While it seems longer, it’s been only seven years since the last Space Shuttle mission ended on July 21, 2011. That’s nothing compared to how long it’s been since the first humans to land on the Moon in July 1969. Yet both Apollo 11 and one particular shuttle mission – STS-77 in July 1996 – were back in the news this past week, and both for the same reason … UFOs.
“MOON walker Buzz Aldrin and three other astronauts have passed lie detector tests over claims they experienced alien encounters.”
That headline comes from a Daily Star article referring to a “lie detector test” conducted by The Institute of BioAcoustic Biology in Albany, Ohio, on astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Al Worden, Edgar Mitchell and Gordon Cooper. All at one time or another claimed to have seen UFOs during their space missions. However, the so-called lie detector tests may be that in only the loosest sense of the word as this latest technology, as pointed out by Micah Hanks at Mysterious Universe, was actually conducted on voice recordings of the men talking about their alleged encounters since Mitchell and Gordon are both deceased and their stories cannot be tested using more conventional lie detectors.
“NASA releases video of ‘UFO’ from 1969 space mission sparking frenzy online”
That headline comes from a follow-up article the following day by the same Daily Star, which could use a proofreader as well as that “latest technology” lie detector. While the date says “1969,” which was the year of Buzz Aldrin’s alleged UFO sighting, the “video” it refers to is actually from the Space Shuttle mission STS-77 in 1996.
That apparent juxtaposition of the numbers in the year is not the only problem with this article. While it’s true that NASA released this video (seen here), it was not a recent release. It’s actually been around since 1996 and was the subject of a Popular Mechanics debunking in 2009 in which identified the UFO as the Passive Aerodynamically Stabilized Magnetically Damped/Satellite Test Unit(PAM/STU), whose launch and deployment was tracked by shuttle cameras and narrated by the astronauts, who often referred to it as the “target” – a common military term for just about everything being watched, not just enemies and UFOs.
It’s too bad we’re forced to look at these sensationalized clips when so much of what was studied on these Space Shuttle missions was only lightly covered at the time and not at all today. STS-77, the 77th of 134 missions, tested one of the early inflatable space structures so common today and performed experiments developed jointly by numerous countries. The astronauts even had some fun working with a Fluids Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus-2 (FGBA-2) to determine if separately stored carbon dioxide, water and thick liquids could be combined in space and consumed without bubble nucleation and resulting foam formation. In other words, they tried (successfully) to make Coca-Cola and Diet Coke in space.
Sure, exploration is the ultimate goal of all space programs, but the mundane groundwork and testing is crucial to future success. It’s also a place for many to be a part of the space program – while Neil and Buzz stepped onto the lunar surface, one of the most remembered videos was of the many people in the control room celebrating the success of the project so many had worked so hard to achieve.
It’s time to get back to developing new interest in space exploration, space science and space technologies instead of rehashing old (and misleading) events. As a different Buzz once said (and you don’t need a lie detector test to prove it):
“To infinity and beyond!”