Le vol historique de Apollo XI vers la Lune a eu lieu il y a plus d'une décennie -- assez longtemps pour s'être inscrit dans nos livres d'histoire et nos mythologies. Il a marqué le premier atterrissage de l'Homme sur un autre monde dans l'espace. Il a symbolisé les capacités de la gestion et de la technologie américaines du 20ème siècle.

Pour le monde des ufologues, enthousiastes comme opposants, le vol Apollo XI a aussi été important. Il est devenu le centre d'un large ensemble de signalements de rencontres extraterrestres lors de ce voyage spatiale épique. Au fil des années, littéralement des douzaines d'histoires ont été écrites sur les supposées photographies et observations d'ovnis effectuées lors de cette mission particulière en .

La plus prestigieuse de ces histoires est la note dans Edge of Reality dans laquelle le Dr. J. Allen Hynek, le "doyen de l'ufologie", relate le signalement que Ce fut la mission où un ovni aurait prise en chasse cet appareil. Un collègue fit remarquer à Hynek que lors de Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, et Michael Collins ont dit avoir observé un ovni. Hynek acquiesça, et développa : Certaines des images du film de la NASA que j'ai examinées étaient très intéressantes -- en particulier celles prises lors du vol Apollo 11, une des quelques pour laquelle la NASA a fourni une sorte d'explication.

Dans Science Digest, le mensuel respecté de vulgarisation scientifique, l'auteur astronome James Mullaney (ancien contributeur à Astronomy magazine) écrivait en que l'équipage de Apollo 11, lors du 1er allunissage, signalait que leur capsule était dépassée par ce qui semblait être une masse d'énergie intelligente... la NASA a récemment publié un certain nombre de photos de Gemini, Apollo, et Skylab très frappantes de véritables non-identifiés.

La presse ufologique a largement relayé ces histoires, dans des livres, films et magazines.

UFOs Past, Present and Future (écrit par Robert Emenegger, recherché par Alan Sandler) rapporta que peut-être l'observation la plus spectaculaire qui eut lieu lors de Apollo 11. En route vers le Lune, les astronautes observèrent un objet qui semblait changer de forme lorsqu'ils changeaient de niveau de zoom sur leur télescope C'était vraiment bizarre, aurait déclaré Collins.

Fate magazine, in editor Curtis Fuller's column "I See By The Papers" (), examined the stories and concluded: There seems to be pretty good evidence that Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong. and Michael Collins ont vu quelque chose qui n'a pas été communiqué au grand public--quelque chose de rapporté de diverses manières, allant de lumières mystérieuses à des formations de vaisseaux spatiaux !

L'authenticité des observations de Apollo XI a été certifiée par le témoignage du présentateur du journal télévisé de CBS Walter Cronkite. Dans une interview pour le National Enquirer menée par le journaliste Robin Leach, Cronkite livre ce récit: En route for le premier alluni ssage de l'histoire, Armstrong et l'équipage transmirent des informations sensationnelles, et je fus là pour les entendre moi-même.

Cronkite continua : Armstrong dit avoir repéré un énorme objet cylindrique en rotation ou culbutant entre le vaisseau et la Lune. Il est enregistré officiellement dans les archives de la NASA que Armstrong a indiqué aller prendre des photographies mais que l'objet avait disparu aussi rapidement qu'il l'avait vu au départ. Neil Armstrong n'est pas un homme versé dans l'imagination fantaisiste et ce n'est pas juste un membre d'équipage qui l'a vu -- ils l'ont tous vu, et vous devez respecter ces hommes.

C'était suffisant pour le Believe It or Not de Ripley, aussi. Fin ils publièrent une série commerciale de planches dessinées parlant d'ovnis ; une planche contenait un croquis d'astronautes et la légende, L'astronaute Neil Armstrong. . . vit des ovnis pendant sa mission spatiale. Mais la NASA -- selon le présentateur du journal télévisé Walter Cronkite -- garde les preuves secrètes.

Mais le secret fuita un peu, selon l'éditeur McGraw-Hill. En ils sortient un livre de David C. Knight, intitulé UFOs: A Pictorial History. Une photo pleine page de l'espace page 171 porte cette légende : Peut-être la plus spectaculaire de toutes les observations d'ovnis dans l'espace eut lieu le lors du vol Apollo XI.... L'équipage repéra un objet étrange entre leur vaisseau et la Lune.... L'objet reste toujours non-identifié. (les puristes auront noté que l'objet montré sur la page se trouvait entre le vaisseau et la terre, mais qui veut pinailler lorsqu'on parle d'histoires aussi fantastiques ?).

Une idée de ce que ces secrets pourraient entraîner peut être obtenue à partir d'un résumé des histoires qui circulent sur Apollo 11, publié par Mike Harris dans une lettre d'informations de Nouvelle Zélande en :

Depuis le lancement de Apollo 11 le jusqu'à ce que l'appareil spatial passe le mi-chemin entre la Terre et la Lune le jour suivant, les 3 astronautes observèrent yn ovni qui les suivait. Deux jours plus tard, le , des ovnis firent une autre apparition et furent enregistrés sur film. Les détails de ce long film furent : le jour avant l'allunissage Aldrin se transféra sur le M. L. Eagle et commença la vérification finale des instruments. Alors qu'il vérifiait la caméra rapprochée, les ovnis arrivèrent dans le cadre. Alors qu'ils étaient observés, les objets furent vus émettre ce qui ressemblait à du liquide. Les 2 objets se trouve en formation serrée, se réunissaient et se séparaient et par la suite au bout d'un moment se séparèrent et partirent chacun de leur côté. Les objets semblaient être intelligemment contrôlés, dirent les astronautes. La 3ème observation lors de ce vol épique eut lieu le . Environ 1H30M avant, Neil Armstrong et Aldrin avaient mis le pied sur la Lune. Alors qu'ils étaient occupés à récolter des roches, Collins dans le Module de Commande "Columbia" était occupé à parler à Houston.

Columbia : Appel à Houston. Ici Columbia.

Houston : Allez-y, Columbia.

Columbia : Je n'ai pas pu trouver M. L. Mais j'ai vu des petits objets blancs bizarres. Les coordonnées sont 0,3, 7,6 sur le bord sud-ouest du cratère. S'ils sont là ils doivent les avoir vus aussi.

Il semble probable que qui que ce soit d'intéressé dans par notre effort gardait certainement un oeil sur les choses. Le rapport continue :

Ces objets blancs vus par Collins firent une 4ème apparition alors que le Eagle s'élevait de la surface lunaire pour rejoindre Columbia, ayant quitté la Lune à . Leur forme dans ce cas fut clairement exposée sur film. La caméra fixée sur le Eagle photographiait la surface de la lune qui s'éloignait lorsque, diagonalement depuis le coin inférieur gauche vers le côté supérieur droit du cadre, un ovni blanc brillant passa directement sous le Module Lunaire.

C'est certainement un scénario sensationnel pour le première atterrissage de l'humanité sur un autre monde, et c'est en plus une version certainement non décrite par les livres d'histoire standards. Ces récits corroborants vinrent du livre de Michael Hervey UFOs The American Scene (St. Martin's Press, NY, 1976). En orbite lunaire, Aldrin adjuste sa caméra lorsque soudainement :

...son attention fut soudain attirée par un objet brillant ressemblant à un "homme des neiges" se déplaçant d'ouest en est dans le ciel. Il prit immédiatement des clichés de l'objet qui en fait se révéla être 2 ovnis, 1 plus grand que l'autre, et se touchant presque. Lorsque le film fut développé par la suite, il comprenait un cliché de la surface lunaire suivi d'un plan rapproché des 2 ovnis se déplaçant très vite horizontally. Ils disparurent, avant de revenir quelques secondes plus tard, descendirent un peu, restèrent en survol pendant un moment, puis se séparèrent après quoi ils furent entourés de ce qui ressemblait à un halo puissant. Ils suivirent cette manoeuvre en s'élevant verticalement et partirent hors de vue. À un moment donné un seul ovni revint, puis prit à nouveau le départ pour la dernière fois. Les astronautes Armstrong et Aldrin furent naturellement excités et appréhendèrent peut-être un peu ces quelques moments.

Malgré tous les drames de cet événement, aucun ne semble avoir été révélé par les agents des relations publiques de la NASA à Houston. Clairement, une sorte de dissimulation était l'œuvre. La première brèche majeure dans cette apparente dissimulation n'eut pas lieu avant , lorsque l'Association de la Fraternité Cosmique, un groupe ufologique japonais, publia des photos jusqu'ici inaccessibles de Apollo 11 avec ce commentaire :

Les images d'ovnis prises par le vaisseau Apollo 11 au-dessus de la surface de la Lune pour la 1ère fois au monde et aujourd'hui publiées pour la 1ère fois par la CBA, ne peuvent être considérées que comme la preuve formelle que les ovnis, jusqu'ici remis en question par beaucoup, sont en fait des vaisseaux/appareils spatiaux venant de l'espace comme nous l'avons affirmé. Ils sont la preuve absolue qu'on recherché les ufologues du monde entier ces 27 dernières années... Ce qui suit est une preuve indubitable des ovnis, qu'ils sont venus de l'espace... Il s'agit vraiment d'images de scoop, et pas une seule d'entre elle n'a été publiée par la NASA à ce jour.

Ces nouvelles sensationnelles traversèrent le Pacifique et furent notées par l'expert en ovnis Bob Barry du "Twentieth Century UFO Bureau," qui rédigea une étude en 2 parties des expériences ovni d'astronautes pour Modern People, un tabloïde hebdomadaire. L'article ovni fut par la suite combiné à d'autres éléments similaires qui furent publiés en magazine comme UFO Report (sorti en , un seul numéro fut publié). "La NASA vous cache des ovnis !" hurlait le titre :

En route vers la Lune lors de leur 1er jour dans l'espace, l'équipage de Columbia observa un objet étrange en survol haut au-dessus de la Terre, et parvint à le saisir sur film. Le labo d'interprétation photo de la NASA lista l'objet comme non-identifiable. Mais ce n'était que le début. Avant que cette mission arrive à son terme, l'équipage de Columbia et plus tard le Eagle allait voir bien plus d'actions ovnis -- au-dessus de la Lune elle-même !

Barry décrit alors la rencontre d'Aldrin avec les 2 ovnis zoomant à travers sa fenêtre en orbite lunaire. Par chance, dit Barry, Aldrin était habitué à voir des ovnis dans l'espace, et il put donc faire ce qu'il fallait rapidement :

Si Aldrin n'avait pas été conditionné d'une manière ou d'une autre à l'apparition de ces appareils inhabituels, le choc de ce qu'il vit par la suite aurait pu lui faire rater une des séquences de film d'ovnis les plus incroyables qu'ai jamais pris un astronaute. Car alors que les objets continuaient leur descente dans une formation semblable à celle d'un "bonhomme de neige" allongé sur le côté, Aldrin observa une émission brillante s'étendant entre les 2 appareils. On supposa à l'époque que cette "traînée" aurait pu être liée aux systèmes motivationels des véhicules, peut-êre même un système d'échappemment... Pendant ce temps, 10 autres objets en forme d'oeufs furent vus voler à l'avant-plan de la caméra.

Naturellement, la NASA ne publia pas ces photos pour le grand public, s'efforçant d'éditer avec soin tous appareils mystérieux de ce genre des images finales qui furent publiées... Et bien que pratiquement chaque membre d'équipage ayant voyagé vers la Lune ait observé et photographié des objets volants non-identifiés, les responsables de la NASA insistent toujours sur le fait que ces phénomènes n'existent pas.

Mais les preuves photographiques spectaculaires de Barry ne sont pas le seul signalement excitant à sortir du vol Apollo 11. Car peu de temps seulement après que les astronautes soient retournés sur Terre mi-, une "bande" clandestine et la transcription vocale de ce qui s'était réellement dit sur la Lune a commencé à circuler clandestinement dans les cercles ufologiques. Le titre de la couverture du National Bulletin magazine (distribué au Canada mais imprimé à New York) le proclame Une erreur dans fausse transmission cache la découverte de Apollo 11... La Lune est une base ovni ! L'auteur Sam Pepper donne sa version de la Transcription de bande Top Secret venant d'une fuite proche du sommet, comme suit :

Qu'est-ce que c'était, bon dieu qu'est-ce que c'était ? C'est juste ce que je veux savoir...

Ces. . . (brouillé) ...bébés étaient énormes, monsieur, ils étaient énormes...

Non, non, c'est juste une distortion du champ...

Oh, seigneur, vous ne le croiriez pas...

Qu'est-ce... qu'est-ce... qu'est-ce qui se passe bon dieu ? C'est quoi votre problème les gars...?

Ils sont là, sous la surface...

Qu'est-ce qui est... disfonctionnent... Mission Control appelle Apollo 11....

Roger, nous sommes là, tous les 3, mais nous avons trouvé des visiteurs...

Oui, ils sont là depuis un bon moment à en juger par les installations...

Mission control, répéter le dernier message...

Je vous le dis, il y a d'autres appareils spatiaux. Ils sont alignés en rangs sur le bord de l'autre extrémité du cratère...

Répétez, répétez...

Scannons cette orbite et rentrons à la maison...

En 625 à la 5ème, auto-relais fixés... Mes mains tremblent tellement...

Film... oui, les maudites caméras ont clicking away à partir de là...

Vous avez eu quelque chose les gars ?

On n'a recupéré aucun film à ce moment... (brouillé)... 3 clichés des soucoupes, ou quoi que ce soit... ils ont peut-être troublé le film.

Mission Control, ici Mission Control... avez-vous commencé, je répète, avez-vous commencé ? Qu'est-ce que c'est que tout ce foin à propos d'ovnis ? Terminé.

Ils se sont installés ici... ils sont sur la Lune... à nous regarder...

Les miroirs, les miroirs... vous les avez installés, n'est-ce pas ?

Oui, les miroirs sont tous en place. Mais ce qui a construit ces appareils spatiaux reviendra probablement et les enlèvera demain...

Lorsque ce récit fut discuté par le rédacteur-en-chef de Fate Curtis Fuller en , il confessa son scepticime extrême quant à l'ensemble de la supposée transcription" Mais le récit fut publié ailleurs (l'auteur de science-fiction et féru d'ovnis Otto Binder aida à le diffuser largement), et cela fait penser aux observateurs des signaux radio captés en Europe au début des années 1960s de cosmonautes russes condamnés lors de tirs spatiaux secrets qui aboutirent à leurs morts confidentielles. Les radio-amateurs sont devenus très prolifiques pour ce qui est de faire sortir des "secrets officiels" ces dernières décennies.

Ces histoires ébouriffantes ne s'arrêtent pas là. Un autre "récit de l'intérieur" parut dans le bulletin mensuel d'un groupe ovni bien connu, l'APRO. Comme rapporté dans le n° de , 3 ombres en forme de disque suivirent les astronautes alors qu'ils tournaient autour de la Lune, pendant que les censeurs de la NASA coupaient d'autres commentaires en direct des journalistes. Un informateur de l'APRO connu sous le nom de "Monsieur X" aurait été présent dans la salle de contrôle interne.

Les astronautes, se souvient le "Mister X" non identifié, dirent soudain, Ils sont à nouveau là, en parlant des objets qu'ils avaient aperçus lors des 3 premières orbites et lors de la dernière orbite. Cela semble être une corroboration indépendante des récits précédents.

De plus, une photographie nouvelle et jusqu'ici non disponible de Apollo 11 fut publiée dans le mensuel Science Digest dans le n° suivant immédiatement celui qui contenait l'article de Mullaney. Parlant du projet Blue Book, l'article de l'auteur Don Berliner inclut une photographie montrant la Terre s'éloignant de l'appareil lunaire, et un ovni en plein milieu. Science Digest () dit, La flèche pointe vers un objet non-identifié.

Comme on pourrait s'y attendre, la NASA nie officiellement tout. Aucun ovni extraordinaire ou autre phénomène inexpliqué n'a été admis.

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 are false.

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 transcripts.

"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 own weight.

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, Virginia 22202.

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 History!

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 silence...."

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 public panic."

"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 trust Wilson.

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 , 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 newspapepr'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, :

"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 public."

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 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 pre-publication copies.

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 response.

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, completely uncensored.

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!