Video Encryption: Hoagland alleges that since STS-48, all external STS video has been encrypted and will be viewed only after NASA review and approval. I have checked with a NASA Public Affairs official, and have personally verified, that things (as usual) are not quite what Richard Hoagland alleges. On STS-42, the second flight after STS-48 (the STS-44 DoD mission went between them), the International Microgravity Laboratory (Spacelab) science group requested that medical video imagery from the cardiological studies (sonogram images) be treated as privileged medical information, as all previous audio conversations with doctors had been. NASA discovered that having to continuously reconfigure the White Sands TDRSS site and the TDRSS satellites back and forth for encrypted video transmission was a laborious process. Rather than spend all that time, it was decided to go into encrypted mode continuously and decrypt the raw video at NASA Goddard for immediate release over the "NASA Select" circuit. Normally, when there was shuttle video, the White Sands to Goddard raw video link had been unencrypted, and the Goddard relay to "NASA Select" required no further processing; but when medically-privileged video was to be transmitted (a new innovation on STS-42, planned for years), complex encryption processes had to be initiated on the shuttle, on the TDRS satellites, at White Sands, and at Goddard. The procedure for constant encryption was implemented to avoid the cost of many switchovers between modes. But the NASA Select video from Goddard was to continue to be decrypted except for the medical transmissions, which were to be openly announced on the audio feed, just not piped into a million homes and schools nationwide. Since then, the NASA Select video (originating at NASA Goddard, and containing other sources of video, too) has continued to be transmitted as before, with the only change that the White Sands to Goddard link (which viewers could previously observe when it was active) is now encrypted. There is no hint from air-to-ground conversations that anything other than the new (and long scheduled) medical video imagery is being interrupted. And although it is encrypted, the White Sands raw feed can be observed to tell if there is a video signal or not on the feed, so I am told.
Conclusion: The standing explanation, that the objects are near the shuttle, are sunlit, and are affected by the plume field of an RCS jet firing, remains valid.
P.S. Hoagland made a number of other factually erroneous comments about live planetary image transmissions. He says that all previously NASA planetary probes transmitted live imagery. Actually, only fly-by probes did that, particularly the fly-by probes which had slow transmission rates which took many minutes to build up each image. Probes orbiting other planets (Venus and Mars, for example), do not (and I believe, never HAVE) transmitted live imagery, since they are frequently occulted by the planet's mass. Each orbit's imagery is stored and dumped over a short portion of each orbit, and the imagery data is initially decoded over the next hours and days. Live coverage of the actual image transmission would usually be blank, but for a few minutes every few hours would show images flipping across the screen at a very fast rate, if there was enough computer power to decode them in this "real time" speed. There is no practical reason why computers have to be built so powerful to keep up with the high- speed dump rate for a few minutes, then rest idle for the next several hours. Outside of avoiding whines about censorship, there's no reason to do so.
Robert Sheaffer - Scepticus Maximus - email@example.com
Past Chairman, The Bay Area Skeptics - for whom I speak only when authorized!
"Mystical explanations are considered deep. The truth is that they are not even superficial."
**** THE U.F.O. BBS - http://www.ufobbs.com/ ****