All posts by James Condict

1.3.1 >> Supplement: Armageddon

In the primary post to which this post serves a supplement ( 1.3 >> The Green Slime is N.E.A.R.), the meaningful insertion of two 1998 films into the alleged 1968/2001 temporal nexus was attempted.  The films in question were the Touchtone Pictures feature Armageddon, starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and others and the DreamWorks production Deep Impact, which featured Morgan Freeman, Robert Duvall et al.  Although ties to 1968 were easily established as the asteroid-rendezvous-and-destroy plot of both films was identical to the plotline of the 1968 sci-fi classic The Green Slime, concrete connections to the year 2001 proved elusive in the case of Armageddon (Deep Impact can be linked in a meaningful way via Arthur C. Clarke, the author of both 2001: ASO and The Hammer of God) and, as a result, the objective of this supplement is to carefully reconsider Armageddon in a more analytical light in an effort to determine if compelling ties to the year 2001 can be established.

The defining event of the year 2001, one which easily eclipsed all others in terms of international attention or news coverage, was the dreadful series of 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States of America.  Should it prove possible to compellingly link the sci-fi scenario depicted in 1998′s Armageddon to the horrific real-world terrorist attacks of 2001 then the gap between 1968 and 2001 will have been bridged successfully with respect to this production.  As a result, the film will be revisited and scrutinized through this prism.

Having gone back and carefully examined the Touchtone Pictures release Armageddon, the author has concluded the most effective means by which to convey to the reader the film’s compelling connection to the defining event of the year 2001 and therefore to the year itself, is to underscore imagery and/or dialog/monolog from the film, juxtaposed against the imagery and real-world circumstances arising from the 9/11 terrorist attacks (CLICK the images below to enlarge).

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Although the images included in the preceding screen scrapes occupy but four minutes and six seconds of the two and a half hour film Armageddon (5:42-9:48), had a random collection of Americans been asked on 31 December 2001 what event the sequence of images called to mind, all or most of them would likely have uttered the numerical sequence “9-1-1.”

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The phrases “terrorist bomb” and “Saddam Hussein is bombing us,” combined with images of people falling from buildings and the World Trade Center towers being struck by high velocity impactors to be left in flaming ruins all seem to eerily anticipate the devastation resulting from the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and the events following in their wake (i.e., the 2003 Iraq war and the subsequent ousting of Saddam Hussein).

As an avid movie buff, the current author can honestly and unequivocally state that, to his knowledge, NO film ever made has so chillingly replicated (in advance) the nightmarish imagery deriving from the events of 9/11/2001.  Although other productions, such as the 2001 film Artificial Intelligence and the 1993 film Super Mario Bros., depict the towers in a state of non-impact-related-ruin, the only film to come even remotely close to incorporating the cataclysmic elements linking 1998’s Armageddon and 9/11 is, intriguingly, the 1979 film Meteor, which also depicts WTC destruction via catastrophic impact (with fragments of the colossal asteroid Orpheus).  Incidentally, the film Meteor derives from an MIT report published in 1968 that describes a hypothetical asteroid collision with Earth (Project Icarus).

On a related note, it’s interesting to consider the fact the impact pattern depicted in Armageddon is nearly a mirror image of that from reality.  Whereas the film shows the south tower (2 WTC) being struck first along its southern face, in reality the north tower (1 WTC) was struck first along its northern face.  The film then subsequently shows impact damage to the northern face of the north tower whereas, in reality, the southern face of the south tower was struck approximately 15 minutes after 1 WTC had been hit.  Furthermore, as indicated above, the film depicts about a 10 to 15 floor differential with respect to the damage pattern of the two towers (2 WTC – floors in the vicinity of 41/42 were damaged vis-à-vis 1 WTC – floors around 50 to 60 were hit).  In reality, 1 WTC was struck in the vicinity of floors 93-99 whereas 2 WTC was struck in the vicinity of floors 77-85.  The differential is virtually identical.

In the next section we’ll carefully analyze a rather intriguing impact sequence that occurs almost 2 hours into the film.

At about the 1:59:51 mark, scientists at the Johnson Space Center, which is used as a command center from which the impact crisis is managed, employ a sophisticated radar array to detect an incoming barrage of meteors.  In this instance a geographic area near Paris, France is said to lie within the path of the incoming impactors.  Shortly after making the preliminary announcement France is about to be pummeled, a panning aerial shot of Paris, which includes familiar landmarks such as the Seine River, Pont Alexandre 3 (an arch bridge which spans it), the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides, appear on the screen.

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Although, upon inspecting the scene included above, Parisians would attest to the fact the aerial image is, in fact, an actual image of Paris and the surrounding vicinity, the next image that appears would leave most if not all of them scratching their heads in befuddlement.  While perhaps helpful, French citizenship isn’t required to arrive in the same state of confusion as we’ll soon see.

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Using the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides as your guide, it’s quite easy to see that if the first image of Paris above (where the Eiffel Tower occupies the left foreground and Les Invalides the right background) were to be rotated such that Les Invalides occupies the right-hand foreground and the Eiffel Tower the left-hand background, then Pont Alexandre 3 should be located somewhere behind Les Invalides.  Instead, however, Pont Alexandre 3 now occupies an area directly in front of the Eiffel Tower.  Also misplaced is the replica of the Statue of Liberty, which resides on Île des Cygnes, a narrow island in the Seine River.  Even more disturbing is the apparent fact the Seine River has magically changed its course!  Whereas the first image correctly shows the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides on the same side of the Seine, the second image shows the Seine flowing between them!

How exactly this can be becomes quite obvious a few frames later when a fiery bolide is seen rapidly descending from the heavens.  Clearly the seemingly realistic aerial image has been crafted via CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) for virtual destruction as the massive meteor slams into the Parisian plain at hypervelocity – perhaps the animators were sloppy in their virtual reconstruction and the producer thought the entire scene so short and the cutaway between aerial images so sudden no one would notice (which apparently they haven’t – save yours truly of course).

Although the thrilling special effects showcased in the wake of the impact are a sight to behold, the most relevant aspect of the impact in terms of the current study is not the destruction wrought in its wake but rather where the bolide strikes.  Before moving on to consider this information, the photo below has been provided to set the geography straight – it’s an accurate satellite image of the vicinity in question (with camera angle and landmarks labeled).

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The two images below depict the iconographic Arc de Triomphe before and after the massive meteorite strike.  This monument lies on the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées, a very board street in Paris, running northwest and southeast as illustrated in the satellite photos below (3rd and 4th images).  Twelve boulevards converge on the monument and appear as ray lines emanating from an impact crater.

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In the film, the massive impact crater, centered on Champs-Élysées (just northwest of the Arc de Triomphe – the “+” in the image above), becomes the youngest of Earth’s large impact craters, which might make for another interesting and related synchronism.  Remembering the plots of 1968’s The Green Slime and 1998’s Armageddon, both involving astronauts traveling to an asteroid, drilling shafts in its surface and then planting explosives in the shafts for remote detonation, one link between Armageddon and 1968 has been established.  The photographic image included below, deriving from 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, may provide yet another.

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As indicated earlier, just prior to the two-hour mark in the 1998 film Armageddon, an announcement is made that a meteorite is about to strike near Paris, which it then does, excavating a massive crater.  By comparison, just prior to the two-hour mark in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Heywood Floyd announces in a pre-recorded briefing that the first evidence of intelligent life off the Earth (i.e., the black monolith) was discovered near the lunar impact crater Tycho.  As it happens, scientists have concluded the impact crater Tycho is the youngest of the large impact craters on the Moon, an interesting fact echoed in the film Armageddon vis-à-vis the formation of the youngest of the large impact craters on Earth (depicted as having formed just northwest of the Arc de Triomphe).

As is evident from the photographic survey map of the Tycho region included in the film 2001 ASO (above), the monolith was discovered just to the northwest of the crater along a ray line that seems to parallel the Champs-Élysées in the satellite photo of France – the “+” symbol in the survey photo marks the black monolith discovery site .  Given the symbolic similarities between the two films, is it possible to perhaps underscore a meaningful synchronism here?  The only thing missing is a French monolith…or is it?

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Completed in 1974, the Tour Fiat (now the Tour Areva – pictured above) is a French skyscraper standing 604 feet tall, showcasing smooth dark granite cladding and smoked glass windows.  As some readers may’ve thought to themselves while surveying the photos, Tour Fiat’s appearance seems eerily reminiscent of the mysterious black monolith from the Kubrick/Clarke film 2001 ASO.  If so, take comfort in knowing there’s a good reason for this – the two French architects that designed it (Roger Saubot and Francois Jullien) were inspired by the monolith of the 1968 film.  Although both the black monolith and the Tour Areva are technically cuboids with respect to shape, Tour Fiat was designed and built to be a perfect square prism (i.e., the building’s footprint is a square).  Bearing in mind the World Trade Center towers (or Twin Towers) were also conceived as perfect square prisms, it’s most intriguing to note the Tour Fiat project originally called for the construction of a second, twin tower, which was cancelled due to the oil crisis of 1974.

These facts string together some very powerful and fascinating synchronisms:  Tour Fiat’s design was inspired by the black monolith from 1968’s 2001 ASO, Tour Fiat’s original plan mimicked the WTC plan (twin towers designed as perfect square prisms), construction of the WTC towers started in 1968, destruction of the WTC towers was completed in 2001, the iconography of 2001 ASO has been linked to the imagery associated with the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001 (more about this later), which brought down the WTC towers.

Despite the intriguing synchronisms enumerated above, one need necessarily enquire as to the proximity of Tour Areva to the hypothetical impact crater from the 1998 film Armageddon.  After all, the average width of France is approximately 400 miles and a line drawn from north to south near the country’s midpoint extends more than 600 miles.  As indicated previously, in the film 2001 ASO, Heywood Floyd places the location of the black monolith near the lunar impact crater Tycho.  Just how near can be estimated by noting the location of the “+” appearing in the photo below (from the film).

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In surveying the photo above, the distance from the “+,” marking the monolith’s location, to the edge of the crater appears to be roughly the same as the radius of the crater itself.  As the lunar impact crater Tycho is approximately 51 miles in diameter, the crater’s radius and therefore the approximate distance from the edge of the crater to the monolith excavation site would be about 25 miles.  If the Moon, which is 2,160 miles wide, were to be scaled down to a size approximating that of France (i.e., the Moon’s diameter became about the same as France’s average width, or, approximately 400 miles), the monolith would be located about 4.6 miles from the impact crater.  Given the size of France, should the French monolith (i.e., Tour Areva) fall within this narrowly defined distance, a truly remarkable synchronism would emerge.

As it turns out, Tour Areva is located in Courbevoie, France, west of Paris.  More specifically, in La Défense, a high-rise business district in the Courbevoie commune.  The first satellite image below pinpoints the position of Tour Areva in relation to Armageddon’s hypothetical impact crater (to the northwest).  The second image provides an idea as to the proximity of Tour Areva and Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides.

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As is evident from the first satellite photo above, at 2.5 miles not only is the distance between the Armageddon impact crater and the Parisian monolith (Tour Areva) well within the 4.6 mile limit set previously, but Tour Areva also lies to the northwest of the impact crater, precisely as the black monolith lies northwest of the Tycho impact crater in 2001 ASO.  The synchronism, it seems, is quite remarkable, particularly when combined with those listed above, which link Tour Areva directly to the WTC towers (1968 – 2001).

As a final thought on the subject, to the author’s knowledge there are only two skyscrapers in the world designed with the black 2001 ASO monolith (lower left) in mind.  The oldest (1974) is the one described here (Tour Fiat/Tour Areva) the second (1992) is the Millenium Hilton hotel, located in Manhattan, flush against the former WTC complex (pictured below on 9/11/2001).

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Having carefully compared the fictional imagery of 1998’s Armageddon with the WTC imagery deriving from the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001, a direct connection has been established between the 1998 film and the year 2001.  Having then shown how both 1998’s Armageddon and 1968’s 2001 ASO depict black monoliths just a few miles northwest of a fresh impact crater, a second connection between Armageddon and the year 2001 was made in that the 1968 film names the year 2001 in its title and dates the monolith’s discovery near Tycho to 12 February 2001.  Strengthening this particular synchronism were the uncanny similarities between Tour Areva’s original twin towers conception as well as its design as a perfect square prism, echoing the design of the WTC towers, alongside which was found the only other black monolith skyscraper (the Millenium Hilton – 1992).  Although, in the author’s opinion, these two synchronisms are sufficient to establish a compelling connect between Armageddon and 2001, there’s a third synchronism that should also be discussed.

In perusing “synchromysticismYouTube videos, which contend various Hollywood films subtly predicted or alluded to the 9/11 attacks prior to 9/11/2001 (through various types of subliminal imagery), eventually one will happen upon movie clips wherein the number sequence 9-1-1 appears in one context or another.  One of the more common contexts is one wherein the sequence comes in the form of a digital or LCD clock display.  With respect to 1998’s Armageddon, many YouTube posters have pointed to this phenomenon.  When dealing with a film like Armageddon, however, these claims must be greeted with a healthy dose of skepticism as the film depicts three distinct countdown clocks (a Zero Barrier countdown, a shuttle launch countdown and a nuclear bomb detonation countdown) in addition to a standard clock, which reports both local and universal time as well as shuttle count.  With so many clocks involved from the beginning of the film to its end, pointing to one or two instances wherein the number sequence 9-1-1 is clearly visible and then using this to argue in favor of an inexplicable anomaly must be cautiously evaluated as other three-number sequences may appear with the same or greater frequency, which would have the effect of relegating the 9-1-1 sequences to coincidence.  Although a tedious task, such an evaluation can be carried out in an effort to determine whether or not occurrences of the 9-1-1 number sequence can be assigned statistical significance.

With respect to the current study, only the first legible sequence of clock numbers will be considered in relation to a given scene, from which every possible 3-number sequence will be extracted for analysis.  In cases where certain numbers in a clock sequence are obscured from view, a wildcard character (?) will be introduced in order to perform tangential analyses that, while not having any bearing on the core study, will be available for reference as needed.  In addition to the wildcard occurrences described above, zero padding occurrences, which is to say, occurrences wherein all numerical entities to the left of non-zero numbers are the number zero, will also be discounted from the core study as such zeros are actually null characters as opposed to significant numbers.  The table below includes a comprehensive, chronological list of “initial-condition” clock displays from scenes where such displays are present.

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Working from the time table included in the exhibit above, a numerical matrix can be assembled, with which our numerical analysis will be carried out.  This matrix has been constructed and included below.

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When working with a number set ranging from 0 to 9 (10 numbers total), the number of possible combinations when sequences composed of 3 numbers are considered is 1,000 (“000” to “999”).  Of these 1,000 possible combinations, the numerical matrix above contains precisely 90 distinct three-number sequences, which is to say 9% of the total possible.  These 90 combinations are listed in the diagram below.

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Working from the 90 combinations included above as a frame of reference, the next step in the analysis is to determine the frequency with which each combination appears in the numerical matrix.  Before reviewing the results of the core analysis, to provide an idea with respect to the skewed results that come about when wildcards and zero-padding occurrences are allowed, some examples have been included below.

As it turns out, if both wildcard entries (yellow highlights) and zero-padding occurrences (orange highlights) are permitted, the 3-number sequence “002” appears in the matrix with the greatest frequency (figure 1) – a total of 6 times.  By eliminating the wildcard and zero-padding entries, which have the effect of skewing the results, however, the sequence “002” appears only once in the numerical matrix (the outlined entry with no highlight).

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Similarly, the sequence “020” appears in the matrix 5 times when wildcards and zero-padding are permitted.  Without the unfair advantage, however, “020,” like “002,” appears but a single time in the matrix (figure 2 – the last three numbers in the second to last line of the matrix).  As one might expect, sequences beginning with “0” benefit the most from wildcards and zero padding.

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As explained previously, the problem with allowing zero-padding combinations is that the leading zeroes are actually null characters as opposed to actual numbers.  With respect to the problem of allowing wildcards, the two figures above can be referenced to provide an explanation.

In figure 1, the double-wildcard sequence “0??” appears in the matrix twice (yellow highlights).  Although the first “?” could be a “0” and the second a “2,” making the actual sequence “002,” the likelihood of this is only 1% or 1 chance in 100, making it highly unlikely.  Similarly, in figure 2 the single-wildcard sequence “0?0” appears once (yellow highlight, four lines from the top).  Although the “?” could be a “2,” making the actual sequence “020,” the likelihood of this is only 10%, which, while more likely than if two wildcards were included in the sequence, is unlikely nonetheless.

When we eliminate all sequences benefiting from wildcards and zero-padding (40 total), we arrive at the critical results constituting the core of the study.  Here we find that 46 of the remaining 50 combinations (nearly all) appear only once in the matrix.  Combining this with the 40 eliminated previously (i.e., those unfairly benefiting from wildcards and zero-padding), we’re left with only 4 combinations that occur more than once in the matrix.  The figure below depicts combinations appearing twice in the numerical matrix (440, 470 and 512).

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Having identified the three double-occurrence sequences, we’re left with only one other 3-number sequence appearing more than once in the matrix – this one appears three times:  911:

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As the number sequence 9-1-1 stands alone as the only pure 3-number sequence appearing three times in the matrix, which is to say, throughout the 1998 Armageddon film, one must assign to its recurrence statistical significance.  Moreover, given the incontrovertible similarities between the film’s iconography and that associated with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the presence of the recurrent 9-1-1 numerical anomaly must be viewed as either an exceedingly unlikely coincidence or else an example of premeditated providence at the direction of an as-yet-unidentified intelligence.

Before exploring the provocative possibility of an intelligence-guided phenomenon further, it should be pointed out that the numerical partition associated with the recurrent 9-1-1 sequences in the film always appears in the correct position.  Bearing in mind the 9-1-1 associated with the 2001 terrorist attacks is actually 9/11, an abbreviated form of the date of the terrorist attacks (9/11/2001), the 9-1-1 sequences appearing in the film always take the form 9:11, echoing 9/11.  This isn’t true of any of the other pure, multiple-occurring sequences, however, each of which appears only twice in the matrix:  440, 470 and 512.

With respect to the 4-4-0 sequence, assuming a month and date within that month are represented (4/4), the partition never appears in the proper position (4:40 – between the numbers 4 and 4):  15:03:22:44:05, 6:11:44:07:92.  For the sequence 4-7-0 (4/7 – 4:70), the same is true:  5:47:08, 1:47:00:24.  Only the sequence 5-1-2 comes close with one correct configuration (5/12 – 5:12):  5:12:??:??, 2:51:20.

If one is open to the possibility the recurrent 9-1-1 sequence appears as an example of premeditated providence, the filmmakers themselves may be suspect but the circumstances involved in two of the three occurrences might dissuade one somewhat from pursuing this train of thought or at least introduce a shadow of a doubt.

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During the Joint Chiefs briefing, beginning at 20 minutes 12 seconds into the film, the local time appearing in the digital clock display in the background is 19:11:08 as depicted in the image above.  As the 9-1-1 sequence incorporated into the clock display occupies only the hour and minute fields and the duration for which the clock’s visible in the scene is less than the 52 seconds remaining in the second field (which is to say, before the 9:11 becomes a 9:12), the 9-1-1 sequence remains visible from the scene’s start to its finish.  Clearly its appearance and persistence could’ve been planned and executed quite easily.  The circumstances surrounding the second occurrence of the 9-1-1 sequence, however, is a bit different.

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During the brief scene featuring the second occurrence of the 9-1-1 sequence (beginning around 59 minutes 14 seconds into the film), a large, outdoor launch countdown clock is shown.  As soon as the scene is cut over to, the camera is already steadily panning across the clock face at a relatively rapid and constant rate from left to right and it can be inferred from the clock tick, which coincides with the changing seconds count, that the clock’s minutes and seconds are initially 09:12.  However, it’s only after the seconds count ticks down to 11 that the numeral in the ones position of the seconds field (the second 1) becomes visible.  As the camera pan in this particular sequence would need to be perfectly timed to catch the 9:11, it seems far less likely than in the previous instance that this 9:11 sequence was prearranged by the filmmakers.  Additionally, it’s also interesting to note the 9:11 only becomes visible in this scene when viewed in letterbox HD.  When viewed in the usual HD format (i.e., with a 16:9 aspect ratio that fills up an entire widescreen TV or computer display), the digital field in which the second 1 appears cannot be seen in its entirety – both the top and right segments are completely out view while all (or a sufficient portion) of the other segments are visible and inactive, meaning the number can either be a 7 or a 1 but it cannot be determined which.  Had the filmmakers prearranged the scene, one would think they’d engineer the sequence such that it would be visible when viewed in any of the standard formats.  Whereas the prearrangement of the second 9-1-1 appearance (detailed above) would be somewhat difficult for the filmmakers to engineer, the third and final appearance of the sequence would be even more so.

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Beginning around the 2 hour 18 minute 38 second mark, Grace Stamper (portrayed by Liv Tyler) is pictured alone in a dark room.  While her face in the foreground is clearly in focus on the right-hand side of the screen, on the left-hand side of the screen fuzzy or out of focus items are depicted in the background.  As it turns out, the grayish, out of focus item centrally located in the frame (labeled “1”) is a metal partition behind Grace Stamper while the green, out of focus item located in the far left of the frame (labeled “2”) is the Zero Barrier countdown clock with a few final seconds and milliseconds remaining – this clock is located on the other side of a glass window overlooking the adjacent situation room.

In this brief scene Grace turns her head to glance back at the countdown clock and, as she does, the camera focally follows her glance, resulting in the following three-part visual sequence:

1 – Grace is in focus, the middle partition and countdown clock are out of focus

2 – Grace is out of focus, the middle partition is in focus and the countdown clock is out of focus

3 – Grace is out of focus, the middle partition is out of focus and the countdown clock comes into focus

The third and final component to the sequence outlined above is the one of interest as it’s where the final 9-1-1 numerical sequence appears in the film.  The sequence has been visually reproduced below.

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The six numbered images appearing above are consecutive frames from the film Armageddon, ones which gradually show the time remaining on the critical Zero Barrier countdown clock as it comes into focus.  As is evident, the first legible number sequence to appear is 9-1-1 (frames 3, 4 and 5), which occupies three consecutive frames before changing to 9-0-3 (frame 6).  Although some might argue the clock sequence and camera focal properties were generated via CGI, in viewing the sequence from start to finish there aren’t any visual anomalies that might leave this impression.  For all intents and purposes it appears to be exactly what any casual observer would assume it to be:  a straightforward foreground to background change in camera focus.  Operating under the reasonable assumption no CGI or trick photography was involved, it would’ve been extraordinarily difficult for the filmmakers to engineer the 9-1-1 appearance in this instance as the clock displays seconds and milliseconds.  To do so, the camera would’ve needed to bring the clock into the realm of legibility at some point during the exceedingly brief interval 11 milliseconds appeared in the display (i.e., one millisecond or one thousandth of a second).  Clearly this is highly unlikely, much more so than in the previous example.

Before moving on to the last few items of interest, it should also be pointed out that the last two appearances of the 9-1-1 sequence appear at pivotal moments in the film where the countdown clocks are the focal point of the scene – the first being the unveiling of the public launch countdown clock and the second being Grace Stamper’s (and the camera’s) focus on the Zero Barrier countdown clock as the final seconds and milliseconds tick away.  By contrast, the overwhelming majority of clock countdown appearances are relegated to background imagery (i.e., the focal point of scenes including the clocks are the people in the foreground).

Moving beyond the three-fold appearance of the 9-1-1 numerical sequence in the film, it’s interesting to note that there’s another intriguing scene, immediately preceding the sequence depicted above, that’s eerily reminiscent of specific elements relating to the events associated with the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Near the end of the film, when it’s determined the remote detonating trigger has been damaged and rendered useless, Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) decides to remain behind on the asteroid in the hopes of saving the world by manually detonating the asteroid-splitting nuclear explosives.  Prior to this detonation (and his related death) he has the opportunity, via a brief radio transmission, to say goodbye to his daughter Grace as well as express his love and prosperous wishes for her future.  This goodbye is the most emotional moment of the film and eerily calls to mind the many phone calls and last words from people trapped within the WTC towers and the planes that hit them.  Many of these calls were made to loved ones to express the very same sentiments expressed by Willis’ character.  In this respect Willis’ portrayal seems to anticipate the actions of 9/11 casualties.

In an odd way, Willis’ character also takes on at least one defining characteristic of the terrorists.  Whereas Willis has made the noble decision to sacrifice himself to save the world, in a twisted way the terrorist hijackers made a decision to sacrifice themselves for the sake of Jihad against the West.

As it turns out, the very same sort of calls to loved ones as well as acts of self-sacrifice also underscore the ending of Deep Impact, wherein the crew members of the Messiah elect to fly their spacecraft into the heart of the fractured comet where they detonate the nuclear warheads stowed in the hull of the ship, ultimately saving the Earth.

In closing out the current analysis, it’s interesting to note that in addition to the triadic appearance of the 9-1-1 sequence outlined earlier, there are three instances within the film Armageddon wherein the number 3 is prominently displayed in duplicate or triplicate, which might be interpreted as echoes of the 33-year period associated with the author’s alleged 1968-2001 temporal nexus and/or the three-decade/three-year periods separating the 1998 film from the years 1968 and 2001, respectively.  These instances are depicted below.

More to come…

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1.3 >> The Green Slime is N.E.A.R.

Three decades following the release of the 1968 sci-fi classic 2001:  A Space Odyssey and three years before the year 2001, Hollywood spent more money than it had in the entire history of cinema (with respect to the subject) to convey to the movie-going public the cataclysmic concept of cosmic impacts with Earth.

By their release dates in 1998, some $220 million had been allocated between two analogous blockbuster films that grossed more than $340 million in domestic box office sales.  Although Armageddon was the more successful of the two ventures, the second film, entitled Deep Impact, received the more favorable reviews and will be the primary focus of our initial investigation.

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Deep Impact, released prior to Armageddon, benefited tremendously  from the fact famed director/screenwriter Steven Spielberg served as its executive producer.  Spielberg based the film in large part on a 1993 novel entitled The Hammer of God, which was written by none other than Arthur C. Clarke – the same visionary that penned the 1968 novel 2001 ASO as well as co-wrote the film’s screenplay in collaboration with Stanley Kubrick.  In addition to having been written by the same novelist and screenwriter associated with 2001 ASO, there’s yet another intriguing link between The Hammer of God and the year 2001.

The Hammer of God was an outgrowth of an Arthur C. Clarke short story published by Time Magazine in its special Beyond the Year 2000 issue (Oct. 1992).

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As the caption at the bottom of the associated cover indicates (WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE NEW MILLENNIUMsee image above), the theme of Time’s special 1992 issue was clearly conceived in anticipation of the year 2001 (the first year beyond the year 2000), which is to say, the dawn of the new millennium.  This is no doubt why Clarke was commissioned to contribute to the publication, given his long pop culture association with the year 2001.

With respect to Clarke’s short story contribution to the special issue, he was given free rein and selected the impact phenomenon as his topic, a subject which had grown quite near and dear to his heart.

Before delving into the subject matter of Deep Impact, there’s an intriguing real-world coincidence relating to The Hammer of God that should be considered, one that’s been underscored by Clarke himself and certainly worthy of note – it took place shortly after the novel was published.

In March of 1993 the world’s foremost comet-hunting team, comprised of Gene Shoemaker, his wife Carolyn Shoemaker and their colleague David Levy, discovered a fragmented comet in orbit around Jupiter.  In the days following the discovery, the determination was made the fractured comet was on a collision course with the giant planet and subsequent calculations suggested the impact would occur in 1994.  This comet was Shoemaker-Levy 9 (or SL9).

As the impact date neared, unprecedented preparations were underway to capture images of the cataclysmic collision – an event never before witnessed in the history of humanity.  Nearly every observatory and amateur telescope in the world was focused on Jupiter as well as an arsenal of space-based devices such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Ultraviolet Explorer and the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer.  Moreover, interplanetary probes were remotely reoriented to glimpse the event.  These included the Ulysses, the Voyager 2 and last, but not least, the aforementioned Galileo probe (post 1.2), which was well on its way to intercepting Jupiter at the time.

The series of fragmented impacts proved to be quite remarkable.  The Galileo probe managed to snap incredible photographs of massive impact plumes rising from the surface of the planet in the wake of the collisions and the Hubble Space Telescope captured images of impact blemishes on the face of Jupiter that surpassed the size of the Earth!

What’s the likelihood a bestselling 1993 novel, describing a predicted cometary impact with our planet, would be published the very same year countless scientists (not to mention untold amateur astronomers and the public at large), for the first time in history, would become aware of a real-world prediction of an upcoming comet collision with an adjacent planet?  Scientists estimate comet impacts of this magnitude occur only once every 1,000 years or so.

As an added bit of intrigue, it was the public fascination with the July 1994 collision of SL9 with Jupiter that convinced producers Steven Spielberg, David Brown and Richard Zanuck to move forward with the Deep Impact script, which was written by Bruce Joel Rubin.

In both the novel The Hammer of God and the novel’s cinematic adaptation, Deep Impact, a crew of astronauts is sent on a mission to intercept a bolide on a collision course with Earth.  In the film version of the story, the crew touches down on the surface of the inbound comet (Wolf-Biederman), drills several shafts to strategic depth, embeds explosive devices within these shafts and then lifts off the surface to detonate the explosives from a safe distance.

Interestingly enough, this was also the plot of Armageddon, although this film featured an asteroid instead of a comet as well as two intercept shuttles (Freedom & Independence) rather than the one spacecraft featured in Deep Impact (Messiah).

To most teenage science fiction fans circa 1998, the concept of landing a spacecraft on the surface of an asteroid or comet in an effort to then carefully plant explosive devices for remote detonation likely seemed an innovative idea in terms of cinematic sci-fi scenarios.  As it turns out, however, the idea wasn’t as pioneering as one might expect.

Leaving 1998 and returning once again to 1968 – the same year Clarke’s 2001 ASO debuted – we refocus our attention on a more modest cinematic event that took place a few months after 2001 ASO’s release.  The event in question was the unveiling of a U.S./Japanese/Italian film venture entitled The Green Slime.  Interestingly, the film was presented by MGM, which also gave us 2001 ASO.

TGS

Although the film’s primary plotline revolves around Commander Jack Rankin (Robert Horton) and his crew of astronauts inadvertently bringing hostile organisms from space back to the Gamma 3 space station (another 33 reference – gamma being the third letter of Greek alphabet), the actual intent of the astronauts is somewhat different.

In a manner reminiscent of that presented in The Paradise Syndrome episode of Star Trek (also broadcast in 1968 - see post 1.1), a discussion at the outset of the film reveals the purpose of the mission.  In this instance, a conversation between Commander Rankin and General Jonathan Thompson of the U.N. Space Command, informs the viewer the objective of the astronaut team is to avert disaster by mounting a search-and-destroy mission from the Earth-orbiting space station Gamma 3 to a six million ton asteroid named Flora, which is on a collision course with (you guessed it) Earth.

TGS2

Although the caliber of the movie’s special effects is primitive compared to that of either Armageddon or Deep Impact, the intercept and destroy story lines of the later blockbusters precisely parallel that of The Green Slime, which was the first film ever to depict such a mission or the hypothetical landing of a manmade spacecraft on an asteroid for that matter.  To illustrate just how similar the 1998 films are to the 1968 original, let’s consider a specific example.

As indicated, in both 1998 films, crews of astronauts are rocketed away from Earth to intercept inevitable impactors (one an asteroid and the other a comet).  They successfully touchdown on the surfaces of the bolides, bore holes or shafts into the subsurface using special drills, plant powerful explosive devices in the resulting shafts and then depart from the surface with the intention of detonating the devices remotely (images of the drills are depicted in the movie stills below – CLICK to enlarge).

drills

With the images above in mind, we’ll now consider the images below, which depict astronauts from the 1968 film, The Green Slime, as they drill holes in the surface of asteroid Flora and insert explosive devices that are later detonated while they’re in orbit – the exact type of operation portrayed in Armageddon and Deep Impact three decades later.

drills2

Although, in and of itself, there’s nothing extraordinary about an innovative sci-fi scenario from a low-budget 1960′s creature feature resurfacing three decades later in two independently produced big-budget films, when we then factor the real world into the equation, things become a bit more interesting, particularly when bearing in mind the alleged 33-year (1968/2001) temporal nexus.

To movie screenwriters circa 1968 the idea of landing a spacecraft on a giant asteroid in an Earth-saving gesture was no doubt a novel one and The Green Slime was the first film in the history of cinema to depict such a hypothetical landing and mission.  However, whereas the silver screen seamlessly depicted the entire process, portraying it as something of a “cakewalk” as opposed to a “spacewalk,” any astrophysicist from the period would’ve testified to the fact that engineering the rendezvous alone would present tremendous difficulty, knowing full well it would be far more complicated than envisioned by Hollywood.

Although, to the scientists of the period, such real-world challenges may’ve seemed well beyond their grasp and, in 1968, even the Moon had yet to be explored, the space age wouldn’t forever remain mired in its youth.  With time came empirical knowledge and wisdom, one experiment built upon the success of another and, as had been the case so many times in the past, the fictions of former times became reality.  And so came the decade that brought us Armageddon and Deep Impact

NEAR miss

In February 1996, a carefully bundled assortment of cosmic ray spectrometers along with a multi-spectral imager, a laser altimeter, a powerful X-band radio transponder and a magnetometer mounted, 1.5 m high-gain antenna made their way to Cape Canaveral’s launch complex LC17B as an 805 kg, three-axis-stabilized, solar-powered spacecraft named N.E.A.R. (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous).  Near’s primary mission:  intercept the massive (13x13x33 km) near- Earth asteroid known as 433 Eros , whose perihelion distance is 1.133 AU (there are triple 33 references here).

Destined to soar into history, the sophisticated assemblage, replete with 1600 watt, non-articulating solar panels, was cautiously crammed inside the lofty nosecone of a Delta II Lite launch vehicle (the 7925-8).  Economically employed as a cost-cutting measure, the Delta II was to usher in a new era of relatively affordable planetary missions known as “Discovery.”

Having scrubbed the originally slated launch sequence several hours prior, day two of a twelve-day launch window arrived under favorable circumstances.  Heralding its arrival were steady 10 MPH headwinds out of the east and wispy tufts of scattered clouds, which conspired collectively to create cordial conditions.  Then, at 3:43 PM on 17 February, with moderate temperatures hovering around 55° F and about 10 miles’ visibility, the NEAR spacecraft successfully blastoff from its Florida pad under the watchful eyes of a team of scientists from Laurel, Maryland’s John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).

Accelerated in its climb ever higher, twenty-two minutes following launch the closely monitored spacecraft separated from its third stage and responsibility for attitude control seamlessly segued from the launch vehicle to NEAR’s independent guidance and control subsystem.  Then, in rapid succession, a cleverly crafted “yo-yo” de-spin mechanism reduced the spacecraft’s stabilizing spin from 69 RPM to zero and simultaneously released NEAR’s stowed solar panel array from launch position.  Like precision clockwork, carefully constructed spring loaded hinges flawlessly deployed the solar panels to an on-orbit configuration.  At 100 miles, the probe entered a brief 13-minute coast period, allowing solar panel usage one hour after launch.  Following this flurry of critical activity, the spacecraft then dutifully transitioned to the lengthy cruise phase of its long voyage.

NEAR probe

The initial stage of NEAR’s cruise phase followed an intermittent itinerary of routine diagnostics.  Lulled into semi-suspended animation, for the first few weeks the sleepy spacecraft periodically conducted component function tests to apprise mission control of its health as well as performed low-level burns to calibrate the propulsion system and correct for minor trajectory errors.

The latter portion of NEAR’s cruise phase was characterized by minimal activity.  The spacecraft was said to have entered something of a hibernation state due to the limited availability of electrical power at distances ranging from 1.5 to 2 AU from the Sun and the desire to avoid thermally stressing NEAR’s solar panel array.  With the exception of the telemetry subsystem, which periodically monitored low-level housekeeping and sampled navigational data stored on solid state recorders, all instrumentation was shutdown.

As the determined drone rapidly rocketed ever further from Earth’s comparatively warm atmosphere, heaters were used to maintain the temperature of inactive systems.  Ground station contacts were established only three times per week to observe health, upload future command sequences and discard obsolete telemetry from the spacecraft’s recorders.  This laid-back routine redundantly repeated as days stretched into weeks and weeks into months.

Just over a year after launch, NEAR barreled beyond the orbit of Mars, penetrating deep into the main asteroid belt and reaching an aphelion distance of 2.18 AU, establishing a new record for the distance at which a spacecraft draws power from an active solar array (operating at around 350 watts).

Four months later, NEAR was mired in the midst of premeditated primping for an historic flyby of 253 Mathilde, a main belt C-type asteroid discovered in 1885.  The unique flyby was worked into the mission plan in late 1994 and required a worthwhile wandering of 0.015 AU from the nominal Eros intercept trajectory.  Some experts expressed concern that high-speed impacting dust particles from Mathilde might inflict crippling damage to the probe but the hazard of harm was ultimately outweighed by the prospect of priceless encounter data.

In the 17 days it takes the Earth to complete 17 rotations, the massive Mathilde asteroid, measuring 50x53x57 km, completes but a single 360° spin.  To an observer hovering high above its surface, this monstrous mountain of metal and rock would appear comparable in size to Gran Canaria, a tourist-laden land mass located off the northwest coast of Africa – the somewhat circular member of the Canary Islands archipelago.

253

As the tiny, two-year-old tot of a spacecraft raced toward a megalithic monstrosity at least two billion years its elder, APL’s multi-spectral imager came online and, acting in concert with NEAR’s state-of-the-art telecommunications system, took full advantage of NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) back on Earth to carry out a critical navigation phase of the mission.

DSN, comprised of three enormous parabolic high-gain antennas, strategically spaced 120° across the globe at Goldstone (California), Madrid (Spain) and Canberra (Australia) was now providing continuous coverage for the mission.

Precisely pinpointing the rapidly approaching behemoth, NEAR’s sophisticated but rugged imager, hewn from titanium and radiation-hardened glass, captured a time-lapse sequence of images that were up-linked to Earth at the X-band frequency of 7.2 GHz.  Using the image sequence as an optical navigation tool (OpNav), mission control combined the incoming telemetry with ground-based tracking information to calculate a flyby trajectory, which was regularly refined as the trip progressed.

As the spacecraft swept by the asteroid at a distance of 753 miles, magnetic field and mass measurements were taken in addition to color photographs at 1 km and monochrome images at 200 to 300 m.  As NEAR overtook and rocketed by the asteroid, the craft hastily scanned the surrounding vicinity of Mathilde for orbiting satellites, finding none.

A few days following its first asteroid encounter, NEAR utilized its bi-propellant thruster to perform its first deep space maneuver (DSM-1) in anticipation of the upcoming completion of its first full orbit and its rapid rounding of Earth’s gravitational field.   The maneuver succeeded in slowing its speed by 625 MPH to a meager 22,216 MPH, thereby reducing its perihelion distance and thus paving the way to increase its energy upon its terrestrial swing-by encounter several months later.

Approximately 6 months following DSM-1, NEAR zipped across the skies over southwestern Iran at an invisibly high altitude of 335 miles and, with lightning swiftness, receded on its post-swing-by trajectory, which positioned it high over Earth’s South Polar Region, facilitating the imaging of Antarctica.

Safely completing its swing-by, the spacecraft accelerated to a blistering 28,497 MPH, most of which was strategically channeled into altering its orbital inclination by 10° rather than being utilized to increase its aphelion distance to the fringes of the solar system.  The tactical technique of using the craft’s newly acquired swing-by energy to match the orbital inclination of the Eros asteroid is now known as Delta-VEGA, Delta-V symbolizing a change in velocity (in this case the directional component being the most critical) and EGA an acronym for “Earth Gravity Assist.”

Having endured the acceleratory excitement of a brief reunion with its home world, the NEAR spacecraft dutifully departed on the last leg of its mission, sinking once again into a slumber-like standby mode even as it raced ever faster out of the inner solar system.

Roused from a deep sleeplike state following ten months of virtual hibernation, NEAR was again animated with activity as its multi-spectral imager came online at T-minus 200 days – this time to ogle 433 Eros, the spacecraft’s primary target.  Synchronizing the imager with its redundant X-band telecommunications system, the spacecraft began channeling a sequential barrage of telemetry to mission control at the speed of light – at its distance from Earth, transfer time was just over 20 minutes.  Enthusiastically utilizing the DSN to gather the priceless packets of information, APL systematically determined both the shape and rotational parameters of the age-old colossus, an asteroid which had wandered the frozen wastelands beyond the orbit of Mars for a virtual eternity.

Up to this point the mission had proceeded smoothly and by the numbers but, just when the confidence and morale of NEAR’s mission team was almost certainly nearing an effervescent crescendo, disaster struck!

On December 20, 1998, a month and a half following NEAR’s final awakening, an incoming signal confirming the successful completion of a preprogrammed settling burn was the last bit of data collected from the spacecraft before all contact with NEAR was lost.  Thirty-seven seconds following its bipropellant burn, NEAR’s main engine misfired, shutting down after less than one second and catastrophically undermining its crucial rendezvous maneuver.

Gripped with horror, mission control scrambled in an effort to determine what had happened and how communications might be restored.  With some members of the team no doubt descending into despair as they contemplated the real possibility of catastrophic failure, word came from the Deep Space Network, via Canberra station in Australia, that communications had been reestablished with the distant probe about 27 hours following disconnect.  As the team breathed a collective sigh of relief, information from NEAR continued to stream in and, by early morning the next day, enough engineering data had downloaded to reveal the reason for the loss of communication.

As it turned out, software safety measures were automatically implemented when the probe experienced lateral acceleration exceeding preprogrammed limits.  Following the engine shutdown, the spacecraft experienced anomalous attitude fluctuations (spinning and tumbling) and the battery discharged to low levels.  In essence, the spacecraft performed a hard reboot, remaining incommunicado and offline for a predetermined period prior to restarting itself.

The day following recovery, the much anticipated rendezvous was exchanged for an Eros flyby at a relative speed of 2,158 MPH and a range of 2,378 miles – despite the setback, mission team members no doubt understood the situation could’ve been much worse.

As a consequence of the system reset and the related mass fuel expenditure needed to correct NEAR’s orbital parameters, the scheduled meeting between the spacecraft and asteroid would be impossible to arrange by the 10 January 1999 orbital insertion date originally planned.  Not only was the January 1999 date scrubbed due to the unplanned fuel dump, but a second opportunity in July 1999 now had only a marginal window.  Ultimately, the rendezvous would be postponed for nearly a year, over the course of which NEAR would drift in close proximity to, but slightly ahead of Eros while performing a lengthy U-turn maneuver using its bipropellant engine.  In effect, to an observer traveling on the surface of 433 Eros, the probe would appear to halt its forward motion, loop around and reverse course on a slow second approach.  The U-turn was accomplished by an initial deep space maneuver (DSM-2), followed by the probe’s eighteenth trajectory correction maneuver (TCM-18) – the two maneuvers were spaced 17 days apart and, when combined with one final TCM several months later, had the effect of fine-tuning the spacecraft’s final approach. The end of mission, originally slated for 5 February 2000, could no longer be held to.

Six months following NEAR’s final TCM, the small spacecraft was captured by Eros’ gravitational field, entering a carefully calculated 327×450 km near-polar, retrograde orbit with a 27.6-day period, which, incidentally is almost identical to the Moon’s sidereal period or, the time it takes the Moon to complete one revolution around the Earth from the perspective of the stars outside our solar system.  A prograde orbit, following the spin of Eros, was avoided due to instability and the risk of either being ejected or impacting the surface.  A mid-mission flip maneuver was required to maintain the spacecraft’s retrograde orbit.

433 eros

433 eros orbit

In the wake of NEAR’s orbital insertion at 10:47 AM EST on the morning of 14 February 2000, an intensive twelve-month survey of Eros was underway.  Detailed observations of the geology, mineralogy and chemistry of the asteroid’s surface took place over the course of a lengthy orbital descent.  Specific physical parameters, such as mass, moment of inertia, gravity harmonics, spin state, rotation pole position and landmark locations would be measured and/or logged as well as revised in a stepwise manner.

It was also around this time that the probe was renamed NEAR Shoemaker in honor of the aforementioned geologist Dr. Gene Shoemaker (a pioneer in the fields of asteroid and crater science as well as the co-discoverer of Shoemaker-Levy 9, discussed earlier) – Dr. Shoemaker died the year following NEAR’s 1996 launch in the wake of an automobile accident that occurred while he and his wife visited Australia to conduct their annual exploration for new impact craters.  Having helped select and train the Apollo astronauts that walked on the surface of the Moon nearly three decades earlier, Dr. Shoemaker once commented that he’d like to take a geologist’s hammer to 433 Eros.

Over the course of the spacecraft’s intensive year-long study, NEAR Shoemaker would complete 230 orbits of Eros at distances ranging between 35 and 200 km from the asteroid’s center of mass, acquiring more than 140,000 invaluable images.  From February to July of 2000, NEAR Shoemaker’s orbital radius was decreased in discrete steps down to 35 km – this occurred while the northern hemisphere was illuminated by the Sun.  By November of the same year the probe’s orbital radius was stepped back up to 200 km in order to begin imaging the southern hemisphere, which, until that time, had been obscured in darkness.  In October of 2000, the probe carried out a low altitude flyover at 6 km in an effort to obtain high resolution images of the asteroid’s surface.  By January of 2001, an even lower altitude flyover, down to 3 km, produced remarkably detailed photos at resolutions of up to 50 cm/pixel.

The primary objectives of the NEAR mission were twofold:  1 – gather useful intelligence relating to the formation of small solar system bodies and their evolution, 2 – harvest physical evidence with which to bear out the long-held notion asteroids are the parent bodies of meteorites.  Although the key focus of the APL scientists was to achieve these stated objectives, once achieved a decision would need to be made with respect to the fate of the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft.  Should the spacecraft remain a manmade satellite, forever locked in orbit around the giant asteroid?  Should the solar-powered probe be propelled into a permanent heliocentric orbit with its gamma ray detectors pointing Sunward in an effort to detect and study gamma ray bursts?  While many possibilities were entertained, ultimately the decision was made to attempt a controlled descent to the surface of 433 Eros.  Although key members of the NEAR team rejected this proposal for various reasons, not the least of which was the possibility the probe would be destroyed in the process and reputations irreversibly tarnished, the touchdown option was nonetheless given the green light (despite the fact the spacecraft wasn’t designed as a lander) as it presented an unprecedented opportunity to obtain a long series of increasingly high resolution photographs during the descent.

In the wake of the 1998 malfunction, the revised end of mission date was slated for Valentine’s Day 2001 (i.e., 14 February 2001).  As a result, the decision was made to initiate the spacecraft’s controlled descent two days earlier as, beyond 14 February, mission funding would cease but time (and therefore money) would still be needed to process the incoming data.

With the official end of mission looming just ahead, at 10:31 AM EST on 12 February 2001, APL initiated NEAR Shoemaker’s controlled descent to the surface of 433 Eros.  As it happened, 4.5 hours later NEAR Shoemaker touched down on the surface of the asteroid at a gentle impact velocity of only 1.7 m/s, possibly the lowest ever according to NEAR Mission Director Dr. Robert Farquhar.  The spacecraft came to rest on the tips of two solar panels and the bottom edge of the main body, a picture-perfect three-point landing.  The spacecraft remained fully operational on the asteroid surface and, ultimately, the mission was given a ten-day extension to conduct the first ever scientific analyses from the surface of an asteroid.

touchdown

With the graceful touchdown of Near Shoemaker on the pockmarked surface of 433 Eros, we’d now come full circle.  The hypothetical landing of a spacecraft on an asteroid, first envisioned by Hollywood science fiction screenwriters in 1968, had been dutifully translated into science fact by APL scientists 33 years later, in 2001.

Although, in and of itself, this synchronism stands on its own merits, constituting yet another example of the 1968/2001 anomaly, intriguingly, additional 33-year synchronisms seem to reverberate about this historic event as well as several other related synchronisms.

For space scientists, astronomers, astrophysicists and mankind itself, 12 February 2001 was a very special historic day.  Not only was it a day during which the United States of America finally bested the Soviet Union in terms of being the first nation to touchdown on an asteroid (the Soviets were the first to land spacecraft on the Moon, Venus and Mars), but it was also a day during which a treasure trove of unique celestial photographs was transmitted millions of miles back to Earth for eager eyes to pour over and ponder.  As the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft descended to the surface of 433 Eros, asteroid features never before seen were brought into high resolution focus with crystal clarity, serving to answer many existing questions while, at the same time, raising a whole host of new ones.  As a quick Google search will reveal, an impressive array of seemingly homogeneous images emerge in relation to the NEAR Shoemaker mission as the following photographs illustrate.

map 01

map 02

map 03

map 04

map 05

Gray, crater-laden, survey maps with latitude and longitude grids cordoning off one asteroid landmark after another seem to exemplify the pinnacle of imagery following in the wake the 12 February 2001 spacecraft landing and many enthusiasts of the sci-fi genre might say this imagery harkens back some 33 years ago to an intriguing 1968 film.

At this point we’ve succeeded in tying the 12 February 2001 landing of NEAR Shoemaker (on 433 Eros) to the 1968 MGM film The Green Slime by virtue of the film’s hypothetical depiction of the very same type of spacecraft landing (on the fictitious asteroid Flora).  In addition to this achievement, we’ve also succeeded in tying the 1968 film The Green Slime to Arthur C. Clarke by virtue of his 1993 novel The Hammer of God as well as its 1998 silver screen adaptation Deep Impact, which recycles the asteroid/comet rendezvous portion of the storyline from the 1968 film.  Although, admittedly, this latter linkage leaves us with but a tangential relationship between the 12 February 2001 landing and Clarke’s 1968 film 2001 ASO (remembering The Hammer of God was originally written for publication in Time magazine’s new millennium issue), there also exists what many may look upon as an intriguing direct linkage that, to this author’s knowledge, has never been commented upon…that is, until now.

In the second sequence from the film 2001 ASO, Dr. Heywood R. Floyd of the National Council of Astronautics travels from Earth to the Clavius lunar base via an orbiting space station.  His objective:  to conduct a briefing during which he’ll gain additional facts and opinions concerning the discovery of the mysterious black monolith as well as prepare a report for the council, recommending when and how the news of the discovery should eventually be announced publicly.  He also seeks to obtain formal security oaths in writing from anyone with knowledge of the discovery.  Once the briefing’s adjourned, Dr. Floyd accompanies Dr. Rolf Halvorsen and one of his colleagues to the monolith excavation site near the crater Tycho.  From the passenger cabin of the lunar shuttle en route to the excavation site, Dr. Floyd informally discusses the circumstances surrounding the discovery over coffee and sandwiches.  It’s at this point Dr. Halvorsen informs Dr. Floyd attention was drawn to the site (TMA-1) due to an intense magnetic field not even a large nickel-iron meteorite could produce.  When the determination was made the magnetic anomaly hadn’t been caused by an outcropping of magnet rock, it was thought there might be some sort of buried structure responsible for the intense readings and this in turn lead to the excavation.  The scientists go on to inform Dr. Floyd that the monolith wasn’t covered up by erosion or other natural forces but rather seems to have been deliberately buried 40 feet beneath the lunar surface 4 million years ago.  It’s at this point that Dr. Halvorsen’s colleague presents Dr. Floyd with several printouts documenting the discovery – this will be the primary focus of the investigation to follow.

In the first image included below, Dr. Floyd inspects a modified stereographic projection survey of TMA-1 and its immediate surroundings.  Whereas 2001 ASO had its TMA-1 and its modified stereographic projection survey, the NEAR Shoemaker mission had both its DSM-1 and its TSM-1 as well as its cylindrical and morphographic-conformal projection surveys, both of which were presented amid the Eros images displayed above.

survey 01survey 02

In another of the documents inspected by Dr. Floyd (below) we find a survey map of the Tycho region bounded by the very same sort of latitude and longitude grid lines we found in relation to the equivalent survey maps of 433 Eros, which derive from the NEAR Shoemaker mission photos.

survey 03

Notwithstanding the presence of the same grayish, crater-ridden, regolithic surfaces depicted in both images of the lunar site in 2001 ASO and the NEAR Shoemaker images of 433 Eros, there’s another, even more intriguing similarity between the two, which becomes evident in inspecting one final image harvested from the 2001 ASO film (below).

survey 04

survey 05

Prior to the 2007 Blu-ray release of 2001 ASO, the TMA-1 map survey date wasn’t so easily discernible but, as the HD still included above clearly conveys, the TMA-1 discovery, which Dr. Halverson’s colleague indicates “started the whole thing,” dates to 021201 or, equivalently, 12 February 2001, the very date the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft, for the first time in human history, touched down upon the surface of an asteroid!  Given the fact there are 365 days in a year, the likelihood this particular date would be selected as the date of the TMA-1 survey is very small (just over 0.2%).  It’s also highly unlikely the folks at APL planned this landing date with the 2001 ASO film in mind as an anomalous engine failure in 1998 unexpectedly dragged the mission out far longer than planned.  Moreover, as indicated previously, the 12 February 2001 date was selected with the new end of mission date in mind (14 February 2001) – time and funding was needed to process the incoming descent data.

If the synchronism of the 12 February 2001 date from the 2001 ASO film and the NEAR Shoemaker landing, augmented by the homogeneous photographic imagery deriving from both, isn’t enough to convince one of the existence of a genuine temporal anomaly, then one additional item need be considered.

Bearing in mind the acronym TMA from the 2001 ASO film equates to Tycho Magnetic Anomaly and this anomaly (the powerful magnetic field generated by the buried monolith) would’ve been detected by dragging a highly sensitive magnetometer across the lunar surface, the reader should be reminded that, included among NEAR Shoemaker’s instrumentation pack, was a highly sensitive flux-gate magnetometer that was designed to measure the global magnetic field of 433 Eros with an accuracy of +/-5 nT.  NEAR’s magnetometer obtained extensive magnetic field observations of Eros at distances ranging from more than 100,000 km to those conducted on the surface after landing and, as it turns out, the results of these observations are quite intriguing.

near mag

In issue 37 of the scientific periodical Meteoritics & Planetary Science (published in 2002) a paper entitled 433 Eros: Problems with the meteorite magnetism record in attempting an asteroid match by Drs. Wasilewski, Acuna and Kletetschka of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Laboratory for Extraterrestrial Physics (Greenbelt, MD), appeared.  The excerpts below contain the introductory paragraphs from the paper as well as a related graph.

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In a 2002 issue of the scientific periodical Icarus (#155), a joint paper entitled NEAR Magnetic Field Observations at 433 Eros: First Measurements from the Surface of an Asteroid, written by a seven-member team of scientists from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, The John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, the University of California Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics and the University of California Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, appeared.  The excerpts below derive from the paper’s opening abstract and the section-six discussion.

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From the 30 May 2001 edition of Science News we extract the following (URL:  https://www.sciencenews.org/article/asteroid-eros-poses-magnetic-puzzle?mode=magazine&context=301):

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A magnetic puzzle or a major magnetic mystery (as characterized by Ron Cowen in the final piece cited above) could equivalently be described as a magnetic enigma or magnetic anomaly and this again directly links the NEAR Shoemaker mission to the 2001 ASO film with its TMA or Tycho Magnetic Anomaly (i.e., the buried black monolith).

Although in the minds of many readers the homogeneous imagery, the same milestone date (12 February 2001) and synchronous magnetic anomalies might be more than sufficient to shore up the notion a genuine temporal anomaly exists between the 1968 film 2001 ASO and the 2001 reality of the Near Shoemaker spacecraft landing on 433 Eros, I’d like to explore one additional and closely related synchronism the reader may find compelling.

Bearing in mind the film and novel 2001 ASO emerged from the mind of Arthur C. Clarke, we should now revisit Clarke’s 1992 short story (1993 novel) The Hammer of God.  Although the novel has already been linked to 2001 by virtue of 2001 being the first year of the new millennium and the story’s appearance in Time Magazine’s new millennium issue as well as linked to 1968 by recycling the asteroid landing plot of The Green Slime, it can also be tied directly to the NEAR Shoemaker mission to 433 Eros in a very surprising way.

In the 1992 short story The Hammer of God, the spacecraft Goliath is dispatched on a mission to intercept and deflect a massive peanut-shaped asteroid called Kali, which is on a collision course with Earth.  While this scenario is one that is no doubt familiar to the reader at this point, there are a couple of intriguing aspects of Clarke’s hypothetical asteroid worthy of further consideration.

The seven news and science sources referenced in the links below all describe 433 Eros as a peanut-shaped asteroid in the very same manner Clarke describes his hypothetical asteroid in 1992’s The Hammer of God:

LINK #1

LINK #2

LINK #3

LINK #4

LINK #5

LINK #6

LINK #7

Not to be outdone by the asteroid’s morphology, the name Clarke assigns to his planet-killer is just as eerie.  Although Eros and Kali are both short, 4-letter words, consisting of two consonants and two vowels, there’s a much deeper connection between the two names as the information below attests.

In the first excerpt below (URL:  http://uniqueself.com/eros-and-pseudo-eros-part-1/), Dr. Marc Gafni underscores the equivalence between Eros and Kali.

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In a similar piece written by Colin Robinson, who served as editor of Ferment from June 1990 to Jul 2009 (Ferment, Australia – Sydney, New South Wales), we find a bit more rigorous academic underscoring of the relationship (URL:  http://weareferment.net/eros.html#what)

art8

So, to put into perspective what we’ve learned, we encounter a 1992 fictional short story written with the beginning of the new millennium in mind (i.e., the year 2001), describing a spacecraft rendezvous with a peanut-shaped asteroid named Kali.  By comparison, in the year 2001 we encounter a real-world spacecraft rendezvous with a peanut-shaped asteroid named Eros, a name which is synonymous with the name Kali.

The reader should be reminded that the start of the NEAR Shoemaker mission was 1996, a date four years subsequent to the publication of Clarke’s story and likely a longer intervening interval when considering the date of the story’s conception.  Also important to consider are Clarke’s recollections of the story’s genesis (taken from his 1993 novel The Hammer of God – Pg. 236):  “My coauthor Gregory Benford (Beyond the Fall of Night) has just reminded me of the novel he and William Rotsler wrote on the theme of asteroid deflection – Shiva Descending (1980).  I must confess that I’ve never read it, but I was certainly aware of the title, and it may well have subconsciously influenced the choice of Kali (Shiva’s consort) as the name for my asteroid.  It popped into my head instantly when I started writing.

Based upon the publication date of Clarke’s original 1992 short story in relation to the NEAR mission chronology and his own recollections, one can be reasonably certain he was unaware of the details of the NEAR mission at the time (which, at that early date, were in their unpublished, embryonic stages – an in-depth search will reveal the first drips and drabs concerning the NEAR mission didn’t appear until 1993/1994) and, as a result, another explanation must be sought to explain this bizarre synchronism (that is, assuming the reader finds the similarities sufficiently compelling).  It’s interesting to note Clarke claimed the name Kali magically popped into his head, perhaps as if planted there.

As, based upon the information presented here, the 1998 film Deep Impact seems to have more compelling ties to the year 2001, a more in-depth analysis of its nearly identical 1998 twin, Armageddon, will be forthcoming.

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1.2 >> 2001: A Trojan Binary

obelisk-monolith2

In post 1.1 the storyline associated with season three/episode three of Star Trek (The Paradise Syndrome), which aired on 4 October 1968, was briefly detailed.  In addition to learning the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise had traveled to the distant planet Amerind in an effort to deflect a massive asteroid on a collision course with the planet, we were also introduced to an enigmatic metallic obelisk, the purpose and composition of which were entirely unknown.

Mr. Spock’s perplexity at his tricorder’s inability to scan the obelisk or to even determine its age is very reminiscent of the circumstances portrayed in another 1968 production – the now classic sci-fi film 2001:  A Space Odyssey (hereafter 2001 ASO).  In this film, a scientist named Dr. Heywood Floyd describes the discovery of an alien artifact to an astronaut who’s just arrived in Jupiter space:

“Eighteen months ago the first evidence of intelligent life off the Earth was discovered.  It was buried forty feet below the lunar surface, near the crater Tycho.  Except for a single, very powerful radio emission, aimed at Jupiter, the four-million year old black monolith has remained completely inert, its origin and purpose still a total mystery.”

The enigmatic nature of the obelisk and monolith aren’t the only attributes the  Star Trek episode and 2001 ASO have in common.

In 2001 ASO’s opening Dawn of Man sequence, a group of primitive hominids or ape-men are depicted in an African desert as they gather around an Earth-based version of the black monolith that appeared before them while they slept through the night beneath a rock outcropping.  Having been startled awake by the presence of the alien artifact, the ape-men slowly begin to caress its smooth surface as their initial fear gives way to curiosity.  Shortly after making physical contact with the monolith, the hominids exhibit signs of increased intelligence as they begin to wield animal bones as weapons, with which they assert themselves against a trespassing tribe.  Closing out the scene, we see the hominid leader violently tossing an animal bone into the air as it loudly howls in triumph over its enemies.

vlcsnap-2014-01-23-01h30m14s157

In an interesting transition to the next segment of the film, the image of the airborne bone cuts immediately over to a bone-shaped spacecraft in orbit above the Earth millions of years later.  The obvious implication is the monolith served to spark a steep uptick in the hominid’s intelligence, promoting mankind’s development.

Similarly, we slowly learn over the course of The Paradise Syndrome episode that the enigmatic obelisk has promoted the development of Amerind’s humanoids.  As Mr. Spock ultimately discovers, the obelisk was left on the planet as a marker by a super-race known as the Preservers that passed through the galaxy, rescuing primitive cultures that were in danger of extinction and seeding them where they could prosper – on this particular occasion the obelisk ultimately serves as an asteroid deflector that saves the planet.

Having underscored some curious parallels existing between Star TrekThe Paradise Syndrome (S3/E3) and 2001 ASO, both of which were released for public consumption in 1968, one might wonder what explanation can be called upon to account for the remarkable similarities or synchronisms between the two.

As mentioned in post 1.1, Margaret Armen started to develop The Paradise Syndrome storyline in March of 1968, one month prior to the April 1968 release of 2001 ASO, which might suggest to some that, rather than having borrowed ideas from the Clarke/Kubrick film, Armen’s synchronous storyline was instead a prime example of a highly unlikely, yet  nonetheless realized, coincidence.  It should also be remembered, however, that Armen didn’t complete her final draft until June 1968, which is to say, two months after 2001 ASO’s theatrical release.  As a result, it seems quite plausible Armen’s original March 1968 outline didn’t include the obelisk but instead revolved more around the asteroid impact concept.  Under this scenario, Armen would’ve then seen 2001 ASO or heard about the specifics of the film secondhand prior to completing her final draft in June and subsequently incorporated the idea of an obelisk asteroid deflector into the script.  Unfortunately, additional background information concerning the episode’s development, which would eliminate the need for speculation, doesn’t seem to be available so there the matter will need to rest.  There is, however, one additional similarity between Gene Roddenberry’s television creation and the Arthur C. Clarke/Stanley Kubrick film that seems to have successfully hidden itself in plain sight.

Had someone been approached to come up with an alternate title for Gene Roddenberry’s 1960s sci-fi television series that didn’t use the words “Star“ or “Trek” but connoted the same or similar meaning, one possibility that may’ve been offered up might’ve been Galaxy Quest, which, as it turns out, happened to be the name of a 1999 Star Trek parody, starring Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver.  Another possibility – one that may very well have occurred to the reader by this point – would be Space Odyssey.  And with that, we’ll now segue to an intriguing analysis of 2001:  A Space Odyssey, a film released two years after the first episode of Star Trek aired on NBC, which might suggest to some that Clarke and Kubrick did a bit of borrowing themselves.

As described earlier, the opening sequence of 2001 ASO begins with an imaginary encounter between proto-humans and a sophisticated extraterrestrial artifact.  Following this opening sequence, entitled The Dawn of Man, we then jump several million years into the future, stopping to survey the situation at the dawn of the 21st century, a point in time at which the Moon has been colonized and meticulously surveyed.

Notwithstanding the now obvious fact the Clarke/Kubrick timetable of technological advancement was a bit too optimistic, we learn in the film that a second black monolith is discovered when scientists pinpoint an unusually powerful magnetic anomaly, leading them to excavate at a lunar site near the impact crater Tycho.  Shortly after excavating the lunar monolith a mission is mounted to Jupiter when a mysterious radio pulse, emanating from the alien artifact, is beamed directly toward the giant Jovian planet with pinpoint accuracy.

In light of the current study, of particular interest in relation to the 2001 ASO Jupiter Mission sequence is a short scene wherein the American spacecraft – U.S.S. Discovery One - is involved in a close encounter of sorts while en route.

The incident in question occurs while mission commander Dr. David Bowman prepares to board a small EVA pod in order to access the ship’s outer hull and retrieve a transmitter device know as the AE-35 for inspection.

Just prior to Bowman’s departure, the camera switches to a wide-angle, long-distance shot from outside the vessel.  At first the field of view is nearly empty save for the tiny image of the Discovery One spacecraft appearing in the screen’s upper right-hand quadrant against the dimly flickering star field in the background.

A second or two later, however, a small white point emerges from the star field, rapidly growing in size and quickly morphing into a tumbling asteroid that hurls overtop of the camera.  Following the first asteroid on a slight offset is a second of similar size.  This asteroid too barrels over the top of the camera and then returns us to the same nearly empty frame.

2001 binary 01

The composite image below provides a comparison with respect to the relative size of the two asteroids, making it quite clear they’re of nearly equal mass.

comp ast

Although the two asteroids appear to pass the Discovery One at a relatively safe distance, in astronomical terms such proximity would, without question, constitute what astronomers call a “near miss.”

As it turns out, the Jupiter Mission sequence from 2001 ASO was based in part on a 1949 short story by Arthur C. Clarke entitled Breaking Strain (aka, Thirty Seconds Thirty Days), which revolves around a space freighter, en route from Earth to Venus, being struck by a meteor which breeches the hull and depletes most of the ship’s oxygen supply.  Given the catastrophic meteor strike associated with the spacecraft in Clarke’s Breaking Strain, it seems plausible to suggest the meteor/asteroid near miss incorporated into 2001 ASO derives directly from Clarke’s earlier short story, although in this instance the ship narrowly escapes impact.

A celestial circumstance in which two asteroids in close proximity follow the same trajectory through the vastness of the solar system is a special one albeit now known to be more commonplace than originally thought.  Such objects are known by astronomers and astrophysicists as binary or double asteroids.  These asteroids are unique in that they consist of two bodies bound by gravity, rotating about a common center of mass in a fixed period of time.

Although astronomers long suspected the existence of binary asteroids, the first binary asteroid wasn’t observed with absolute certainty until 1993 when the Galileo probe photographed the main belt asteroid 243 Ida and its small satellite Dactyl.  This occurred as the spacecraft blazed by the binary system at nearly 28,000 MPH on its way to Jupiter.

243 ida

Interestingly, whereas the U.S.S. Discovery One voyage of the Clarke/Kubrick film portrayed the first manned mission to Jupiter to conduct an extensive scientific survey, to date the Galileo mission is the first and only unmanned mission to Jupiter to entail an orbital insertion followed by an intensive scientific survey.

Moreover, it should also be pointed out that 2001 ASO was the first (and possibly the only) film to depict – via special effects – a hypothetical binary system of asteroids whilst the Galileo probe was the first manmade device to actually image the once hypothetical construct and transmit those images back to Earth.

Additional specifics of the Galileo mission will be discussed a bit later as it has further relevance with respect to the current study.

In the author’s previous post (1.1), a curious synchronism existing between an episode of a 1968 science fiction series (Star Trek) and a 2001 scientific paper was underscored.  Continuing along these lines, in this post we’ll explore yet another intriguing synchronism existing between 1968′s 2001 ASO and a 2001 scientific discovery.  As with the previous synchronism, this one too deals with the subject of asteroids.

On the basis of a prima-facie screening of 2001 ASO, it’s relatively clear the binary asteroid encounter takes place at some point near the midpoint of the Jupiter Mission sequence and, interestingly, enough information seems to be available to answer the question of when with surprising accuracy.  Working from details deriving from the movie, the movie’s 1965 script and Clarke’s 1968 novel of the same name, fans of the film have successfully synthesized an intriguing timeline of events.  Utilizing this timeline in conjunction with images from the film as well as statistics culled from NASA’s Galileo Mission to Jupiter, it’s then possible to determine specifics with respect to the trajectory and destination of the film’s hypothetical binary asteroid.

Although the procedures involved in attempting to determine the trajectory of the film’s hypothetical binary asteroid could be a bit complicated, the process can be vastly simplified by employing a straightforward computer model.

Using a 3D modeling program and a low-resolution model of the U.S.S. Discovery One (built to approximate scale), it’s possible to duplicate the 2001 ASO film frame depicting the close passage of the hypothetical binary asteroid.

2001 ASO model

Once the film frame is reconstructed in virtual space, it’s then a simple matter to view the scene from any angle.  For our purposes, a bird’s eye perspective, looking down on both the spacecraft and the passing binary asteroid is essential.  When we carry out this task, we arrive at the top down view included in the image below.

birdseye

As we know the binary asteroid’s traveling directly toward the camera, we’re in a good position to determine the angular orientation of the Discovery One relative to the camera’s primary axis (which is the equivalent of the asteroid’s trajectory).  All we need to do is simply extend a straight line along the spacecraft’s primary axis until it intersects the binary asteroid’s trajectory line.

At this point, it’s then a simple matter to use a virtual protractor to calculate the spacecraft’s angular orientation relative to the asteroid’s trajectory and, when we do so, we learn this angular orientation is equivalent to 139°.

birdseye2

birdseye3

In order to then determine the destination of the Clarke/Kubrick hypothetical binary, we next need to pinpoint the whereabouts of the Discovery One in relation to its elliptical path of travel or Jupiter-bound trajectory.

In order for a space probe or spacecraft to intercept a planet, it’s necessary to launch the space-bound vehicle into an elliptical orbit around the Sun – one that intercepts the target planet’s orbital path.  The figure included below is taken from NASA’s 2003 Galileo Mission press kit and the highlighted red line depicts the Galileo probe’s final Jupiter intercept trajectory (when looking down on the plane of the ecliptic).

galileo traj

After the final slingshot maneuver around the Earth/Moon system (8 Dec 1992), the Galileo probe acquired a final burst of speed, accelerating from 79,000 MPH to 87,200 MPH, which significantly elongated its orbital parameters.  This increased velocity is represented by more widely-spaced hash marks drawn perpendicular to the trajectory line.  The distance between each pair of lines represents an interval of one month and, as is apparent from the figure, this distance starts out further apart, becoming closer together as the probe approaches Jupiter.

The widely spaced lines translate to high speed and lines positioned nearer together represent low speed as it requires more time to travel the same distance the further along its trajectory the probe travels.  The reader will recall that at the final Earth/Moon slingshot of 8 December 1992, the probe was traveling at 87,200 MPH but, as the probe approach 243 Ida nine months later, it had been slowed to a meager 28,000 MPH or, about a third of its earlier velocity (see previous figure).

If the planet Jupiter wasn’t present when the probe reached the outer edge of its orbital ellipse, instead of hitching a ride in the planet’s gravitational field, the slowly moving probe would gradually begin tumbling back toward the sun with ever increasing velocity.

The Discovery One’s elliptical trajectory would be much like that of the Galileo probe but we know from the film, film script and novel that it accelerates away from the Earth/Moon system at a much greater rate, ultimately attaining a much higher velocity.  We know this as, following Galileo’s final slingshot, it took three years to reach Jupiter whereas Clarke’s 1965 script states the transit time is 257 days and the novel indicates the mission is to be a 2-year round trip, meaning the transit time would be closer to a full year.

Although either figure would work with respect to the current discussion, an average transit time will be calculated on the basis of these two figures.

The following Discovery One trajectory incorporates a total transit time (average) of 311 days and uses an elapsed mission time of 148 days for the asteroid encounter.  This 148-day estimate is reached via the accumulation of days relating to a series of logged chronological events beginning with the time of the spacecraft’s departure and culminating in the radio delay time associated with a key transmission from the spacecraft to Mission Control.  This transmission concerned the AE-35 unit and occurred the day prior to the asteroid encounter.  The stated delay time of 25 minutes equates to a distance of 284.9 million miles from Earth.

The time interval between trajectory “dots” in the diagram is 25.9 days and the “X” marks the point of the asteroid encounter.

orbit 1

Having established Discovery One’s approximate location along its trajectory at the time of the binary asteroid encounter, we can now incorporate the angular data obtained previously to plot the trajectory of the binary asteroid.

Given the close proximity of the asteroid and the spacecraft in relation to the vastness of the solar system, the bird’s eye version of the movie frame showing both the asteroid and the Discovery One (see previous figure) is reduced to a single point defined by two intersecting lines – one line representing the asteroid’s trajectory and the other representing the orientation of the Discovery One’s primary axis.

The spacecraft’s axial orientation relative to its orbital trajectory can be considered equivalent to a line drawn tangent to the semi-ellipse defining its travel path.  Once this tangent line is established and plotted, the binary asteroid’s trajectory can then be plotted by incorporating the 139° angle calculated previously.

orbit 2

At this point, the reader may be wondering why all this effort was put into estimating the trajectory of 2001 ASO’s binary asteroid.  To understand the significance of the asteroid’s trajectory, we must first note the point of intersection between the asteroid trajectory line and the orbital trajectory of Jupiter as depicted in the figure above.  With this intersection point firmly in mind, we now need to learn a bit more about the Sun-Jupiter gravitational system.

Born 25 January 1736 in Turin, Sardinia-Piedmont (Italy), Giuseppe Luigi Lagrangia (Joseph-Louis Lagrange) was inspired at an early age by a memoir penned by English astronomer Edmond Halley of Halley’s Comet fame.  Greatly motivated by his chance reading of Halley’s chronicle, Lagrange was drawn into the world of science and mathematics and, by 1761, was widely considered one of the greatest mathematicians living.

lagrange

In 1772, Lagrange happened upon an unusual upshot of Newton’s Law of Gravitation when applied to two bodies orbiting one another.  According to Lagrange’s calculations, there should be two locations along the orbital trajectory of the smaller body wherein objects will oscillate rather than succumb to the gravitational fields of either entity and fall toward one or the other.

From a geometric perspective, these points lead and trail the body in question by 60° and lie along the body’s orbital path as illustrated in the figure below, which depicts Earth’s Lagrange points (L4 – leading; L5 – trailing).

earth lagrange

Although the larger body in our current scenario is still the Sun, the smaller body is the planet Jupiter and Jupiter’s Lagrange points (L4 and L5) have attracted the attention of a great many scientists in the wake of Lagrange’s prediction for reasons we shall soon see.

The exceptionally wide gap that exists between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter is familiar to astronomers due in large part to the fact that, rather than containing an essentially empty void, it contains a relatively large population of orbiting bodies – 243 Ida included among them.  This relatively dense band of orbiting bodies, beginning just outside the orbit of Mars (1.5 AU) and extending out to around 3.3 AU (Astronomical Units), is known collectively as the main asteroid belt.

main belt

Although the main asteroid belt consists of a vast number of primordial bodies or minor planets, it’s not the only celestial cache of interplanetary debris in the solar system.  Just as the Earth has leading and trailing Lagrange points along its orbit, so to does the planet Jupiter.  Unlike Earth’s Lagrange points, however, Jupiter’s Lagrange points are centered within relatively large clusters of asteroids that are locked perpetually into the planet’s orbit, leading (L4) and trailing (L5) the planet by 60°.  The leading group of Lagrange asteroids is known as the Greeks and the trailing group, the Trojans.

L4 - L5

Combining the information included in the figure above with the previous determination concerning the binary asteroid’s trajectory, we derive the following diagram.

comp

On the basis of the figure above, what’s important to understand about 2001 ASO’s hypothetical scenario is that, at about the time Discovery One’s arriving at Jupiter, the binary asteroid is nearing the planet’s trailing Lagrange point, which is to say, finding itself nestled deeply within the very heart of Jupiter’s Trojan asteroid population (L5).

Although at this point it no doubt seems to the reader as if a great deal of time and effort has been spent carrying out calculations of no consequence, providing just a modicum more information may profoundly impact one’s perception of the matter.

As previously mentioned, astronomers had long suspected the existence of binary asteroids and, in 1993, the first known binary asteroid was photographed by the Galileo probe on its way to Jupiter.  Despite this remarkable initial confirmation, it would be another 5 years before the second binary asteroid would be discovered.  In the years following this second discovery, additional Main Belt and Near-Earth binary asteroids were found but no Trojan’s could be counted among them.

Then, it happened…

The same year that saw a massive surge in the ground-based detection of binary asteroids also saw a team of astronomers, led by Dr. William J. Merline, utilize the 8.1-meter Gemini North telescope to discover the first ever Trojan binary.

One thing that was unique about this breakthrough was the fact that, unlike most binary asteroids discovered (e.g., 243 Ida), the components of this binary system (617 Patroclus) were nearly identical in size – an astonishingly rare occurrence.

What was far more extraordinary about the find, however (in light of the author’s alleged 1968/2001 temporal nexus), was the year in which the discovery was made.

The year of the discovery was 2001!

The image below was created by space artist Lynette Cook for the Keck Observatory in the wake of the Trojan binary’s discovery.  With respect to the Clarke/Kubrick film 2001:  A Space Odyssey, the only thing missing from the painting is the artist’s rendition of the slightly angled tail-end thruster assembly of the U.S.S. Discovery One, positioned between the binary asteroid and Jupiter (see inset) on its way toward the massive planet.

617 Patroclus

comp ast

What’s the likelihood a 1968 science fiction film, depicting a hypothetical binary asteroid (of nearly equal-sized components) en route to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroid population, would reference in its title the very year the first and only Trojan binary asteroid (of nearly equal-sized components – a rarity) would be discovered (i.e., 2001)?  Moreover, what mechanism can be called upon to account for the fulfillment of this seeming 33-year-old prediction from the realm of science fiction?

Once again, the presence of this synchronism might be explained by invoking coincidence when considered in isolation but, when coupled with the asteroid-related, fiction/fact, 1968/2001 synchronism discussed previously (post 1.1), it becomes much more unlikely.  Is it possible the proliferation of these synchronisms are not random events?

More to come…

1.1 >> The Paradise Syndrome and the Clovis Catastrophe

In March of 2001, Mammoth Trumpet, the official publication of the Center for the Study of the First Americans (CSFA), published a paper co-authored by Dr. Richard Firestone, a nuclear analytical chemist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

mammoth trumpet 2

The paper was earth-shattering in that its authors – two seasoned and well respected scientists – soberly asserted a cosmic catastrophe occurred 12,900 years ago, overtaking the preeminent Paleo-Indian tribe of North America – known to archaeologists as Clovis.

As Dr. Firestone would go on to claim, the cataclysm likely involved an impacting comet approximately 4 kilometers wide, smashing into the vast Laurentide Ice Sheet, which covered a widespread area of North America at the time.  In addition to obliterating the Clovis Paleo-Indians of ancient North America, Firestone and a team of 26 scientists from varied scientific disciplines now believe the event initiated a pervasive 1000-year cooling period known as the Younger Dryas and played a significant role in the end-Pleistocene mass extinctions, including the demise of the awe-inspiring ice age giant known as the woolly mammoth.

mammoth

The crowning achievement of Dr. Firestone’s efforts, which began back in the early 1990s, was publication of his theory and supporting data in the 9 October 2007 issue of the world’s most-cited, multidisciplinary scientific journal – The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Without the impressive array of forensic evidence gathered together and brought to bear by Firestone and his colleagues, one might think the idea of a massive asteroid or comet strike, leading to the annihilation of an entire indigenous American Indian culture, the fanciful musings of a brainstorming science fiction writer.  What if it was?

With this thought-provoking question firmly in mind, let us now take a brief journey back in time to survey the situation 33 years earlier, refocusing our attention on the popular culture of the period…

star trek

Following two lackluster seasons of the 1960s sci-fi serial Star Trek, NBC was on the verge of pulling the plug and foregoing further episodes when, for the first time in the history of television, a massive letter-writing campaign, secretly started by series creator Gene Roddenberry, succeeded in saving the show.

In the wake of Roddenberry’s triumph the new season progressed and on 4 October 1968, some 33 years before the publication of Dr. Firestone’s groundbreaking paper, NBC aired the third episode of the third and final season of Star Trek.  Of particular interest is the theme of the episode.

Starting from a sketchy story outline in March of 1968 - the selfsame month Firestone’s paper saw the light of day in 2001 - screenwriter Margaret Armen proceeded to shape and revise the episode’s draft under the working title The PalefaceThree months later, the final draft was turned in and filming started by mid-June under the revised title The Paradise Syndrome - Production Code:  60043-058.

In the opening sequence of the episode, the molecules of Captain Kirk, science officer Spock and the ship’s physician, Dr. McCoy, are systematically disassembled by the teleporters onboard the orbiting Starship Enterprise only to be reassembled on the surface of an Earth-like planet named Amerind.

The environment the reconstituted colleagues find themselves in is eerily reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest United States.  Upon a preliminary probe, they discover a mysterious metallic obelisk mounted atop a truncated stone pyramid in a forest clearing.  Unable to determine the composition, origin or purpose of the massive construction, the three crew members turn their attention to the inhabitants of the planet and the mission on which they’ve been sent.

The purpose of the mission is revealed in a few brief interchanges between the three shipmates at the outset of the episode as they survey the scenery and surreptitiously spy on the citizens of a small community on the far side of a picturesque lake:

star trek2

Kirk:  (standing alongside the mysterious obelisk) “What’s the nearest concentration of life forms Mr. Spock?”

 Spock: (hoisting tricorder) “Bearing 1-1-7 mark 4.”

 Kirk:  “And how much time did you say we have to investigate?”

 Spock:  “If we are to divert the asteroid, which is on a collision course with this planet, we must warp out of orbit within 30 minutes.  Every second we delay arriving at the deflection point compounds the problem perhaps passed solution.”

•••

McCoy:  (looking across the lake) “Why they look like…I’d swear they’re American Indians.”

Spock:  “They are doctor:  A mixture of Navajo, Mohican and Delaware I believe.  All among the more advanced and peaceful tribes.”

•••

McCoy:  (referring to the Indians) “Shouldn’t we contact them Jim?  Tell them?”

 Kirk:  “Tell them what?  That an asteroid is coming to smash their world into atoms?”

And so we leave the three comrades by the lake, coming away with what some might consider a curious coincidence – a science fiction story, written and aired in 1968, precisely paralleling the history of North America as reconstructed by 21st century scientists in 2001:  the real life tale of how an ancient impact smashed the world of the North American Clovis Indians to atoms.

How was it possible for a screenwriter in 1968 to manufacture a science fiction scenario that would turn out to be an accurate reflection of America’s distant past, as demonstrated some 33 years later on the basis of forensic evidence that was completely unknown and unavailable to her at the time?  Certainly one should entertain the possibility the alignment of Armen’s story with the later forensic reconstruction was coincidental, however unlikely, but what if it was something else?

Rather than leave a fuzzy, out-of-focus, rhetorical question mark hovering above the exceedingly unlikely convergence of these two temporally distinct yet synchronous events, in the days ahead additional examples, underscoring the alleged 1968/2001 temporal nexus will be explored before speculating as to possible explanations.

Stay tuned…