of the week
05:12:12 - 06:16:12
05:12:12 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: From 1955. This missile-like free-falling body was dropped from an altitude of seven miles. The purpose of the drop was to investigate the efficiency of air inlets of a type suitable for high speed jet aircraft. Its descent rate was checked first by automatic dive brakes (seen partially open) and then by parachute. The body has buried its nose in the California desert. The delicate onboard instruments which recorded performance data were recovered intact.
05:19:12 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: In this 1962 artist's concept, a proposed Nova rocket, shown at right, is compared to a Saturn C-1, left, and a Saturn C-5, center. The Marshall Space Flight Center directed studies of Nova configuration from 1960 to 1962 as a means of achieving a marned lunar landing with a direct flight to the Moon. Various configurations of the vehicle were examined, the largest being a five-stage vehicle using eight F-1 engines in the first stage. Although the program was effectively cancelled in 1962 when NASA planners selected the lunar-orbital rendezvous mode, the proposed F-1 engine was eventually used to propel the first stage of the Saturn V launch vehicle in the Apollo Program.
05:26:12 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: Gordon Cooper (March 6, 1927 – October 4, 2004) was one of the seven original astronauts in Project Mercury, the first manned space effort by the United States. He was the first American to sleep in orbit, flew the longest spaceflight of the Mercury project, and was the last American to be launched alone into Earth orbit and conduct an entire solo orbital mission. This last Mercury Flight, dubbed Faith 7, nearly ended disastrously when the automatically-controlled capsule suffered a power failure. But by drawing lines on the capsule window for visual attitude control, Cooper successfully estimated the correct pitch for re-entry into the atmosphere, later noting "I used my wrist watch for time, my eyeballs out the window for attitude. Then I fired my retrorockets at the right time and landed right by the carrier." It would be the first, and last, manually-controlled reentry from space of the Mercury program. In 1965 Cooper flew as command pilot of Gemini 5 on an eight-day, 120-orbit mission with Pete Conrad. The two astronauts established a new space endurance record by traveling a distance of 3,312,993 miles in 190 hours and 56 minutes, showing astronauts could survive in space for the length of time necessary for a round trip to the moon.
In Cooper's autobiography Leap of Faith: An Astronaut's Journey Into the Unknown Cooper related two extraordinary personal experiences dealing with the UFO phenomenon. The first was his experience as a pilot based in Germany in 1951...
It was in Europe, in 1951, that I saw my first UFO.
When the alert sounded, my squadron mates and I dashed from the ready room and scrambled skyward in our F-86s to intercept the bogies.
We reached our maximum ceiling of around forty-five thousand feet, and they were still way above us, and traveling much faster. I could see that they weren't balloons or MIGs or like any aircraft I had seen before. They were metallic silver and saucer-shaped. We couldn't get close enough to form any idea of their size: they were just too high.
For the next two or three days the saucers passed over the base daily. Sometimes they appeared in groups of four, other times as many as sixteen. They could outmaneuver and outflank us seemingly at will. They moved at varying speeds -- sometimes very fast, sometimes slow -- and other times they would come to a dead stop as we zoomed past underneath them. We had no idea whether they were looking at us or what they were doing. They came right over the air base at regular intervals all day long, generally heading east to west over central Europe.
I suppose there were reports filed by officers a lot more senior than I -- still a lowly second lieutenant. But as far as I know there was no official investigation.
Since the UFOs were too high and too fast for us to intercept, we eventually stopped going up after them. Through binoculars we looked to the sky in awe at these speedy saucers. Our worst fears were that the Soviet Union had developed something for which we had no match. And if they weren't from anywhere here on Earth, we wondered aloud -- where did they come from?
In 1957, when Cooper was 30 and a captain, he was assigned to Fighter Section of the Experimental Flight Test Engineering Division at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He acted as a test pilot and project manager. On May 3 of that year, he had a crew setting up an Askania-cinetheodolite precision landing system on a dry lake bed. This cinetheodolite system would take pictures at one frame per second as an aircraft landed. The crew consisted of James Bittick and Jack Gettys who began work at the site just before 0800, using both still and motion picture cameras. Cooper describes what happened next in his book...
Later that morning they came running in to tell me that a "strange-looking saucer" had come right over them.
"It didn't make any noise at all, sir," one of them said.
"Not a sound," the other one agreed.
I knew these enlisted men to be old pros, but they were really worked up -- excited and frightened in the same breath. They were accustomed to seeing America's top-performance experimental aircraft taking off, screaming low overhead, and landing in front of them on a daily basis. Obviously what they had seen out on the dry lake bed was something quite different, and it had unnerved them both.
They told me they had just about finished their work when the saucer flew over them, hovered above the ground, extended three landing gear, then set down about fifty yards away. They described the saucer as metallic silver in color and shaped somewhat like an inverted plate...
After my own UFO experiences in Europe, I was not about to discount any of these stories, especially coming from people I had served with and trusted.
These two cameramen were trained photographers and had cameras and film with them. I quickly asked the obvious question: "Did you get any pictures?"
"Oh yes, sir. We were shooting the entire time."
They said they had shot images with 35-mm and 4-by-5 still cameras, as well as motion picture film. When they had tried to approach the saucer to get a closer shot, they said it lifted up, retracted its gear, and climbed straight out of sight at a rapid rate of speed -- again with no sound. They estimated the craft to be about thirty feet across. It had a silver color to it and seemed to glow with its own luminosity.
I told them to get the film to the lab right away.
I had to look up the regulations to see how I should report the incident. There was a special Pentagon number to call in the event of unusual sightings. I called it and started with a captain, telling him we'd just had a sighting and landing of a "strange vehicle that didn't have wings on it." The captain quickly passed me to a colonel. Eventually I was talking to a general, repeating for the third time what had happened that morning. He ordered me to have the film developed right away but "don't run any prints" and to place the negatives in a locked courier pouch to be sent to Washington immediately on the base commanding general's plane.
I wasn't about to defy the Pentagon general's order about no prints -- a surefire way to end my career or, at the very least, lose my top-secret clearance and my test pilot job. But since nothing was said about not looking at the negatives before sending them east, that's what I did when they came back from the lab.
I was amazed at what I saw. The quality was excellent, everything in focus as one would expect from trained photographers. The object, shown close up, was a classic saucer, shiny silver and smooth -- just as the cameramen had reported.
I never saw the motion picture film. Before the day ended, all the negatives and movie film had left on the priority flight for Washington.
Considering what the men had seen, and particularly the photographic evidence they had brought back with them of a UFO touching down on Earth, I expected to get an urgent follow-up call from Washington, or the imminent arrival of high-level investigators. After all, a craft of unknown origin had just overflown and landed at a highly classified military installation.
Strangely, there was no word from Washington, and no inquiry was launched. Everything was kept under wraps, as if the incident never happened. Through the years, it would have been easy for me to forget the entire matter -- if I hadn't seen those photographs.
The incident report was supposed to wind up at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, home of the air force's official UFO investigation, Project Blue Book. I don't know who saw the photographic evidence or what happened to the photos once they were printed. All I know for sure is that the evidence I'd seen with my own eyes vanished. After putting the negatives and film on the plane to Washington, that was the last I heard or saw of them.
Except that two years ago I was contacted by an independent researcher who said he'd tried to uncover information about the pictures of the Edwards sightings through the Freedom of Information Act. He said he'd found a reference in an old Blue Book report of pictures having been taken of "something unusual" at Edwards, but that was it.
Though Cooper died in 2004, his request to have his ashes sent into space went unfulfilled until this week, when they were launched aboard the second stage of the SpaceX Dragon rocket, which is expected to orbit Earth for a year, before burning up upon re-entry.
06:02:12 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: Pictures from the Gemini IV mission which launched 47 years ago tomorrow, June 3, 1965. Top: Astronauts James A. McDivitt and Edward H. White II inside the Gemini spacecraft for a simulated launch at Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 13, 1965. Second Photo: Ed White and James McDivitt inside the Gemini IV spacecraft wait for liftoff. Third Photo: Liftoff, June 3, 1965, 10:15:59 a.m. EST. Fourth Photo: Astronaut Ed White makes history that day, floating out of the hatch of the two-man capsule into the void of space to become the first American to undertake a "spacewalk". For 23 minutes White would float and maneuver himself around the Gemini spacecraft while logging 6500 miles during his orbital stroll. White was attached to the spacecraft by a 25 foot umbilical line and a 23-ft. tether line, both wrapped in gold tape to form one cord. In his right hand White carries a Hand Held Self Maneuvering Unit, used to move about the weightless environment of space. The visor of White's helmet is gold plated to protect him from the unfiltered rays of the sun. Fifth Photo: Mrs. Patricia McDivitt and Mrs. Patricia White speak to their astronaut husbands as they pass over the United States, June 3, 1965. Last Photo: White and McDivitt after splashdown, June 7, 1965, aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Wasp, receiving a congratulatory message from President Lyndon B. Johnson. The two men had circled Earth 66 times over the course of four days, the longest of any American space flight up to that time and a vital step to demonstrating the feasibility of extended stays in space as part of preparations for a flight to the moon.
Nineteen months later, on January 27, 1967, Edward H. White II was killed -- along with astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom and Roger B. Chaffee -- when a fire broke out in the command capsule during a pre-launch test of Apollo 1 at Cape Kennedy. McDivitt would go on to command Apollo 9 in March, 1969, representing the first manned flight of all Apollo lunar hardware in Earth orbit as well as the first manned flight of the lunar module.
06:09:12 -- PICTURES OF THE WEEK: From 1957, Project RED SOCKS was to be "the world's first useful moon rocket," proposed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology in October 1957. These artist's renditions show the configuration of motors and a diagram of the moon orbit.
RED SOCKS was to respond to the Sputnik launch challenge with a significant technological advance over the Soviet Union instead of merely matching them with another earth-orbiting satellite. The objectives of the project were to: 1) get photos, 2) refine space guidance techniques, and 3) "impress the world" with a series of nine rocket flights to the moon. The second of the nine flights was to take pictures of the back of the moon. The necessary technology had already been developed for earlier projects, such as the Re-entry Test Vehicle and the Microlock radio ground tracking system. Project RED SOCKS received no support in Washington. In December 1957, JPL and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) were instead asked to orbit an Earth satellite. Explorer 1 was launched 81 days later, on January 29, 1958. A modified RED SOCKS plan was carried out in the Pioneer 4 project in March 1959.
06:16:12 -- PICTURE OF THE WEEK: From 1959. An early space station concept drawing. The station was designed as a laboratory to study the physical and behavioral effects of prolonged space flight, and could have possibly been crewed by 50 people. This particular image appeared in the 1959 Space The New Frontier brochure produced by NASA.
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