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UFO pictures:

Apollo-16 "giant UFO" pictures

Patrick Gross, Mulhouse, France


It is not obvious at all that one Apollo 16 footage of what appears to be a UFO-candidate is a UFO. Several arguments make it more reasonable that the UFO-candidate is a mere reflection of camera lens on the window. For example, the crew has not reported any UFO sighting during this mission. However, later, NASA found a better and bulletproof explanation: the object was the end of the EVA boom.

Frame from the video


The images have been quoted in a paper by Pr. A Meessen. Pr. Meessen refers to another paper which he indicated as having been published in the Journal of Scientific exploration (JSE) #17, pp 409-433, author H. Nakamura, 2003. Meessen indicated that recent research on an Apollo-16 UFO footage is an example which should motivate more scientist to invest time in similar research.

(Note: The paper by A. Meessen has a main topic which is not related to the problem discussed here. One should not feel discouraged to read the paper because of the present discussion which deals with little more than what is almost a side-note of the paper.

The paper was pointed at and the question was raised on the Aleph "Fortean" Internet discussion group: are these images authentic?

I was interested in having an answer to that question; I was also interested in getting opinion on a question of my own: is the UFO really the Earth? (I had read long ago that this was the explanation; but could not remember by whom). Also, did the Apollo crew mention these images as those of a UFO? (I found no such statement anywhere I searched; and, on the other hand, I know that at least some of the NASA astronauts would have openly said something if it were - astronauts Cooper, Mitchell, McDivitt have proven that at least some astronauts if not all are not subjected to UFO-taboo-ism).

I have asked advice here and there at NASA and also to James Oberg. With a lasting reputation of "debunker", Mr. Oberg, I thought, would know if a) the images are hoaxed and b) the images show an unidentified flying object or something else.

Mr. Oberg was the first and only one at the present to provide an opinion on these images, which I appreciated.

Mr. Oberg confirmed that the images are really from Apollo-16 film, taken soon after departure from lunar orbit.

Point 1: the images are not a hoax.

As a matter of fact, the images are part of the CL-862 film; which was produced in 1978 at his request.

James Oberg was interested in them because photo technician Don Pickard, now retired, had the opinion that the "UFO" is merely planet Earth. Oberg notes that Don Ratsch and other have verified that the geometry of the "UFO" was wrong for the Earth. Oberg has the same conclusion, reached by checking lunar features such as crater and determining that the view was not towards the Earth.

Point 2. The "UFO" is not the Earth.

Oberg mentions a discussion on the Internet; in which a photo technician suggested it is a reflection of the sunlit camera lens in the Apollo window. Support for this view was that as the hand-held camera 'jerks' back and forth, the image seems to move twice as far as the image of the moon itself, indicated the image is not of something bright outside the window. Also, the portion of the illuminated arc changes during the sequence, as if the sunlit round object moved in and out relative to the shadow of the window's edge.

Photographs of the cine camera used for this shot showed that it had a step-flared lens assembly that is consistent with the double-arc structure perceptible in the sequence.

Point 3. the "UFO" is consistent with a reflection of the sunlit camera lens in the Apollo window.

Oberg had inquired of each of the three astronauts of the Apollo-16 mission, John Young, Ken Mattingly, and Charlie Duke. He knows them all and worked many years with them. All three told him that they saw nothing outside and do not even recall the image. They said that there were so many reflections and blurs on normal flight film. These images were not mentioned in the post-flight debriefings.

Oberg has checked the transcript of the communications during the mission and there was no real-time discussion of anything [unusual such as an UFO] seen near the Moon. He also checked the contact sheets for the still cameras, for all views during departure from the Moon, and saw nothing unusual.

Oberg also raised my attention on the fact that the so-called UFO is never the "center of attention" in the filming: "Note also that the image is always off to the side of the camera's main pointing, which is towards the receding moon. This is further indication that the photographer saw nothing unusual in his viewfinder, if he even noticed the image at all." I find this point extremely valid.

Oberg says that it cannot be determined which of the three astronauts exactly took these pictures, and that claims that it was taken by any specific crewman are bogus. I had indeed noted that many Internet sites claim the pictures were by Young. Oberg indicates that Ken Mattingly recalls that he held the cine camera during most of this period, but all three were looking out all the windows and passing all the cameras around from moment to moment. He adds, "They were elated to be heading back to Earth but were determined to soak in as much of the view of the moon as they could, since they all knew they were never coming back. So they told me they were looking VERY intently out the windows and were burning every impression into their memories. A 'UFO' was not among those impressions.

Point 4. The astronauts saw no UFO. They would have noticed, if a UFO was there.

Conclusion so far:

My position, thus, is that the picture probably does not show a "about 100 km wide UFO!" (exclamation point in the original paper), with a speed of "20 to 40 km/s."

I am not so much of a photo analyst for myself; but I will not believe that any of the three astronauts would not have noticed the UFO if there was one. Unless counter-arguments are offered, I make mine Mr. Oberg's opinion.

The weakness of my position is as follows: I have not read the JSE article; I do not have it. It may contain counter-arguments to the explanation by the reflection of the sunlit camera lens in the Apollo window, or it may not. I can only note that in Pr. Meessen paper, he indicates that the study by H. Nakamura has eliminated numerous assumptions: it is not an image of the Earth, it is not an image of the Control Module, it is not a joke, it is not an optical aberration inside the camera optics. I note that the Mr. Meessen does not tell that it is not a reflection of the sunlit camera lens on the window of the spacecraft.

(I am also still awaiting answers from various NASA services to the initial questions. If anything of interest surfaces, I will add it to this article.)

But on the other end, it cannot offer counter arguments to the point; which I find the most relevant: the three astronauts did not see a UFO. I am convinced they would have seen it if it were there, and I am convinced that they would have publicly talked about it since other astronauts do talk and write about their UFO observations freely (See Col. Cooper's book or the Condon Report).

Many thanks to James Oberg for his information.

New information:

In the meantime, I did read the JSE article. All I can say that it is a nice effort to demonstrate that the moon on the picture is the real moon and not some fakery, no arguments against my article exists there.

New information:

I wrote the above on December 3, 2003.

Although I was right that the object was not a UFO and that no UFO was seen there, another explanation was found by NASA. It was not a reflection of camera lenses; it was the end part of the EVA boom.

This is how they found out: they had get a clearer version of the footage, and on this clearer version, the EVA boom is visible. His explanation was published on their website.

Picture credit: NASA - see references.


The discussed images exist in Internet-formatted pictures of video files on these URLs as of December 1st, 2003:

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