Debunked: Philae Landing Faked

Hevach

Senior Member.
This one's pretty far out there, and thus doesn't hold up to scrutiny, but I'm bored and this isn't my first Rosetta/Philae debunk rodeo.

The first full article:
http://theguttertrash.com/2014/11/2...rosetta-space-probe-philae-landing-is-a-hoax/

Point 1: This is technically true, as the claim is only talking about Philae itself. Philae only had a tiny amount of propellant with a top thruster to help set it in place, and even that malfunctioned leaving it only to free fall.

However, Philae wasn't alone. It was carried to 67P by Rosetta, which had sufficient propellant for several orbital adjustments and orbital insertion at the comet. Elsewhere in the article also says Rosetta could not have gotten there, which again is technically true, were it not for the fact that Rosetta was also not alone.



This is the basic setup of an Ariane 5 rocket. Two solid fuel boosters, two stages. Satellite 2 can be replaced with an additional booster if that's insufficient. This isn't exactly the heaviest rocket in the world, but it is fully capable of putting a probe anywhere in the inner solar system.


Point 2: Again a technically true thing, but with silly conclusions.

Modeling did assume the comet was a regular shape, because we did not know its shape. However, its shape does not significantly effect its trajectory. Irregular objects can follow incredibly complex orbits, but only when close enough to be affected by tidal differences in gravity. 67P is so far from the sun (and the sun itself so large) that there is no such tidal effect unless it gets incredibly close (as with a sungrazing comet), and its trajectory is predictable and regular. Once in orbit, Rosetta's trajectory is not, however. Failure to achieve orbit or failure to find a stable orbit were considerations made, and there were contingency plans for how to get the most science done in such cases.

As to the appearance of the comet, there is absolutely nothing un-cometlike about it. The pictures of its surface are far and away the best pictures we have of any comet, but are very similar to those of the runner up Tempel 1, visited by Deep Impact. Its irregular shape is not unusual, either. 19P/Borrelly, visited by Deep Space 1, and 103P/Hartley, visited by Deep Impact, share the two lobe shape.

Point 3: Again, technically true. However, real time human control is not necessary. A major reason why space probes take so long to do something - why Curiosity takes weeks to cross the equivalent of a back yard and why Rosetta spent months planning for the Philae landing - is that everything has to be calculated and programmed ahead, to be done automatically by the probe at the appropriate time.

This is a very delicate process, and mistakes in this process are the biggest reason for unmanned probes being lost. It is, quite literally, rocket science.



The second full article:
https://truthernews.wordpress.com/2014/11/15/10-reasons-why-the-rosetta-comet-landing-was-a-hoax/
Taylor actually puts some more thought into his theory. Just the bullet points:
(bold added for clarity)

Point 1: This is sad, to be honest. Video footage takes a lot of bandwidth to transmit, and its scientific value isn't worth it to most missions. Most "video" you see from probes is fake anyway, assembled from a series of still images. This is why they seem to stutter, as the images aren't taken at fixed intervals like with a movie camera.Neither Philae nor Rosetta had the instruments to take this video. It could have been greatly helpful in the early hours of the mission, since they could have found the lander sooner.

Point 2: I covered this above, but programmed maneuvers are a real thing. There's a lot of wait-and-see involved, but it's far from guess work. It is, again literally, rocket science.

Point 3: Now this is just silly.
Nothing about this is true in the least. There isn't enough dust in the solar system to erode a body moving at any speed, and radiation would take so long to do so the same that entropy becomes a consideration before radiation erosion.

Comets do erode as they lose ice and gas, but this doesn't make them aerodynamic, as the composition of the comets we've observed closely tips much more towards the "icy dirtball" scale than the classic image of a "dirty snowball."

Point 4: This is the classic Apollo denial claim, and the same is true here. Here's an image, used as evidence:

This was made at some distance before the initial encounter. Stars are just barely visible, but sunlight reflected from the comet is so bright it overwhelms the sensors. Rosetta is now much closer still, but with its instruments adjusted to get useful images of the comet, meaning starlight no longer registers.

Point 5: This is basically the same argument, that any picture of the comet should either be overwhelmingly bright or completely dark, ignoring even the most basic concepts of photography. All light in the images is natural sunlight (a "flash" would need to be incredible to do this, a magnesium flare the size of a freight train couldn't evenly illuminate 67P). The sun's light is still quite bright at 310 million miles.

Point 6: Actually, there is a vapor trail. It was first detected several months ahead of rendezvous, in June. It's weakly visible in the image used as proof in point 4, in fact.

However, a comet's tail is a quite sparse thing up close. It's about as dense as a laboratory vacuum, and that's an active comet when it really gets going. 67P has not approached close enough to the sun to really get going yet, and is not a particularly active comet when it does (this is in part why it was chosen from several shortlist candidates). However, with the Philae anchor failing there is worry the lander could be ejected from the comet when it comes around perihelion next year. There's not too much worry about Rosetta, but there is a reason its official mission is slated to end before that - it's expected to survive, but if it's damaged or ejected from orbit the mission will still go down as a success.

Point 7:
Gasses coming off a comet are not white hot, and the surface of one is not fiery. In a vacuum water and the other elements in a comet's ice want to be in any phase except liquid - they'll transition directly from solid to gas far below their boiling points, potentially below their freezing points (well, not actually - their freezing point however might be different in a vacuum than what's typically listed in a textbook for 1 atmosphere). The vapor trail (which is barely active this far from the sun) is very cold. The glow seen from Earth is reflected sunlight.

That's a bit of a run around, though, since 67P is not a particularly active comet and has not entered the active part of its orbit yet, so not only is its trail cold, it can hardly be said to exist at all.

The speed involved is irrelevant, only relative speed. Philae's speed relative to the comet is 0. It had to accelerate to 84,000 mph to get there, but that sounds a lot less impressive when you remember it was already going 66,600 mph when we built it on Earth, just like I am here in my chair and you are there in yours. Our speed relative to Earth is 0, which is why it's easy for us to stay in our seats while traveling at 66,600 mph, just like Philae having very little relative speed made it possible for it to balance.

As for the legs, Philae is shaped closer to this kind of office chair than a kitchen chair. If you put something under one of these chairs, it'll prop up on two with the rest in the air, and if you don't tip it too far it'll sit like that (I don't recommend sitting on it yourself). This is how Philae is resting. Philae may have weighed 220 pounds on Earth, but on 67P it weighs less than a sheet of paper. You could prop it up like this on a toothpick.

Point 8:
Uh, yeah, no, it's named after *the* Rosetta Stone. Philae is named after the Philae Obelisk, the less known half of the same set that first translated Egyptian hieroglyphics. There's conflicting claims about why these were chosen, and they're probably all true since these things are named by committee and the committee members don't have to like it for the same reason. My personal favorite is that the Rosetta Stone and Philae Obelisk solved a puzzle that had been deemed impossible by linguists of the time, namely translating ancient Egyptian. The spacecraft Rosetta and Philae have done something that, while not claimed to be impossible, other agencies have abandoned in the planning phase.

Point 9:
Actually, Rosetta and Philae are not tweeting at all. Some random humans on Earth, probably unpaid interns working on their degrees and wondering when they get to do science, are tweeting cutesy quips on their behalf from the comfort of a cubicle.

This has become kind of a fun thing space programs do, Curiosity and Cassini also have twitter feeds being posted "in-character." It's basically free and people really seem to enjoy it (Philae's landing trended higher than Kim Kardashian's buttcrack). It's no different than any PR stunt where a car or video game console or cat has an in-character twitter feed.

It's a cruel trick of radio that communicating a long way is easier in certain ways than communicating close up. Rosetta only needs to keep its dish more or less pointed at Earth, and we've got several instruments on the ground and in orbit listening to make sure we catch what it sends, the beam is wide enough to hit all of our local space, and it would take a whole planet to block it. If you had the proper instruments and knew the format, you could actually intercept it yourself, I'd be surprised if there's even any security beyond a semi-proprietary closed format. This has been done before - it's how private scientists took control of the decommissioned ISEE 3 probe, and it's how a British newspaper managed to be the first to publish images from a Russian lunar lander.

Wi-Fi, on the other hand, has the key shortcoming that it actually does have a whole planet (and, more practically, all the stuff attached to it) in the way. Wi-Fi also attempts to be two-way and real-time, both things space probes do not do, instead working closer to walkie-talkie rules and using careful calculations to get around the time delays involved.

There's a good reason Philae didn't have batteries to last more than a few hours. Batteries are heavy, solar panels are light. Philae was designed to recharge its own batteries and run off the panels, so it should only need battery power during the comet's roughly six hour night. Unfortunately with the lander in the incorrect location, it isn't getting sufficient sunlight to do that.

Point 10: I just... I can't...
Ok, I'm not going to touch most of that, except to say that carrying out this asteroid attack would require not just landing on an asteroid first (something the article claims we cannot do), but landing something much, much, much larger than Philae on one.

NASA's Asteroid Initiative is seeking to bring an asteroid on the order of 10-20 meters wide into Lunar orbit, where we can study it manned or unmanned at our leisure over many years. The capture vehicle at launch would be the largest rocket we ever built - bigger than the Saturn V, N1, Energia, or Delta Heavy, and this is for an asteroid half the diameter and an eighth the mass of the Chelyabinsk meteor, and calls for an asteroid that is already on course for an encounter, and would still need several years to intercept the asteroid and adjust its orbit.

To do the same for a body the size of 67P, with similar favorable conditions, would require 800 million such record setting rockets. Skipping the last insertion burn in favor of what I'll call "catastrophic lithobraking" will save you quite a bit, but you're still talking about a feat that would require thousands of times more rockets than humans have ever made for any reason combined. It would take years to reach the asteroid, and years to adjust its orbit.

With only 24 shopping days left until Christmas, so there's definitely not enough 2014 left for this theory to hold water.
 
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Chew

Senior Member.
I always get a kick out of these statements. I've heard it used by the moon hoaxers ('they expect us to believe the lunar module could rendezvous with the command module that's traveling at 3600 mph').

It makes you wonder how these people figure out how to get on the freeway. All those vehicles are moving at 65 mph. There's no way you can get on the freeway without getting creamed!
 

Hevach

Senior Member.
I think Chew means to quote the CT claim.

My reply to that has always been, "If I can do it in Kerbal Space Program with glorified legos and a half-assed understanding of orbital mechanics, I'm pretty sure an actual rocket scientist can figure out how to do it right." KSP's patched conics might fall a long way shy of actual rocket science, but it's surprisingly accurate if you stay within a single sphere of influence, which you do when intercepting a comet or asteroid.

It's all about relative speed, not absolute - just like Chew's freeway analogy. It might be the fastest speed you drive at, but everybody's at those speeds and in the same direction, so relative speed between you and the people on the road with you is really low. Things happen slower than they do on surface streets with crosswalks and driveways and stoplights bombarding you with situation changes.



Point ten just feels like it came from a different article. "It's technologically impossible to land on a comet in ten years with a tiny probe, so we faked it." Ok, that's wrong, but at least it's an X therefore Y conclusion. "It's technologically impossible to land on a comet in ten years with a tiny probe, so we faked it so that nobody would be surprised when we reached a comet in one month with a probe the size of Rhode Island and then brought the comet home with us (the hard way)." That's X therefore not X, and there's no configuration of facts that can make that a coherent conclusion.
 
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Efftup

Senior Member.
Why can't we communicate at the speed of light with the probe? do they not understand that ALL Electromagnetic waves, form Radio to TV, to Gamma Rays to LIGHT all travel at the same speed?
I know this means no real time communication but that has also been explained already.
 

Hevach

Senior Member.
Why can't we communicate at the speed of light with the probe? do they not understand that ALL Electromagnetic waves, form Radio to TV, to Gamma Rays to LIGHT all travel at the same speed?
I know this means no real time communication but that has also been explained already.
The second article understands this part, they actually use that as the proof that the landing was fake - without real time communication (which he acknowledges is impossible), he suggests there's no way to control a spacecraft with the necessary precision.

Of course, this is both ignoring the power of programmed maneuvers and the mission timer and overstating the need for precision (you usually need a lot of precision on your angles, but a few meters per second here or there on the delta-V is usually ok, or at least can be corrected later).
 

jaydeehess

Senior Member.
, any real-time communication with Philae in respect to its navigation and precision landing on the comet which is traveling 84,000 MPH (23.6 miles per second) would have had to occur faster than the speed of light (i.e., 671,000,000 miles per hour). Even if the ESA was able to communicate with Rosetta and Philae at the speed of light (which they cannot)
Why can't we communicate at the speed of light with the probe? do they not understand that ALL Electromagnetic waves, form Radio to TV, to Gamma Rays to LIGHT all travel at the same speed?
I know this means no real time communication but that has also been explained already.
I think the author is adding 671,000,000mph and 84,000 mph and assuming that to communicate at light speed the communication would have to travel 671,084,000 mph.
Its so wrong on so many levels, some of which don't even involve relativity it simply underlines the author's lack of scientific literacy.
 
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Efftup

Senior Member.
I think the author is adding 610,000,000mph and 84,000 mph and assuming that to communicate at light speed the communication would have to travel 610,084,000 mph.
Its so wrong on so many levels, some of which don't even involve relativity it simply underlines the author's lack of scientific literacy.
I assumed he meant that to control a landing on a fast moving comet they would need real time comms which they couldn't have due to the distance
(Real time comms not possible about the only thing they got right)
 

Hevach

Senior Member.
I assumed he meant that to control a landing on a fast moving comet they would need real time comms which they couldn't have due to the distance
(Real time comms not possible about the only thing they got right)
This is how I understood it also.


Also, found another list of "proof," that is basically 1-9 of the second article I posted above with slightly different arguments. One bit new in it, though: The claim that even though the Ariane rocket accelerated the probe to the comet's speed, Rosetta and especially Philae didn't have the ability to maintain that speed (in retrospect, this seems to be at least part of the point being made in claim 1 of this list,).

To quote Newton's Second Law, "Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son of a **** in space." Once you shoot something off into space, it keeps going unless it hits something. If you're on the ground, that's the air. But if you're in space, there's no air. That something might be your target, or the planet behind your target, or some poor soul light years away in ten thousand years. You only need thrust to change velocity, never to maintain it.
 

WeedWhacker

Senior Member
I assumed he meant that to control a landing on a fast moving comet they would need real time comms which they couldn't have due to the distance
Surely. Of course, once the speeds were matched, then "fast-moving-comet" is rather moot.

The latest Mars Lander "Curiosity" did fine, without real time comms.

AND of course, Mars is a "fast-moving" celestial object (just as Earth is....though Mars is not quite as fast in its orbit).

http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/marsfact.html

Once rendezvous occurs, and an orbit established? Well....now it's just another type of "rocket science".
 

Efftup

Senior Member.
Well yes, I rather think these arguments were put forward by someone who decided it was faked on general principle the way some people do with ANYTHING nowadays and then had to try and find some arguments for it.
 

WeedWhacker

Senior Member
These sorts of silly claims, lacking any scientific validity, tend to rely on the (sad) fact that many people simply do not have sufficient science knowledge. AND that many have been somewhat "inculcated" by Hollywood movie schlock, and thus either (A): Think that "anything" is possible (and PTB are "hiding" it), or (B): "Nothing" is possible, since it must "obviously" all be "fiction".
 

jaydeehess

Senior Member.
I assumed he meant that to control a landing on a fast moving comet they would need real time comms which they couldn't have due to the distance
(Real time comms not possible about the only thing they got right)
I believe he meant both. His comment about if they could communicate at the speed of light "(which they cannot)" is what was being addressed.
 

Hevach

Senior Member.
http://gizmodo.com/we-are-running-out-of-the-nuclear-fuel-that-powers-spac-1660333771

Here's an interesting bit relating to the battery issue: We're running out of RTG nuclear batteries like the ones on the Voyager probes and Curiosity (also used to be used in cardiac pacemakers).

NASA currently has 77 pounds of plutonium/iridium pellets left, more than half of which isn't usable. 11 pounds is earmarked for the 2020 Mars probe and rover set. The US no longer produces any, Russia ran out of it to sell, the ESA has goose egg, and its vanished from the commercial market so pacemakers switched to lithium iodide batteries. The stuff used to be a free unwanted byproduct of nuclear weapons production, but the global production of nuclear weapons is almost zero now (the new nuclear powers have small tactical arsenals and not the expansive strategic ones the Cold War powers maintained), so plutonium-238 production is gone with it.

NASA and the DOE are working on a system for producing plutonium-238, and by 2021 plan to be producing enough to fuel a mission every five years. Meaning from here on out, anything that can use solar panels pretty much has to use solar panels - putting an RTG on an inner solar system mission means canceling an outer solar system mission to cover it.
 

Mackdog

Senior Member.
This is what the comets magnetic field sounds like, sped up 10,000 times. I don't know why they would fake this if the whole mission was fake.

 

WeedWhacker

Senior Member
This is what the comets magnetic field sounds like
"There is no sound....in space......"

(Skip to about 2:20):



"In space, no one can hear you scream":

My "point"? (If there is one) is this: Unfortunately, many of the average populace will NOT understand the science, when these "sounds" from a comet are conveyed to them, from various media sources.

BECAUSE of the influences of movies, as shown above. (AND, this is just a tiny sample...).
 

Mackdog

Senior Member.
"There is no sound....in space......"

(Skip to about 2:20):



"In space, no one can hear you scream":

My "point"? (If there is one) is this: Unfortunately, many of the average populace will NOT understand the science, when these "sounds" from a comet are conveyed to them, from various media sources.

BECAUSE of the influences of movies, as shown above. (AND, this is just a tiny sample...).
I know, it was put together as an audible track somehow, and sped up 10,000 times. But I guess it's what it WOULD sound like if sound traveled in space ;)
 

Hevach

Senior Member.
I know, it was put together as an audible track somehow, and sped up 10,000 times. But I guess it's what it WOULD sound like if sound traveled in space ;)
The basic method is to take the electronic signal from the magnetometer and just plug a speaker into it. Analog speakers aren't too picky about what kind of signal you plug into them, if it's some kind of wave it'll make noise.
 
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