by Charles Lear
From the very beginning of the U.S. space program, astronauts have reportedly seen UFOs. For those who subscribe to the extraterrestrial hypothesis, it makes sense that space faring beings from other planets would take an interest. But, whatever they are, astronauts have not only reported seeing UFOs, but some, most notably Gordon Cooper and Dr. Edgar Mitchell, have gone so far as to publicly advocate for disclosure and an end to secrecy regarding the subject.
Gordon Cooper described having encounters with UFOs as an Air Force pilot prior to his involvement in the space program. In his 2000 memoir, “Leap of Faith: An Astronaut’s Journey Into the Unknown”, Gordon wrote that he chased saucer-shaped craft over Germany in the 1950’s, where he was stationed, and that objects that were faster than known man made machines flew over the base daily. He also made mention of being given film in 1957 of a saucer that landed at Edwards Air Force Base which he sent off to the Pentagon and never saw again. In contrast, he claimed that neither he nor any other astronauts had seen UFOs while in space and refutes the report that he saw a green glowing object approach his craft during his final orbit in May 1963 aboard Mercury Faith 7 while over Australia. Cooper made a similar claim in a March 1980 interview in Omni conducted by long time UFO researcher Lee Spiegel. In that interview Cooper stated that, of all the astronauts involved in the space program only James McDivitt “might” have seen a UFO. He also remarked that allegations of astronaut UFO sightings “got so bad that there were deliberately falsified tapes of communications with the astronauts, where UFO material was simply edited in.” A review of claims of astronaut encounters and statements finds that there is, indeed, a lot of poorly supported information out there.
Sightings and statements by two X-15 pilots flying on the edges of space can be tracked to original sources. On May 11, 1962, an article published in the The Calgary Herald reported that pilot Joe Walker told of film taken by a camera mounted on the fuselage of his plane that had captured “five or six” disc-shaped objects as the plane arced over its altitude of 246,700 feet. This was during a panel discussion at The Second Annual Conference On The Peaceful Uses of Space in Seattle, Washington and Walker declined to speculate “about the nature of the objects.” Walker stated that, while they had been captured on film, he hadn’t made a personal observation at the time. An August 3, 1962 article in LIFE reports on the X-15 flight of Bob White and quotes from his radio transmission during his flight: “There are things out there! There ab-so-lute-ly is!” White explained that he’d seen small, flaky particles and speculated that they could have been residue from the peroxide fuel.
In a 1994 autobiography “Deke!” is a story told by Donald K. “Deke” Slayton who was one of the Mercury Seven and helped develop the Space Shuttle. In this video he describes his written encounter with a disc as a test pilot in 1951, which is wrongly stated by the announcer to have occurred in 1952.
On the 20th revolution of a four-day space flight June 3-7, 1965 James McDivitt spotted and photographed a UFO. McDivitt described the episode in a June 29, 1999 interview as part of the NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project. Fellow astronaut Ed White (who made the first American space-walk) was asleep and the capsule was tumbling through space as it had been shut down to save fuel. McDivitt spotted an object that resembled a beer can with a pencil sticking out of it. Thinking that he might be forced to maneuver around the object, McDivitt switched on the circuit breakers of the battery-powered craft to enable the engines. There were two cameras floating in the capsule and while he waited for the electronics to warm up he took a picture of the object with each of them. According to him, the pictures did not turn out but a reporter, who hung around NASA while photos from the mission were printed out, later went through them and picked one that looked like a fleet of spaceships that was actually “a reflection of bolts in the windows.” McDivitt stated that the object must have been in orbit with them as he was able to see it and was probably a piece of ice that had fallen off the ship. McDivitt’s sighting is discussed in the Condon Report and the writer leaves it unresolved and includes it with cases, “not adequately explained.” Also included is the case involving James Lovell and Frank Borman during their fourteen day Gemini 7 flight from December 4-18, 1965. During the second orbit of the flight, Borman reported that they had “a Bogey at 10 o’clock high.” Capcom in Houston asked him to repeat and he did and Houston asked if it was the booster he was seeing or an actual sighting. Lovell replied that it was an actual sighting and that he had the booster in sight at his 2 o’clock position.
Then there is the story of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin aboard Apollo 11 reporting to NASA on a non-broadcast frequency that they were seeing huge spacecraft lined up on a crater watching them as they landed. The tale comes from “former NASA employee Otto Binder” who said that “unnamed radio hams” had picked up the broadcast on their equipment. A simple search will reveal that Otto Binder was a science fiction writer turned comic book writer turned UFO writer and that he never worked for NASA. Another “former NASA employee” who “confirmed” Binder’s story was Maurice Chatelain who was an ancient astronaut theorist and propagated the story that there are geometric structures and ruins on the moon that NASA has kept secret. Chatelain claimed to be the “Chief of NASA Communications Systems” during Apollo 11 but research by Georgia MUFON found there was no such position during Apollo 11 and that the closest thing to it in name was “Chief of Communications and Frequency Management” which was the position held by one Paul A. Price.
In a November 14, 2002 article in Telepolis , astronaut Dr. Jerry Linenberger is quoted from a statement he gave “four years after his stay on MIR at the Bur Juman Retail Conference in the Emirate Towers Hotel in presence of journalists.”
“I have been asked that question so many times. In five months in space, I have seen unidentified flying objects for sure. Sometimes I looked out of the window and I could see a metallic thing like a spoon flying methodically. The biggest problem in space is that it is very hard to judge distance. It could have been a spoon or a space ship thousands of miles away. Let me tell you one thing, I have never heard someone knock at the door and say – Hey Jerry let me in!”
An additional quote sums up the position of astronauts very well.
“I would also like to point out that most astronauts are very reluctant to even discuss UFO’s due to the great numbers of people who have indiscriminately sold fake stories and forged documents abusing their names and reputations without hesitation. Those few astronauts who have continued to have a participation in the UFO field have had to do so very cautiously.”
Two astronauts who were very outspoken and, perhaps less than cautious, were Gordon Cooper and Dr. Edgar Mitchell who followed similar paths. Cooper wrote a letter dated November 9, 1978 to Ambassador Griffith, Grenada’s ambassador to the UN with the following oft-repeated quote: “I believe that these extraterrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets, which are a little more technically advanced than we are on Earth.” Grenada’s Prime Minister, Sir Eric Gairy, had been urging the UN since 1976 to set up an agency to gather and evaluate UFO related information and a meeting to discuss an upcoming presentation to the UN, with speakers including Gordon Cooper, was set up with the help of Lee Spiegel on July 14, 1978. The presentation to the UN took place November 27, 1978.
Dr. Edgar Mitchell was the sixth man to walk on the moon as part of the Apollo 14 mission. During that mission he had an epiphany where, he said, “I realized that the molecules of my body and the molecules of the spacecraft had been manufactured in an ancient generation of stars.” This had a profound effect on him and led him to establish the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which called for an examination of the universe by means other than religion or science. He would later become an advocate for disclosure by the U.S. government regarding alien visitations and appeared in James Fox’s groundbreaking 2003 documentary “Out of the Blue” in which Cooper also appeared. In the film it is acknowledged that Mitchell had no first-hand experience with extraterrestrials but he stated that he had discussed the issue with people who had in their official capacity “within two governments.” Mitchell, towards the end of the film, expresses his concern that there is a clandestine group within the government investigating alien activity without high-level government oversight. After his death February 4, 2016, Wikileaks, in November of that year, released emails from the personal account of John Podesta, former counselor to President Barack Obama and campaign advisor to Hillary Clinton. Among the thousands of emails there were two from Mitchell regarding a Skype meeting presentation for President Obama. In the messages, Mitchell mentions ETI (Extraterrestrial Intelligences) that are helping to bring zero point energy to us on Earth and the need to ban weapons from space because “They will not tolerate any forms of military violence on Earth or in space.” The Skype presentation never occurred.
The subject of astronaut UFO sightings begs for dramatic tales such as those found throughout UFO literature and the internet. The truth seems to be less dramatic than seeing huge menacing ships on the moon but is still fascinating. That astronauts seem to be more forthcoming about their experiences as pilots within or near Earth’s atmosphere may mean more freedom to speak or more activity to speak of.