Forget that overhyped, recycled and incorrect story about the FBI and Roswell - I've got the real scoop for you. How about NASA engineers working on what is obviously a working flying saucer, way back in 1961?!
Or, if you believe NASA's smokescreen...
No, it's not a flying saucer, it is the domed top to a 70 foot long vacuum tank at the Lewis Research Center's Electric Propulsion Laboratory, Cleveland, Ohio. The three technicians shown here in protective clothing had just emerged from within the tank where they had been cleaning in the toxic mercury atmosphere, left after ion engine testing in the tank.
Fifty years ago today, on April 12, 1961, humanity finally overcame the gravity of our home planet and ventured for the first time into the space beyond. Personally I believe this is a day that will be remembered for as long as human civilisation survives, as a fundamental moment of transition.
To celebrate Yuri Gagarin's momentous journey aboard his Vostok 3KA spacecraft, a film has been created titled First Orbit. The movie is a real-time recreation of Gagarin's pioneering first orbit of the Earth, combining footage shot entirely in space from onboard the International Space Station with Gagarin's original mission audio and a musical score by composer Philip Sheppard.
There are numerous hat-tips about the 'net today - make sure you check out Google's homepage design before it reverts.
Here's an interesting visualisation of data from the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC): the National UFO Sighting Mapping, Analysis, and Tracking Integration Cybersite maps reported UFO sightings on a map of the United States and the border provinces of Canada. This video is a collection of 14-day "density" plots for 12 months from March 2010 to March 2011 (red indicates a lot of sightings, through to purple for few sightings).
You can 'drill down' into the actual sightings at the NUFOSMATIC website.
You can also read (and see) more about NUFORC in this recent Seattle Weekly profile of the man behind the organisation, Peter Davenport.
The mothership...it comes! Hopefully it's piloted by Dr Funkenstein and his agents of Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication...
Actually, it's just "iridescence in thin pileus cloud above a backlit thunder head", with "crepuscular rays from the low sun" adding to the spectacle. Still funky in any case...
The Space Review has a thought-provoking article by Stephen Ashcroft titled "What Future for Intelligent Life in Space", which reignites the seemingly-forgotten "great idea" of the 70s: human colonisation of space. Ashcroft begins by pointing out that are a "highly inefficient means" of providing gravity and an atmosphere for human life, because "almost all the mass of the planet serves no function, from the point of view of its surface life, other than to provide surface gravity, and in some cases also a magnetic field and geothermal heat... Planets are low-tech, compressive structures." He goes on to conclude that...
...while a planet is a good place for life to get started using unconscious means that can evolve spontaneously from the chemical substrate, once life has reached the stage of industrial development, its further growth depends on the use of technology to construct artificial space colonies, which use the material resources of planetary systems at a much higher level of efficiency.
Since, in the O’Neill colony design, about 86 percent of the mass consists of passive radiation shielding, this conclusion is not strongly dependent on the precise proportions of rocks, metals, and volatiles available. Clearly, if adequate protection from cosmic rays can one day be achieved by the use of magnetic fields, the balance swings even further in favor of designed habitats as opposed to natural ones.
In this way, very large future human populations are conceivable. For example, John S. Lewis has reckoned that the material resources of the main asteroid belt, together with large-scale use of solar power, would allow at least 10 million billion people to support themselves (Mining the Sky, p.196). When one adds in the Jupiter trojans and the opportunities presented by the outer solar system, even larger populations become possible. Frank Drake and Dava Sobel have put the overall carrying capacity of our system at “more than a hundred billion billion human beings” (Is Anyone Out There?, p.128), while Marshall Savage suggests an even larger figure (The Millennial Project, p.303). We do not need to quibble over orders of magnitude in order to make the point that the propensity for economic and population growth characteristic of industrial civilization is well matched with the opportunities offered by its local environment, provided that the 21st century sees a shift of the focus of industrial and population growth away from Earth and onto large-scale development of the natural resources of near-Earth space.
The article then uses the idea of colonisation of the solar system as a necessary stepping stone to the first inter-stellar travel by human beings. All in all, a truly fascinating article - go check it out.
Well this looks like fun. J.J. Abrams doffs his hat to vintage Steven Spielberg (with Spielberg's assistance) with Super 8:
Looks like J.J. has ramped up the scary
a bit more than Spielberg used to though (schooled in the comments by RPJ)...unless it's a ruse and the 'alien' (if that's what it is) is actually cute and cuddly a la E.T.
The documents do provide further evidence for what I call the psychocultural hypothesis. UFO sightings and encounters are certainly an interesting group of phenomena – but are they evidence of anything alien? Many people I talk to (including a documentary producer just recently) are left with the sense that there must be something going on. No explanation seems satisfactory to explain all the accounts, and there is a residue of unexplained reports.
This is the “where there is smoke there is fire” argument. But I think it misses an important question – there may be fire (a phenomenon) but what kind of fire? I think the fire is a multifaceted psychocultural phenomenon.
What I find most fascinating is that we are living through the formation of a modern mythology. We can see the mythology evolve, and there is ample documentation of the process.
That's certainly a fascinating side of the UFO phenomenon, although it's hardly new to investigators. In fact, that facet of ufology was one of the driving factors in Daily Grail Publishing's re-release of Jacques Vallee's 1979 UFO classic Messengers of Deception: UFO Contacts and Cults (which you can pick up from Amazon US or Amazon UK). Messengers of Deception documents the growing effect of UFO mythology and memes on all our lives, and also many people's core belief systems. It really is required reading for anyone interested in the topic of UFOs and extraterrestrial contact.
Speaking of Jacques, I also noticed that (official) video of his talk on the importance of UFO research and analysis at the Global Competitiveness Forum (GCF) earlier this year has been posted online:
Jacques mentions his most recent book, Wonders in the Sky, during the talk - you can pick it up from Amazon US & UK as well. And note that more videos from the GCF are available on the Forum's official YouTube page, including talks by Michio Kaku, Stanton Friedman and Nick Pope.
Close and lock your visors: the final journey of Space Shuttle Discovery. After 30 odd years, this still blows my mind. 4:48, 5:48 and 7:45 all awe-some moments.
Where to from here? Ummm, nowhere it seems. Seems my dreams in 1977 of the year 2011 overshot the mark considerably...
The British Ministry of Defence has released the seventh instalment of their public dump of UFO files, which can be freely downloaded from the UFO page at the National Archives. Along with the files you'll find a handy guide to the newly released files written by skeptical ufologist Dr David Clarke, as well as a short podcast.
Perhaps the most newsworthy item in the new tranche of documents is that a number of documents relating to the 1980 Rendlesham UFO sighting were destroyed, and the MoD were worried this might be interpreted as a "deliberate attempt" to "eradicate the records covering the incident":
In searching for the DI 55 files from 1980/81 which related to the Rendlesham Forest incident which took place in December 1980...I observed the following.
...[T]he records...should have covered 1978 - 1983. On inspection...we discovered that the enclosures at the beginning of the file were dated from 1978, but then a huge gap appeared which covered the date of the incident. It appeared that the file had had the earlier papers from 1978 inserted afterwards. In the DI 55 Registry, there were no file record sheets for files 26 - 31 even though there were record sheets for files before and after that series. There were no record sheets showing destroyed files either.
...If this were to be made public, it could be interpreted to mean that a deliberate attempt had been made to eradicate the records covering the incident. All the DAS files covering the period of the incident have also been destroyed.
Another interesting section is some 2003 correspondence from a RAF pilot describing his 1990 sighting (not long after the Belgian 'Black Triangle' flap) of a fast-moving, unidentifiable craft in Dutch airspace over the North Sea:
I did not lock the UFO on radar. My navigator and I were so surprised that we did not think to do so. Indeed, for the majority of the sighting, the UFO was out to one side of my aircraft which would have required me to maneuver the aircraft to place within the radar field of view. Of more interest, despite repeated radio calls to Dutch Military Radar, the controller insisted that he could not see the UFO.
The UFO did not look like any aircraft that I know to be in service with any air force either today or at the time of the sighting... I would describe the UFO as being C-130 aircraft in size (certainly in length but much shorter wingspan).
The UFO was close to the same altitude, perhaps a little higher, and I could see detail in the area of the engine exhaust which contained a light blue afterburner type flame which was steady but changing in intensity.
Another...quite separate pair of aircraft were outbound from Laarbruch heading for the UK when they also saw the UFO at about the same time... [T]he UFO came down our right-hand side at great speed (ie. coming from the direction of the UK). We were doing 0.8 Mach and it readily overtook us.
Once again, in this case you'll find an MoD note pointing out that the "departmental records for this period were destroyed some time ago in accordance with standard administrative procedures."
Lots more in there than can be described here, and even in a highlights guide, so dig in for some a behind-the-scenes look at the British MoD's treatment of UFO reports and research. Also, for summaries of previous document releases, see the links below.
Previously on TDG:
- UK UFO Files to be Released
- The British X-Files (Release #1)
- More MoD UFO Files (Release #2)
- UK UFO Files Part Three (Release #3)
- David Clarke on Third UK-UFO Release
- UK UFO Files Part Four (Release #4)
- UK UFO Files Part Five (Release #5)
- UK UFO Files Part Six (Release #6)
- UFOs and Radar Spoofing
- British MoD Dump UFOs
Don't stand too close to the Sun...
This was an "M-Class" solar flare that occurred on February 24th - the animation is of a 90 minute event, compressed down to a few seconds. That sort of thing must make all the Mercurians very nervous....