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UFOs and astronauts:

In 2006, on a Fortean Internet discussion group, I am asked:

"The last issue of Top Secret magazine delivers to us a summary written by Claude Burkel of the observations and anomalies noted by the astronauts of the various past missions. What about those anecdotes and their consequences?"

It is first of all remarkable that Claude Burkel practically provides no source information (only one for one of the 15 cases) for the sighting and anomalies he tells about. This prevents the reader from checking if they are inventions or largely explained facts. To summarize sightings found in second hand sources without even indicating the references for these sources is not ufology.

On the cover, the article is presented as "UFOS in space - astronauts saw them, they testified - chronology of the close encounters of the space conquest." The article itself is headlined "Astronauts and UFOS - secrecies of NASA and the Soviet Union on the close encounters in space."

I checked the whole of the alleged events listed in his article [ts1]:

July 21, 1961

Claude Burkel indicates that the door of astronaut Gus Grissom's capsule blows up at sea, and that it saved the astronaut's life before the capsule sunk. The author says that this is an "unexplainable fact."

In reality:

There was a problem indeed, an "unexplained fact", but that has nothing to do with UFOs, and there is nothing paranormal or secret about it. It has nothing to do with either a "close encounter" and it is not "in space."

What occurred with certainty is that after the normal sea landing that went without incident of his "Liberty Bell 7" ship of the Mercury-Redstone 4 mission, Virgil "Gus" Grissom was recovered in extremis whereas he was sinking, by the helicopter in charge of the recovery, but his ship which was also supposed to be recovered sunk, because it had filled up of sea water though its hatch.

There are several explanation of the incident.

According to Grissom, the explosive bolts of the ship's hatch exploded by themselves, prematurely and without him not doing anything for that effect, and the ship just like his suit - he had removed his helmet - started to fill up with water and sink.

According to NASA, what Grissom reported was initially accepted, but thereafter there were some doubts on this matter, and one wondered whether he had panicked and blasted the hatch himself. Nothing proved it, but that could not be entirely ruled out either. Others estimated decades later than if the bolts had exploded, Grissom would have been hurt, and they thus suggested that there was a defect in the design of the hatch emergency opening system. Others still thought that the firing handle for the explosive bolts outside the ship could have been hung by accident by one of parachutes strings [gg6].

Whatever happened, and although there is still a controversy on this matter, there is no UFO here, no paranormal phenomenon, no secrecy, no mystery other than that of a simple technical incident having several possible explanations which are a subject of controversies.

Gus Grissom and his Aurora 7 spaceship at the time of recovery.

Gus Grissom deceased on January 27, 1967 per asphyxiation, in company of astronauts Ed White and Roger Chafee at the time of the fire of an Apollo spacecraft during a simulation of takeoff test. The cruel irony is that the spacecraft did not have emergency hatch opening explosive bolts, which could have saved the lives of this crew [gg1], [gg2], [gg3], [gg4], [gg5].

How the story entered UFO literature:

This story was never a UFO story.

February 20, 1962

According to Claude Burkel, John Glenn orbiting the Earth in the Mercury spaceship saw "thousands of luminous balls" which accompanied him during more than 6000 km.

In reality:

Many astronauts in terrestrial orbit reported these "space fireflies." Claude Burkel takes care not to mention the explanation: while knocking voluntarily or involuntarily on the walls of their ship, the astronauts had ice particles and bits of paint which were hung there take off.

As regards the stories of "censorship," they are pure fabrications. Glenn freely told the "fireflies" story in Life magazine at the time and many times thereafter:

"There, spread out as far as I could see were literally thousands of tiny luminous objects that glowed in the black sky like fireflies. I was riding slowly through them, and the sensation was like walking backwards through a pasture where someone had waved a wand and made all the fireflies stop right where they were and glow steadily."

The "fireflies" story is told everywhere. It is told in the famed "The Right Stuff" movie, it is told by the astronauts since ages, it is told by NASA historians, it is told on Internet web sites about space exploration, it is told on Wikipedia. There never was the least censorship on this, except that by Claude Burkel who voluntarily or involuntarily hushes the explanation of this mystery.

When the astronauts understood what made the fireflies, they played with this "phenomenon:" they discovered that it was enough to bang on the walls of their spacecraft to get some "fireflies" take off.

According to Claude Burkel, when Glenn returns in the atmosphere, he sees a sphere of fire following him. According to Claude Burkel, Glenn denied that it was a meteor and he was censored because of that and was put out of active service until he was 77 years when he finally was authorized again to be a passenger in an orbital flight.

In reality:

He did not see any "sphere of fire following the spaceship," this is only a whimsical interpretation of the facts:

When he was in the radio range of the Murchea station in Australia where Gordon Cooper was, he told him that all was going well, and that he could see a shining light and what seemed to him to be the contour of a city. Cooper answered him that these were surely the lights of the Australian city of Perth. There is no UFO at all in all that.

Meanwhile, mission control on the ground had lifted a severe issue: an automatic alarm announced that the heat shield was not fastened correctly anymore.

At the beginning of re-entry phase, Glenn saw the infamous "fireflies." They seemed to him to come from the front of the spaceship. In fact, as a detector announced that the heat shield in front of the capsule was not fastened correctly anymore, it is possible that these "fireflies" were particles of ice or painting which had been shaken when it unfastened. Still no UFOs in this.

Immediately after, Glenn heard like gentle shocks, like "small things which would have rubbed against the capsule." Then he reported to mission control, "It is like a fireball out there" and just at this time he could see one of the fixings of the retrorockets come floating along the porthole. That is what Claude Burkel calls a UFO...

Then there was smoke, and ground control understood that the retrorockets which were to slow down his reentry in the atmosphere had partially burned. In theory, the retrorockets pack was to be ejected after use, but as everyone had understood that the heat shield did not hold anymore, it had been decided not to eject the pack, hoping that its straps were enough to maintain the heat shield. That functioned as hoped and Glenn landed alive from this dangerous situation.

The idea that he "was put out of service" is also pure fabrication; each astronaut did only few missions or only one mission, each program and each mission had new crews. That he went back to space at age 77 has nothing to do with a cover-up of UFOs, on the contrary, it was a privilege that was granted to him.

Glenn had started a political career, joining the Democrat party. He was a friend of the Kennedys, and was four times senator of Ohio, in 1976, 1980, 1986 and 1992.

How the story entered UFO literature:

The story of Glenn's fireflies appeared in the newspapers without any censorship, then in 1972 in an Italian book on astronautics by Francesco Ogliari [og1]. According to Ogliari, Glenn had reported this: above Australia, he indicated to Houston that he was seeing thousands of luminous particles that escorted him on 6000 km. At the time of the re-entry he saw a "luminous sphere" of which he said that it could not be a meteor, and "because of that he would be forbidden to fly."

In 1975, when ufologist and astronomer Joseph Allen Hynek embarked in a book co-written with Jacques Vallée [ed1], he wanted as usual to stick to checked cases, even to stick to cases he had checked personally. But Jacques Vallée insisted to add in an appendix to the book a "catalogue of UFO sightings by astronauts." It was ufologist George Fawcett who provided this catalogue, simply taking what seemed to him interesting stories of astronauts here and there in the ufological literature and magazines, estimating that that "probably" the stories had been checked by their respective editors. It does not seem that Jacques Vallée cast any doubt on this and J. Allen Hynek simply trusted Vallée, specifying however thereafter that it was indeed a simple appendix left at the reader's judgment, and not a bulletproof case file like the body of his books offered. The story is re-hashed by Jacques Pottier [po1].

For this particular case, Fawcett's text was utterly whimsical: it told that three objects followed the Glenn's spaceship then exceeded him at variable speeds.

Thereafter, Dr. J. Allen Hynek himself attempted to check these sightings reports, he went to NASA, obtained the documents that he wanted, studied, and let know that actually, in those alleged astronauts sightings, nothing really has anything to do with the UFO phenomenon.

Later, debunker James Oberg [ma1], who happened to have been a NASA mission controller, wrote articles to publicize that since Hynek had let these stories enter his book, the entire UFO businesses must be rejected as fairy tales.

That was an utterly unbalanced judgment; but the fact remains that these claims of astronauts sightings, as we see here, re-appear endlessly in the literature of ufologists not very anxious to check anything they tell...

The silliest of all the Gordon Cooper legend in a whimsical book by Jacques Bergier and George Gallet [be1]: the authors claim that Cooper heard aliens speak on his radio and that ground control recorded their speech and found no language on Earth that matched it.

May 24, 1962

According to Burkel, Scott Carpenter makes a "flight rich in mysterious elements" and "all the reports" "are declared TOP SECRET..."

This time again, there is no single UFO in it.

The first alleged "mystery" in John Carpenter's mission, according to Claude Burkel, is that he saw "coming towards him the famous luminous balls" which "flew very fast" and whose glare was "more brilliant than that of stars." Carpenter radioed ground control asked them to inform Glenn: "They really exist! I see them, tell Glenn."

In reality:

Carpenter [sc1] happened to see the same infamous "fireflies" that are explained above. They were not explained yet at this time, and he thus contacted ground control and asked that Glenn get informed that he had not dreamt. They did exist! Burkel plays the mystery card on this subject by evoking "the famous luminous balls", " their glare was more brilliant than that of stars." Obviously, ice particles and paint particles close to the porthole are very naturally more brilliant than stars and they "flew very quickly" compared to stars. There is no UFO here, not secrecy, no mystery, nothing other that a phenomenon not understood at the time it occurred but understood soon afterwards, as I explained above.

Burkel sees another mystery in an interruption of the radio communications during one hour at the time of the reentry and until the recovery. He says that Carpenter was found in a "state of confusion" and asked the military men who came to recover him: "Who are you? Where do you come from?" and adds that according to colonel Power, NASA spokesman, "contrary to the laws of physics", the capsule had not been damaged at all by the reentry and the shield was intact.

In reality:

There was a problem with a system of automatic flight control and Carpenter has to return manually, an more than risky operation, and unprecedented. He succeeded, but naturally the capsule exceeded its foreseen point of sea landing. Carpenter was very ordinarily in his inflatable boat close to the capsule, and obviously he did not have a radio to communicate during the 36 minutes that it took to reach him. But everyone knew where he was! He was located by the rangefinders and the radars during all the descent. There is simply no radio in the dinghy, hence the "radio silence", and concerns of the medias during this time, but there is no true mystery therein. [sc3]

See how things become mysterious: in Claude Burkel's version, Carpenter was in a "state of confusion" and asked "Who are you? Where do you come from?" to the military men who came at him. It is hard to tell exactly what Claude Burkel tries to suggest with all this, it sounds very mysterious... The imaginative reader is led to think about some "missing time" episode or heaven knows what alien kidnapping or intervention, but there is strictly nothing sensible in all that.

Indeed the way this episode really unfolded [pm1] completely dissolves this 2 cents pseudo-mystery: 36 minutes after the sea landing, Carpenter could see two planes arriving, a P2V and a Piper Apache which took photographs. Then, several SC-54 arrived, and as he could not look at all these circling planes at the same time, he did not notice the two divers which jumped from one of them, but a little too far. There were some waves which hid them, they swam towards the raft, and it is when one first reached the dinghy that Carpenter was surprised, (and not "in a state of confusion"), not having seen him jump nor swim, and he quite naturally asked "where do you come from?"

The three men in the dinghy still had to wait before being recovered. There again, one wonders where there is any link between this story and "UFO close encounters by astronauts" and other "secrets of the NASA!"

Whereas a manual return was an exploit, and that the faulty operation of a flight control system of the spaceship was really not his fault, Carpenter was literally attacked by Chris Kraft who in his book "Flight" blames him for having landed too far. All his life, Carpenter had to bear these criticisms and the unending controversies on this matter. This is all one more story of the guy in his armchair making pretentious nonsense towards another who was courageous enough to put his ass on the top of a ballistic missile for a journey in space...

How the story entered UFO literature:

It occurred exactly as with the preceding ones: thought the unchecked Fawcett catalogue in Hynek's book following the suggestion by Jacques Vallée:

Fawcett wrote that Scott Carpenter had photographed some objects like fireflies and also took what seemed to be a good photograph of a flying saucer.

Again, other sources indicates the book by Francesco Ogliari [og1], as initial source, which would further indicate that at least part of what Claude Burkel reports comes from there: fireflies, a gleam around the capsule, and a story without details of the spaceship that "remained cold inside."

June 18, 1962

Claude Burkel reports that "the newspapers" made their front pages about "several Soviet astronauts who disappeared in space", a man and a woman launched from Baikonur on February 17 and who did not leave their orbit, "then all was forgotten."

He says that according to radio operator stations' on the ground like that of Meudon "where the recordings exist", these two astronauts exclaimed that they "saw something" and that if they do not survive the mission "the world will never know."

In reality:

The chronologically nearest mission was the flight of Vostok 3 and 4, a two spaceship meeting to fly in formation, but it was on August 11-12, 1962. There is no trace of the least other Soviet flight than Vostok 3 and 4 for the year 1962.

As for the day of June 18, 1962, indicated by Claude Burkel, the only launch is that of a US Thor rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, and there was absolutely no Russian cosmonauts in space that day!

One wonders how Claude Burkel, who dates the incident of June 18, can imagine that there is a relationship with a mission started on February 17. At that time, no mission could have such a duration! The first, that of Gagarin in 1961, had lasted 108 minutes. The missions of long duration are not possible in the small capsules, they are only possible in space stations, which did not exist yet, such as Skylab, MIR or the ISS.

Although the report by Claude Burkel gives all appearances of pure imagination, I tried to find the newspapers that Burkel evokes without any references, which makes research very difficult. It is already a bit daring to believe "the newspaper", but when these newspapers are not even indicated, it becomes frankly laughable.

How the story entered UFO literature:

The same book of Francesco Ogliari [og1], has an account about Pavel Popovich, during the Vostok 4 mission on August 12, 1962, saw the infamous "fireflies" that the Americans had seen. However, the story of the cosmonauts that disappeared after seeing a UFO first appeared in French in a 1975 book by Jacques Pottier [po1], without any further references on the alleged newspaper articles Pottier dates the case of February 24, 1962, and the time as 08:00 p.m. Moscow time. He adds that the radio conversations were heard at Meudon, Bichum and Turin, and that the Soviet neither confirmed nor denied the incident.

Cosmonaut Pavel Popovich had worked in 1984 for the creation of a Russian group of official investigation of UFO sightings. [sh1].

May 15, 1963

According to Claude Burkel, Gordon Cooper sees a disc approaching his spaceship.

In reality:

Utter rubbish! Cooper wrote his memoirs in 2000 [gc1], translated in French in 2001 [gc2]. All there is to do is to read it and respect his testimonies about UFOs: he saw some, as fighter pilot, in 1951 in Europe, but he never saw any in space.

It was decades that Gordon Cooper had to put things straight about that over and over because authors who do not check anything and seem not to know anything about this matter claimed that he saw UFOs in space:

"The legend has it that while orbiting the Earth in my Mercury ship, I was the first astronaut to see UFOs in space. And this legend went on for years, amplified by many articles, books and TV shows." [gc2, p.93]

"The story was spread and grew richer with the of years... The only problem with these stories: it never happened. I never saw any UFO in space. I publicly contradicted this story on several occasions, but it has a life of his own." [gc2, p.94]


Gordon Cooper saw UFOS as a fighter pilot. Pilot friends of Gordon Cooper saw UFOs. He was involved in a UFO landing case whose footage never surfaced. He firmly thought that we have extraterrestrial visitors. He said that to the United Nations. All that is true and is explained in his book. But he never saw UFOs in space!

How the story entered UFO literature:

It is once again a story present in the Fawcett catalogue included by Vallée in his book with Hynek. Fawcett tells that on May 16, 1963 - not May 15 - Gordon Cooper reported to see a greenish UFO with a red tail, and that it would have also reported "other mysterious things above Australia and South America. HE allegedly saw an "object" above Perth in Australia; which "was seen on the screens of ground controllers." Cooper has explained endlessly that all that was only rubbish, and stupid interpretations of observations of natural things such as aurorae borealis, but it does not prevent some whimsical ufologists from continuing to propagate the nonsense.

June 14, 1963

Claude Burkel writes that Vostok 5 was chased by "an object."

In reality:

The case - completely deprived of details - is probably pure fabrication. To my knowledge, nobody ever checked anything on this subject.

Vostok 5 was launched from Baikonur at 1158 UT on June 14, 1963, carrying cosmonaut Valeri Bykovsky. The radio communications between soviet stations were heard from the West, and transcripts exist. Nothing UFO related happened at all as far as all the astronautic sources are concerned. The say of Bykovsky was nothing more intriguing than this typical piece:

"For me, brought up as a komsomolets, it is a great pleasure to execute such a honorable task of the Soviet Fatherland. It is a dream for me to become a communist of our great Leninist party. With my whole soul I thank the Soviet people for the good wishes and I will do all to successfully execute the flight program. Cosmonaut Bykovsky."

The closest to a "UFO sighting" was nothing more than:

"At night, through the porthole, I could see lightning flashes and cities over South America."

How the story entered UFO literature:

Once again, it seems that the source of Claude Burkel is quite simply the same book of Francesco Ogliari [og1], which indicates:

"14 Giugno 1963: Valery Bykovsky su Vostok 5: "Qui Nibbio, qui Nibbio: qualcosa mi accompagna nello spazio... vola accanto alla mia capsula, mi scorta".


"June 14, 1963: Valery Bykovsky in Vostok 5: "Here Nibbio, here Nibbio: something accompanies me in the space... flies beside my ship, it escorts me."

Other sources, often from Italian tabloids, give all kinds of versions of the story: "14 Giugno 1963: Leonov avvista a misterioso oggetto rotondo" - "Leonov [sic] saw a mysterious round object ".

April 8, 1964

Claude Burkel reports that the Gemini capsule is hunted by 4 UFOs according to a Jesuit scientist of Buenos Aires.

Claude Burkel again offers a weird version of the events.

According to Henri Durrant [du1], on April 8, 1964, at the launch of the first Gemini mission, two scientists present on location indicated that at the time of the first orbit, four UFOs came to approach the capsule, detected by gaping radar operators. They surround capsule during one orbit then disappeared in space. Durrant indicates an article by major Keyhoe in TRUE Magazine of January 1965 [ke1] as source; which is available on my website.

Durrant says that Cape Kennedy informs on January 28, 1965 that no UFO had been detected, that these objects detected on the radar were minor parts of the capsule which detached during separation of the spaceship and its rocket. Durrant wonders how these parts could then follow the capsule on a whole orbit and especially move away into deep space.

There are some mysteries here. The first thing is that Donald Keyhoe did not make up stuff. Former Marines officer, by his contacts with the US Air Force and other agencies - which hated him cordially - he obtained many semi-official information from reliable sources that verified later when the documents were declassified. If he said that two scientists told him about this case, there are strong chances that he did not invent it.

It should be noted that certain ufologists did not read well what Keyhoe wrote and invented an "error" which is not true: they say that Keyhoe write about two astronauts in the spaceship. This is false, Keyhoe knew very well that there was nobody on board and simply wrote that it was a spaceship for two. This explains why there is no astronauts report on this observation. This error was made by other authors such like Maurice Chatelain or Alberto Perego, then rehashed by others and wrongfully allotted to Keyhoe. There are even sources that write about a "Major Keyhoe who saw four UFOS at the time of the Gemini 1 mission"!

On January 28, 1965, after the Congress was informed by Keyhoe's NICAP that there was something to dig in with NASA astronauts, and that the Congress asked NASA to provide an answer, their director of the flights operations fro the Gemini program, Leo Abernathy, answered in writing that there had been no UFO sightings at the time of this mission, and that the observed objects had been identified as being parts which normally detach during separation between the last stage of the launcher and the spaceship.

But on August 8, 1965, NASA is questioned again, and the written answer of their public relations officer for manned space flights A.P. Albrando gives another contradictory version: he writes that there was no separation between the launcher's last stage and the spaceship during this test flight. Indeed, this is what mission records indicate.

The story is then included in several ufological books. For example, Jacques Pottier [po1] tells that Gemini I was joined by 4 UFOs which spread in formation around the capsule, 2 above, 1 at side and 1 underneath and that among "all the observers" was a scientist, Jesuit father Reyna, "professor of theoretical physics at the University of El Salvador of Buenos Aires, director of the observatory of cosmic physics of San Miguel and director of two observatories" that would have described that the performances of these UFOS were "truly acrobatic." [po1] That still continues with Jean-Francis Crolard in a book about aliens written in 1995 [cr1] before he turns to the subject of life after death and reincarnation in two further books.

The story is still told by a certain Clark McClelland who writes sensationalist books on UFOs and says he was a NASA employee at the time of this episode and to heard NASA scientists speak about four radar detected UFOs, all commonplace explanations discarded, and the Pentagon that imposed the secrecy on this subject. It is interesting to note that whereas there is no refutation of his employment at NASA, some ensure to have checked and have obtained confirmation - not on this UFO case but of the reality of his NASA employment. [ml1] (Recently again I asked a noted NASA-knowledgeable debunker about the case and McLelland, but there was no answer.)

June 3, 1965

Claude Burkel briefly summarizes the McDivitt UFO case, which is very famous and was discussed lengthily and debated over a lot. For Claude Burkel, he saw and photographed an "extraordinary object, a round object with kinds of arms." He adds that a few minutes afterwards, two others of these objects appeared, and that one of the photographs was published, showing an object of oval and disc shaped with a luminous trail.

In reality:

Burkel's report is exaggerated, there was never "arms" but one arm, the "two other UFOS" is an invention of certain authors, and the photograph has nothing to do with UFOs. But there was indeed a UFO sighting. The controversy relates to the question of knowing if it were or if it were not a Russian satellite or rocket debris. The "Condon report" [co1] had excluded all satellites as explanation: NORAD knew about satellites, thus Condon investigator for the case, Franklin E. Roach concludes: "They would not appear to be likely candidates for the object sighted by the astronaut."

According to Roach's interrogation of McDivitt on October 3, 1967, the observation is to be summarized as follows:

"McDivitt saw a cylindrical-shaped object with an antenna-like extension. The appearance was something like the second phase of a Titan (not necessarily implying that that is actually what be saw) It was not possible to estimate its distance but it did have angular extension, that is it did not appear as a "point." It gave a white or silvery appearance as seen against the day sky. The spacecraft was in free drifting flight somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. One still picture was taken plus some movie exposures on black and white film. The impression was not that the object was moving parallel with the spacecraft but rather that it was closing in and that it was nearby. The reaction of the astronaut was that it might be necessary to take action to avoid a collision. The object was lost to view when the sun shone on the window (which was rather dirty). He tried to get the object back into view by maneuvering so the sun was not on the window but was not able to pick it up again."

Obviously, this is far from the short and altered description by Claude Burkel of a "round object with kinds of arms"... But at the same time, the Condon report also tells this story of "arms", in the plural. Another glitch in the Condon report is that, at a place, in contradiction with the general conclusion on this case, it is written that McDivitt had accepted that "a positive identification has been made." Actually, he never said that, and always contradicted it. Roach was interrogated about this weird contradiction by James Oberg and does not remember to have written such a thing, thus, it not far fetched to suspect that the dear Doctor Condon or his assistant Robert Lowe purely and simply adulterated the Roach's paper by adding this sentence!

During years which followed his sighting report, a true armada of "skeptics" and "believers" harassed McDivitt, the ones trying to make him say that he had not seen a UFO, or that that he did not see it properly, or that he had been sleeping, or that he had seen only a debris of his own Titan rocket or a satellite or even "a small comet", the others trying to make him confirm that he had seen an extraterrestrial craft.

The wisest is not to take part in the deformations of his remarks by all and anyone and to listen to what he actually told, as he wrote for example in a letter to a skeptic author [ku1]:

"During my flight on board the capsule Gemini 4, I actually saw what some call a UFO. I point out that the acronym UFO means "Unidentified Flying Object". The object that I saw remains unidentified. That does not mean that it is a cosmic ship from a planet far away from the Universe. That does mean either that it is not a cosmic ship. It means that during the flight, I saw something that neither myself nor other could identify."

In 1975, hardcore "skeptic" Philip Klass tried his chance to explain the UFO as being the second stage of the Titan rocket. He discussed it with NORAD, they gave him a space photograph of a Titan II stage. Klass then sent a print of this photograph to McDivitt, without telling him what it was showing, simply asking him to tell if this was what he had seen.

McDivitt answered:

"Thank you for sending me the slide of the Gemini-IV photograph. I very quickly identified the object in the photograph as the second stage of the Titan rocket which launched us... I am sure that this is not a photograph of the object which I described many times and which many people refer to as the Gemini IV UFO."

To James Oberg [ob1], McDivitt must have mistaken a stage of Titan II for a UFO, having irritated eyes, and being blinded by the opposite sun.

He does not hesitate in changing McDivitt's position, when writing: "McDivitt himself is the first to say he doesn't think his "beer can" was likely to be any alien spaceship or similarly extraordinary phenomenon."

How the story entered UFO literature:

That was quite simply: McDivitt talked about it! It proves that the allegations on astronauts "forbidden to talk by NASA" do not make much sense.

But McDivitt's UFO was quickly spoiled. When the media wanted to see "the photograph of McDivitt's UFO", NASA showed a wrong image, without relationship with the sighting, which showed some spots which could just be any type of reflections. But since the UFO was accepted as unidentified by the Condon report, and as NASA had given this image, the medias and the ufologists quite naturally accepted the image as being the correct one. As there were several "weird things" on the photograph, we end up with George Fawcett commenting this image as "McDivitt has photographed several strange objects... among them an egg shaped object with some sort of exhaust." And also, several analyses were of these images that are not the correct ones... and this goes on with the article by Claude Burkel, for the photograph he talks about is obviously the wrong image.

For some, the fact that the true film was not shown is proof of NASA cover-up, they are certain NASA confiscated the real images. For McDivitt, it is not the case. He had checked image after image all his footage to retrieve the UFO, but had not found it. He thought that the footage had probably simply been thrown away, and he gave a reason: many images shot at the time of these missions are over-exposed or fuzzy, and the developers throw them away when this is the case, quite simply.

December 4, 1965

According to Claude Burkel, Young and Collins are on Gemini 10 mission when Collins photographs 4 flying saucers that surround them, and Collins shows these photographs on TV.

In reality:

This is purely invented. The flight Gemini 10 of Young and Collins took place on July 18, 1966. December 4, 1965 is the date of the Gemini 7 mission, not Gemini 10, with Borman and Lovell, not Young and Collins.

What is usually told for this date is that Frank Borman and James Lovell on board Gemini 7 had seen a UFO "at a certain distance from their ship", that ground control had answered them that it is the last stage of their Titan rocket and that Borman would have said that it couldn't be, because the object was different.

The story on an observation of December 4, 1965, according to debunker James Oberg [ma1], still very different, was entirely invented by a tabloid newspaper.

The newspaper had used a photograph showing the lights of the stability rockets on the ship, by obscuring the photograph so that the readers do not see the contour of the ship anymore but only the lights, and they published this obscured photograph to make believe in UFOs.

I do have this image, reproduced by the French magazine "La Recherche" [re1] in an article by James Oberg and Michel Granger who claim that no astronaut ever saw any UFO:

The arrow of the left shows the "UFOs", which are actually the lights of the stabilization rockets of Gemini 7. The arrow on the right indicates the edge of Gemini 7's nose.

December 21, 1968

Claude Burkel says that on board Apollo 8, Borman, Lovell and Anders go towards the Moon and an astronomer photographs a "mysterious luminous object" in the sky in Milan.

In reality:

One wonders where the relationship between a "thing" seen in the sky by an astronomer in Milan and the mission Apollo 8 is. Was the "thing" their rocket?

Ironically, at the time of this mission, Frank Borman and Jim Lovell really reported "something"; Borman described it as "a bogey ten miles higher."

But Borman used to call "a bogey" any object he did not readily identify, including for example a booster rocket or a piece of rocket, and "bogey" thus does not necessarily indicate an alien spaceship or something mysterious, if this explanation by James Oberg is to be accepted.

How the story entered UFO literature:

One of the only allusions to UFOs during this mission is by Otto Binder, a science fiction author and UFO books author, whom, because it had been said Apollo 8 pitched at a time, speculates that "UFO pilots" tried to prevent the astronauts from making it a tour around the Moon. [sa1] The story is re-hashed by Jacques Pottier [po1].

May 18, 1969

Claude Burkel tells that on May 18, 1969, Apollo 10 mission was to test the LEM without landing it on the Moon. The LEM started to whirl, so the astronauts dropped its descent module to lose weight and join the orbiter.

In reality:

Burkel then tells that they saw the descent module manoeuver "above, then below, then behind them" and seems to find all that very mysterious. But it is not mysterious at all since they were spinning... At NASA, Cernan was blamed because at the time of the incident, he had uttered a resounding "son of a bitch" whereas the Press was listening to the radio transmissions. There is no UFO at all in all this.

How the story entered UFO literature:

It did not. There is no UFO in this story.

November 19, 1969

According to Claude Burkel, Apollo 13 sees a flotilla of UFOs and the "International Congress of Astronomy which proceeded in England in August 1970" "unanimously approved" "to keep an absolute silence on this observation."

In reality:

Nobody saw a flotilla of UFO during the Apollo 13 mission. The congresses of astronomers in England do not have anything to say at all on Apollo missions and NASA policy.

Furthermore, the Apollo 13 mission did not take place in November 1969 but in April 1970!

The official report/ratio on the Apollo 13 incident (without UFO) is available. [a13]

How the story entered UFO literature:

In Fawcett's catalogue there is indeed a UFO story, but on November 14, 1969, not 19. According to this story, Pete Conrad, Alan Bean and Dick Gordon on board Apollo 12 said that a UFO was before them until they arrived 132.000 miles of the moon.

According to Oberg [ma1], they never said that, simply joking with ground control about a piece of their rocket booster which rotated and produced reflections, and later, they were astonished by a light on the ground, which proved to be a reflection of the moon in the Indian Ocean.

Luna XV and Apollo XI

Claude Burkel claims that Luna XV and Apollo XI received "signals in the shape of distortions of the magnetic fields" on Mars and on the moon.

In reality:

Claude Burkel, who does not indicate any source of the whole in the entire rest of his article, this time only indicates one: the French magazine "Valeurs Actuelles N.1725 ", a magazine which does not have any relationship with the topic of the space missions. What is the mystery with these signals? Where are there UFOs?

Luna XV aka Lunik 15 was the second automatic probe sent by the Russians on the Moon to try to bring back on Earth moon rock samples before the Americans, who were going to land on the moon 3 days later. The Russian mission failed, the probe was damaged at landing on Mare Crisium on the Moon.

This has nothing to do with planet Mars. The RR0 website [rr0] indicates: "Some sources indicate that one of the goals of Luna 15 was to determine the origin of the signals collected on the Moon, and that it collected identical signals when approaching Mars." But the "some sources" are not specified and Lunik 15 was never intended to go to Mars.

How the story entered UFO literature:

Whimsical author Don Wilson in a book arguing that the entire moon is an alien spaceship [dw1] does mention "radio noises" during the Apollo 11 mission, that "sounded like firemen sirens, and claims that ground control asked the astronauts "are you sure you are really alone up there?" Science fiction author Otto Binder, who claims he was part of the Apollo NASA mission team, claims that Aldrin talked to ground control about seeing huge alien spaceship landed on the moon as he walked there, and that "the tapes (of this conversation) were erased." Jacques Bergier and George Gallet [be1] claim that Armstrong said to ground control that he saw "traces on the ground like those of the caterpillars of a tank". The radio noises in their book is claimed to be like a whistle sound, and the authors claim that NASA never denied nor confirmed but covered-up the whole matter of UFOs in space.

Apollo XI and XII

Claude Burkel ensures that "all was not told", "one did not see all the photographs" mentions at the same time photographs which would "not be of lunar origin" and "unknown radiations" and aliens using the Moon as space base.

In reality:

With no UFO photographs or UFO reports, is it necessary to invent some? What sense in making series of claims that consists in saying "I have nothing but there are things which one does not know?"

A number of things are claimed flatly in brief sentences. So-called "domes on the Moon" are only ordinary craters, they never impressed the astronaut Michael Collins as Burkel claims, Surveyor III was never displaced by whomever on the surface of the Moon etc. Not one source reference is indicated and the paragraph finishes on the assertion that after Apollo XII "all the other Apollo flights as well as astronauts missions were made in the most total secrecy", a marked ineptitude.

How the story entered UFO literature:

Dozens of books make similar claims. These are not serious ufology books but books that rehash and amplify every tabloid story ever written.



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This page was last updated on July 1, 2006.