SpaceFest Report #1

By Phil Plait | August 17, 2007 12:11 am

I am in Phoenix at SpaceFest now, and it’s been quite a day! I’m exhausted, and I still have to iron my shirt for tomorrow, so I’ll keep this short. For me.

1) By coincidence, at the airport I met up with Carolyn Porco, who is the team leader for the CICLOPS camera on Cassini and who is attending the meeting as well. We sat next to each other and chatted for most of the flight, which was a lot of fun.

2) There was a Meet the Press type reception for guests, but I don’t think there was much press there. However, the lineup was simply incredible. A half dozen Apollo astronauts showed up, including Charlie Duke and Al Bean, and I have stories about both of them which would take too long to relate here. However, when I introduced myself, they both knew of my website.


I am so cool.

I had exchanged a few emails with Charlie years ago when I wrote my first anti-Moon hoax page, and he remembered. Al Bean signed, of all things, a wine label for me a couple of years ago (long story, to be related later) and he remembered that!

3) I wound up going out to get a late dinner with Carolyn, author Andy Chaikin (he wrote A Man on the Moon, the bible for Apollo which was used as the basis of the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon), his wife Vicky (who is very cool) and three time Shuttle astronaut Charlie Walker. That was a rollicking conversation that went on for hours, which is why I’m exhausted. And I’ve only been here a few hours!

Tomorrow I give my moon Hoax talk, which had me a bit nervous before but now I’m itching to give. It’ll be fun. And then I get to sit back and simply enjoy being in the company of men who have done something only a tiny fraction of humanity has done: live in space.


Comments (36)

  1. slang


    Sounds like you’re having a great time, and it’ll be fun to preach to the choir for once.

  2. Nigel Depledge

    Hey, Phil, sounds great. Makes me wish I was there instead of here in soggy Britain.

    I notice the cleverly casual way in which you just happened to mention that you’d met Al Bean before and corresponded with Charlie Duke.

  3. Apropos of your coolness and fame, a colleague who has developed a course on critical reading and analysis is using your Moon Hoax page as a reference in one module.

  4. Brown

    It’s interesting that the conversations tended to center on trivialities. If the moon hoax advocates are right, one might expect that the topics of conversation would have been quite different and quite serious:

    1. Is our nefarious conspiracy in danger of being definitively exposed?

    2. What further steps can we take to make the truth-seekers look like fools and lunatics?

    3. How can we improve our cover-ups?

    4. What further falsehoods shall we impose upon the unsuspecting public?

  5. KaiYeves

    You’ve always been cool, BA. In fact, you’re so cool that Spider-Man saved you and then asked for your autograph and the latest information on the MERs!

  6. Jalbietz

    Best of luck on the talk. If the Apollo gents happen to not care for it (they’ll love it), don’t forget to duck. And keep the camera rolling :)

  7. TDL

    Am I mistaken, or are we close to having moon orbiting spacecraft that will be able to take high enough resolution images that could finally show the lower parts of the LEM and possibly the rovers on the surface (just like we have already seen pictures of the mars rovers taken from orbit)?

    I am interested what direction the moon hoax conspiracy theorists will take then? I somehow doubt “Oh crap, guess we were wrong” is even an option for them. :)

  8. Irishman

    Brown, shhhh! You don’t expect the BA to admit that was the real conversation, do you? ūüėČ

  9. Ken

    TDL… Obviously, they’ll simply say the photos are faked.

    I would expect any moon orbiter could image the landing sites in enough detail. (Assuming the orbits took them over the sites, of course.) See for images of Opportunity on Mars. There are plenty of others on if you look.

    And Phil, you owe me a new keyboard. My old one died after I drooled all over it. :-)

  10. Stripe7

    Does not matter if high-res images show the LEM modules, the nay-sayers will just say it was just a photo-shopped image. If they can ignore the reflectors left on the moon’s surface they can ignore any new images that contradict their positions.

  11. Chip

    SpaceFest! Very cool. Phoenix and Tempe are my old stomping grounds – a long time ago I received two degrees at ASU. (Have you noticed that Phoenix is sort of like being on another planet?) ūüėČ

  12. Quiet_Desperation

    The hoax claimers are businesspeople with a product to sell. Facts will have no effect. I doubt many of *them* even believe in a hoax. It’s just a way to make a living.

  13. Welcome to the blast furnace :) High today: 106, we’ll have lots of very ominous looking clouds from the monsoon, but we won’t actually get any rain.

  14. Gary Ansorge

    A hoax, like satire, can expose the essential logical inconsistencies in a situation. I am put in mind of the individuals who admitted to creating crop circles with nothing more than a plank of wood and some rope. That said, people WISH to believe in magic(or aliens, your choice), because it allows us to get something for nothing. How unfortunate that the real universe is dedicated to TANSTAAFL.

    Gary 7

  15. Jag

    “And then I get to sit back and simply enjoy being in the company of men who have done something only a tiny fraction of humanity has done: live in space.”

    We all live in space. An astronomer should know that.

  16. Say hi to Charlie for me. Speaking of the Apollo hoaxe, we did a clip of the Apollo 16 mission that shows conclusively that Charley ran over John Young with the Lunar Rover and took John’s red stripe to assume command. Only the “Tang” incident saved John’s life. Very few people have seen that one.

    See, that proves the moon mission wasn’t a hoax.

  17. Quiet_Desperation

    √Ę‚ā¨ŇďAnd then I get to sit back and simply enjoy being in the company of men who have done something only a tiny fraction of humanity has done: live in space.√Ę‚ā¨¬Ě

    Yeah, on *my* dime.

    . . .

    I wasn’t really going anywhere with this. Just sayin’, is all.

  18. Bolo

    Wait, it’s in Phoenix? I live there! Can people just show up for most of it? I assume there’s a lot of stuff that is invitation only or you have to pay for in advance, but are there things generally open to the public?

  19. Gary Ansorge

    John: As an aside, I note that Star Gate 1 had an episode in which the father of Vala was selling “Star Dust” as a miracle cure. That episode should have received some recognition for its anti-woo-wooism,,,

    Gary 7

  20. KaiYeves

    Dr. Hoaxland is back! Holy crepuscular rays, activate the BA signal! And he’s chosen to strike right when Phil’s busy with SpaceFest- does he know about your secret identity?
    If none of that makes any sense, check the archive for the article “My comic book debut”.
    Hold on, somebody’s at my door. It’s… evil minions in masks that look like the Face! Don’t worry, they’ll be no match for my powers. TTFN, True Believers- oopps, I mean Bad Readers.
    (I like superheroes. You got a problem with that?)

  21. Qd

    Thats great, but I’d rather sit in the company of people who have done something useful, like helped starving people in Africa or any country for that matter, or helped the sick in 3rd world countries, people like Fred Hollows (RIP). Just imagine if all that money spent getting to space was spent on giving humans the basic needs of life first … then we could move on to the space travel thing. Idealistic? Yes.

    PS .. I love Astronauts just as much as the next space nerd :) I just feel sorta guilty sometimes celebrating them for their achievements when I can see so many people with nothing to eat, or in dire need for the basics in life. I wonder if they care about the Astronauts?

  22. Bolo, Yea you can still go. It costs $25 per day to get in the door, and only a couple of the lectures require additional money. It’s at the Mesa Convention Center. The banquet tomorrow night is sold out, but you can still go, meet the astronauts, meet the BA, have a blast. I had a really good time today.

    More info at

  23. BlondeReb3

    Good luck with your talk tomorrow! I’m sure it’ll go great :-)

  24. Ibrahim

    KaiYeves: “Spider-Man saved you and then asked for your autograph and the latest information on the MERs!”

    Spider-Man would, after all it’s still science geek Peter Parker under the mask.

    I’d give a leg to meet an astronaut. I hope you have a lot of fun there BA, while I ignore the green-eyed monster trying to stare me down in the corner of my bedroom.

  25. Quiet_Desperation

    >>> Idealistic? Yes.

    Logical? No. Informed? No. Possible? No.

    Will the “let’s throw money at the problem and it’ll BE ALL FIXED UP!” meme ever, EVER go away? How much empirical evidence do you need? Another 50 years of massive government budgets full of nonsense and waste? It’s like religion.

    You think we’d be in Iraq if the US federal government was a lean, tight machine like the founding fathers envisioned?

    Example from today’s headlines: here in California we spend more on education than the entire budgets of some nations, and we have ***NOTHING***, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to show for it. We can’t even maintain basic infrastructure anymore without floating HUGE bond issues.

    The “let’s solve all the human problems on Earth first!’ argument is one of the silliest, hoariest and ignorant arguements against scientific research that exists. The government is not going to solve the mass behavior defects of millions of people. It is NOT going to happen in our lifetime or anyone else’s.

    I’m sorry to come down so hard, but enough of that already. It’s old and tiresome.

    >>> I just feel sorta guilty sometimes…

    Fine. Have at it. Just keep your hand out of MY pocket when seeking to assuage that guilt.

  26. Qd

    Quiet_Desperation >> my comment was not meant to be a political one, nor was I trying to attempt to fix the worlds problems.

    Calm the f… down. You have completely overreacted to my comment. It’s just a thought is all. If you read my post carefully, I am not putting blame on anyone, its just how I feel.

    I care about people in pain is all mate. Going to space comes secondary to my strong and passionate feelings about the human crisis we have here at the moment. Both require time and money. I never said anything about USA, IRAQ .. whatever spin you want to throw on my PERSONAL FEELINGS.

    I wasn’t saying it was a bad thing, just that I see more ‘need’ elsewhere. My hand isn’t in your pocket, I don’t care about your American Political opinions, its just an opinion. It’s not meant to be a threat or an attack on anyone.

    I love space and space travel. I am an amatuer astronomer. My greatest dream has been to one day travel to the moon. I would give up all those passions if I knew we could fix other stuff first. Thats all I’m suggesting. Throw whatever angry spin you want on it. I am not in anyway suggesting that stopping the space program will solve world hunger.

    Caring about the needs of all humans, the fact they need to eat to survive, is neither old, nor tiresome. If you believe it is, well … what can I say. You have taken my thoughts way out of context.

    I would love to meet Astronauts, but I would much rather meet Fred Hollows, if he was still alive, and other people like him.

  27. Phil, you may soon need to update your hoax talk,
    or better it may soon be obviated…


  28. KaiYeves

    Thanks for the comment, Ibrahim. One of the reasons that I like Marvel over DC is that it’s realistic. I can believe that in the Marvel Universe, the MERs are waiting out the dust storm, Voyager is at the termination shock, ect. And, if the Fantastic Four all worked at NASA in the ’60’s, than Mr. Fantastic would have known Sagan, which is pretty cool to think about. Yeah, I am wierd.

  29. Sean Manning

    Well, to solve some human problems we will need resources from off earth. Space-based solar power, possibly Helium-3 from the moon, asteroids and Near Earth Objects full of useful metals, zero-gravlty manufacturing, etc. I’m not sure if the Earth alone can sustain a billion First Worlders indefinitely, and it certainly can’t sustain 6.5 billion of them. Fortunately, it is not written in stone that we be limited to the Earth when we have a solar system full of potential wealth around us. The other point is that we waste far more wealth than we spend usefully on space exploration. The competition is not not “space vs. the poor” but “selfishness vs. charity.”

  30. Hi Phil

    Would love to catch your Hoax Moon lecture soemtime, however, I’m waaayy over here in Ireland, so if you’re ever in the area, give our IAA (Irish Astronomical Association) a shout and I’m sure they’d be delighted to hear from you.
    PS. haven’t read “A Man on the Moon” yet, however, about to finish off Andrew Smith’s “Moon Dust” book which is quite good.
    Oh, and if you’d like to know, I have my own website on the Moon, too, and have just produced the most detailed Moonposter around (an all-in-one poster that has everything in it about the moon — see if you get the chance)

  31. Gary Ansorge

    Sean: You took the words right out of my post. People have been worrying this debacle (of technology vs. people problems) for decades without ever realizing that Malthus would have been right, were it not for technology. The world economy has been expanding faster than human numbers for the last two centuries and that has resulted in a (slowly) rising living standard(and falling population growth) for the entire world. Are there still those(many) people with substandard lives? Of course, but as technology continues to grow(and access to new resources improves) that percentage will continue to fall. I expect, once we have developed a reasonable economic model for the exploitation of space resources, we will see an explosion in the human wealth curve vs. population. Hope I live long enough to see it,,,

    Gary 7

  32. kroosing 2 '37'

    “I met up with Carolyn Porco. We sat next to each other and chatted for most of the flight. I wound up going out to get a late dinner with Carolyn.”

    Holy Enceladus Geysers Fountains! Man, are you the luckiest bad ass in the verse or what? But you know, you deserve it brother, you just deserve this all! For saving the world from the twin demons of ignorance and superstition, and their Sibrellian priests. Legions of angels, huh I mean aliens, stand by you! (likely good-natured gaseous self-organizing electrified space dust Plazmozoids that got through Cardiff’s spacetime rift and got a visa from the Captain) Undeniably.

    At least my dime was well spent! For once it’s not on calamity.

  33. Quiet_Desperation

    >>> Calm the f√Ę‚ā¨¬¶ down.

    Oh, all right. :-)

  34. Robert Carnegie

    DC Comics has Adam Strange. Marvel has John Jameson…


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