5.7:  Oh those Russians

If NASA’s airbrush monkeys were busy faking the satellite record to match Apollo (as some have claimed), they were equal opportunity fakers and did it for all comers.

The Soviets also returned images from of Earth from around the Moon from their many probes. The better quality images of returned by the Zond probes are shown on a number of websites, for example Mental Landscape. Zonds are now widely acknowledged as the USSR’s rehearsal craft for a manned lunar mission.

Figure 5.7.1 shows one of the images from Zond 5.  Encyclopaedia Astronautica states that Zond 5 was launched on 14/09/68, performed a lunar flyby on 18/09/68 and splashed down in the Indian Ocean on 21/09/68. The ESSA data for this period can be found here: TIROS anniversary site and the Zond 5 image can be found here: Mental Landscape. ESSA and Zond images were compared in this article.

As an aside Zond 5 has its own place in the hoax mythology as it carried a biological payload around the moon (including some tortoises), proving that space radiation was not instantly lethal. It also returned a signal to Earth featuring cosmonaut voices. Initially this was thought to be taped, but is now thought to have been cosmonauts sending the signal from Earth to test communications in space. While conspiracy nuts like to claim that ‘if the Soviets could fake transmissions so could we’, they usually fail to mention that the source of the voices was determined even before the craft landed back on Earth. They also shoot one of their own arguments down in flames given that the transmissions were tracked independently by observatories in several countries (including the US, Germany and the UK - see here), conclusively proving that you can track space craft and their communications from Earth quite easily (as an aside this document shows a lunar surface image produced from a transmission intercepted from Luna 9).

Returning to the weather, for once you can make up your own mind, Does the ESSA mosaic show the same weather patterns as the Zond 5 image? The mosaic used is from the 21st of September, and the location of Arabia suggests a time of around 12:00 GMT for the image – 4 hours before re-entry and splashdown.

A similar study can be made of Zond 7, which shows spectacular colour images of Earth as seen rising above the lunar horizon. Zond 7, according to this page, was launched on 08/08/69, and managed several photography sessions of Earth. A close up of the Earthrise photo is shown in figure 5.7.2, compared with an ESSA mosaic from 10/08/69. The ESSA mosaic is found here Hathi Trust, and the Zond 7 image is from here: Mental Landscape.

Figure 5.7.2: Zond 7 image compared with ESSA mosaic dated 10/08/69 and 3D reconstruction using digitally restored ESSA data

As with the NASA images, the ESSA mosaic is dated the 10th, but this part of the world would have been imaged on the 11th. As before, you can answer the question for yourself: does the Soviet image match the data supplied by their superpower rival? It's a shame that the craft did not wait a little longer to take its images, as lurking off to the west in the Caribbean is Hurricane Camille, which caused considerable damage in August 1969.

One final image from the Zond program can be found from Zond 8. This photograph (source: Mental Landscape) is usually referred to as an Earthrise, but a quick check of what it shows (and which can be confirmed by Stellarium) proves that it is actually an Earthset.

The probe was launched on October 20th 1970, and orbited the Moon on the 24th. A close look at the images from that probe show that Australia can be seen in the image, which means that any showing it as an Earthrise are actually upside down.

As it features Australia, this means that the ESSA mosaic needs to be dated the 23rd in order to show it. The ESSA data catalogue can be found here (source: TIROS Anniversary) and a comparison of the relevant part of the mosaic with a close up of the Zond 8 image can be seen in figure 5.7.3.

Figure 5.7.3: Zond 8 image compared with ESSA mosaic dated 23/10/70 and 3D reconstruction (right) using digitally restored NOAA data.

Figure 5.7.1: Zond 5 photograph of Earth compared with ESSA mosaic from 21/09/68 and partial 3D reconstruction using digitally restored ESSA data (right). Below is the image shown in the USSR publication ‘Soviet Photo’ from August 1969.

Again, you be the judge: do the weather patterns match or not?

It should be pretty obvious that in all the Zond images the satellite mosaics are a match.

It’s also worth pointing out that while these photographs are less freely available in the west, they were being issued publicly in the USSR. As well as the magazine print of Zond 5 shown in figure 5.7.1, figure 5.7.4 shows a souvenir postcard issued in what was then East Germany and a Soviet stamp from 1969. They also appeared in many other publications, eg here, and here.

Figure 5.7.4a: Zond 7 image of Earth from an East German postcard. The image was taken on 21/08/69, but the postcard itself is stamped 1982, 7 years before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

They weren’t entirely unavailable to the west though, as shown by figure 5.7.4b which features an Italian newspaper front page (available on eBay) covering the Apollo 13 crisis and where the artist has used the Zond image to produce the graphic.

Figure 5.7.4b: Zond image used in a graphic on an Italian newspaper front page.

So not only does NASA data match that of their political enemy, the Soviets were also in a perfect position to blow the US out of the water with their own views of Earth.

They never did. Ask yourself why.

There is an amusing side note to Soviet Earth images. This website does some pretty deep analysis of the poster shown in figure 5.7.5, noting how it is intended to ram home images of Soviet superiority in the space race.

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Unfortunately, the image of Earth superimposed on the image is actually one taken by Apollo 8, AS08-16-2593 to be precise, which the USSR would have easily been able to get hold of as it featured in many press articles. The page’s author believes it to be from the 1960s, but my guess is that it is actually an anniversary photograph.

Apollo images were not the only ones ‘borrowed’ by the Russians for their propaganda needs. Figure 5.7.6 shows a 1970 Soviet poster intended for classrooms that shows a somewhat doctored (and upside down) version of the ATS-1 colour view of Earth.

All these articles were either about space exploration in general or (in at least one) about Apollo 11 specifically. At no point is there any suggestion that the Apollo 8 images are not genuine.

Soviet media were, in fact, all over Apollo. This site features a wealth of articles from popular magazines, newspapers and scientific journals demonstrating that they had exactly the same access to US photographs and TV footage as anyone else. They may have been several months behind similar publications in the West, but they are still there. Figure 5.6.8 shows some of the ones gleaned from the site featuring Earth, but there are many more showing mission images and stills from TV.

Figure 5.7.6: Soviet educational poster compared with ATS-1 image. Source.

Figure 5.7.5: Soviet propaganda poster featuring an Apollo image.

Apollo images also made their way into popular Soviet journals, particularly one of them - Apollo 8 image AS08-16-2593. The magazine ‘Техника - молодёжи’ (Technology and Youth, available at here) has a long history, and numerous articles and front covers featured all or part of this image, as shown in figure 5.6.7.

Figure 5.6.7: Technology and Youth magazine images from June 1969 (top left), October 1969 (top centre), April 1970 (top right), January 1971 (above left), February 1972 (above centre), July 1973 (above right) featuring AS08-16-2593. By way of variety, the Apollo 8 Earthrise image is used on November 1970’s cover.

In a nutshell, Soviet images are verified by US satellites. The Soviets also had access to those satellite images as well as their own, and knew what was in the American photographs and live TV footage. They had the capability and ample opportunity and mans to blow the alleged hoax out of the water. They never did. They were more than happy to demonstrate their own prowess and that of their bitter rivals.

There is one final point: I genuinely do not believe it has ever occurred to anyone at NASA, or ESSA, or NOAA, or whoever has the data in their hands at the moment, that the weather data they had held the key to so much supporting evidence for the Apollo missions.

Aside from the fact that no-one there believes extra evidence is necessary, I don't think it occurred to anyone that the photographic record from Apollo and the meteorological evidence from the satellites could be married in this way.  If the conspiracy believers are right, they would have gone to all that trouble just on the off chance that someone would check, and it has taken 50 years for someone to start doing that.

Figure 5.6.8: Apollo images of

Earth from Soviet sources Top left, top centre, top right, far left, left.

We also know that the Soviets were more than capable of producing their own weather satellite images as well as access to US ones, as shown in figure 5.6.9.

Figure 5.6.9: Meteor-1 (left) and ESSA-8 (above) satellite images, reproduced in a 1970 Soviet publication.