The epochal flight of Apollo XI to the moon occurred more than a decade ago -- long enough for it to have become enshrined in our history books and our mythologies. It marked man's first landing on another world in space. It symbolized the capabilities of 20th Century American technology and management.
For the world of UFO researchers, enthusiasts and opponents, the flight of Apollo XI was also important. It became the center of a vast body of reports of alien encounters on this epic space voyage. Over the years, literally dozens of stories have been written about purported UFO sightings and photographs made during that particular mission in July 1969.
Most prestigious of the stories is the note in Edge of Reality in which Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the 'dean of UFOlogy,' passes on the report that "This was the mission on which a UFO reportedly chased that spacecraft." A colleague remarked to Hynek that "during Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins said they observed a UFO." Hynek agreed, and elaborated: "Some of the NASA movie frames that I examined were most interesting -- particularly those taken on the Apollo 11 flight, one of the few for which NASA has not come up with some sort of explanation."
In Science Digest, the respected monthly popular science journal, astronomer-author James Mullaney (a former contributing editor to Astronomy magazine) wrote in July 1977 that "the crew of Apollo 11, during the first moon landing, reporting that their capsule was paced by what appeared to be a mass of intelligent energy.... NASA recently released a number of very striking Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab photos of true unidentifieds."
The UFO press has widely reported such stories, both in books, movies, and magazines.
UFOs Past, Present and Future (written by Robert Emenegger, researched by Alan Frank Sandler) reported on "perhaps the most spectacular of all sightings" which occurred on Apollo 11. On the way out to the moon, the astronauts watched an object which seemed to change shape when they switched magnifications of their telescope "It was really weird," Collins is quoted as saying.
Fate magazine, in editor Curtis Fuller s column "I See By The Papers" (November 1970), examined the stories and concluded: "There seems to be pretty good evidence that Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong. and Michael Collins saw something that hasn't been made generally known--something variously reported, ranging from mysterious lights to formations of spaceships!"
The authenticity of the Apollo 11 sightings has been vouched for by testimony attributed to CBS TV news anchorman Walter Cronkite. In an interview with the National Enquirer, conducted by reporter Robin Leach, Cronkite gives this account: "En route for the world's first moon landing, Armstrong and the crew transmitted some earthshaking information, and I was there to hear it for myself."
Cronkite continued: "Armstrong claimed to have spotted a huge cylindrical object which was rotating or tumbling between the ship and the moon. It's officially recorded in the NASA record vaults that Armstrong indicated he went to take photographs but the object vanished as quickly as he'd first seen it. Neil Armstrong is not a man given to fanciful imagination and it wasn't just one of the crew that saw it -- they all did, and you have to respect those men."
That was good enough for Ripley's Believe It or Not, too. In late 1978 they published a syndicated series of cartoon panels dealing with UFOs; one panel contained a sketch of astronauts and the caption, "Astronaut Neil Armstrong. . . saw UFOs while on space mission. But NASA -- according to newscaster Walter Cronkite -- is keeping the evidence a secret."
But the secret leaked a little, according to the McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. In 1979 they issued a book by David C. Knight, entitled UFOs: A Pictorial History. A full-page space photo on page 171 bears this caption: "Perhaps the most spectacular of all UFO sightings from space occurred on July 19, 1969 on the Apollo-XI flight.... The crew spotted a strange object between their ship and the moon.... The object still remains unidentified." (Purists might have noted that the object shown on the page was between the ship and the earth, but who wants to be picky when dealing with such fantastic stories?).
An idea of what these secrets might entail can be obtained from a summary of the circulated Apollo 11 stories published by Mike Harris in a New Zealand UFO newsletter in 1974:
From the launching of Apollo 11 on July 16th, 1969 until the spacecraft passed the midpoint between the earth and the moon the following day, the three astrona uts observed a U.F.O. keeping pace with them. Two days later, on July l9th at approximately 1800 hours, U.F.O.s made another appearance and were recorded on film. The details of this extensive film were: the day before the lunar landing Aldrin transferred to the L. M. "Eagle" and began the final instrument checks. Whilst checking the close-up camera, the U.F.O.s came into the picture. Whilst under observation, the objects were seen to be emitting what looked like some kind of liquid. The two objects were in close formation and would come together and part and after some time separated and went off their own ways. The objects appeared to be intelligently controlled, the astronauts said. The third sighting during this epic flight occurred on July 21st, 00.26 hours. About an hour and a half previously, Neil Armstrong and Aldrin had set foot on the moon. While they were busy gathering rocks, Collins in the Command Module 'Columbia' was busy talking to Houston.
Columbia: Calling Houston. This is Columbia.
Houston: Go ahead, Columbia.
Columbia: I couldn't find the L. M. But I saw some weird small white objects. Co-ordinates are 0.3, 7.6 on the south west edge of the crater. If they're there they should have seen them too.
It seems likely that whoever was interested in our effort was certainly keeping an eye on things. The report goes on:
These white objects seen by Collins made a fourth appearance as the "Eagle" was rising from the Lunar Surface to re-unite with the "Columbia," having left the moon at 13.55 on July 21st. Their shape in this case was clearly exposed on film. The fixed camera on the "Eagle" was photographing the moon's receding surface when, diagonally from the lower left to the upper right of the frames, a white, shining U.F.O. passed directly under the Lunar Module.
This is certainly a sensational scenario for mankind's first landing on another world, and it is in addition a version certainly not described by the standard history books. Corroborating accounts come from Michael Hervey's book UFOs The American Scene (St. Martin's Press, NY, 1976). In lunar orbit, Aldrin is adjusting his camera when suddenly:
...his attention was suddenly drawn to a bright object resembling a "snowman" traveling from west to east in sky. He immediately took some shots of the object which in fact proved to be two UFOs, one larger than the other, and almost touching. When the film was developed later it included a shot of the moon's surface to be followed by a close-up of the two UFOs moving at a high speed horizontally. They disappeared, only to return a few seconds later, descended a little, hovered for a while, and then separated whereupon they were surrounded by "what looked like a strong halation." They followed this maneuver by rising vertically and disappearing from sight. In due course only one UFO returned, and then again took its leave for the last time. Astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin were naturally excited and perhaps a little apprehensive during those few moments.Yet for all the drama of this event, none of it seems to have been disclosed by the NASA public affairs officers in Houston. Clearly, some sort of coverup was involved. The first major break in this apparent coverup did not occur until 1974, when the Cosmic Brotherhood Association, a Japanese UFO group, published hitherto unavailable photos from Apollo 11 with this comment:
The pictures of UFOs taken by Apollo 11 spaceship over the moon's surface for the first time in the world and now published by CBA (Cosmic Brotherhood Association) for the first time, cannot but be considered the firm evidence that UFOs, so far questioned by many, are actually spaceship/spacecraft come from outer space as we have been asserting. They are the absolute evidence sought by the worlds UFologists for the past 27 years.... Following are overwhelming proof of UFOs, they came from outer space .... They are really scoop pictures, and not even one of them has been released by NASA as yet.
This sensational news crossed the Pacific and was noted by UFO expert Bob Barry of the "Twentieth Century UFO Bureau," who wrote up a two part survey of astronaut UFO experiences for Modern People, a weekly tabloid newspaper. The UFO article was later combined with other similar material which was published in magazine form as UFO Report (issued in 1975, only one issue ever came out). "NASA Hiding UFOs From You!'' screamed the headline:
"En route to the Moon on their first day in space, the crew of Columbia sighted a strange object hovering high above the earth, and managed to capture it on film. NASA's photo interpretation lab listed the object as unidentifiable. But this was only the beginning. Before this mission would come to an end, the crew of Columbia and later the Eagle would see a lot more UFO action -- over the moon itself!"
Barry then describes the encounter of Aldrin with the two UFO zooming across his window in lunar orbit. Luckily, says Barry, Aldrin was used to seeing UFOs in space, so he could do the right thing quickly:
"If Aldrin had not been somewhat conditioned to the appearance of these unusual craft, the shock of what he saw next might have caused him to miss one of the most amazing sequences of film taken of UFOs by any astronaut. For as the objects continued their descent in a formation similar to that of a "snowman" laid on its side, Aldrin observed a brilliant emission extending from between the two crafts. Speculation at the time was that this "trail" was possibly connected to the vehicles' motivational systems, possibly even an exhaust.... During this time, ten other egg-shaped objects were seen flying in the foreground of the camera view.
Naturally, NASA did not release these photos to the general public, talking great pains to edit any such mysterious craft from the final stills which were released.... And even though almost every crew that has traveled to the moon has witnessed and photographed unidentified flying objects, NASA officials still insist that such phenomena do not exist."
But even Barry's spectacular photographic evidence is not the most exciting report to come out of the flight of Apollo 11. For only shortly after the astronauts returned to earth in mid-1969, a bootleg "tape" and voice transcript of what was really said on the moon has been circulating clandestinely in UFO circles. The headline on the cover of National Bulletin magazine (distributed in Canada but printed in New York City) for September 29,1969 cries out that "Phony Transmission Failure Hides Apollo 11 Discovery. . . . Moon is a U.F.O. Base!" Author Sam Pepper gave this version of the "Top Secret Tape Transcript" from "a leak close to the top," as follows:
What was it, what the hell was it? That's all I want to know....
These. . . (garbled) . . .babies were huge, sir, they were enormous....
No, No, that's just field distortion....
Oh, God, you wouldn't believe it....
What...what...what the hell's going on? Whatsa matter with you guys . . . ?
They're here, under the surface....
What's there.. .malfunction. . .Mission Control calling Apollo 11....
Roger, we're here, all three of us, but we've found some visitors....
Yeah, they've been here for quite a while judging by the installations....
Mission control, repeat last message....
I'm telling you, there are other spacecraft out there. They're lined up in ranks on the far side of the crater edge....
Let's get that orbit scanned and head home....
In 625 to the fifth, auto-relays set...My hands are shaking so bad....
Film...yes, the damned cameras were clicking away from up here...
Did you fellows get anything?
Had no film left by the time. . . (garbled) . . . three shots of the saucers, or whatever they were. . .may have fogged the film.
Mission Control, this is Mission Control...are you under way, repeat, are you under way? What's this uproar about UFOs? Over.
They're set up down there...they're on the moon... watching us....
The mirrors, the mirrors . . . you set them up, didn't you?
Yes, the mirrors are all in place. But whatever built those spacecraft will probably come over and pull 'em all out by the roots tomorrow....
When this account was discussed by Fate editor Curtis Fuller in 1970, he confessed to "extreme skepticism about the whole alleged transcription" But the account has been printed elsewhere, (science fiction author and UFO buff Otto Binder helped spread it widely), and it reminds observers of the radio signals picked up in Europe in the early 1960s from doomed Russian cosmonauts on secret space shots which ended in their undisclosed deaths. Radio amateurs have become very proficient in smoking out 'official secrets' in the past few decades.
Nor do these eye-opening (and hair-raising?) stories end here. Another "inside account" appeared in the monthly bulletin of the well-known UFO group, APRO (Aerial Phenomena Research Organization). As reported in the February 1976 issue, three disc-shaped shadows paced the astronauts as they circled the moon, while NASA censors cut off further live comments from the newsmen. An APRO informant known as "Mister X" was allegedly present in the "inner control room."
The astronauts, recalled the otherwise unidentified "Mister X," suddenly said, "There they are again," referring to objects spotted on the first three orbits and the last orbit. It seems to be an independent corroboration of stories recounted earlier.
Additionally, a new and hitherto unavailable Apollo 11 photograph was published in the monthly Science Digest in the issue immediately following that which contained Mullaney's article. Discussing Project Bluebook, author Don Berliner's article includes a photograph showing the earth receding from the moon-ship, and a UFO right smack dab in the middle. Says Science Digest (Aug. 1977), "Arrow points toward an unidentified object."
As might be expected, NASA officially denies it all. No extraordinary UFOs or other unexplained phenomena have been admitted.
When the "Pepper Transcript" first became public, UFO buffs wrote to their congressmen demanding that NASA officially confess to the coverup. NASA replied that "the incidents. . . did not take place. Conversations between the Apollo 11 crew and Mission Control were released live during the entire Apollo 11 mission. There were between 1000 and 1500 representatives of the news media and TV present at the Houston News Center listening and observing, and not one has suggested that NASA withheld any news or conversations of this nature." (Letter from Assistant Administrator for Legislative Affairs to several congressmen, January 1970).
In 1976, Chief of the Astronaut Office Deke Slayton claimed that "I don't recall any of our astronauts ever reporting UFOs."
NASA claims that all photos, all voice transcripts, all debriefings are in the public domain and are available to the news media. This data is too voluminous to publish openly, but is available to researchers with appropriate credentials in Houston, Flagstaff, and Washington. And as a matter of fact, no researcher (UFO or otherwise) has ever filed a complaint that data was withheld from him when he tried to get it. (Although Barry and Sandler have made vague allegations).
The photographic documentation, including film magazine inventories, exposure logs, and control documents, have been examined by researchers All the film is accounted for. Evidently, NASA is quite correct in saying that everything is available....
...But to whom? Almost 1500 still photos and dozens of magazines of film were exposed on Apollo 11. Transcripts run to the thousands of pages. Who has taken the trouble to check out all this material?
I have, for example. Other writers have. Also, Dr. J. Allen Hynek visited the Houston space center in July 1976 and was shown the material in question. NASA's original story, surprisingly, has been confirmed: All the material is available. He said as much in a Playboy interview in January 1978, but his book still carries the phony list and there is no indication it has be removed from later editions. Hynek's opinion: these UFO stories are false.
Fuller's skepticism about the "Pepper Transcript" appears have been justified. From internal evidence alone, it looks more and more like a crude hoax. This can be deduced from the vocabulary itself:
"Mission Control"...this was never a phrase used astronauts, who instead referred always to "Houston."
Technical-sounding gibberish such as "field distortion," "orbit scanned," "625 to the fifth," "auto-relays," etc. were never found in real transcripts.
"Repeat, repeat" is never used on the radio; instead, astronauts and Mission Control use the phrase "Say Again."
"Three of us"...actually, only two men were on the lunar surface.
In addition, interviews with the handful of amateur radio listeners who are known to have tuned in the S-band (2270 megahertz) moon signals produced testimony that they heard the same conversations which were released by NASA. Since listening to the moon required the use of ten-foot diameter radio dishes, few people actually could do it, and they were known t each other, having done similar space eavesdropping for years
(The consensus among such experienced American ''hams'' is that the old stories of "radio transmissions from secret dying Russian spacemen" were either dumb mistakes, outright hoaxes, or playful publicity stunts by Italian and German radio amateurs.)
The unavoidable conclusion is that Pepper either fabricated the fake "transcript" himself or used very poor judgment in allowing himself to be victimized by somebody else's fake. As is often the case with UFO reports, it is very hard to prove definitely that something did not happen. But in this case, fortunately, the hoax was so rickety that it collapses under its own weight.
More puzzling is Collins' report about the "weird white objects" which the Japanese sources said had been spotted near the Lunar Module. These could have been the same UFO reported in the Pepper transcript.
But they weren't, because here is what Collins really said to Houston on that orbit: "I did see a suspiciously small white object whose coordinates are Easy 0.3, 7.6, right on the southwest end of a crater, but I think they would know it if they were in such a location. It looks like their LM would be pitched up quite a degree. It's on the southwest wall of a smallish crater." (Tape 71/16 page 396).
So Collins is trying to spot the LM from a hundred miles overhead, but he cannot; instead he sees one white object (a rock?) on the edge of a crater. He doubts it is the LM because if it were, the LM would be highly tilted and the astronauts there would have noticed the tilt -- which they didn't. Collins did not spot a fleet of UFOs, as the very loose rewording of this account might lead someone to suspect. Compare the words to the UFO re-wording -- is it just sloppy, or is it a deliberate distortion?
These are details. How about the key sighting, the "snowman," and Aldrin's movie film? What could possibly explain that?
All that is needed to explain it is for anybody to view the film. The scenes in question come from "Magazine F" ('Foxtrot'), on the first twenty-five feet or so, and can (as can all other Apollo 11 flight film) be purchased from the National Audiovisual Company, 1411 South Fern Street, Arlington, Virginia 22202.
The actual film shows a window full of dazzling, dancing, dizzying reflections and glares. Viewing the film in motion, there can be no question of the lights being solid objects outside the spaceship. There is no way I could imagine that a viewer could honestly believe that UFOs were being shown. The "emissions" are just more fuzzy reflections.
Examination of a few stills from that filmstrip shows what happened to the original appearance of the "UFOs." The Japanese UFO group touched up the photos, enhancing the contrast of the lights, and cropping out the extraneous reflections. Further, the films were airbrushed to downplay any additional reflections which might remain, aside from the two globes of light. They became the supposed UFOs which, needless to say, the crew didn't see. (The film, by the way, was taken from orbit the day before the landing -- not from the surface.)
These UFO photos, in other words, are a fraud, plain and simple. They are part of a space forgery hoax gone wild and run out of control. There never were any such "snowmen" UFOs as claimed.
But UFO expert Michael Hervey had written that the astronauts had actually used the words "snowman" and "halation," and that they were naturally excited and perhaps a little apprehensive. UFO expert Matsumura in Japan gave numerous details of Aldrin's actual movements during the encounter. UFO expert Bob Barry wrote that Aldrin observed the UFOs directly, and that the astronauts speculated about the mystery emission.
None of these things seems to have happened. The writers were dramatizing the event based on the forged photographs. Less sympathetic critics would suggest that the authors were fictionalizing the event, or even less charitably, were lying.
"That's a bunch of baloney," Barry retorted when he heard these charges in 1978. "They can deny all they want, we have the proof"
But it will take more than Barry's bravado to stare down the actual proof of Apollo 11 "Magazine Foxtrot." The movies do not lie; they show the dancing lights, the reflections, the glare. They do not show any UFOs.
Nor will Science Digest soon live down its double-barreled UFO flop. First, Mullaney's claim about the Apollo 11 crew reporting a mass of intelligent energy is clearly a further elaboration of the original Matsumura-CBA forgery, without any effort to check out the story with NASA. Second, the photograph published in Science Digest the following month was also retouched: Editor Dan Button admitted that certain extraneous pieces of space debris were airbrushed out to avoid detracting from the true UFO, but all previously published and released versions of that same photograph show absolutely empty space where Science Digest points to an "unidentified object." Either somebody got a bad print with an extra spot on the negative, or somebody at the Hearst Corporation monthly added the "UFO" into the photo for dramatic effect. Button accuses NASA of another coverup; informed observers can now judge whose dishonesty Button is trying to cover up.
Actually, one Apollo 11 photo does show a true unidentified (but hardly unidentifiable) object. Soon after pulling the LM out of the rocket garage, near the earth, a flood of spinning particles rushed past the Apollo's windows. One of the astronauts was taking a series of tourist snapshots of the receding earth, and in one of the photos was a tiny odd-shaped blob.
There is no indication that any of the astronauts saw it. Since it's out of focus on a camera with an extremely wide depth of field, photographic experts have concluded that it was probably only a few feet outside the window, and an inch or two across. As on other flights, pieces of insulation and ice surrounded the Apollo at this stage in the flight. "Unidentified" it certainly might be, but it could not by any semantic word game be called an authentic UFO--except, for example, in McGraw-Hill's UFOs a Pictorial History!
The crew did indeed report to earth about another tiny object they watched through their monocular. To some of the astronauts, it looked cylindrical, just like their spent rocket stage which was known to be pacing them in a parallel orbit. Said Armstrong, "It was right at the limit of resolution of the eye; it was very difficult to tell just what shape it was." NASA's reasonable assumption was that it was indeed the rocket stage, since it was behaving just like a rocket stage should; other Apollo flights had reported much the same thing.
The entire Cronkite interview in the National Enquirer was a fake, evidently assembled by a free lance writer. The newspaper refused to take the blame when Cronkite complained--but fired the writer.
And what can one say about "Mister X" report? Again, from the internal evidence of the details "X" gives in an attempt to establish credibility with listeners, space experts have quickly figured out that he never could have been near the real Mission Control Center--his jargon is so mixed up. In other words. they concluded this is just another tall tale. Claims that these voice signals were cut off from the newsmen who were present are also in complete contradiction with personal accounts of newsmen who were in Houston: There was no significant tape delay, and there were no silences indicative of censorship.
But the stories crossed the Atlantic into a French UFO book, and then came back home reinforced and newly authenticated in Maurice Chatelain's Our Ancestors Came From Outer Space (Doubleday, 1978). According to the author, who claimed to be an ex-NASA space scientist (actually, he had worked for a space contractor in Los Angeles for several years): "The astronauts. . . saw things during their missions that could not be discussed with anybody outside NASA. It is very difficult to obtain any specific information from NASA, which still exercises a very strict control over any disclosures of these events...It seems that all Apollo and Gemini flights were followed...by space vehicles of extraterrestrial origin...Every time it occurred, the astronauts informed Mission Control, who then ordered absolute silence...."
Chatelain specifically mentions Apollo-11, which "made the first moon landing on the Sea of Tranquillity and, only moments before Armstrong stepped down the ladder to set foot on the moon, two UFOs hovered overhead. Edwin Aldrin took several pictures of them...."
Even more sensational was the claim for the Apollo-13 flight: "There was some talk that the Apollo 13 mission carried a nuclear device aboard that could be set off to make measurements of the infrastructure of the moon and whose detonations would show on the charts of several recording seismographs placed in different locations. The unexplained explosion of an oxygen tank in the service module of Apollo 13 on its flight to the moon, according to rumors, was caused deliberately by a UFO that was following the capsule to prevent the (nuclear) detonation...."
Of course, the cause of the explosion was found by NASA later, and there was no nuclear device--rumors of UFO attacks are absurd. But that's no reason for some UFO people not to pass on and embellish such stories, as we'll see.
The Russian UFO enthusiasts were next in line on this cosmic relay race. The July 1978 issue of The UFO Journal, published by the Mutual UFO Network, highlighted a speech made in Russia on November 24, 1977, by Vladimir G. Azhazha. Speaking to a group of NOVOSTI news service employees, at the Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Azhazha related that: "The American astronauts who visited the moon saw a gigantic cylinder 1500 meters (about one mile) long there. Aldrin shot it on movie film. The vehicle accomplished its own interactions with Apollo; it coordinated its movement with it....
The...reports of the American astronauts who visited the moon are exceptionally interesting. Their agreed-upon code for designating UFOs was the phrase 'Saint Nicholas,' but, they were so amazed with what they saw when they arrived on the moon from Apollo that they transmitted to Earth without the code: 'Directly across from us, on the other side of the crater, there are other spaceships observing us.' And Aldrin shot his film which shows the UFOs on the moon...."
Azhazha discloses that his source of this data is the book by Chatelain, continuing that "The moon is evidently a transhipment base for UFOs and every Apollo which has flown to the moon has been under the 'observation' canopy of the UFOs. It was not by accident that the American astronauts were not successful in their attempt to explode a nuclear device for scientific purposes on the moon. Instead, the oxygen cylinder on Apollo exploded. They were also not able to blow up the upper stage of the booster and so it continues to fly around the moon...." Presumably with a UFO escort.
The MUFON journal editor noted in the preface to this article that "...a Washington DC news source...has informed me that the statements attributed to astronaut Buzz Aldrin about the UFOs on the moon were confirmed by his bureau's space reporter, who covered the Apollo story at the time. Aldrin said them as a joke. It is possible that the story filtered through to the Soviet Union in garbled form, as is evident in some other cases . . . Other portions of this report still may be significant... "
MUFON, in other words, considered it sufficient to ask a friend to ask a friend to dredge up ten-year-old memories--and he called it 'research.' Andrus continued: "The previously unpublished Russian document...speaks of sensational events and high-level government knowledge that have been withheld from the public. The alleged events need to be authenticated, for, if true, they are of profound importance. Astronaut movie films of UFOs on the moon?...There is a clear need to learn how much of all this 'sensationalism' is actually true, and to expose as false all that is false." These brave words, from a man considered to be one of the more rational and reliable UFO experts, are not matched by Andrus's actions or, apparently, his intentions to publish any expose. The astronaut UFO stories are too "useful" to risk examining them very closely.
So widespread is the Russian UFO enthusiasm that official government denials have become necessary. In the November 1978 issue of Culture and Life (published in Moscow) Soviet astronomer Vladimir Krat is asked to refute such stories as:
Interviewer: They say that the American astronautswho had landed on the Moon ha d to make a small explosion in order to cause an artificial moonquake, but that they failed to do this. A mysterious blast on board the ship broke an oxygen cylinder. It might have been caused by a flying saucer observing the ship, so as to stop an experiment which could have destroyed bases set up by extra-terrestrial civilizations on the Moon. "What's this? What'sthe matter, damn it? I should like to know the truth, what is it? There are other spaceships here!" Armstrong is alleged to have shouted upon seeing several UFOs on the other side of a crater. But Aldrin saw at once what the matter was and started communicating with the Earth in a secret code. Later, all information about the incident was made secret by the Americans. There is talk about other cases of cosmonauts seeing UFOs. Special emphasis is laid on the fact that the first four or five hours of one of the crews' stay on the Moon remain a mystery--what the astronauts did during that time has not been made public.
Krat: The astronauts' flights to the Moon were followed by all mankind, their work on the surface of the Moon is known down to the minute. I see no logic in the talk about any information being instantly made "classified." Why should the Americans have made a secret out of their meeting some creatures from other planets, had any such a rendezvous taken place at all? Would they have been afraid to cause panic on Earth? But there were no special grounds for panic."
Clearly, Krat is unaware of the scope of the distortions in such stories and can only come up with bland disclaimers which would convince nobody.
What Krat should have done was to examine the hearsay more closely. The "mysterious blast" was the explosion on Apollo 13, which has been attributed to hostile UFO action. The "artificial moonquakes" on later flights worked quite well, although Chatelain and Azhazha claim that nuclear explosives were to have been used! The "secret code" is Chatelain's idea: he claims that the astronauts used the phrase "Santa Claus" to refer to UFOs. As for the missing "four or five hours," I drew a blank; so I suspect the Russian just made it up.
As expected, the phony Apollo 11 UFO stories continue to be recirculated and embellished. In June 1979 a Dell paperback entitled Secrets of Our Spaceship Moon by Detroit schoolteacher Don Wilson, appeared on the newsstands. Its front cover screams: "THE NASA COVERUP--Here are the facts they couldn't hide! What did the men on the moon really see?" The front inside page blurb proclaims, "here at last is the complete uncensored story clear and indisputable facts offered by astronomers and the astronauts themselves, despite NASAs' continued official denials...."
The Apollo 11 sightings provide only a portion of the arguments in the book, but they are highlighted. Bob Barry's snowman UFO' is featured, with Wilson's claim that "Buzz Aldrin ground away with his camera, taking invaluable (but now secret) footage of the two mysterious objects." The claim that the film shows UFOs is, as we've seen, silly; the claim that the film is now secret' is an outrageous falsehood.
Every other reputed Apollo 11 UFO encounter is faithfully and unquestioningly reproduced by Wilson, although he does point out in some cases that they are 'unauthenticated.' Equally unauthenticated is UFO buff James Harder's claim that he found voice tapes of UFO encounters on Apollo 11, which NASA privately admitted to him had been suppressed "for fear of public panic."
"The evidence we have cited in this book," Wilson concludes later, "proves that we have on our hands today another Watergate--a cosmic Watergate...We showed incontrovertable evidence that NASA is hiding the fact that UFOs were seen by astronauts... A study of the records and a glance at the photos will convince even the most diehard skeptic that this is exactly what happened when man went to the moon." Such bluster is not related to the actual evidence--in fact, the pattern we've seen shows that the less reliable the evidence, the more flowery the boasts and threats. Wilson blusters--but has only fake evidence. Dell paperbacks, according to editor James Frenkel, saw no reason to check up on these incredible accounts, but decided just to trust Wilson.
The Aldrin-snowman-UFO received a new champion in 1980 when another UFO expert proclaimed that the object was not a space craft but instead a space creature, or "critter!"
Writing in Frontiers of Science (formerly Second Look, the magazine which absorbed Hynek's International UFO Reporter and which for tax purposes is published under the aegis of the Center for UFO Studies), paranormal specialist John White (author of Pole Shift! and numerous other books), claims that the space pix are identical to others taken on Earth by Trevor James Constable, a disciple of orgone energy advocate Wilhelm Reich. Constable has pushed the theory that UFOs are bizarre living (and not necessarily intelligent) creatures which inhabit the upper atmosphere and -- evidently -- outer space as well (in such books as The Cosmic Pulse of Life, Steinerbooks, 1976). Usually the "critters" (as Constable prefers to call them) are invisible and can only be captured on infra-red film.
"Even the astronauts who took pictures of UFOs in space failed to recognize the living creatures for what they are," wrote White. The snowman photo is "highly disputed -- is the luminous sphere a space critter?" Acknowledging my published evaluation of the source of the images, White disagrees but admits he is "not yet in a position to disprove [(Oberg's)] contention." He also, displayed in the article a copy of the outbound blob: "((It)) appears to show a large critter looming above the Earth."
White has no love lost for NASA. Earlier, in a guest editorial for Timothy Green Beckley's UFO Review tabloid newspaper, White has accused NASA of a nasty coverup: "Proof already exists, much of it long-known to NASA." White then refers to the Edge of Reality for a list of astronaut sightings (a list long repudiated by its authors, as we saw), and Modern People tabloid (the January 1978 issue), "for leaked NASA photographs of UFOs including plasmatic animals [(italics added)]." NASA spokesmen, according to White, are "either woefully ignorant of the facts . . . or else deliberately attempt to mislead the public. The public has more common sense in this matter than most NASA bureaucrats."
Constable, meanwhile, was delighted to endorse White's interpretation of the Apollo 11 photographs. In a 1981 issue of the irregular Metascience Quarterly, he crowed: "How strange it seems that NASA has recorded images just like mine . . . and suppresses the photos . . . . Thanks to John's enterprise, we now have a 'NASA Critter Collection,' but they are worming out of it by having loudmouth Oberg identify these photos as frauds. Pure social pathology!" Aha, social pathology indeed!
(Such ad hominem reaction from the crackpots is hardly unusual. In 1979, Gray Barker, a long-time fringe UFO personality and satirist, referred to me in a discussion praising Timothy Green Beckley's research: "When these exposes by Beckley and others began generating letters to Congress, NASA official Capt. James Oberg led a one-man crusade to squelch these rumors. Many people in civilian UFO research believe Capt. Oberg was specially assigned to this mission to discount these news leaks of astronaut sightings. "And one high MUFON (Mutual UFO Network, a private UFO research organization) official spread the story in the mid-1970s that I was Philip Klass's 'ghostwriter' in his anti-UFO books! That's right, when you don't like the testimony, smear the witness -- an old crooked lawyer's trick.)
Fittingly enough, the ultimate word (too date!) in these Apollo 11 absurdities lies with the old familiar National Enquirer, the weekly grocery store tabloid known for its Hollywood gossip, psychic predictions, miracle medical cures, and flying saucer stories. "Aliens on Moon When We Landed" was the screaming banner headline on the September 11, 1979 issue (the same story made the September 9 Sunday Mirror in London and was subsequently endorsed in the backdated July-August 1979 issue of the prestigious British journal, Flying Saucer Review).
"The astronauts saw UFOs and even photographed them," wrote the authors (Eric Faucher, Ellen Goodstein, and Henry Gris), "but the stupifying close encounter has been kept completely under wraps by NASA until now. . . (they evidently hadn't read -- or hadn't believed -- the Cronkite interview in their own paper!). NASA's coverup was so massive that the news has taken ten years to reach the American public -- and had to be first disclosed by Soviet scientists, who found out about it two years ago."
And that's the catch: the National Enquirer, in a man-bites-dog reversal of standard practice, had been itself a victim of somebody else's news hoax. The source was none other than Vladimir Azhazha, who somehow neglected to mention to Henry Gris, his contact, that the story was based entirely, not on official Soviet sources, but on Chatelain's strange 'ancient astronauts' book! "I am absolutely certain this episode took place," Azhazha told Gris (who is fluent in Russian) during a telephone interview. "According to our information . . . his (Armstrong's) message was never heard by the public -- because NASA censored it."
According to Gris (who was soon thereafter discharged from the staff of the National Enquirer). Azhazha "refused to identify the source of his information -- but he and other Russian space experts say the encounter has been common knowledge among Soviet scientific circles."
To close the loop by swallowing its own tail/tale, the National Enquirer then quoted from . . . Maurice Chatelain, "a former top consultant to NASA," who supposedly corroborated independently the Soviet version of the story! Also testifyi ng were leading UFOlogists Leonard Stringfield of MUFON ("If the government rele ased one little bit of what happened on the moon, it would be the story of the century" is how he's quoted, but he subsequently denied saying anything like that); John Schuessler ("I work with astronauts at NASA and have heard the story from them" is how he's quoted, but he has since angrily charged that Ellen Goodstein dropped the "never" which he spoke before "heard."); Timothy Green Beckley (who has privately admitted the incidents never occurred but that they are too good for publicity to criticize); Joseph Goodavage (a noted astrologer-author well known for distorting and dramatizing uncooperative facts, as we'll see in a later chapter); and "scientist Fred Bell" (who apparently is a figment of co-author Eric Faucher's imagination). So even if the National Enquirer was originally the victim of Azhazha's deception, it was the newspaper's staff who added their own peculiar brand of journalism, and it was the newspaper's readership who were ultimately victimized.
Even Moscow admits that! A lengthy anti-UFO article ("The Legend of the Visitors," Pravda, March 2,1980, p. 6), by science correspondent Vladimir Gubarev) reported: "People have confidence in the testimony of cosmonauts and astronauts," Gubarev wrote. "So why not take them as allies, decided the UFO propagandists? Thus here in the ten years after the flights to the moon, the fantasists, who sometimes present themselves as scientific workers, claim in their public lectures that astronauts, visiting the moon, have many times observed UFOs, and that Neil Armstrong reported to Houston: Here are located large objects, sir! Enormous ones! Oh God! Here are located other space ships! They are standing along the side of the crater! They are located on the moon and they are observing us!"
Gubarev continued his article: "It's a fruitless task to search for these words in the transcripts of radio transmissions from the crew of Apollo 11, they're not there. Yes, and not a single person listening to the radio-reporting from the moon -- and it went out over the air live -- paid any attention to similar information -- strange, isn't it true?
"At a meeting with Neil Armstrong I asked him about 'flying saucers.' "We didn't see them," answered the astronaut; "and with what we, cosmonauts and astronauts, are doing in space, that's a real wonder."
Gubarev also reported on an interview with Pete Conrad, concerning his alleged UFOs on Apollo 12 (there weren't any), and later also recounts an incident from early 1978 when the Russian crewmen of Salyut-6 were startled to see "UFOs" near their space station which turned out to be recently trash bags jettisoned. The article in Pravda closed with very negative conclusions about gullible people who easily fall for nonsense such as UFOs and religion! While it may be risky to believe anything anyone says in Pravda (which means 'Truth,' in Russian), the appearance of this article and others like it testifies to the official displeasure at the widespread Soviet popular enthusiasm for such tales.
Wherever there is widespread popular interest in a topic, you will find the vultures swooping in to prey on eager gullibiles and their willingness to spend money on books which boast new, lurid revelations. So it shouldn't have been much of a surprise that Charles Berlitz (author of several highly profitable ''Bermuda Triangle" books) should have decided to "discover" the Apollo 11 UFO encounters in 1980. This was revealed in his latest book, The Roswell Incident (all the actual research seems to have been done by his co-author William Moore and by UFO advocate and former nuclear engineer Stanton Friedman), whose main theme is that the US government captured a crashed flying saucer in mid-1947, along with the dead bodies of the beings who had made up its crew, and has successfully stashed it all away since then while studying the materials.
Berlitz has nothing new to offer besides further garbling of the same old fairy tales. He bases his information on Maurice Chatelain ("based on information picked up from 'inside sources' while working for NASA in the 1960s") about "reports of these encounters made during flights in space (which) have generally been censored, altered, de-emphasized, or simply ignored by NASA." Here's the ol' Apollo 11 story a la Berlitz, 1980:
"Prior to the first moon landing two UFOs and a long cylinder hovered overhead. When Apollo 11 landed inside a moon crater two unidentified spacecrafts (sic!) appeared on the crater rim and then took off again. Aldrin photographed them. Pictures have not yet been released by NASA to the public."
Mr. Berlitz's next pages reprint much of the long-discredited Pepper transcript, as well as a series of other astronaut-UFO fables. Moore later denied any endorsement of the stories merely because he put them in the book (he wanted to "set the stage" and keep an open mind), but Friedman denounced the story in 1981 and justified his cooperation with Berlitz because he needed the money and publicity in order to advance his research.
It might be interesting here to learn just what NASA public information officials think about this long series of retellings of the great moon flight UFO. To do just that, I arranged an interview early in 1980 with two highly respected space experts at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Terry White and Charles Redmond. To convey the full flavor of the conversation, here is how it went:
Question: How do you guys find out about such UFO stories? Do the authors and publishers try to check up on them?
White: I usually first hear about them when some newsman telephones me, claiming he's seen another exposure of some "NASA coverup." The people who write such stories -- they rarely have the courtesy or courage to send us pre-publication copies.
Redmond: The only time I recall ever being asked for an explanation is when my explanations could be played up big as some sort of coverup -- or dismissed out of hand.
White: Responsible publishers such as Readers Digest, National Geographic, and the New Yorker make a habit of following up on the accuracy of their authors by asking us to check their factual material. But as far as the UFO books or the tabloid press -- no, they've never checked with us before publishing. . . .
Redmond: . . . or after publishing, either!
Question: For the record, do you have any secrets about UFOs or alien life?
White: Not a bit. Those stories are garbage and I tell anybody who calls just that. Normally we don't want to dignify such trash with a serious response.
Redmond: We don't have any UFO secrets. As a matter of fact, this is an area where our office has spent more time digging out photographs and transcripts for the news media, in response to so-called "UFO claims." But as far as the suggestion that we're withholding anything, it's flat out not true.
White: We do know about cases where we have provided films and reports and technical studies and then seen that information twisted and give false impressions. That's where these stories about astronauts and UFOs come from: unverified or twisted information.
Question: Was there ever any capability to censor space transmissions?
Redmond: The Public Affairs Officer -- the "P-A-O" -- in Mission Control did have an inhibit switch for the air-to-ground voice signals, which were on a seven second delay to allow synchronization with the computer-processed television images. . . .
White: . . . but that switch was never used, to the best of my recollection. And I was a "voice of Apollo" PAO for many, many flights.
Redmond: Right, I suppose it was there to keep a space tragedy off the air "live" until we could notify any next of kin, but it would not in any case have affected transcripts, only the real-time release which was piped to the newsroom and out to the networks. We only had authority to use it for a minute or so at most, anyway. The transcripts would eventually come out, completely uncensored.
White: Occasionally we would configure for private medical or family conversations. There was no special frequency or code, we'd just have the rest of the consoles get disconnected at the communications center.
Redmond: The medical conversations were not recorded, and were not released -- although we would summarize them in press conferences. There's something in the Hippocratic Oath about a doctor having to maintain confidentiality with his patients.
Question: How often did this happen?
Redmond: During Apollo, quite infrequently. During Skylab, we'd have such a talk maybe every three days or so.
Question: So there was no special code or secret channel?
Redmond: No, we used our ordinary channels, but the crew would request the doctor only -- the "flight surgeon" -- and the rest of us would disconnect.
White: Or else the crew could talk privately to their families in a back room down the hall from the control room.
Question: Outside of these confidential talks with doctors, wives, and children, were there any other conversations not publicly available?
Redmond: No, I don't think so, I don't see how they could have managed it.
Question: Why do you suppose those UFO books and magazine articles are written with such nasty accusations against NASA?
White: I think they're only written to exploit public hysteria, and to hell with the facts. That's my personal opinion, that they pander to panic, and appeal to public ignorance.
Redmond: I feel frustrated by the naivite of the public, and by the outright profiteering of writers who play on the public's desire to be mystified. But they just use cheap tricks, these writers. They deliver counterfeit goods.
Question: But what damage does it do?
White: Not much. Only a small fringe really believes such trash, considering the credibility of the sources.
Redmond: I disagree. I think it's quite harmful in reducing the credibility of the space program, and NASA's image.
Allow me a moment for a commentary of my own: A reader of this report will come to a conclusion altogether different from that espoused by Wilson, Harder, Barr y, Gris, Berlitz, and others. A well-publicized collection of cranks, crackpots, con men and well meaning innocents have created a facade of 'UFO encounters' and a counterfeit claim of 'NASA coverup' concerning UFOs allegedly seen on the Apollo 11 moon expedition ten years ago. For some, the rewards are probably psychological, for others, publicity; for those portions of the news media which have eagerly offered them a forum, the juicy rewards have been financial in nature. Explanations and exposes (such as in the Fall and Winter 1977 Search magazine, the February, 1977 Space World, the 1978 issues of the Skeptical Inquirer, and official NASA news releases) are ignored or misrepresented -- and here indeed is the real coverup conspiracy, if one can be said to exist. The reputation of the space program and of the astronauts has suffered, the public has been confused and misled, and the money rolls in. Where, I often wonder, are the courageous investigative journalists who will rip the lid off of this UFO scam?
Where does that leave readers after seeing what looked like a watertight space UFO story fall apart into mistakes, forgeries, and lies? Experienced UFO specialists must wonder how many other "classic" UFO cases which look equally as good are equally as rotten below the surface.
Two questions come to mind, but cannot be answered. First, wasn't Apollo 11 exciting enough without the fictionalized UFOs? And second, if there are so many other truly authentic UFO cases on record, why do the UFO writers have to rely so heavily on such shaky evidence as this?
The answers to these questions will help establish the true importance of what otherwise could only have been a squalid footnote to a historic chapter in space exploration. But whether future UFO researchers and enthusiasts will learn anything from it is a good question. For we can see that UFO stories seem to spring up and promulgate themselves, even when there is absolutely no foundation in fact on which they could have possibly been based. And if that is true in this case, we have to suspect that it has happened with some frequency in other cases where we can't determine the facts with such certainty. And much as they might like otherwise, the UFO experts and publicists -- Mullaney, Sandler, Emenegger, Fuller, Hervey, Button, Harris, Binder, Matsumura, Barry, Pepper, Lorenzen, Harder, Chatelain, Lepoer-Trench, Zigel, Boznich, Wilson, Gris, Goodavage, Beckley, Pratt, Creighton, Berlitz, Moore, Azhazha, and others have to somewhat be called to account for promulgating basically faulty standards. For no matter what they may admit in private, their public positions remain deceptive.
That is the true moral of the Phantom UFOs of Apollo 11!