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Astronauts in orbit view the earth, its atmosphere and the astronomical sky from altitudes ranging from 100 to 800 + nautical miles (160 to 1300 km.) above mean sea level, well above many of the restrictions of the ground-based observer. They are skilled in accurate observations, their eyesight is excellent, they have an intimate familiarity with navigational astronomy and a broad understanding of the basic physical sciences. Their reports from orbit of visual sightings therefore deserve careful consideration. Between 12 April 1961 and 15 November 1966, 30 astronauts spent a total of 2503 hours in orbit. (see Tables 1 and 2 )
During the flights the astronauts carried out assigned tasks of several general categories, viz: defense, engineering, medical, and scientific. A list of the assigned tasks that were part of the Mercury program is provided in Table 3 to give an idea of the kinds of visual observations the astronauts were asked to make. As a part of the program, debriefings were held following each U.S. mission. At these sessions, the astronauts were questioned by scientists involved in the design of the experiments about their observations, unplanned as well as specifically assigned. The debriefings complemented on-the-spot reports made by the astronauts during the mission in radio contacts with the ground-control center. In this way, a comprehensive summary was obtained of what the astronauts had seen while in orbit.
Reports by the Mercury astronauts that they were able to observe very small objects on the ground aroused considerable interest in the general matter of the visual acuity of the astronauts. One of the criteria in the selection of the astronauts to begin with was that they have excellent eyesight, but it was not known whether their high level of visual acuity would be sustained during flight. Therefore, experiments were designed to test whether any significant change in visual acuity could be detected during extended flights. These experiments were carried out during Gemini 5 (8 days) and Gemini 7 (14 days).
An in-flight vision tester was used one or more times per day, and the results were compared with preflight tests made with the same equipment. In addition, a test pattern was laid out on the ground near Laredo, Tex. for observation during flight. The reader is referred to the original report for the details of the carefully controlled experiments, which led to the following conclusions:
Data from the inflight vision tester show that no change was detected in the visual performance of any of the four astronauts who composed the crews of Gemini 5 and Gemini 7. Results from observations of the ground site near Laredo, Tex., confirm that the visual performance of the astronauts during space flight was within the statistical range of their preflight visual performance and demonstrate that laboratory visual data can be combined with environmental optical data to predict correctly the limiting visual capability of astronauts to discriminate small objects on the surface of the earth in the daylight.
Astronaut McDivitt described seeing at 3:00 CST, on 4 June 1965, a cylindrical object that appeared to have arms sticking out, a description suggesting a spacecraft with an antenna.
I had a conversation with astronaut McDivitt on 3 October 1967, about this sighting and reproduce here my summary of the conversation.
McDivitt saw a cylindrical-shaped object with an antenna-like extension. The appearance was something like the second phase of a Titan (not necessarily implying that that is actually what be saw) It was not possible to estimate its distance but it did have angular extension, that is it did not appear as a "point." It gave a white or silvery appearance as seen against the day sky. The spacecraft was in free drifting flight somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. One still picture was taken plus some movie exposures on black and white film. The impression was not that the object was moving parallel with the spacecraft but rather that it was closing in and that it was nearby. The reaction of the astronaut was that it might be necessary to take action to avoid a collision. The object was lost to view when the sun shone on the window (which was rather dirty). He tried to get the object back into view by maneuvering so the sun was not on the window but was not able to pick it up again. When they landed , the film was sent from the carrier to land and was not seen again by McDivitt for four days. The NASA photo interpreter had released three or four pictures but McDivitt says that the pictures released were definitely not of the object he had seen. His personal inspection of the film later revealed what he bad seen although the quality of the image and of the blown-up point was such that the object was seen only "hazily" against the sky. But he feels that a positive identification had been made.
It is McDivitt's opinion that the object was probably some unmanned satellite. NORAD made an investigation of possible satellites and came up with the suggestion that the object might have been Pegasus which was 1200 miles away at the time. McDivitt questions this identification.
The NORAD computer facility's determination of the distances from GT-4 to other known objects in space at the time of the astronaut McDivitt's sighting yielded the following tabulation.
A preliminary identification of the object as Pegasus B is suspect. When fully extended Pegasus B has a maximum dimension of 29.3 meters, which corresponds to 1/20 minute of arc at a distance of 2000 km. This is much too small an angular extension for the structure of the craft to be resolved and thus does not agree with the description of "arms sticking out." Later in the mission Pegasus B was at a much more favorable distance (497 km.) from the Gemini 4 spacecraft or four times as close as during, the reported sighting. Astronauts McDivitt and White reported that they were not successful in a serious attempt to visually identify the Pegasus B satellite during this encounter.
The ten objects in addition to Pegasus B in the NORAD list were all at considerably greater distances away from GT-4 than an admittedly crude estimate of 10 miles (16 km.) made by McDivitt, and were of the same or smaller size than Pegasus B. They would not appear to be likely candidates for the object sighted by the astronaut.
At 50h 58m 03s of elapsed time of GT-4, astronaut McDivitt made the following report. Just saw a satellite, very high . . . spotted away just like a star on the ground when you see one go by, a long, long ways away. When I saw this satellite go by we were pointed just about directly overhead. It looked like it was going from left to right . . . back toward the west, so it must have been going from south to north.
Although McDivitt referred to this sighting as a satellite, I have included it among the puzzlers because it was higher than the GT-4 and moving in a polar orbit. It was reported as looking like a "star" so we have no indication of an angular extension.
The suggestion at the time of sighting that this was a satellite has not been confirmed, so far as I know, by a definite identification of a known satellite. Conversations with McDivitt indicate that, on one other occasion, off the coast of China, he saw a "light" that was moving with respect to the star background. No details could be made out by him.
The general reconstruction of the sighting based on the above conversation is that in addition to the booster travelling in an orbit similar to that of the spacecraft there was another bright object (bogey) together with many illuminated particles. It might be conjectured that the bogey and particles were fragments from the launching of Gemini 7, but this is impossible if they were travelling in a polar orbit as they appeared to the astronauts to be doing.
Originally posted by Regenstorm
Flag and 2 Stars for you.
The conclusion of the Condon Report varies a lot from the true conclusion if you read the entire report.
Originally posted by Regenstorm
The conclusion of the Condon Report varies a lot from the true conclusion if you read the entire report..
"The opposite conclusion could have been drawn from The Condon Report's content, namely, that a phenomenon with such a high ratio of unexplained cases (about 30 percent) should arouse sufficient scientific curiosity to continue its study.
From a scientific and engineering standpoint, it is unacceptable to simply ignore substantial numbers of unexplained observations... the only promising approach is a continuing moderate-level effort with emphasis on improved data collection by objective means... involving available remote sensing capabilities and certain software changes."
Ronald D Story - American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics UFO Subcommittee -New York: Doubleday, 1980
Debunking the Condon Report
Originally posted by JimOberg
Were there any subsequent published studies that responded to Condon's "challenge to the analyst", or was Condon's report that last word on those astronaut stories?
In the section devoted to UFO reports made by astronauts, Franklin Roach declared that three accounts related by astronauts Frank Borman and James McDivitt aboard Gemini 7 were "a challenge to the analyst" and "puzzling". Roach writes that if NORAD’s list of space object near Gemini was accurate (as he concluded), than the object Borman and McDivitt reported remained unidentified, and "we shall have to find a rational explanation" for the object, "or alternately, keep it on our list of unknowns." (Condon, 208) Again, Condon does not mention this intriguing report in his summary.