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From: "Jerry Cohen" <email@example.com> Date: Tue, 4 Feb 1997 06:36:17 -0500 Fwd Date: Tue, 04 Feb 1997 09:39:44 -0500 Subject: In Search of Gordon Cooper's UFOs 2/3 Part two of Mr. Oberg's original essay, which appeared in May 1996, is reprinted from "Errol Bruce-Knapp: UFO UpDates - Toronto". Orginally posted on UFO Updates by Dean Kanipe, Area 51 Research Center.(Formatted BBS compatible) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - X-Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Mime-Version: 1.0 Date: Sat, 11 May 1996 00:47:24 -0400 To: email@example.com From: Errol Bruce-Knapp <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: UFO UpDate: In Search of Gordon Cooper's UFOs footnoted the source. What was actually happening was that on his third orbit, five hours into the flight, Cooper was describing auroral activity ("Northern Lights"). He reported, "Right now I can make out a lot of luminous activity in an easterly Hunting for Gordon Cooper's UFOs / Oberg / p. 8 direction. I wouldn't say it was much like a layer. It wasn't distinct and it didn't last long, but it was higher than I was. It wasn't even in the vicinity of the horizon and was not well defined. A good size -- it was a good sized area. It was very indistinct in shape. It was a faint glow with a reddish-brown cast." And whatever it was, it wasn't a UFO, as Wilson's doctored excerpt of the transcripts would otherwise lead trusting readers to conclude. 30 In an OMNI interview published in March 1980, Cooper was asked about the reports of astronauts seeing UFOs in space. He replied, "It got so bad that there were deliberately falsified tapes of communications with the astronauts, where UFO material was simply edited in." Cooper explicitly denied that there had been UFO sightings on his two flights. In a 1978 letter to me, Cooper stressed "the non-occurrence of a sighting on Mercury 9. I have the original on-board tapes in my possession which also refute this." 31 The actual source of the original report, attributed to NBC radio news, remains obscure. In 1979 I asked the NBC Radio News archives to check on transcripts from the period, but according to Lyn Myers, executive producer of NBC Radio News (letter dated August 8,1979), "We... can find no transcript concerning an incident such as you describe". There the matter rests. 32 As so often happens, there probably was some spark that set off the blaze -- but the actual stimulus was too minor to have left any trace. Some UFO enthusiast probably half-heard a garbled radio account, told associates about it, and developed the recollection at conferences and conclaves. Before long, the story had spread in so many garbled versions that the different tales appeared to be independent corroborations when in fact they were only multi-generation mongrels. Hunting for Gordon Cooper's UFOs / Oberg / p. 9 33 A minor footnote to Cooper's spaceflight UFO connection is a report from his second (and last) orbital mission, Gemini-5 in August 1965. Researcher Alan Frank Sandler found some air-to-ground voice transcripts which seemed to refer to a radar sighting of a UFO. He used this material in a movie, "UFOs Past Present and Future", and author Robert Emmenegger adapted the screenplay to a paperback book of the same name published by Ballantine in 1974. 34 On a pass across the US, the astronauts were told that Cape Kennedy radar was tracking another object "two to ten thousand yards" from their spacecraft. They were asked if they had seen anything, but they replied in the negative. "And that is the last that the public knows about what was sighted during the Gemini 5 flight", intoned Sandler. The story subsequently appeared in UFO magazines and newsletters. 35 If Sandler, who did the research in Houston, really believed that assertion, then it was only because his research was deficient. At the very next "change of shift" press briefing, two hours after the incident was reported, flight director Christopher Kraft (who, contrary to Sandler's claim, did not himself talk directly to the astronauts) answered a newsman's question about it: "The radars at the Cape apparently were tracking a side lobe which gave them two returns from the spacecraft.... We're fairly certain that it was some kind of phenomenon like that.... The Merritt Island and Patrick radars were tracking what appeared to be two objects with similar signal strengths about two to ten thousand yards from the spacecraft and we really believe they were tracking the side lobe". These comments were on transcripts of the conference, available to this day at the Public Affairs Office in Houston. 36 Kraft was referring to a not-uncommon problem with space radar. It is associated with the fact that the Hunting for Gordon Cooper's UFOs / Oberg / p. 10 radar beam (which is used to obtain a reflection when the radar is operating in the "skin track", or entirely passive mode of tracking) is not a pure cone-shaped projection, but is accompanied by weaker parallel projections as well. Sometimes the target acquisition logic circuits can become confused by reflections of these "side lobes", and this is what NASA decided had happened. Gemini-5 was a particularly difficult flight to track, according to a post-flight report entitled "Network Performance Analysis for the GT-5 Mission" (U66- 11760). Explained the report, "Due to the fuel cell problem the spacecraft beacon was turned off for long periods to conserve electrical power. Therefore, more effort than usual was directed towards skin tracking.... Significantly, many stations scheduled to skin track were either unable to acquire, or were unable to lock on the target". So the incident was neither exceptional nor particularly baffling. 37 The last word on this incident should lie with the astronauts involved. Cooper and his co-pilot Charles "Pete" Conrad have denied seeing such UFOs, and Cooper's candor is unquestionable. Another witness whose testimony UFO buffs should trust is the "capcom", the astronaut who was talking to Cooper and Conrad during the incident. It was James McDivitt, who has never made any secret of his own UFO-related experiences in the space program. Neither of these men ever considered the Gemini-5 incident as having anything to do with UFOs. 38 Sandler had missed another trick by not digging deeply enough into the Gemini-5 material. Cooper had in fact described something which could well have been verbally converted into a UFO, during the post-flight crew debriefing. His co-pilot Conrad had started off with the remark, "Okay, now that satellite ---" to which Cooper replied, "Satellites --- we never saw any of the scheduled ones. There was one time when Pete and I Hunting for Gordon Cooper's UFOs / Oberg / p. 11 thought we saw something and we didn't have time to identify it. We were in drifting flight and we never could identify it. I don't even know if it was a satellite. So many things are going by when you're drifting that it's difficult to say...." 39 (It is not known what McDivitt, who had seen his own famous UFO while in the same kind of "drifting flight" just ten weeks earlier, thought about Cooper's comment.) 40 In OMNI, Cooper summarized the whole mythology: "To my knowledge, the only astronaut on any of the Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo missions who ever saw anything that might have been a UFO was Jim McDivitt, but he didn't get enough pictures to prove anything substantial. That's the only case, in spite of all the stories you hear" --- stories from the books and articles by Edwards, Vallee and Hynek, Don Wilson and Robert Anton Wilson, Sachs, Stringfield, Fawcett, and many others. So the famous Mercury-9 story is false -- it never happened. THE SECOND HUNT 41 Cooper had been a student at the USAF Experimental Flight Test School at Edwards AFB, California, from 1956- 1957. After graduation he served as an experimental flight test engineer and a flight test pilot at the Air Force Flight Test Center at the base. He was there when in 1959 he was selected as one of the "original seven" Mercury astronauts recently celebrated in "The Right Stuff". 42 What has been portrayed as "an alleged case of suppression of photographic evidence of a UFO that landed near Edwards AFB" has become part of the Cooper UFO legend. His own words on the case, told in 1977 to interviewer Lee Spiegel for the "The Credibility Factor" (the UFO record), are as follows: he recalled "...the case of one that landed out on the dry lake bed right out from a number of camera crews we had who filmed it. And Hunting for Gordon Cooper's UFOs / Oberg / p. 12 the film was there and was sent forward to the safekeeping somewhere in Washington, never to be seen again.". 43 A detailed account of the incident appeared in Timothy Green Beckley's booklet, Hangar 18 (Global Communications, 1980). "After lunch this particular day", wrote Beckley, "Cooper had assigned a team of photographers to an area of the vast dry lake beds near Edwards". The team spotted "a strange-looking craft" which, in Cooper's words, was "hovering above the ground -- and then it slowly came down and sat on the lake bed for a few minutes." All during this time the cameras were supposedly filming away. Then, in words again ascribed to Cooper, "It took off at quite a sharp angle and just climbed straight out of sight." The film, sent off to Washington, vanished almost as quickly. As recounted in Penthouse ("Cosmic Coverup" by Tony Scaduto, October 1978), "Gordon Cooper says the film that he knows was taken of a UFO landing near the astronauts' training base in California has disappeared somewhere within official vaults....(It was) a film of the UFO that his men photographed, a film that has keen suppressed.". 44 Early in 1979 I had only begun pursuing this story. My first step was a call to the Public Information Officer at Edwards, Paul Sewall. He readily recalled the incident Cooper must have been talking about, but with some differences. Although the widespread story was that the UFO had set down on Haystack Butte out on the range, the two witnesses to the incident only described it as slowly flying past them. They had indeed made a lot of theodolite (tracking camera) exposures, which had keen developed in a base lab and them sent away for analysis.. 45 When I called John ("Jack") Gettys, one of the witnesses, he sent me a file of material on the sighting, which had occurred on May 3, 1957. He had never even realized that future astronaut Gordon Cooper had keen at Hunting for Gordon Cooper's UFOs / Oberg / p. 13 the base at that time (he had no connection with the incident). He also proudly recalled that the case had been extensively investigated by a UFO researcher named Dr. James McDonald -- who had been one of the leading ufologists in the world in the 1960s. The "coverup" story seemed to be unraveling.. 46 In fact, McDonald had described his findings on July 29,1968, during his testimony on UFOs to a congressional committee. This is the way he described it: "James D. Bittick and John R. Gettys... were at the time Askania cameramen on the test range, and spotted the domed-disk UFO just as they reached Askania #4 site at Edwards, a bit before 8:00 AM that day [JEO: Compare this with Beckley's account of "after lunch" -- evidently pure dramatization]. They immediately got into communication with the range director, Frank E. Baker, and asked if anyone else was manning an Askania that could be used to get triangulation shots. Since no other camera operators were on duty at other sites, Baker told them to fire manually, and they got a number of shots before the object moved off into the distance. Bittick estimated that the object lay about a mile away when they got off the first shot, though when first seen he put it at no more than 500 yards off. He and Gettys both said it had a golden color, looked somewhat like an inverted plate with a dome on top, and had square holes or panels around the dome. Gettys thought that the holes were circular, not square. It was moving away from them, seemed to glow with its own luminosity, and had a hazy, indistinct halo around its rim, both mentioned. The number of shots taken is uncertain: Gettys thought perhaps thirty. The object was lost from sight by the time it moved out to about five miles or so, and they did not see it again.... The photos were shortly taken by base military authorities and were never seen again by the men. In a session later that day, Bittick [was] informed that they had seen a Hunting for Gordon Cooper's UFOs / Oberg / p. 14 weather balloon distorted by the desert atmospheric effects.". 47 When I told Gettys in 1982 that McDonald had used his case in congressional testimony, the UFO witness was pleased but surprised. McDonald had never gotten back to him about the use he'd put his testimony to. So the pro- UFO people kept some secrets, too!. 48 Now, in fact those photographs did not vanish after all: they had been sent to Project Blue Book, at Wright- Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, per regulations (I even have talked to the officer who did the original Blue Book interviews, former Captain Hubert Davis, who had been greatly impressed with the witness's sincerity) . Years later the photos were pulled out of the retired Air Force files by UFO writers and investigators, as yet ignorant of the still-unpublished "Cooper connection". Two of the photos appear in Brad Steiger's paperback "Project Blue Book" (Ballantine, 1976) in the set of illustrations between pages 360 and 361. Wrote Steiger in the caption: "UFOs on target! Photos taken by United States military personnel" for case #4715, Edwards AFB, May 2 [sic!] 1957. But that case number did not appear on another list in Steiger's book, which included all "unsolved" cases. The Air Force must have found a satisfactory solution -- but what?. 49 That answer had been around since 1957, but not widely circulated in the UFO media for obvious reasons: the Air Force said it had been a weather balloon (as the witnesses had been told the very day of their sighting) and had the evidence to prove it. In a letter to a UFO newsletter in June 1957, Major Robert F. Spence of the Edwards AFB Office of Information Services wrote as follows: "The alleged UFO was conclusively identified as a balloon from a weather unit a few miles west of the observer's location. This was corrborated by an independent report which discloses that this balloon was Hunting for Gordon Cooper's UFOs / Oberg / p. 15 being tracked at that time with precision recording devices. The data show that the balloon passed the observer's location at almost the precise time, bearings, elevations and speed reported by them.... Objects in the photographs, even after magnification, were found to be small white specks, alternately changing from elliptical to round in shape. These are typical of a number of similar reports received by the Air Force, which upon investigation were found to be balloons, the odd appearances being caused by specular reflection of sunlight and other atmospheric conditions peculiar to desert regions. It is the opinion of the Air Force that any attempt to attribute anything unusual or mysterious to the incident is unwarranted and not supported by the facts.". 50 But oddly enough, even though the original sighting was published in numerous newspapers (and made national wire services), the explanation was written up in no newspaper that I have been able to find. Nor did the pro- UFO McDonald (who hardly could have failed to be aware of it, since he had been sent the same material by Gettys) mention it before the congressional committee. Of course, the explanation "weather balloon" elicits snickers of disbelief from anybody familiar with how the term was over-used for other cases -- but this case looks pretty solid.. 51 There is no evidence that Cooper ever heard this explanation, but he evidently had same misgivings about the case. In 1978, in his second interview with Spiegel (this time for OMNI), he evaded any discussion of the Edwards case by saying, "I'd just as soon not get into the Edwards incident. I didn't get to see anything personally, it was all second hand evidence really." That it was, and Cooper's caution was commendable -- if perhaps a bit tardy. His name had already been interwoven with the To: In Search of Gordon Cooper's UFOs 3/3 To: A Problem with some of James Oberg's Assertions To: ***My Comments Regarding what Jim finally had to say about my Rebuttal*** Page from the website of: CohenUFO.org
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