus no longer much that
could be affected by earth gravity.

A very crude average or effective separation velocity would be
about 3-1/2 mph over the course of the 57 hours or only about
200 statute miles separation not 320 miles, but that still is
not the correct actual distance because of other complicating
factors, which I will get into below. These factors include the
fact that there were two significant Apollo 11 rocket firings:
(1) the separation or evasive maneuver at 4h40m, then (2) the
one midcourse correction at 26h45m, and (3) the need to consider
the _directions_ the Apollo 11 was thrust into by these
maneuvers, which could have been into the direction of one of
the SLA panels, bringing it closer not farther.

Even before dealing with those factors, we need to consider
whether our data on the SLA panel ejection velocity is even

NASA engineers in the 70's told me that the SLA panels were
ejected by explosive bolts at about 15 to 20 ft/sec (10-14 mph)
radially outward from the S-IVB third stage of the Apollo, at an
angle of about 75 to 90 degrees to the S-IVB axis with the 75
degs referring to backwards or retrograde from the axis (the
axis being approximately the same as the line of flight) by 15
degs. The figures I now see in Apollo reports are smaller, such
as one stating ejection velocity was 11 +/- 3 ft/sec (around 7
mph or between 5 and 9 mph).

And none of the reports I find online refer to explosive bolts
in the final ejection only some kind of spring mechanism. So
there is some uncertainty about the SLA panel ejection mechanism
and flight dynamics. The direction of ejection could vary by as
much as 15 degrees (or more) if the info I obtained from NASA
flight engineers was correct.

However most of these SLA panel ejection velocity figures (the
10-14 mph and 7 mph figures) are greater than the 5.6 mph
ejection velocity used here. So that increases the separation
distance from Apollo 11 if all other factors were neutral (but
they aren't) and that would help eliminate the SLA panel
explanation. For example the 14 mph figure at 90 degs after
gravity reductions would result in about a 500 statute mile
distance rather than 200 or 320 miles, but this distance is
still wrong as I will explain below.

More on the velocity complication factors below. My conclusion
is that the object was probably metallized Mylar debris knocked
loose by excessive firings of the Apollo's attitude control
rockets (see my analysis at the end). So I am not trying to
defend the SLA
panel theory.

>>>Then there is the matter of midcourse correction. How does that
>>>affect the position of the panels? Maybe it improves it or maybe
>>>worsens it.

>>Yes, but I haven't seen anything to suggest that NASA or anyone
>>else knows for sure.

>The Apollo 11 mission report states that the midcourse
>correction occurred at 26 hr 45 min and was an increase of
>velocity of 20.9 ft/sec. This appears to be fairly close to the
>direction of motion (velocity change along X axis =-14.19
>ft/sec, Y axis= +13.17 ft/sec, Z axis=+7.56 ft/sec in the earth
>centered interial coordinate system). So we can basically assume
>that the spacecraft sped up by 20.9 ft/sec. The crew sighted the
>UFO at 60 hr 49 min. So the total time which the SLA and CSM
>diverge from the midcourse correction is about 34 hr and 4 min
>or 122640 seconds. 20.9 ft/sec over this time period gives
>2563176 ft or 421 nautical miles/485 statute miles/781 km.

Even before the Mid-Course Correction at 26h45m there was an
Apollo Separation (Evasive) Maneuver at 4h40m to get the Apollo
crew away from the vicinity of the S-IVB third stage and its
ejected SLA panels. Both rocket firings were described in NASA
reports as "retrograde," thus slowing the Apollo down and both
were roughly 20 ft/sec total velocity. Thus the minus sign (-)
on the X axis velocity change of -14.19 ft/sec means retrograde.
But the SLA panel ejection may also have been retrograde too,
according to the 75-90-degree ejection angle figures I was given
by NASA flight engineers (see above).

If SLA panels were ejected at 14 mph and 75 degs then that means
the 15 degs retrograde velocity component along the X-axis was
at about 3-1/2 mph (5 ft/sec).

If the X axis is along the Apollo's direction of motion, then
the Y axis is evidently 90 degrees from X, within the plane of
the trajectory, and Z axis is perpendicular or out of that plane
to the North of the ecliptic if I understand the spacecraft
coordinate system correctly. Each of these Y and Z velocities
were large or comparable to the velocity along the spacecraft's
line of motion, so the total motion change was not NOT "fairly
close" to the Apollo's direction of motion!

There are four (4) SLA panels that eject at about 90-degree
intervals around a 360 circle from the S-IVB longitudinal axis.
The sizeable Y and Z directions of the two Apollo rocket firings
could have aimed the Apollo straight towards one of the SLA
panels, and even at best the direction could not have been
farther than about 45 degrees from right in the middle between
two SLA panels. When I say "straight towards" I don't mean
bullseye shots towards but only the azimuthal directions, as the
retrograde relative motions would need to be considered, as I
will do now.

The much more important Apollo-S-IVB Separation Maneuver at
4h40m gave velocity increments of X = -9.76 ft/sec, Y = +14.94
ft/sec, Z = +8.96 ft/sec. The vector combination of Y and Z
would be 17 ft/sec or 12 mph in some direction less than 45
degrees away from some SLA panel. This Apollo maneuver would
completely cancel out the SLA panel ejection velocity and result
in Apollo overtaking the SLA panel ejection velocity if at the
ejection velocity figures of 5.6 or 10 mph. Only at the highest
figure I was given, about 14 mph SLA ejection, would this 12 mph
Y/Z maneuver by Apollo 11 not quite catch up but the difference
is a miniscule 2 mph and only a one and a half hour head start
for the SLA panels. As before, this 2 mph would be reduced by
earth's gravity to an average of roughly 1-1/2 mph over the next
nearly 56 hours, so the distance from the Apollo to one of the
SLA panels might have been only about 84 statute miles, until we
next account for the MCC at 26h45m.

Hence it is also possible though less likely, that by a fluke
one SLA panel's velocity and the Apollo's maneuvers ended up in
such a nearly exact parallel that their relative velocity
canceled out, thus putting them very close together. How close
would be impossible to tell given the number of variables and
uncertainties. For now I have ignored the X-axis velocities in
the direction of flight because they are smaller than the Y-Z
velocities and because it is uncertain how much retrograde or -X
velocity the SLA panels got, which might or might not have been
canceled by the retrograde burns of the Apollo crew (for example
suppose the SLA panels or some of them were ejected backwards by
say 30 degrees instead of just 15 degs, at say 12 mph, that
would mean an X velocity change of -6 mph, with the Apollo's Sep
Maneuver thrusting about -6 mph in X, thus roughly canceling out
relative motion between them at least in the X direction).

The strongest distance argument against the SLA panels might be
that the Mid-Course Correction burn put in an additional Y-Z
delta-V of about 10 mph in almost the same azimuthal direction,
only about 1.1 degree away from the Sep Maneuver. Though late in
the game so to speak, this could have a large effect on distance
to the SLA panels, depending on the exact angle and velocities,
and by this time such a velocity vector normal to the earth's
gravity vector would mean gravity would reduce this Y-Z velocity
very little over the next 34 hours or so. If I understand these
dynamics correctly then the MCC might have put as much as 340
statute miles of distance between the Apollo and any "lucky" SLA
panel that might have been ejected closest to the direction of
both Sep and MCC Maneuvers, and put still more distance to the
other 3 SLA panels heading in other directions.

Even if such a "lucky" velocity cancellation coincidence had
occurred, then the "lucky" SLA panel would have had to stay in
the Apollo's vicinity for a very long time, it could not "go
anywhere," so the sightings would have taken place over a long
time, not a short time where there was an impression of
increasing distance. In this hypothetical case since the
relative velocities had cancelled, the SLA panel had no means of
propulsion and the Apollo fired no rockets, hence no relative
movement was possible. But in fact the actual object seems to
have all-but-disappeared due to gradually increasing distance in
the approximately 1-1/2 hours it was in view from about 9:00 to
10:30 PM (CDT) on July 18, 1969.

My 1-1/2-hour time duration estimate is based on evidence in the
Debriefing where astronaut Collins commented it was only seen at
this one period in the flight, on the air-ground transcripts
that bracket the time, and on Aldrin's 2005 comments as to how
it started and ended before a sleep period.

>This does not include the divergence due to the jettison
>velocity which at best is supposed to be 8 ft/sec. The SLA
>panel jettison occurs at roughly 3 hr 17 min giving 57 hr and
>32 min of travel time (207120 sec). For 8ft/sec over this time
>period gives 1656960 ft/272nautical miles/314 statute miles/

>Combining the two axes/dimensions of divergence provides
>a total distance of the SLA panels from the CSM of 577 statute

See analysis above. With so many confusing factors to consider
one cannot really be dogmatic in asserting that "the" SLA panels
were "all" X miles away and thus could not possibly have been
visible at the time of the Apollo 11 astronauts' sighting. If I
have missed some additional dynamics factor then all these
results might change again.

For example, there is the factor of geometric spread. Imagine
that two spacecraft are heading directly outward from the earth
and imagine that one is at 12 o'clock on a clock face centered
on the earth's center, and the other ship is heading outward at
say 1 o'clock, or in other words 30 degrees apart from each
other. Suppose they are at a point 8,000 miles from the earth's
center traveling at the same speed outwards, assumed for
simplicity to be escape velocity. They would be at a distance of
about 4,140 miles apart from each other, straight- line distance
on a chord. But when the ships reached 80,000 miles from the
earth's center they would be at a slant range of about 41,400
miles from each other and without having deliberately expended
propellant to separate themselves.

The bottom line is that the best way to determine the SLA
panels' location may be to find astronomical observatory photos
of the Apollo and its SLA panels. I believe that Jim Oberg has
found some such photos of either Apollo 11 or 12 or both, if
memory serves, from Pic du Midi observatory in


>Therefore, the UFO sighting remains an unknown, although I
>think it is likely the same kind of debris seen around Shuttles/ISS,
>namely tiny stuff. I have watched alot of the video of Apollo
>and they had alot of debris during parts of the missions.

>>As I said before, what I find most interesing about this case is
>>that Alrdin changed his story. During the debriefing after the
>>return to Earth, he seems to have ruled out the possibility that
>>the object was one of the SLA panels for the very logical reason
>>that their shape didn't match the shape of the object he saw.

>>None of these views match the description of the L-shaped object
>>that Aldrin described or the "open suitcase" that Armstrong
>>described it.

>Yes, I agree it is unlikely an SLA panel on these grounds too.

In my reconstruction the crew had placed the Apollo 11 in a
stable Passive Thermal Control (PTC) slow roll of 3 revs per
hour to evenly distribute sunlight over the spacecraft, after an
unsuccessful attempt to get it into PTC (this is important for
later discussion of what caused the sighting). Then the
astronauts settled down for a 9-hour sleep period and were told
"good night" by the Houston control night team, at 8:57:07 PM
CDT on July 18, 1969 (60h25m07s Ground Elapsed Time or GET).

It was evidently as they were settling down to sleep that the
astronauts noticed the object out a window, that was at the very
limits of resolution by the human eye. According to Armstrong
"it was right at the limit of the resolution of the eye. It was
very difficult to tell just what shape it was. And there was no
way to tell the size without knowing the range or the range
without knowing the size." (Debriefing).

It was at 60h45m46s into the flight or 9:17:46 PM CDT (Houston
time) on July 18, 1969, when Neil Armstrong asked the question
about the S-IVB's location.

Biomedical telemetry showed that the crew soon after went to
sleep on their 9-hour sleep period. The telemetry shows that
Armstrong went to sleep at about 61h49m (10:21 PM) and Aldrin
and Collins at about 62h0m (about 10:30 PM rounding off the
time). The sighting had started at around 9:00 PM. Hence a total
duration of about 1-1/2 hours (and see next for additional

The NASA Public Affairs Officer on the broadcast feed seemed
slightly surprised that the crew had not yet gone to sleep,
which was obvious from the telemetry readings even though there
no radio communication from the astronauts. The PAO comment was
over an hour after they had first tried to settle to sleep. We
now know it was this object sighting that kept them awake and
they must have spent this extra 1 to 1-1/4 hours watching the
tumbling reflective object in various ways, after probably an
initial 1/4 hour watching it before asking about the S-IVB's

Here is my explanation for the sighting as best I can
reconstruct it. It may have been a piece of metallized highly-
reflective Mylar (or some metallized kapton) as Michael Collins
suggested in the Debriefing, which came off of the Lunar Module
(LM) at some point. The Mylar must have been floating along out
of view until the problems with the Passive Thermal Control
(PTC) rotation of the Apollo spacecraft caused an attitude
control rocket gas to hit the Mylar, sending it off into space
to a position where it could be spotted by the crew. The Mylar
could easily have had a neat fold or crease in it which would
explain the "L-shape" or "open-book shape" seen (Collins in
Debriefing), and at the other end it could have retained the
cylinder shape of, perhaps, a LM landing leg, which being rolled
around and thus look like the "hollow cylinder" (also stated by
Collins in Debriefing).

At 8:17:55 PM (59h45m55s GET) ground control notified the Apollo
crew that their PTC rotation was wrong, strangely off 20 degrees
in pitch angle, and may need to be done all over again - meaning
more RCS (Reaction Control System) rockets automatically firing
at different angles to get just the right rotation. If not
corrected right away it would result in the RCS jets continually
firing off and on trying to adjust it, using up vital propellant
and keeping the astronauts awake with the noise. The original
PTC was established at around 6:40 PM. The new PTC rotation mode
was successfully established at around 8:40 PM. The object
sighting began around 9:00 PM.

To illustrate how a piece of Mylar, say 2 feet in size, could
have moved and could fit the sighting circumstances, suppose the
firing of the attitude control jets at around 8:40 PM had caught
the Mylar and sent it off at, say, around 1 mph (1.5 ft/sec).
These size, velocity and timing numbers can of course be
adjusted to improve the fit on this explanatory model. After 20
minutes or so, the astronauts caught sight of it, at which time
this Mylar would have moved a total distance of 1/3 mile away
from the Apollo. It would have an angular size of about 4
arcminutes (1/8 Full Moon) which was small but bigger than a

After another hour it would have gradually drifted another mile
away to a distance of about 1.3 miles where now "it was right at
the limit of the resolution of the eye" as Armstrong put it in
Debriefing, as now the Mylar would be only 0.8 arcminutes in
size (1/40 Full Moon). Visual acuity on earth is around 1
arcminute but in space the glare of sun and earthshine and dirty
windows made stars and other objects in space difficult to see.
At this point the object was gradually drifting away as it
tumbled, getting too small to see well, so the astronauts lost
interest and went to sleep. When they woke up around 9 hours
later it would have been too small to see, at about 10 miles
away and only 0.1 arcminute in angular size.

Another factor in the visibility besides distance would be
brightness. An object that is too small to resolve may still be
seen if it is bright enough (and "contrasty" enough against the
background) to register on the retina. An empirical formula for
brightness of typical satellites in space sighted by astronauts
was derived in the Condon Report and it gives results similar to
ground-based sightings of satellites. However, space visibility
is severely limited by dirty spacecraft windows (including ice)
and sun glare. It seems that a limiting stellar magnitude for
astronaut observations may be around 0 stellar mag (CR p. 201)
rather than the usual excellent vision limit of mag +6 on earth.

mag = -7.16 - 5 log diameter meters + 5 log range km (CR p. 190)

Thus a 0.6 meter (2 ft) metallized Mylar piece of debris at
about 16 km (10 mi) distance might have a stellar magnitude of
about -1 and hence might still be barely visible if the
astronauts knew exactly where to look and if the windows were
not dirtier than usual. But this seems doubtful. This might be
pinned down better if there was a NASA study of object
visibility through the Apollo windows.

Many years ago I scoured the transcripts of Apollo flights
looking for the most distant sightings of objects of known size
and distance in order to get an impression of typical object
visibility through spacecraft windows. I can't be sure I really
had a comprehensive coverage but I did find an astronaut
sighting of the LM in earth orbit in the Apollo 9 mission at
what might have been an extreme range of 140 km. Using the
formula given above this would yield a magnitude of about -0.3,
thus roughly confirming 0 magnitude as a rule-of-thumb
brightness limit for sightings of objects in space from Apollo
spacecraft windows.

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