It’s understandable that NASA might be a little secretive. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was born out of The Cold War. Its early years were spent in a pitched space race with Russia to see who could be the first on the moon.
NASA eventually won the race (or so they claim) but that didn’t make them any less secretive. Over the years, NASA has remained tight-lipped if not totally silent on what it’s doing and what exactly happened on all those space missions. Still, stories have leaked out from NASA staff members, observant astronomers, conspiracy theorists, and the astronauts themselves – stories about strange discoveries in space and on the moon, about possible alien technology and a massive organized cover-up of UFO sightings.
Here are just a few of NASA’s more bizarre events, cover-ups and leaks they didn’t want us to know. If space fireflies, buildings on the moon and dead space creatures in Nevada don’t really exist, why is NASA so darn secretive about them in the first place?
15. Space Fireflies
John Glenn became the first American astronaut to orbit the planet in 1962 as part of the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission. But as great an accomplishment as that was, Glenn’s trip is bettered remembered by UFO enthusiasts for its ‘fireflies”. While flying over Australia, Glenn noticed something strange floating outside the Friendship 7 capsule window. “I am in a big mass of some very small particles that are brilliantly lit up like they’re luminescent…they look like little stars,” he told NASA’s mission control. And when Glenn tapped the window, the “fireflies”, as he called them, appeared to fly off. Mission control feared the anomalies were parts of the capsule heat shield, but that was a false alarm.
The mission wasn’t broadcasting live, so the firefly story remained something of an urban legend initially. Still, the word did get out. And when the next American in space, Scott Carpenter, also saw fireflies, NASA was ready with an explanation – ice particles from the condensation of the capsule’s heat exchanger. Up until his death in December, Glenn never totally bought that explanation.
14. Music On The Moon
NASA has made a habit of explaining away strange occurrences in space. While piloting the Apollo 10 space capsule around the dark side of the moon, astronaut Eugene Cernan started hearing…music? “You hear that?” he said to NASA mission control. Turns out they did. In the mission transcripts, only released in 2008, Cernan described the noise as a weird whistling sound comparable to “outer space-type music”. Though alien theories abounded, no immediate explanation was offered by NASA. And then it happened again.
In his 1974 book Carrying The Fire, Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins writes that by the time he heard the space music while orbiting the moon, NASA suddenly had an explanation saying it had something to do with “Interference between the LM’s and Command Module’s VHS radios”.
13. There Was A Secret Speech In Case Armstrong Died
We all remember Neil Armstrong’s famous “One small step for man” speech as he became the first man to walk on the moon. But there was a secret, alternative speech to be delivered by then-President Richard Nixon should something have gone terribly wrong. Written by Nixon speechwriter William Safire in collaboration with NASA, the speech was to be read if the first moonwalk proved deadly.
“Fate has ordained that men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace,” the script begins. Oddly, the speech only mentions astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, ignoring Michael Collins, who piloted the command module in lunar orbit. “(Armstrong and Aldrin) know that there is no hope for their recovery,” the speech continues. ”But they also know there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice,”
The speech ends with suggestions that the men’s’ funeral be treated like a burial at sea, with a clergyman being present to commend their souls to “the deepest of the deep”, followed by the Lord’s Prayer. Creepy. The speech was long rumored but the document only became well-known after Nixon’s death in 1994.
12. Bright Lights, Big Mystery
Keeping secrets in the modern age has become more difficult for NASA. With live broadcasts available of shuttle missions, strange happenings rarely remain secret for long. Such was the case with the STS-115 mission of the shuttle Atlantis in 2006. Charged with helping to construct the International Space Station, the shuttle was one day from home when commander Brent Jett noticed “Some kind of reflective structure” outside the shuttle. “It doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen outside of this shuttle, that’s for sure,” he told mission control.
Worried that the object might be a crucial part of the shuttle, NASA took control of the cameras, revealing not one but three bright objects in the sky. When word hit the media the astronauts had seen something strange, NASA was left scrambling to explain what it was. They ordered an inspection of the shuttle – assuming the objects might have broken off from the spacecraft – but saw nothing. Upon return to Earth, another inspection was ordered, but nothing was found beyond a “micro-meteor” impact. So, space junk anyone?
11. Are There Aliens On The Moon?
Though not as popular as the “Fake Moon Landing” conspiracy theory, there are many who continue to see something alien in the photos of the moon. The best-known proponent of this theory is Ken Johnston, a former NASA staffer who says he was in charge of destroying NASA moon photos following missions in the 1970s. He wasn’t very good at his job, apparently. Johnston claims to have kept incriminating photos of an alien presence on the moon. Johnston, who lectures extensively, says NASA and the U.S. government have altered their moon photos to eliminate ancient alien structures. Yet, his grainy NASA photos aren’t all that convincing either, showing odd surface patterns that could just as easily be natural phenomena.
Upping the conspiracy ante, Johnston also contends that alien technology was found on the moon and has already been adapted for human use. NASA, as usual, says it knows nothing of aliens and is not in the alien-finding business.
10. They SAY No Aliens At Area 51
Well, duh. We all knew Area 51 existed. You don’t build large fences in the Nevada desert and chase people away with guns and not exist. Still, it took NASA and the CIA a long time to admit all the rumors, leaks, conspiracy theories and dead aliens had a grain of truth in them. In 2013, the CIA was forced to admit Area 51’s location – near Groom Lake, Nevada – under a Freedom of Information request that saw the release of many documents about the site. Turns out, the place was used as an aerial gunnery range during World War 2, as a base for atomic testing during the Cold War, and aided the development of the U2 spy plane.
As for aliens, NASA Administrator Major Charles Bolden laughed off the alien stories in 2015. He said he’d been to Area 51, and there are no aliens. “I never saw any aliens or alien spacecraft or anything when I was there.” He said it’s simply a very secretive military place. That said, Bolden does believe aliens exist, just not in Nevada. Bolden resigned as the administrator in January.
9. Aldrin Gets Buzzed
The second man to walk on the moon was also the first to drink on the moon. But it wasn’t like he hoisted a few after a long successful day of moonwalking with Neil Armstrong. Buzz Aldrin was a devout Presbyterian who wanted to perform communion on the moon. So he prepped in advance, clearing it with his pastor and securing some consecrated bread and wine in his space suit fanny pack. NASA was okay with him doing this, but only during a break in radio broadcasts of the mission. Apparently, there had been complaints following the reading of a portion from Genesis during the Apollo 8 mission. NASA didn’t need the religious hassle again.
Buzz’s communion went off without a hitch in the landing craft. There was just enough gravity on the moon for Aldrin to drink from the cup. However, the secret communion didn’t stay secret for long. Aldrin talked to the press about it only months after his return.
8. Gordo Sees Green
No one had to convince Major Gordon “Gordo” Cooper that aliens existed when he became one of NASA’s original Mercury astronauts. As he admitted in later years, Cooper had been seeing UFOs since as early as 1951. On his 1963 solo orbital mission, he had a close encounter that was broadcast on NBC. Cooper told NASA mission control that he was watching a glowing green object approaching him rapidly. The object turned out to be real enough to be picked up on radar. However, upon returning to Earth, Cooper wasn’t permitted to talk about the incident while reporters were told they couldn’t ask. Though Cooper would go on to pilot the Gemini 5 mission, the forced silence appeared to bother him.
In later years, Cooper would talk about this incident and how other UFO encounters were being covered up. He even spoke to the UN on the topic. “Authority is afraid that people may think of God knows what kind of horrible invaders. So the password still is: we have to avoid panic by all means,” Cooper said.
7. The UFO That Looked Like A Beer Can
Astronaut James McDivitt never made a big deal about his close encounter during his 1965 Gemini IV mission. Heck, he didn’t even bother to wake up fellow astronaut Ed White when he first spied the UFO outside the capsule window. According to McDivitt, the object resembled a “Beer can with a pencil sticking out of the middle”. He watched it for close to 30 seconds, taking photos.
But when he returned to Earth, the photo NASA claimed was his UFO turned out to be the wrong photo. The real photos McDivitt snapped seemed to have disappeared. A little suspicious. However, when the real photos reemerged years later, McDivitt is said to have concluded it was merely a reflection of capsule bolts.
6. Moon Glow
As if the crew of Apollo 11 didn’t have enough to think about. But just as they arrived at the moon in 1969, a message came from mission control – check out the Aristarchus Crater. Apparently, astronomers on Earth had been noticing for more than a century that the crater would glow brightly. The glowing crater was instantly confirmed by Neil Armstrong, who characterized the glow as “considerably more illuminated” than its surroundings. It was then that the live radio conversation was cut off – for a total of 89 seconds. Talk about conspiracy gold!
Called a Lunar Transient Phenomena, NASA would later chalk up the event as nothing more than “reflective dust”. The 89 seconds of silence, however, was never explained. But that hasn’t stopped the public, and some former high-ranking NASA workers, from claiming a cover-up. All that excitement from a glowing moon hole?
5. Astronaut Edgar Mitchell Describes Aliens As “Little People Who Look Strange To Us”
People who think NASA isn’t giving us the full scoop on UFOs are a dime-a-dozen in the conspiracy world. But an actual astronaut dishing on NASA? Forget leaked documents, this is the real deal. Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, a member of the Apollo 14 crew, has gone on record repeatedly to say he’s personally aware of alien encounters covered up by NASA. He told The Telegraph in 2008 that he’d talked to sources at NASA that described the aliens as “Little people who look strange to us”.
“I happen to have been privileged enough to be in on the fact that we’ve been visited on this planet and the UFO phenomena is real,” he said.
On the topic of a cover-up, NASA spokesman played down Mitchell’s comments in its usual way, saying “NASA is not involved in any sort of cover-up about alien life on this planet or anywhere in the universe.”
4. Technical Difficulties Create A Cover-Up?
Conspiracy theorists and binge space watchers are claiming that NASA is censoring footage from the International Space Station. The controversy started last July when, according to viewers of the live feed, an unidentified object approached the Earth that was visible to the space station cameras. But just as it got close, the station camera signal allegedly cut out. Sound familiar? Check out #6.
It’s alleged the same signal cutout occurred again three months later, and two more times since then.
Well-known UFO YouTubers Secure Team 10 (!?!) even claimed to media outlets that they had spotted an astronaut covering the lens of the camera.
3. Across The Twitterverse
Astronaut Scott Kelly – who spent a year at the International Space Station – apparently didn’t know anything about NASA’s alleged UFO footage cover-ups (See #4). And he’s never been accused of covering up a space station lens. In fact, while biding his time in space in 2015, he tweeted to his followers a photo he snapped of what appeared to be a UFO.
Kelly tweeted a picture of India from more than 200 miles above the Earth with the simple message “Day 233. Once upon a #star over Southern India. #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace.”
UFO chasers were quick to point out an anomaly towards the top right. It’s a cigar-shaped object that appears to have a light at each end.
But did Kelly himself notice the object in his photo before he tweeted? If he did, he said nothing about it. Still, UFO fans feel that the astronaut was sending a not-so-subtle message that we are not alone.
2. Warp Factor 10
Fuel-free propulsion shouldn’t work. It defies all laws of physics. Yet, the EM Drive system that NASA is testing apparently never got that memo. According to NASA documents leaked to a stunned science community last year, the EM Drive continues to defy all known physics, generating thrust without fuel or propellants.
The drive works by bouncing microwave photons back and forth inside the cone-shaped closed metal cavity. This motion allows the pointy end of the EM Drive to generate thrust and propels the drive in the opposite direction. The invention has the potential of shortening travel to Mars to a mere 70 days.
It’s a stunning revelation that remains controversial. NASA got involved in 2015 as a way to debunk the EM Drive. Instead, the leaked papers show that not only did it work, it worked really really well.
1. See? It Happened
In 2015, NASA released an extraordinary 10,000 high-res photos from its archives (available online on Flickr) providing us with the best look ever at 50 years of space travel. Still many asked why? And why now? Was NASA finally bowing to the pressure of the skeptics who don’t believe the U.S. landed on the moon? Was it a way to counter years of leaked, grainy, and manipulated photos on conspiracy sites with a blizzard of color photos that served as a visual I-Told-You-So. Perhaps. But best of all, the release provided our best look to date at the space program and the people involved. As for the moon, it never looked better.
But did it convince the doubters? Hardly. It just gave them more photos to search and dissect for aliens and moon-based camera crews.