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White Sands UFO tracked by theodolite
STATEMENT OF COMMANDER ROBERT B McLAUGHLIN, USN
On a bright, clear Sunday morning in April, 1949, a detachment of Navy men and a group of scientists released a balloon from a point 57 miles northwest of the White Sands Proving Ground base. They were interested in getting weather data from the upper atmosphere, and as the balloon rose, they charted its flight as usual with a theodolite and a stop watch. There were five observers in all; four of them coordinating the instrument data. One followed the balloon through the theodolite's telescope. One called off the readings. One recorded them, and the fourth man held the watch.
Shortly after the balloon was aloft west of the observation point, the theodolite operator swung his instrument rapidly to the east. A strange object, seen by everyone present, had crossed the path of the balloon. The instrument man, confused, had followed it. Swiftly, one of the scientists grabbed the theodolite and began tracking the missile,an accurate plot of the object's course was recorded.
Analyzing this data later, I can state definitely that:
1. The object, viewed in cross section, was elliptical in shape.
2. It was about 105 feet in diameter.
3. It was flying at an altitude of approximately 56 miles. (This was determined by a ballistics expert. An object at a lower altitude on this particular bright day could not have fitted the data taken. For security reasons, I cannot go deeper into this method of calculating altitude.)
4. Its speed was about 5 miles per second.
5. At the end of its trajectory, it swerved abruptly upward, altering its angle of elevation by 5 degrees - corresponding to an increase in altitude of about 25 miles - in a period of 10 seconds. Rough calculation indicates that a force of more that 20 G's (20 times the pull of gravity) would be required to produce this elevation in this time.
6. The object was visible for 60 seconds.
7. It disappeared at an elevation of 29 degrees.
These impressions I settled on as accurate:
* The Saucer, at the time it was first sighted, had been going at an extremely slow speed, perhaps 1 mile per second.
* Despite the relative slowness, I could not determine its shape, although I judged it was similar in size to Saucer No. 1 because it was visible at an altitude above 25 miles.
* It accelerated to a speed far in excess of anything obtainable with present day rocket motors.
* The object passed within 5 degrees of the sun and was still visible to the naked eye. This would hardly have been true if the the object had been a meteor.
* Again, there was no evidence of a propulsion system.
Close questioning of the observers prior to the official report that went to "Project Saucer" at Wright-Patterson Field in Dayton, Ohio, produced an almost unanimous judgment that the objects was discus shaped and that it was a flat white color. High powered binoculars showed no exhaust trail, no stream of light or other evidence of a propulsions system. And, no sound.
NICAP Case directory
From: Commanding Officer and Director
To: The Chief of Naval Operations
Attn: Office of Naval Intelligence
Via: The Chief of Naval Research
Subj: Sighting of Unidentified Object -- Report of
Encl: (A) Statement of C.B. Moore, General Mills
Aeronautical Research, Minneapolis
1. Encl (A) is a statement submitted to this activity by Mr. C. B. Moore (General Mills Aeronautical Research) who sighted and tracked an unidentified object on 24 April 1949 while engaged on Special Devices Center Project P-U-J-1 in the vicinity of White Sands Proving Ground.
2. Mr. Moore's statement is forwarded as significant because of the detailed theodolite tracking data it contains and because the object's variation of azimuth and elevation might indicate some degree of controlled flight.
3. The observer is known to the Special Device Center as a graduate mechanical engineer with an Air Force Reserve captaincy in meteorology. Mr. Moore, prior to his employment by General Mills, headed the New York University constant level balloon research program for the Air Force [i.e., Mogul], and can be considered to be a competent, mature, and highly experienced observer.
Central Intelligence Agency
On several occasions during 1948 and 1949, McLaughlin or his crew at the White Sands Proving Ground had made good UFO sightings. The best one was on April 24, 1949, when the commander's crew of engineers, scientists, and technicians were getting ready to launch one of the huge 100-foot-diameter skyhook balloons. It was 10:30 A.M. on an absolutely clear Sunday morning. Prior to the launching, the crew had set up a small weather balloon to check the winds at lower levels. One man was watching the balloon through a theodolite, an instrument similar to a surveyor's transit built around a 25-power telescope, one man was holding a stop watch, and a third had a clipboard to record the measured data.
The crew had tracked the balloon to about 10,000 feet when one of them suddenly shouted and pointed off to the left. The whole crew looked at the part of the sky where the man was excitedly pointing, and there was a UFO. "It didn't appear to be large," one of the scientists later said, "but it was plainly visible. It was easy to see that it was elliptical in shape and had a 'whitish-silver color.'" After taking a split second to realize what they were looking at, one of the men swung the theodolite around to pick up the object, and the timer reset his stop watch. For sixty seconds they tracked the UFO as it moved toward the east. In about fifty-five seconds it had dropped from an angle of elevation of 45 degrees to 25 degrees, then it zoomed upward and in a few seconds it was out of sight. The crew head no sound and the New Mexico desert was so calm that day that they could have heard "a whisper a mile away."
When they reduced the data they had collected, McLaughlin and crew found out that the UFO had been traveling 4 degrees per second. At one time during the observed portion of its flight, the UFO had passed in front of a range of mountains that were visible to the observers. Using this as a check point, they estimated the size of the UFO to be 40 feet wide and 100 feet long, and they computed that the UFO had been at an altitude of 296,000 feet, or 56 miles, when they had first seen it, and that it was traveling 7 miles per second.
Edward J. Ruppelt, Capt.
Project Blue Book
plainly visible. It was easy to see that it was elliptical in shape and had a 'whitish-silver color.'
An optical instrument used to measure angles in surveying, meteorology, and navigation. In meteorology, it is used to track the motion of a weather balloon by measuring its elevation and azimuth angle. The earliest theodolite consisted of a small mounted telescope that rotated horizontally and vertically; modern versions are sophisticated computerized devices, capable of tracking weather balloons, airplanes, and other moving objects, at distances of up to 20,000 m (65,600 ft).
We can chart the direction and velocity of winds at various altitudes just by watching balloons. The rate of ascent of a balloon is mostly dependant on the balloon's drag and its "free lift" (the vertical pull of the balloon). We have some degree of control over these these factors, and as a result, know approximately how high our balloon will be at any given time after its release. Given a known height and an angular direction (read off the theodolite) to the balloon, we can fix the horizontal movement component of the balloon's travel as it moves through different altitudes. The horizontal movement is due to the winds blowing the balloon around at the altitudes that the balloon is traveling through.
3. It was flying at an altitude of approximately 56 miles. (This was determined by a ballistics expert. An object at a lower altitude on this particular bright day could not have fitted the data taken). For security reasons, I cannot go deeper into this method of calculating altitude).
A strange object, seen by everyone present, had crossed the path of the balloon. The instrument man, confused, had followed it
Swiftly, one of the scientists grabbed the theodolite ...
Shortly after the balloon was aloft west of the observation point, the theodolite operator swung his instrument rapidly to the east. A strange object, seen by everyone present, had crossed the path of the balloon. The instrument man, confused, had followed it.
The crew had tracked the balloon to about 10,000 feet when one of them suddenly shouted and pointed off to the left. The whole crew looked at the part of the sky where the man was excitedly pointing, and there was a UFO.
A strange object, seen by everyone present, had crossed the path of the balloon.
The whole crew looked at the part of the sky where the man was excitedly pointing, and there was a UFO. "It didn't appear to be large," one of the scientists later said, "but it was plainly visible
At one time during the observed portion of its flight, the UFO had passed in front of a range of mountains that were visible to the observers.
In the end of the 40's, an alternative method to the expensive, highly demanded and rare supersonic wind tunnels to test aerodynamics of supersonic aircraft and rockets was devised by Lieutenant Commander George Hoover of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Special Devices Center: to take the object to test to stratospheric altitude using a high altitude balloon, drop it and observe its behaviour in the supersonic descent.
Hoover found that the new plastic high-altitude balloons being developed by the General Mills balloon group in Minneapolis could indeed lift significant payloads high enough, and the experiments, designated "9-U-J-1 Free Fall Test Vehicle (FFTV)" started, using three Skyhook plastic balloons of seventy-three feet in diameter when fully inflated, arranged in a cluster and connected to the fifteen foot long projectile by a tether system, and dropping the FFTV at an altitude of about 100,000 feet.
The balloons were launched from near Las Cruces in New Mexico and drift over the White Sands Proving Ground range into a test area where optical and radar tracking systems could observe the test vehicle launched over the range.
On April 24, 1949, a team of White Sands technicians was studying the upper atmosphere from the test area, about three miles north of Arrey, New Mexico. General Mills engineer professor Charles B. Moore - who later became famous due to his involvement the Mogul balloon project in 1947 - with four Navy enlisted men, Chief Akers, and three men named Davidson, Fitzsimmons and Moorman, were launching small neoprene pilot balloons to measure winds directions and wind speeds to help predict the flight path of the actual FFTV Skyhook system scheduled to be launched a few day later.
One of the four Navy enlisted men assisting Moore was observing the pilot balloon through a theodolite. (A theodolite is a triangulation telescope, used to track and measure the angular vertical and horizontal displacement of their target). Moore saw a white object that he thought was the balloon and noticed that the theodolite was pointed toward a different part of the sky. He thought that the enlisted man had lost track of the balloon and pointed it out to him. But the enlisted insisted that he had the balloon in sight, so Moore took over the theodolite and pointed it at this different object. Through the 25-power scope, he could see that it was an ellipsoidal white object with some light yellow. Moore said the object was about three times as long as it was thick, and was about one minute of arc in angular diameter, or when viewed through the 25-power theodolite, would appear about three quarter of the size of the full moon with unaided vision. The object was moving at a rapid angular speed of 5 degrees per second towards the northeast, but before it went out of sight in the northeast, it started to climb in altitude.
Another balloon was launched to determine whether there was a high-speed air current that would have carried the object from southwest to northeast. It was found that there were no air currents moving in that direction, only a weak one moving at right angles to the object's path, and Moore understood that the object had its own flight control.