Well, the "NASA astronaut" turned out to be none other than Ken Johnston, described in the report as "A test astronaut, who is also chief trainer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States of America." Ken, as regular readers will know, is the ex-marine beloved by the NASA-hating folks because he accuses NASA of tampering with the photographic record of the Apollo program, obscuring important evidence.The problem is that Ken was never an astronaut, and never chief trainer of anything. His accusations are based on photo-prints stored in a ring binder for 25 years, then scanned on a consumer-grade scanner in non-clean conditions. The Rational wikipedia article on Ken tells what I believe to be the true story, and it's quite clear from that piece that Ken has misrepresented himself on at least two important occasions, in one instance leading him to be dropped from JPL's all-volunteer Solar System Ambassador program.note 1
Ken was in India to be an honored guest at an INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR on SPACE ODYSSEY organized by the Chennai chapter of the Aeronautical Society of India. The Chennai City News of 7th February gives the deets, introducing Ken as "Dr. R. Ken Johnston" and providing pix and vids. Again as we know from the Ratwiki article, Ken's Ph.D. is a fabrication.
This week, James Oberg commented "I think there are two levels of disgrace, first claiming status you never earned, and second, accusing those who DID earn such status of being falsifiers and planetary traitors."note 2
And then it got worse
The inaccurate description of Ken as a "NASA Astronaut USA" then appeared, not just in an ephemeral newspaper story, but on a permanent plaque beside the College of Technology's Link Flight Simulator.
The above photo appeared on Ken's Faceboo page, with the caption "I have a flight simulator named after me. I am very honored!"note 3 There were several comments, mostly congratulatory, but the following comment from Tom Harnish struck a discordant note:
"Ken, you've done so much good, don't ruin it! I warned you once before on the Mars One debacle. Happily you escaped disappointed but untarnished. But this really is stolen honor. Please be honest with yourself and with others."Harnish is an author and science consultant in San Diego.
My message to the NASA haters who consider Ken Johnston a hero is this: Look at that plaque and ask yourself whether a man who is content to be so falsely described is worthy of your respect.
Update 20 February
Today's edition of the New Indian Express has another story about Ken's tour. Describing him as "NASA's nemesis," it reports that he "released doctored images to prove that NASA had manipulated photographs to hide unexplained structures and anomalies on the lunar surface." We must assume that they think it was NASA that "doctored" the images, not Ken himself -- in all that James Oberg and I have written about Ken, we have never alleged that he intentionally changed his photo-prints--there's no evidence of that.
There are basically two explanations for the anomalies in Ken's pix. One is that he noticed strange things that he thought he had the only image of, but that are in fact present in NASA's official versions. A good example would be the notorious blue flares on several frames of Apollo 14 magazine #66. I blogged about this after Ken's Christmas 2011 appearance on Coast to Coast AM. The other explanation, also lavishly documented in this blog passim, is that the anomalies are not actually on Ken's prints at all, but on the scans done by Richard Hoagland on his office scanner. See, for example, the extensive discussion of Bret Sheppard's collection from June last year.
During that discussion, it came out that one of Sheppard's favorite examples, AS15-88-11967, is not even a scan from a photo-print but actually from a reversal (a slide, if you like.)
Slide scans are notorious for producing multiple reflections, which can appear as dot patterns. I've seen it many times in my own scans. So I would say that this example of a "discovery" is absolutely worthless.
And by the way...
Ken's online photo archive is not focused on anomalies at all. It's split into nine albums which group images having something in common, but the total lack of labeling makes browsing it somewhat unrewarding. There may be some gems in there but I'm not the man to find them.
Thanks to James Oberg for alerting me to this story
 Folklore in the pseudo-science community has it that Ken was "fired from NASA." However, since he was never an employee he obviously could not have been fired.
 Private communication, quoted by permission
 He managed to get that wrong, too. "Inaugurated by" is not the same as "Named after"