Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Astronaut Confesses: We're Not Alone

Well duh! No really, c'mon, does anyone think we're really the only ones in the universe? Likely not, but just in case you were a UFO conspiracy nut, now you've got reason tell everyone you were right.

Former Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell has gone on the record (again, technically this is his second admission) about the actual existence of extra-terrestrials and their vacation plans here on Earth. He says he has said he's witnessed UFOs.

From CNN:
Mitchell, who was part of the 1971 Apollo 14 moon mission, asserted Monday that extraterrestrial life exists, and that the truth is being concealed by the U.S. and other governments.

He delivered his remarks during an appearance at the National Press Club following the conclusion of the fifth annual X-Conference, a meeting of UFO activists and researchers studying the possibility of alien life forms.

Mankind has long wondered if we're "alone in the universe. [But] only in our period do we really have evidence. No, we're not alone," Mitchell said.

"Our destiny, in my opinion, and we might as well get started with it, is [to] become a part of the planetary community. ... We should be ready to reach out beyond our planet and beyond our solar system to find out what is really going on out there."

For the full article....

Now, whether you believe him or not, is entirely up to you. As for myself? Well, let me just tell you a brief story. When I was in college I worked for the student organization that put on campus events. I did the A/V set up (yes, I'm an audio/video geek) anytime we had a speaker come to give a presentation in the student union. One of my close friends was the president of the student org that brought presenters, talent, etc. to the school to speak--so I often met the "celebrities" before or after the events.

One of these speakers happened to be Ken Mattingly, another Apollo mission astronaut. You might remember in the film Apollo 13, Gary Sinise's character--the guy who was grounded and had to help get them home by training in the simulator. Yeah, he had a cool car too. That's who Sinise was playing.

Anyway, he came to talk about the Apollo mission and his experiences aboard the Space Shuttle. Afterwards he answered audience questions. Now, this was sort of sad because there wasn't a huge turn out, maybe 50 people or so. Inevitably, someone asked him about "aliens" and "have you ever seen a UFO". My buddy, the organizer guy, froze with fear. He was a NASA freak himself, he went to space camp, he knew all sorts of Apollo lore. He respected the astronauts like they were gods. I could see that he was mortified by someone asking this question.

To his credit, Admiral Mattingly didn't flinch, perspire, or even wiggle an eyebrow. He answered straight out. "Yes." He proceeded to explain that in various missions he spent in space he--as well as other astronauts--witnessed strange objects. Objects that moved in deliberate trajectories. He also specifically denied that it could have been space junk or some other phenomenon. The admiral was convinced it was something intelligent and non-man made.

Afterwards, my buddy and I joked around with Mattingly. He graciously signed my copy of the Apollo 13 soundtrack on CD (the liner notes). He was able to switch gears for a moment and even made a joke about being a fan of Gary Sinise. But if we were waiting for the punchline it never came. In truth, we were still stunned by his comments. As much as I thought this guy was the real deal--I began to think he'd spent too much time in space. It wasn't until about 3 years later that I began to doubt that assertion.

After college, I managed, of all things, a cable access station. We didn't have much programming and I was sick of putting crappy imported (i.e., tapes mailed to the station) shows on the air. Somehow I manage to get on a mailing list for a couple of PR agencies that sent out screener tapes for movies. Previews really. I'd get free passes and swag. I attempted to turn this material into a film review show. (That's another story for another time.)

The important part of this story is that I was invited to come to an HBO screening of "From the Earth to the Moon" a mini-series produced by Tom Hanks and based on the book "A Man on the Moon" by Andrew Chaikin. I was all excited, being a NASA nut and brought our craptastic video camera and mic set up to seek an interview with the author. Thinking it would be impossible to get a one-on-one, I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself the only one with a video camera. Mr. Chaikin agreed to an interview and was very genuine and pleasant. He was also extremely good at his job.

See, in order to research his book he slogged through mountains of archives, film footage, and historical records. He also went astronaut hunting. If you read his book--and what he told me then--was that astronauts by nature are loners and several of those from the Apollo era aren't keen to do interviews anymore. So he had his work cut out for him. Some of them were near impossible to speak to. Which is where Admiral Mattingly comes back into our story, because he was notorious for avoiding interviews.

Chaikin on the other hand was very personable and easy to interview and happy to talk about his research and tracking down Apollo personnel. Afterward, while I was putting the equipment away, I decided to tell him my little ghost story from my college days--about how a retired astronaut had us all spooked about aliens.

Mr. Chaikin got a look of surprise across his face. He said, that it was amazing that Mattingly was doing appearances and even more amazing that he was so open about his supposed experiences. Chaikin told me that Mattingly must have been serious about what he was saying--because the Admiral doesn't kid.

Since that conversation, some 11 years ago, I have thought long and hard about what I learned from these two men. One was/is literally one the most highly trained individuals on the planet. A military man, a pilot with reserves of patience and exceptional powers of lucidity that he's tempered through years of endurance training in extreme conditions.

The other was a meticulous researcher and observer. The descriptions of the men and women he interviewed in his book are surprisingly crisp in detail and revealing in character. To date, no other book has emerged as well-researched in due diligence and balanced with candor and astute recognition of the psychology of its subjects.

When I think of these two individuals that I met and shook their hands, I see no intent to mislead. I can't think of any reason why a principled man such as Mattingly would blurt out something so controversial without he, himself believing it. And I can't think of a reason to doubt Chaikin on his professional assessment of Mattingly's personal nature and character. So here, in my brain, are these experiences. And late last fall Mitchell comes into the picture with his story about seeing non-terrestrial craft while he's in space.

Now that you've heard my story, what would your take be were you in my positioin? I think you can already guess mine.

P.S. For the record, the Admiral said he never had a cool car like Sinise did in the movie...but he wished he did!

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