UFO No Longer Unidentified

UFOs aren’t necessarily alien spacecraft. And some purported UFOs aren’t UFOs at all. Take the example from Apollo 16.

Beginning their return from the moon to an April 27, 1972, splashdown, Astronauts John Young, Thomas Mattingly and Charles Duke captured about four seconds of video footage of an object that seemed to look a lot like Hollywood’s version of a spacecraft from another world.

Digital scan of a full frame from the original Apollo 16 film showing the object in question (top center) and its position relative to the moon. Reflections in the window are also visible (left and right). Credit: NASA

The thing was described as “a saucer-shaped object with a dome on top.” The images were captured with a 16mm motion picture camera shooting at 12 frames per second from a command/service module window. The object appears momentarily near the moon. As the camera pans, it moves out of the field of view. It reappears as the camera pans back. It appeared in about 50 frames.

Some very bright people recently worked hard to analyze that footage. Their conclusion was that the object wasn’t at all what some observers thought it seemed to be. There is no indication the Apollo 16 crew ever thought the film showed anything special.

mage enhancement of the object and linear feature. Credit: NASA

A group headed by Gregory Byrne of Johnson Space Center’s Image Science and Analysis Group completed a report on its investigation earlier this year. They used a video copy of the film initially, then did a high-resolution digital scan of the original film for detailed analysis.

They stabilized images to correct for camera movement, and then aligned multiple frames in a sequence. One thing that showed them was that the object appeared to move slightly with respect to the moon, because of parallax brought about by slight camera motions and the nearness of the object to the camera.

View of the Apollo Command/Service Module from the Lunar Module during Apollo 17 showing the location of the EVA floodlight/boom. Credit: NASA

The investigators also combined several frames in a sequence, to give them higher resolution and greater contrast than individual frames. The combinations showed them more clearly a “linear feature” attached to one side of the object. They also looked at archived images from other Apollo missions.

All of the evidence in this analysis is consistent with the conclusion that the object in the Apollo 16 film was the EVA [spacewalk] floodlight/boom. There is no evidence in the photographic record to suggest otherwise.

Enhanced Apollo 16 image (left) compared with features of the EVA floodlight/boom from the perspective of a Command/Service Module window (right). Credit: NASA

Disney Salutes NASA with Mars Quote


When NASA’s Spirit rover landed on the red planet on Jan. 3, 2004, Administrator Sean O’Keefe summed up the amazing feat with a simple phrase:

“We’re back … and we’re on Mars.

Now that quote — along with a replica of the twin robot geologists roving Mars — is forever enshrined outside the Mission:SPACE attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot in Florida.

The thrill ride, which opened in October 2003, is Disney’s most technologically advanced attraction ever, combining NASA-based technology with Disney’s creative “Imagineering” team to send would-be astronauts on a futuristic voyage to the red planet.

NASA provided Disney with tours, briefings and discussions about human and robotic missions, as well as the challenges future missions, like a trip to Mars, might present. The attraction took five years and some 350,000 work-hours to build.
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“The attraction builds on a foundation of science fact and provides visitors a fantasy ride into the future of exploration,” said Administrator O’Keefe. “It’s a realistic experience that can introduce a new generation of explorers to the excitement of science, technology and discovery.”

One member of that younger generation joined Administrator O’Keefe for the ceremony. 10-year-old Sofi Collis, who won an essay contest by naming the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, was on hand to activate a replica rover, which rolled across a simulated Martian landscape shortly before the quote was revealed.

As for the real rovers traversing Mars some 300 million miles from Earth, Spirit and Opportunity have made extraordinary discoveries and found important clues to a watery past on the martian surface. The Spirit rover is driving toward the “Columbia Hills,” and Opportunity has been making close examinations of a martian rock known as “Bounce” before moving toward Endurance Crater. (LATEST)

“Mission: SPACE appeals to the explorer in all of us,” said Walt Disney World President Al Weiss. “NASA’s triumphant Mars missions embody that spirit of exploration. We are pleased and honored to have Administrator O’Keefe’s comments taking their place at Mission: SPACE alongside those of others who dared to dream,” he said.