The Apollo-11 UFO Incidents
- The Apollo-11 UFO Incidents
by James Oberg
Excerpt from UFOs and Outer Space Mysteries
(Donning Press, Virginia Beach, VA, 1982, Chapter 3).
Web version published with the author's permission.
The epochal flight of Apollo XI to the moon occurred more than a decade
ago -- long enough for it to have become enshrined in our history books and
our mythologies. It marked man's first landing on another world in space. It
symbolized the capabilities of 20th Century American technology and
For the world of UFO researchers, enthusiasts and opponents, the flight of
Apollo XI was also important. It became the center of a vast body of reports
of alien encounters on this epic space voyage. Over the years, literally
dozens of stories have been written about purported UFO sightings and
photographs made during that particular mission in July 1969.
Most prestigious of the stories is the note in Edge of Reality in which Dr.
J. Allen Hynek, the 'dean of UFOlogy,' passes on the report that "This was
the mission on which a UFO reportedly chased that spacecraft." A colleague
remarked to Hynek that "during Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and
Michael Collins said they observed a UFO." Hynek agreed, and elaborated:
"Some of the NASA movie frames that I examined were most interesting --
particularly those taken on the Apollo 11 flight, one of the few for which
NASA has not come up with some sort of explanation."
In Science Digest, the respected monthly popular science journal,
astronomer-author James Mullaney (a former contributing editor to Astronomy
magazine) wrote in July 1977 that "the crew of Apollo 11, during the first
moon landing, reporting that their capsule was paced by what appeared to be
a mass of intelligent energy.... NASA recently released a number of very
striking Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab photos of true unidentifieds."
The UFO press has widely reported such stories, both in books, movies, and
UFOs Past, Present and Future (written by Robert Emenegger, researched by
Alan Frank Sandler) reported on "perhaps the most spectacular of all
sightings" which occurred on Apollo 11. On the way out to the moon, the
astronauts watched an object which seemed to change shape when they switched
magnifications of their telescope "It was really weird," Collins is quoted
Fate magazine, in editor Curtis Fuller s column "I See By The Papers"
(November 1970), examined the stories and concluded: "There seems to be
pretty good evidence that Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong. and Michael Collins
saw something that hasn't been made generally known--something variously
reported, ranging from mysterious lights to formations of spaceships!"
The authenticity of the Apollo 11 sightings has been vouched for by
testimony attributed to CBS TV news anchorman Walter Cronkite. In an
interview with the National Enquirer, conducted by reporter Robin Leach,
Cronkite gives this account: "En route for the world's first moon landing,
Armstrong and the crew transmitted some earthshaking information, and I was
there to hear it for myself."
Cronkite continued: "Armstrong claimed to have spotted a huge cylindrical
object which was rotating or tumbling between the ship and the moon. It's
officially recorded in the NASA record vaults that Armstrong indicated he
went to take photographs but the object vanished as quickly as he'd first
seen it. Neil Armstrong is not a man given to fanciful imagination and it
wasn't just one of the crew that saw it -- they all did, and you have to
respect those men."
That was good enough for Ripley's Believe It or Not, too. In late 1978 they
published a syndicated series of cartoon panels dealing with UFOs; one panel
contained a sketch of astronauts and the caption, "Astronaut Neil Armstrong.
. . saw UFOs while on space mission. But NASA -- according to newscaster
Walter Cronkite -- is keeping the evidence a secret."
But the secret leaked a little, according to the McGraw-Hill Publishing
Company. In 1979 they issued a book by David C. Knight, entitled UFOs: A
Pictorial History. A full-page space photo on page 171 bears this caption:
"Perhaps the most spectacular of all UFO sightings from space occurred on
July 19, 1969 on the Apollo-XI flight.... The crew spotted a strange object
between their ship and the moon.... The object still remains unidentified."
(Purists might have noted that the object shown on the page was between the
ship and the earth, but who wants to be picky when dealing with such
An idea of what these secrets might entail can be obtained from a summary of
the circulated Apollo 11 stories published by Mike Harris in a New Zealand
UFO newsletter in 1974:
From the launching of Apollo 11 on July 16th, 1969 until the spacecraft
passed the midpoint between the earth and the moon the following day, the
three astrona uts observed a U.F.O. keeping pace with them. Two days later,
on July l9th at approximately 1800 hours, U.F.O.s made another appearance
and were recorded on film. The details of this extensive film were: the day
before the lunar landing Aldrin transferred to the L. M. "Eagle" and began
the final instrument checks. Whilst checking the close-up camera, the
U.F.O.s came into the picture. Whilst under observation, the objects were
seen to be emitting what looked like some kind of liquid. The two objects
were in close formation and would come together and part and after some time
separated and went off their own ways. The objects appeared to be
intelligently controlled, the astronauts said. The third sighting during
this epic flight occurred on July 21st, 00.26 hours. About an hour and a
half previously, Neil Armstrong and Aldrin had set foot on the moon. While
they were busy gathering rocks, Collins in the Command Module 'Columbia' was
busy talking to Houston.
Columbia: Calling Houston. This is Columbia.
Houston: Go ahead, Columbia.
Columbia: I couldn't find the L. M. But I saw some weird small white
objects. Co-ordinates are 0.3, 7.6 on the south west edge of the crater. If
they're there they should have seen them too.
It seems likely that whoever was interested in our effort was certainly
keeping an eye on things. The report goes on:
These white objects seen by Collins made a fourth appearance as the "Eagle"
was rising from the Lunar Surface to re-unite with the "Columbia," having
left the moon at 13.55 on July 21st. Their shape in this case was clearly
exposed on film. The fixed camera on the "Eagle" was photographing the
moon's receding surface when, diagonally from the lower left to the upper
right of the frames, a white, shining U.F.O. passed directly under the Lunar
This is certainly a sensational scenario for mankind's first landing on
another world, and it is in addition a version certainly not described by
the standard history books. Corroborating accounts come from Michael
Hervey's book UFOs The American Scene (St. Martin's Press, NY, 1976). In
lunar orbit, Aldrin is adjusting his camera when suddenly:
...his attention was suddenly drawn to a bright object resembling a
"snowman" traveling from west to east in sky. He immediately took some shots
of the object which in fact proved to be two UFOs, one larger than the
other, and almost touching. When the film was developed later it included a
shot of the moon's surface to be followed by a close-up of the two UFOs
moving at a high speed horizontally. They disappeared, only to return a few
seconds later, descended a little, hovered for a while, and then separated
whereupon they were surrounded by "what looked like a strong halation." They
followed this maneuver by rising vertically and disappearing from sight. In
due course only one UFO returned, and then again took its leave for the last
time. Astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin were naturally excited and perhaps a
little apprehensive during those few moments.
Yet for all the drama of this event, none of it seems to have been disclosed
by the NASA public affairs officers in Houston. Clearly, some sort of
coverup was involved. The first major break in this apparent coverup did not
occur until 1974, when the Cosmic Brotherhood Association, a Japanese UFO
group, published hitherto unavailable photos from Apollo 11 with this
The pictures of UFOs taken by Apollo 11 spaceship over the moon's surface
for the first time in the world and now published by CBA (Cosmic Brotherhood
Association) for the first time, cannot but be considered the firm evidence
that UFOs, so far questioned by many, are actually spaceship/spacecraft come
from outer space as we have been asserting. They are the absolute evidence
sought by the worlds UFologists for the past 27 years.... Following are
overwhelming proof of UFOs, they came from outer space .... They are really
scoop pictures, and not even one of them has been released by NASA as yet.
This sensational news crossed the Pacific and was noted by UFO expert Bob
Barry of the "Twentieth Century UFO Bureau," who wrote up a two part survey
of astronaut UFO experiences for Modern People, a weekly tabloid newspaper.
The UFO article was later combined with other similar material which was
published in magazine form as UFO Report (issued in 1975, only one issue
ever came out). "NASA Hiding UFOs From You!'' screamed the headline:
"En route to the Moon on their first day in space, the crew of Columbia
sighted a strange object hovering high above the earth, and managed to
capture it on film. NASA's photo interpretation lab listed the object as
unidentifiable. But this was only the beginning. Before this mission would
come to an end, the crew of Columbia and later the Eagle would see a lot
more UFO action -- over the moon itself!"
Barry then describes the encounter of Aldrin with the two UFO zooming across
his window in lunar orbit. Luckily, says Barry, Aldrin was used to seeing
UFOs in space, so he could do the right thing quickly:
"If Aldrin had not been somewhat conditioned to the appearance of these
unusual craft, the shock of what he saw next might have caused him to miss
one of the most amazing sequences of film taken of UFOs by any astronaut.
For as the objects continued their descent in a formation similar to that of
a "snowman" laid on its side, Aldrin observed a brilliant emission extending
from between the two crafts. Speculation at the time was that this "trail"
was possibly connected to the vehicles' motivational systems, possibly even
an exhaust.... During this time, ten other egg-shaped objects were seen
flying in the foreground of the camera view.
Naturally, NASA did not release these photos to the general public, talking
great pains to edit any such mysterious craft from the final stills which
were released.... And even though almost every crew that has traveled to the
moon has witnessed and photographed unidentified flying objects, NASA
officials still insist that such phenomena do not exist."
But even Barry's spectacular photographic evidence is not the most exciting
report to come out of the flight of Apollo 11. For only shortly after the
astronauts returned to earth in mid-1969, a bootleg "tape" and voice
transcript of what was really said on the moon has been circulating
clandestinely in UFO circles. The headline on the cover of National Bulletin
magazine (distributed in Canada but printed in New York City) for September
29,1969 cries out that "Phony Transmission Failure Hides Apollo 11
Discovery. . . . Moon is a U.F.O. Base!" Author Sam Pepper gave this version
of the "Top Secret Tape Transcript" from "a leak close to the top," as
What was it, what the hell was it? That's all I want to know....
These. . . (garbled) . . .babies were huge, sir, they were enormous....
No, No, that's just field distortion....
Oh, God, you wouldn't believe it....
What...what...what the hell's going on? Whatsa matter with you guys . . . ?
They're here, under the surface....
What's there.. .malfunction. . .Mission Control calling Apollo 11....
Roger, we're here, all three of us, but we've found some visitors....
Yeah, they've been here for quite a while judging by the installations....
Mission control, repeat last message....
I'm telling you, there are other spacecraft out there. They're lined up in
ranks on the far side of the crater edge....
Let's get that orbit scanned and head home....
In 625 to the fifth, auto-relays set...My hands are shaking so bad....
Film...yes, the damned cameras were clicking away from up here...
Did you fellows get anything?
Had no film left by the time. . . (garbled) . . . three shots of the
saucers, or whatever they were. . .may have fogged the film.
Mission Control, this is Mission Control...are you under way, repeat, are
you under way? What's this uproar about UFOs? Over.
They're set up down there...they're on the moon... watching us....
The mirrors, the mirrors . . . you set them up, didn't you?
Yes, the mirrors are all in place. But whatever built those spacecraft will
probably come over and pull 'em all out by the roots tomorrow....
When this account was discussed by Fate editor Curtis Fuller in 1970, he
confessed to "extreme skepticism about the whole alleged transcription" But
the account has been printed elsewhere, (science fiction author and UFO buff
Otto Binder helped spread it widely), and it reminds observers of the radio
signals picked up in Europe in the early 1960s from doomed Russian
cosmonauts on secret space shots which ended in their undisclosed deaths.
Radio amateurs have become very proficient in smoking out 'official secrets'
in the past few decades.
Nor do these eye-opening (and hair-raising?) stories end here. Another
"inside account" appeared in the monthly bulletin of the well-known UFO
group, APRO (Aerial Phenomena Research Organization). As reported in the
February 1976 issue, three disc-shaped shadows paced the astronauts as they
circled the moon, while NASA censors cut off further live comments from the
newsmen. An APRO informant known as "Mister X" was allegedly present in the
"inner control room."
The astronauts, recalled the otherwise unidentified "Mister X," suddenly
said, "There they are again," referring to objects spotted on the first
three orbits and the last orbit. It seems to be an independent corroboration
of stories recounted earlier.
Additionally, a new and hitherto unavailable Apollo 11 photograph was
published in the monthly Science Digest in the issue immediately following
that which contained Mullaney's article. Discussing Project Bluebook, author
Don Berliner's article includes a photograph showing the earth receding from
the moon-ship, and a UFO right smack dab in the middle. Says Science Digest
(Aug. 1977), "Arrow points toward an unidentified object."
As might be expected, NASA officially denies it all. No extraordinary UFOs
or other unexplained phenomena have been admitted.
When the "Pepper Transcript" first became public, UFO buffs wrote to their
congressmen demanding that NASA officially confess to the coverup. NASA
replied that "the incidents. . . did not take place. Conversations between
the Apollo 11 crew and Mission Control were released live during the entire
Apollo 11 mission. There were between 1000 and 1500 representatives of the
news media and TV present at the Houston News Center listening and
observing, and not one has suggested that NASA withheld any news or
conversations of this nature." (Letter from Assistant Administrator for
Legislative Affairs to several congressmen, January 1970).
In 1976, Chief of the Astronaut Office Deke Slayton claimed that "I don't
recall any of our astronauts ever reporting UFOs."
NASA claims that all photos, all voice transcripts, all debriefings are in
the public domain and are available to the news media. This data is too
voluminous to publish openly, but is available to researchers with
appropriate credentials in Houston, Flagstaff, and Washington. And as a
matter of fact, no researcher (UFO or otherwise) has ever filed a complaint
that data was withheld from him when he tried to get it. (Although Barry and
Sandler have made vague allegations).
The photographic documentation, including film magazine inventories,
exposure logs, and control documents, have been examined by researchers All
the film is accounted for. Evidently, NASA is quite correct in saying that
everything is available....
...But to whom? Almost 1500 still photos and dozens of magazines of film
were exposed on Apollo 11. Transcripts run to the thousands of pages. Who
has taken the trouble to check out all this material?
I have, for example. Other writers have. Also, Dr. J. Allen Hynek visited
the Houston space center in July 1976 and was shown the material in
question. NASA's original story, surprisingly, has been confirmed: All the
material is available. He said as much in a Playboy interview in January
1978, but his book still carries the phony list and there is no indication
it has be removed from later editions. Hynek's opinion: these UFO stories
Fuller's skepticism about the "Pepper Transcript" appears have been
justified. From internal evidence alone, it looks more and more like a crude
hoax. This can be deduced from the vocabulary itself:
"Mission Control"...this was never a phrase used astronauts, who instead
referred always to "Houston."
Technical-sounding gibberish such as "field distortion," "orbit scanned,"
"625 to the fifth," "auto-relays," etc. were never found in real
"Repeat, repeat" is never used on the radio; instead, astronauts and Mission
Control use the phrase "Say Again."
"Three of us"...actually, only two men were on the lunar surface.
In addition, interviews with the handful of amateur radio listeners who are
known to have tuned in the S-band (2270 megahertz) moon signals produced
testimony that they heard the same conversations which were released by
NASA. Since listening to the moon required the use of ten-foot diameter
radio dishes, few people actually could do it, and they were known t each
other, having done similar space eavesdropping for years
(The consensus among such experienced American ''hams'' is that the old
stories of "radio transmissions from secret dying Russian spacemen" were
either dumb mistakes, outright hoaxes, or playful publicity stunts by
Italian and German radio amateurs.)
The unavoidable conclusion is that Pepper either fabricated the fake
"transcript" himself or used very poor judgment in allowing himself to be
victimized by somebody else's fake. As is often the case with UFO reports,
it is very hard to prove definitely that something did not happen. But in
this case, fortunately, the hoax was so rickety that it collapses under its
More puzzling is Collins' report about the "weird white objects" which the
Japanese sources said had been spotted near the Lunar Module. These could
have been the same UFO reported in the Pepper transcript.
But they weren't, because here is what Collins really said to Houston on
that orbit: "I did see a suspiciously small white object whose coordinates
are Easy 0.3, 7.6, right on the southwest end of a crater, but I think they
would know it if they were in such a location. It looks like their LM would
be pitched up quite a degree. It's on the southwest wall of a smallish
crater." (Tape 71/16 page 396).
So Collins is trying to spot the LM from a hundred miles overhead, but he
cannot; instead he sees one white object (a rock?) on the edge of a crater.
He doubts it is the LM because if it were, the LM would be highly tilted and
the astronauts there would have noticed the tilt -- which they didn't.
Collins did not spot a fleet of UFOs, as the very loose rewording of this
account might lead someone to suspect. Compare the words to the UFO
re-wording -- is it just sloppy, or is it a deliberate distortion?
These are details. How about the key sighting, the "snowman," and Aldrin's
movie film? What could possibly explain that?
All that is needed to explain it is for anybody to view the film. The scenes
in question come from "Magazine F" ('Foxtrot'), on the first twenty-five
feet or so, and can (as can all other Apollo 11 flight film) be purchased
from the National Audiovisual Company, 1411 South Fern Street, Arlington,
The actual film shows a window full of dazzling, dancing, dizzying
reflections and glares. Viewing the film in motion, there can be no question
of the lights being solid objects outside the spaceship. There is no way I
could imagine that a viewer could honestly believe that UFOs were being
shown. The "emissions" are just more fuzzy reflections.
Examination of a few stills from that filmstrip shows what happened to the
original appearance of the "UFOs." The Japanese UFO group touched up the
photos, enhancing the contrast of the lights, and cropping out the
extraneous reflections. Further, the films were airbrushed to downplay any
additional reflections which might remain, aside from the two globes of
light. They became the supposed UFOs which, needless to say, the crew didn't
see. (The film, by the way, was taken from orbit the day before the
landing -- not from the surface.)
These UFO photos, in other words, are a fraud, plain and simple. They are
part of a space forgery hoax gone wild and run out of control. There never
were any such "snowmen" UFOs as claimed.
But UFO expert Michael Hervey had written that the astronauts had actually
used the words "snowman" and "halation," and that they were naturally
excited and perhaps a little apprehensive. UFO expert Matsumura in Japan
gave numerous details of Aldrin's actual movements during the encounter. UFO
expert Bob Barry wrote that Aldrin observed the UFOs directly, and that the
astronauts speculated about the mystery emission.
None of these things seems to have happened. The writers were dramatizing
the event based on the forged photographs. Less sympathetic critics would
suggest that the authors were fictionalizing the event, or even less
charitably, were lying.
"That's a bunch of baloney," Barry retorted when he heard these charges in
1978. "They can deny all they want, we have the proof"
But it will take more than Barry's bravado to stare down the actual proof of
Apollo 11 "Magazine Foxtrot." The movies do not lie; they show the dancing
lights, the reflections, the glare. They do not show any UFOs.
Nor will Science Digest soon live down its double-barreled UFO flop. First,
Mullaney's claim about the Apollo 11 crew reporting a mass of intelligent
energy is clearly a further elaboration of the original Matsumura-CBA
forgery, without any effort to check out the story with NASA. Second, the
photograph published in Science Digest the following month was also
retouched: Editor Dan Button admitted that certain extraneous pieces of
space debris were airbrushed out to avoid detracting from the true UFO, but
all previously published and released versions of that same photograph show
absolutely empty space where Science Digest points to an "unidentified
object." Either somebody got a bad print with an extra spot on the negative,
or somebody at the Hearst Corporation monthly added the "UFO" into the photo
for dramatic effect. Button accuses NASA of another coverup; informed
observers can now judge whose dishonesty Button is trying to cover up.
Actually, one Apollo 11 photo does show a true unidentified (but hardly
unidentifiable) object. Soon after pulling the LM out of the rocket garage,
near the earth, a flood of spinning particles rushed past the Apollo's
windows. One of the astronauts was taking a series of tourist snapshots of
the receding earth, and in one of the photos was a tiny odd-shaped blob.
There is no indication that any of the astronauts saw it. Since it's out of
focus on a camera with an extremely wide depth of field, photographic
experts have concluded that it was probably only a few feet outside the
window, and an inch or two across. As on other flights, pieces of insulation
and ice surrounded the Apollo at this stage in the flight. "Unidentified" it
certainly might be, but it could not by any semantic word game be called an
authentic UFO--except, for example, in McGraw-Hill's UFOs a Pictorial
The crew did indeed report to earth about another tiny object they watched
through their monocular. To some of the astronauts, it looked cylindrical,
just like their spent rocket stage which was known to be pacing them in a
parallel orbit. Said Armstrong, "It was right at the limit of resolution of
the eye; it was very difficult to tell just what shape it was." NASA's
reasonable assumption was that it was indeed the rocket stage, since it was
behaving just like a rocket stage should; other Apollo flights had reported
much the same thing.
The entire Cronkite interview in the National Enquirer was a fake, evidently
assembled by a free lance writer. The newspaper refused to take the blame
when Cronkite complained--but fired the writer.
And what can one say about "Mister X" report? Again, from the internal
evidence of the details "X" gives in an attempt to establish credibility
with listeners, space experts have quickly figured out that he never could
have been near the real Mission Control Center--his jargon is so mixed up.
In other words. they concluded this is just another tall tale. Claims that
these voice signals were cut off from the newsmen who were present are also
in complete contradiction with personal accounts of newsmen who were in
Houston: There was no significant tape delay, and there were no silences
indicative of censorship.
But the stories crossed the Atlantic into a French UFO book, and then came
back home reinforced and newly authenticated in Maurice Chatelain's Our
Ancestors Came From Outer Space (Doubleday, 1978). According to the author,
who claimed to be an ex-NASA space scientist (actually, he had worked for a
space contractor in Los Angeles for several years): "The astronauts. . . saw
things during their missions that could not be discussed with anybody
outside NASA. It is very difficult to obtain any specific information from
NASA, which still exercises a very strict control over any disclosures of
these events...It seems that all Apollo and Gemini flights were
followed...by space vehicles of extraterrestrial origin...Every time it
occurred, the astronauts informed Mission Control, who then ordered absolute
Chatelain specifically mentions Apollo-11, which "made the first moon
landing on the Sea of Tranquillity and, only moments before Armstrong
stepped down the ladder to set foot on the moon, two UFOs hovered overhead.
Edwin Aldrin took several pictures of them...."
Even more sensational was the claim for the Apollo-13 flight: "There was
some talk that the Apollo 13 mission carried a nuclear device aboard that
could be set off to make measurements of the infrastructure of the moon and
whose detonations would show on the charts of several recording seismographs
placed in different locations. The unexplained explosion of an oxygen tank
in the service module of Apollo 13 on its flight to the moon, according to
rumors, was caused deliberately by a UFO that was following the capsule to
prevent the (nuclear) detonation...."
Of course, the cause of the explosion was found by NASA later, and there was
no nuclear device--rumors of UFO attacks are absurd. But that's no reason
for some UFO people not to pass on and embellish such stories, as we'll see.
The Russian UFO enthusiasts were next in line on this cosmic relay race. The
July 1978 issue of The UFO Journal, published by the Mutual UFO Network,
highlighted a speech made in Russia on November 24, 1977, by Vladimir G.
Azhazha. Speaking to a group of NOVOSTI news service employees, at the
Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Azhazha related that: "The American
astronauts who visited the moon saw a gigantic cylinder 1500 meters (about
one mile) long there. Aldrin shot it on movie film. The vehicle accomplished
its own interactions with Apollo; it coordinated its movement with it....
The...reports of the American astronauts who visited the moon are
exceptionally interesting. Their agreed-upon code for designating UFOs was
the phrase 'Saint Nicholas,' but, they were so amazed with what they saw
when they arrived on the moon from Apollo that they transmitted to Earth
without the code: 'Directly across from us, on the other side of the crater,
there are other spaceships observing us.' And Aldrin shot his film which
shows the UFOs on the moon...."
Azhazha discloses that his source of this data is the book by Chatelain,
continuing that "The moon is evidently a transhipment base for UFOs and
every Apollo which has flown to the moon has been under the 'observation'
canopy of the UFOs. It was not by accident that the American astronauts were
not successful in their attempt to explode a nuclear device for scientific
purposes on the moon. Instead, the oxygen cylinder on Apollo exploded. They
were also not able to blow up the upper stage of the booster and so it
continues to fly around the moon...." Presumably with a UFO escort.
The MUFON journal editor noted in the preface to this article that "...a
Washington DC news source...has informed me that the statements attributed
to astronaut Buzz Aldrin about the UFOs on the moon were confirmed by his
bureau's space reporter, who covered the Apollo story at the time. Aldrin
said them as a joke. It is possible that the story filtered through to the
Soviet Union in garbled form, as is evident in some other cases . . . Other
portions of this report still may be significant... "
MUFON, in other words, considered it sufficient to ask a friend to ask a
friend to dredge up ten-year-old memories--and he called it 'research.'
Andrus continued: "The previously unpublished Russian document...speaks of
sensational events and high-level government knowledge that have been
withheld from the public. The alleged events need to be authenticated, for,
if true, they are of profound importance. Astronaut movie films of UFOs on
the moon?...There is a clear need to learn how much of all this
'sensationalism' is actually true, and to expose as false all that is
false." These brave words, from a man considered to be one of the more
rational and reliable UFO experts, are not matched by Andrus's actions or,
apparently, his intentions to publish any expose. The astronaut UFO stories
are too "useful" to risk examining them very closely.
So widespread is the Russian UFO enthusiasm that official government denials
have become necessary. In the November 1978 issue of Culture and Life
(published in Moscow) Soviet astronomer Vladimir Krat is asked to refute
such stories as:
Interviewer: They say that the American astronautswho had landed on the Moon
ha d to make a small explosion in order to cause an artificial moonquake,
but that they failed to do this. A mysterious blast on board the ship broke
an oxygen cylinder. It might have been caused by a flying saucer observing
the ship, so as to stop an experiment which could have destroyed bases set
up by extra-terrestrial civilizations on the Moon. "What's this? What'sthe
matter, damn it? I should like to know the truth, what is it? There are
other spaceships here!" Armstrong is alleged to have shouted upon seeing
several UFOs on the other side of a crater. But Aldrin saw at once what the
matter was and started communicating with the Earth in a secret code. Later,
all information about the incident was made secret by the Americans. There
is talk about other cases of cosmonauts seeing UFOs. Special emphasis is
laid on the fact that the first four or five hours of one of the crews' stay
on the Moon remain a mystery--what the astronauts did during that time has
not been made public.
Krat: The astronauts' flights to the Moon were followed by all mankind,
their work on the surface of the Moon is known down to the minute. I see no
logic in the talk about any information being instantly made "classified."
Why should the Americans have made a secret out of their meeting some
creatures from other planets, had any such a rendezvous taken place at all?
Would they have been afraid to cause panic on Earth? But there were no
special grounds for panic."
Clearly, Krat is unaware of the scope of the distortions in such stories and
can only come up with bland disclaimers which would convince nobody.
What Krat should have done was to examine the hearsay more closely. The
"mysterious blast" was the explosion on Apollo 13, which has been attributed
to hostile UFO action. The "artificial moonquakes" on later flights worked
quite well, although Chatelain and Azhazha claim that nuclear explosives
were to have been used! The "secret code" is Chatelain's idea: he claims
that the astronauts used the phrase "Santa Claus" to refer to UFOs. As for
the missing "four or five hours," I drew a blank; so I suspect the Russian
just made it up.
As expected, the phony Apollo 11 UFO stories continue to be recirculated and
embellished. In June 1979 a Dell paperback entitled Secrets of Our Spaceship
Moon by Detroit schoolteacher Don Wilson, appeared on the newsstands. Its
front cover screams: "THE NASA COVERUP--Here are the facts they couldn't
hide! What did the men on the moon really see?" The front inside page blurb
proclaims, "here at last is the complete uncensored story clear and
indisputable facts offered by astronomers and the astronauts themselves,
despite NASAs' continued official denials...."
The Apollo 11 sightings provide only a portion of the arguments in the book,
but they are highlighted. Bob Barry's snowman UFO' is featured, with
Wilson's claim that "Buzz Aldrin ground away with his camera, taking
invaluable (but now secret) footage of the two mysterious objects." The
claim that the film shows UFOs is, as we've seen, silly; the claim that the
film is now secret' is an outrageous falsehood.
Every other reputed Apollo 11 UFO encounter is faithfully and
unquestioningly reproduced by Wilson, although he does point out in some
cases that they are 'unauthenticated.' Equally unauthenticated is UFO buff
James Harder's claim that he found voice tapes of UFO encounters on Apollo
11, which NASA privately admitted to him had been suppressed "for fear of
"The evidence we have cited in this book," Wilson concludes later, "proves
that we have on our hands today another Watergate--a cosmic Watergate...We
showed incontrovertable evidence that NASA is hiding the fact that UFOs were
seen by astronauts... A study of the records and a glance at the photos will
convince even the most diehard skeptic that this is exactly what happened
when man went to the moon." Such bluster is not related to the actual
evidence--in fact, the pattern we've seen shows that the less reliable the
evidence, the more flowery the boasts and threats. Wilson blusters--but has
only fake evidence. Dell paperbacks, according to editor James Frenkel, saw
no reason to check up on these incredible accounts, but decided just to
The Aldrin-snowman-UFO received a new champion in 1980 when another UFO
expert proclaimed that the object was not a space craft but instead a space
creature, or "critter!"
Writing in Frontiers of Science (formerly Second Look, the magazine which
absorbed Hynek's International UFO Reporter and which for tax purposes is
published under the aegis of the Center for UFO Studies), paranormal
specialist John White (author of Pole Shift! and numerous other books),
claims that the space pix are identical to others taken on Earth by Trevor
James Constable, a disciple of orgone energy advocate Wilhelm Reich.
Constable has pushed the theory that UFOs are bizarre living (and not
necessarily intelligent) creatures which inhabit the upper atmosphere and --
evidently -- outer space as well (in such books as The Cosmic Pulse of Life,
Steinerbooks, 1976). Usually the "critters" (as Constable prefers to call
them) are invisible and can only be captured on infra-red film.
"Even the astronauts who took pictures of UFOs in space failed to recognize
the living creatures for what they are," wrote White. The snowman photo is
"highly disputed -- is the luminous sphere a space critter?" Acknowledging
my published evaluation of the source of the images, White disagrees but
admits he is "not yet in a position to disprove [(Oberg's)] contention." He
also, displayed in the article a copy of the outbound blob: "((It)) appears
to show a large critter looming above the Earth."
White has no love lost for NASA. Earlier, in a guest editorial for Timothy
Green Beckley's UFO Review tabloid newspaper, White has accused NASA of a
nasty coverup: "Proof already exists, much of it long-known to NASA." White
then refers to the Edge of Reality for a list of astronaut sightings (a list
long repudiated by its authors, as we saw), and Modern People tabloid (the
January 1978 issue), "for leaked NASA photographs of UFOs including
plasmatic animals [(italics added)]." NASA spokesmen, according to White,
are "either woefully ignorant of the facts . . . or else deliberately
attempt to mislead the public. The public has more common sense in this
matter than most NASA bureaucrats."
Constable, meanwhile, was delighted to endorse White's interpretation of the
Apollo 11 photographs. In a 1981 issue of the irregular Metascience
Quarterly, he crowed: "How strange it seems that NASA has recorded images
just like mine . . . and suppresses the photos . . . . Thanks to John's
enterprise, we now have a 'NASA Critter Collection,' but they are worming
out of it by having loudmouth Oberg identify these photos as frauds. Pure
social pathology!" Aha, social pathology indeed!
(Such ad hominem reaction from the crackpots is hardly unusual. In 1979,
Gray Barker, a long-time fringe UFO personality and satirist, referred to me
in a discussion praising Timothy Green Beckley's research: "When these
exposes by Beckley and others began generating letters to Congress, NASA
official Capt. James Oberg led a one-man crusade to squelch these rumors.
Many people in civilian UFO research believe Capt. Oberg was specially
assigned to this mission to discount these news leaks of astronaut
sightings. "And one high MUFON (Mutual UFO Network, a private UFO research
organization) official spread the story in the mid-1970s that I was Philip
Klass's 'ghostwriter' in his anti-UFO books! That's right, when you don't
like the testimony, smear the witness -- an old crooked lawyer's trick.)
Fittingly enough, the ultimate word (too date!) in these Apollo 11
absurdities lies with the old familiar National Enquirer, the weekly grocery
store tabloid known for its Hollywood gossip, psychic predictions, miracle
medical cures, and flying saucer stories. "Aliens on Moon When We Landed"
was the screaming banner headline on the September 11, 1979 issue (the same
story made the September 9 Sunday Mirror in London and was subsequently
endorsed in the backdated July-August 1979 issue of the prestigious British
journal, Flying Saucer Review).
"The astronauts saw UFOs and even photographed them," wrote the authors
(Eric Faucher, Ellen Goodstein, and Henry Gris), "but the stupifying close
encounter has been kept completely under wraps by NASA until now. . . (they
evidently hadn't read -- or hadn't believed -- the Cronkite interview in
their own paper!). NASA's coverup was so massive that the news has taken ten
years to reach the American public -- and had to be first disclosed by
Soviet scientists, who found out about it two years ago."
And that's the catch: the National Enquirer, in a man-bites-dog reversal of
standard practice, had been itself a victim of somebody else's news hoax.
The source was none other than Vladimir Azhazha, who somehow neglected to
mention to Henry Gris, his contact, that the story was based entirely, not
on official Soviet sources, but on Chatelain's strange 'ancient astronauts'
book! "I am absolutely certain this episode took place," Azhazha told Gris
(who is fluent in Russian) during a telephone interview. "According to our
information . . . his (Armstrong's) message was never heard by the public --
because NASA censored it."
According to Gris (who was soon thereafter discharged from the staff of the
National Enquirer). Azhazha "refused to identify the source of his
information -- but he and other Russian space experts say the encounter has
been common knowledge among Soviet scientific circles."
To close the loop by swallowing its own tail/tale, the National Enquirer
then quoted from . . . Maurice Chatelain, "a former top consultant to NASA,"
who supposedly corroborated independently the Soviet version of the story!
Also testifyi ng were leading UFOlogists Leonard Stringfield of MUFON ("If
the government rele ased one little bit of what happened on the moon, it
would be the story of the century" is how he's quoted, but he subsequently
denied saying anything like that); John Schuessler ("I work with astronauts
at NASA and have heard the story from them" is how he's quoted, but he has
since angrily charged that Ellen Goodstein dropped the "never" which he
spoke before "heard."); Timothy Green Beckley (who has privately admitted
the incidents never occurred but that they are too good for publicity to
criticize); Joseph Goodavage (a noted astrologer-author well known for
distorting and dramatizing uncooperative facts, as we'll see in a later
chapter); and "scientist Fred Bell" (who apparently is a figment of
co-author Eric Faucher's imagination). So even if the National Enquirer was
originally the victim of Azhazha's deception, it was the newspaper's staff
who added their own peculiar brand of journalism, and it was the newspaper's
readership who were ultimately victimized.
Even Moscow admits that! A lengthy anti-UFO article ("The Legend of the
Visitors," Pravda, March 2,1980, p. 6), by science correspondent Vladimir
Gubarev) reported: "People have confidence in the testimony of cosmonauts
and astronauts," Gubarev wrote. "So why not take them as allies, decided the
UFO propagandists? Thus here in the ten years after the flights to the moon,
the fantasists, who sometimes present themselves as scientific workers,
claim in their public lectures that astronauts, visiting the moon, have many
times observed UFOs, and that Neil Armstrong reported to Houston: Here are
located large objects, sir! Enormous ones! Oh God! Here are located other
space ships! They are standing along the side of the crater! They are
located on the moon and they are observing us!"
Gubarev continued his article: "It's a fruitless task to search for these
words in the transcripts of radio transmissions from the crew of Apollo 11,
they're not there. Yes, and not a single person listening to the
radio-reporting from the moon -- and it went out over the air live -- paid
any attention to similar information -- strange, isn't it true?
"At a meeting with Neil Armstrong I asked him about 'flying saucers.' "We
didn't see them," answered the astronaut; "and with what we, cosmonauts and
astronauts, are doing in space, that's a real wonder."
Gubarev also reported on an interview with Pete Conrad, concerning his
alleged UFOs on Apollo 12 (there weren't any), and later also recounts an
incident from early 1978 when the Russian crewmen of Salyut-6 were startled
to see "UFOs" near their space station which turned out to be recently trash
bags jettisoned. The article in Pravda closed with very negative conclusions
about gullible people who easily fall for nonsense such as UFOs and
religion! While it may be risky to believe anything anyone says in Pravda
(which means 'Truth,' in Russian), the appearance of this article and others
like it testifies to the official displeasure at the widespread Soviet
popular enthusiasm for such tales.
Wherever there is widespread popular interest in a topic, you will find the
vultures swooping in to prey on eager gullibiles and their willingness to
spend money on books which boast new, lurid revelations. So it shouldn't
have been much of a surprise that Charles Berlitz (author of several highly
profitable ''Bermuda Triangle" books) should have decided to "discover" the
Apollo 11 UFO encounters in 1980. This was revealed in his latest book, The
Roswell Incident (all the actual research seems to have been done by his
co-author William Moore and by UFO advocate and former nuclear engineer
Stanton Friedman), whose main theme is that the US government captured a
crashed flying saucer in mid-1947, along with the dead bodies of the beings
who had made up its crew, and has successfully stashed it all away since
then while studying the materials.
Berlitz has nothing new to offer besides further garbling of the same old
fairy tales. He bases his information on Maurice Chatelain ("based on
information picked up from 'inside sources' while working for NASA in the
1960s") about "reports of these encounters made during flights in space
(which) have generally been censored, altered, de-emphasized, or simply
ignored by NASA." Here's the ol' Apollo 11 story a la Berlitz, 1980:
"Prior to the first moon landing two UFOs and a long cylinder hovered
overhead. When Apollo 11 landed inside a moon crater two unidentified
spacecrafts (sic!) appeared on the crater rim and then took off again.
Aldrin photographed them. Pictures have not yet been released by NASA to the
Mr. Berlitz's next pages reprint much of the long-discredited Pepper
transcript, as well as a series of other astronaut-UFO fables. Moore later
denied any endorsement of the stories merely because he put them in the book
(he wanted to "set the stage" and keep an open mind), but Friedman denounced
the story in 1981 and justified his cooperation with Berlitz because he
needed the money and publicity in order to advance his research.
It might be interesting here to learn just what NASA public information
officials think about this long series of retellings of the great moon
flight UFO. To do just that, I arranged an interview early in 1980 with two
highly respected space experts at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Terry
White and Charles Redmond. To convey the full flavor of the conversation,
here is how it went:
Question: How do you guys find out about such UFO stories? Do the authors
and publishers try to check up on them?
White: I usually first hear about them when some newsman telephones me,
claiming he's seen another exposure of some "NASA coverup." The people who
write such stories -- they rarely have the courtesy or courage to send us
Redmond: The only time I recall ever being asked for an explanation is when
my explanations could be played up big as some sort of coverup -- or
dismissed out of hand.
White: Responsible publishers such as Readers Digest, National Geographic,
and the New Yorker make a habit of following up on the accuracy of their
authors by asking us to check their factual material. But as far as the UFO
books or the tabloid press -- no, they've never checked with us before
publishing. . . .
Redmond: . . . or after publishing, either!
Question: For the record, do you have any secrets about UFOs or alien life?
White: Not a bit. Those stories are garbage and I tell anybody who calls
just that. Normally we don't want to dignify such trash with a serious
Redmond: We don't have any UFO secrets. As a matter of fact, this is an area
where our office has spent more time digging out photographs and transcripts
for the news media, in response to so-called "UFO claims." But as far as the
suggestion that we're withholding anything, it's flat out not true.
White: We do know about cases where we have provided films and reports and
technical studies and then seen that information twisted and give false
impressions. That's where these stories about astronauts and UFOs come from:
unverified or twisted information.
Question: Was there ever any capability to censor space transmissions?
Redmond: The Public Affairs Officer -- the "P-A-O" -- in Mission Control did
have an inhibit switch for the air-to-ground voice signals, which were on a
seven second delay to allow synchronization with the computer-processed
television images. . . .
White: . . . but that switch was never used, to the best of my recollection.
And I was a "voice of Apollo" PAO for many, many flights.
Redmond: Right, I suppose it was there to keep a space tragedy off the air
"live" until we could notify any next of kin, but it would not in any case
have affected transcripts, only the real-time release which was piped to the
newsroom and out to the networks. We only had authority to use it for a
minute or so at most, anyway. The transcripts would eventually come out,
White: Occasionally we would configure for private medical or family
conversations. There was no special frequency or code, we'd just have the
rest of the consoles get disconnected at the communications center.
Redmond: The medical conversations were not recorded, and were not
released -- although we would summarize them in press conferences. There's
something in the Hippocratic Oath about a doctor having to maintain
confidentiality with his patients.
Question: How often did this happen?
Redmond: During Apollo, quite infrequently. During Skylab, we'd have such a
talk maybe every three days or so.
Question: So there was no special code or secret channel?
Redmond: No, we used our ordinary channels, but the crew would request the
doctor only -- the "flight surgeon" -- and the rest of us would disconnect.
White: Or else the crew could talk privately to their families in a back
room down the hall from the control room.
Question: Outside of these confidential talks with doctors, wives, and
children, were there any other conversations not publicly available?
Redmond: No, I don't think so, I don't see how they could have managed it.
Question: Why do you suppose those UFO books and magazine articles are
written with such nasty accusations against NASA?
White: I think they're only written to exploit public hysteria, and to hell
with the facts. That's my personal opinion, that they pander to panic, and
appeal to public ignorance.
Redmond: I feel frustrated by the naivite of the public, and by the outright
profiteering of writers who play on the public's desire to be mystified. But
they just use cheap tricks, these writers. They deliver counterfeit goods.
Question: But what damage does it do?
White: Not much. Only a small fringe really believes such trash, considering
the credibility of the sources.
Redmond: I disagree. I think it's quite harmful in reducing the credibility
of the space program, and NASA's image.
Allow me a moment for a commentary of my own: A reader of this report will
come to a conclusion altogether different from that espoused by Wilson,
Harder, Barr y, Gris, Berlitz, and others. A well-publicized collection of
cranks, crackpots, con men and well meaning innocents have created a facade
of 'UFO encounters' and a counterfeit claim of 'NASA coverup' concerning
UFOs allegedly seen on the Apollo 11 moon expedition ten years ago. For
some, the rewards are probably psychological, for others, publicity; for
those portions of the news media which have eagerly offered them a forum,
the juicy rewards have been financial in nature. Explanations and exposes
(such as in the Fall and Winter 1977 Search magazine, the February, 1977
Space World, the 1978 issues of the Skeptical Inquirer, and official NASA
news releases) are ignored or misrepresented -- and here indeed is the real
coverup conspiracy, if one can be said to exist. The reputation of the space
program and of the astronauts has suffered, the public has been confused and
misled, and the money rolls in. Where, I often wonder, are the courageous
investigative journalists who will rip the lid off of this UFO scam?
Where does that leave readers after seeing what looked like a watertight
space UFO story fall apart into mistakes, forgeries, and lies? Experienced
UFO specialists must wonder how many other "classic" UFO cases which look
equally as good are equally as rotten below the surface.
Two questions come to mind, but cannot be answered. First, wasn't Apollo 11
exciting enough without the fictionalized UFOs? And second, if there are so
many other truly authentic UFO cases on record, why do the UFO writers have
to rely so heavily on such shaky evidence as this?
The answers to these questions will help establish the true importance of
what otherwise could only have been a squalid footnote to a historic chapter
in space exploration. But whether future UFO researchers and enthusiasts
will learn anything from it is a good question. For we can see that UFO
stories seem to spring up and promulgate themselves, even when there is
absolutely no foundation in fact on which they could have possibly been
based. And if that is true in this case, we have to suspect that it has
happened with some frequency in other cases where we can't determine the
facts with such certainty. And much as they might like otherwise, the UFO
experts and publicists -- Mullaney, Sandler, Emenegger, Fuller, Hervey,
Button, Harris, Binder, Matsumura, Barry, Pepper, Lorenzen, Harder,
Chatelain, Lepoer-Trench, Zigel, Boznich, Wilson, Gris, Goodavage, Beckley,
Pratt, Creighton, Berlitz, Moore, Azhazha, and others have to somewhat be
called to account for promulgating basically faulty standards. For no matter
what they may admit in private, their public positions remain deceptive.
That is the true moral of the Phantom UFOs of Apollo 11!
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