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The Truth About NASA’s UFO Videos

Image from the STS-80 shuttle mission. Taken from: AboveTopSecret

Image from the STS-80 shuttle mission. Taken from: AboveTopSecret

Perusing You Tube, there are lots of UFO videos, which are usually grainy, shaky videos showing nothing that can be proved definitively. But there are a couple of videos that are different — and have generated a lot of interest — because they were filmed by NASA astronauts during space missions. I’d like to recommend everyone read an article published today by Popular Mechanics where the astronauts who were behind the camera for two of these videos speak out about what is actually in the videos, and NASA’s supposed “cover-up.” The two astronauts, Tom Jones and Mario Runco “reveal” what the videos are really showing. “There’s no way to keep people from using public domain footage for silly purposes,” former astronaut Tom Jones says in the article. “If a shuttle beams back 10 hours of Earth views each day, there are bound to be images and scenes that are misunderstood or taken out of context.”

And “out of context” is what many UFO theories and proponents rely on, says writer Erik Sofge. And NASA tends to never make official statements debunking any of the UFO claims, which helps fuel the flames. One clip, taken by Runco is of the PAM-STU satellite that Runco and his crew deployed during the STS-77 mission in 1996, outfitted with reflective materials. During the entire clip, however, Runco or mission control never says exactly what they are filming, but keep referring to it as “the target,” typical for pilots and NASA astronauts. There are other oddities about the clip, with lights moving in the background, but Runco says the lights are likely to be stars.

Another clip, taken by Jones is simply “ice crystals or flakes of thruster residue in the near field are floating by, get hit by a thruster exhaust plume and zip out of the scene,” Jones said.

It’s one thing to believe that alien life is a statistical likelihood, and quite another to interpret lights in the sky as intergalactic contact. Check out the great article, and kudos to Jones and Runco for speaking out.


Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jorge June 2, 2009, 5:54 PM

    Aren’t some of these comments a wee bit to the other side of the recently imposed UT policy on commenter behaviour?

    (and what’s a dam research? Research on structural integrity of big water reservoirs?)

    This said, of course UFOs exist. Any flying object that is unidentified is a UFO, by definition. The problem is: crackpots jump to conclusions. They see something in the air (or beyond) they can’t identify, and BLAM, it’s a flying saucer.


    And don’t get me started on the military being “no nonsense”. I’ve spoken on occasion with military types. I have military types in the family, sort of (one is married to a cousin of mine). And what I found is that, as in any other line of work, they come in all kinds of flavors, from intelligent to downright imbecile, from educated to utterly ignorant, from mentally sane to hospice-crazy. Indeed, it’s quite frequent that nonsense comes out of military mouths and heads. Part of it stems from their condition as military types (all that hyerarchy, exposure to unhealthy environments and following of orders has some consequences, I guess), another part of it is indivudual-based.

    No-nonsense facts are that there’s absolutely NO credible evidence that UFOs are something more than either natural fenomena or spottings of secret or uncommon aircraft. Without credible evidence, stories and claims are nothing but BS. Some may even be true, meaning that they report real, even if misidentified, fenomena, but the vast majority are fabrications made up by liers, hoaxers and attention-seekers. People that have books to sell, people that prey on the gullible.

    And the remainder, what’s left after all garbage is flushed down the toilet, is receiving natural explanations all the time. A perfect example is sprites, those high-altitude lightnings that, when first spotted, crackpots also called evidence of alien presence on Earth. Of course. They just had to jump to conclusions, as they always do. After all, there have to be always books to sell, documentaries (mockumentaries would be more apt a name) to make and show on sensationalist media, conferences to speak at, etc. Otherwise they might be forced to, you know, WORK.

    Anyone with any hint of what science is knows that there’s only one kind of fact: the one that can be backed up by hard evidence. Lacking evidence, all you have is hypothesis. Not even theories. Or myths and lies. And anyone who has even if a faint amount of actual knowledge about how science works knows that all the BS about conspiracies covering up facts in exactly that: BS. Scientists are almost unhealthily competitive. Practically all have the secred aspiration of having their names set in stone for the posterity as discoverers of something of paramount importance. Hopefully with a Nobel attached. So if you believe that anyone could prevent such a discovery to transpire, you’re either delusional, on drugs or you’ve seen way too much X-Files as a kid.

  • Jorge June 2, 2009, 6:16 PM

    Oh, and by the way, aspaceguy, if you really want anyone to believe what you say do try to make an effort to hide your fraudulent tracks a little better. People around here really aren’t entirely stupid, you know?

    You see, when you say that nobody has discredited Phil Corso’s work written down in “The Day After Roswell”, you really don’t want people needing just a few seconds of googling to find a piece by Stanton Friedman, himself an ufologist who believes that we actually ARE being visited by aliens, not at all a flying saucer skeptic, doing exactly what you say nobody has done: discrediting Phil Corso’s book, with sentences such as “Time will tell, but one of my main concerns is that the book will go down as a fraud, probably after making a small fortune as a movie.”

    Yes, I know, I’m a thoroughly ignorant person who knows little and studies even less. So be it. Still, you know…

  • Jorge June 2, 2009, 6:54 PM

    And I really wished there was an edit feature in UT. Warning: typo galore above. Sigh… :/

  • ND June 2, 2009, 9:09 PM

    Jim Krug,

    Where is this nasa moon map site you speak of?


    I don’t know what to say about your dad’s UFO experience. I was curious about the details of it. I’m in the UFO is an unidentified flying object until proven to be human or ET. And so far there is no convincing hard evidence of ET crafts.
    BTW, I think NORAD was formed in 1958.

  • Dark Gnat June 3, 2009, 5:32 AM

    The problem is that most “UFOlogists” and conspiracy theorists assume everything has a shady explanation, or is part of a grand conspiracy. They can be down right paranoid.

    It’s rare to see ET believers actively try to discredit UFO reports. More often than not, they simply make an assumption that a particular object was an alien craft.

    There is also a lot of money to be made on the hype. I’ve seen “genuine UFO footage” that turned out to be a blimp with advertising lights. I’ve also seen “donuts on a rope” left by a commercial airliner. But people will make all kinds of wild claims to make a buck.

    When you work though the hoaxes and hype, there’s still a lot of poor documentation and jumps to conclusion. No doubt the military has secret black jets, but there is absolutlely no evidence that there is any alien technology being used. No doubt there are unexplained events, but that still doesn’t prove that aliens are visiting.

    It’s a nice little game to play. Say you saw a UFO, and show a blurry photo of a blimp at an odd angle. Make all kinds of assumptions and claims that there must be some sort of secret conspiracy, and when a government official denies it, used that denial as “proof” that something secret is going on. It’s a self supporting delusion.

    The Air Force, Navy, NASA, local sherriff’s dept isn’t going to investigate every single report or claim they come across. They don’t have the resources or time to do it. Mainly because they know most of these claims are bogus or a waste of time. In fact, they get rather irritated at these crackpot claims because it interferes with their real work.

    People are also gullible, especially the masses. I remember seeing a “UFO” video on youtube where some guy was screaming “what the **** is that?” Because he didn’t know what a B2 bomber was.

  • Jon Hanford June 3, 2009, 5:55 AM

    On a closely related note, 2 Penn state researchers just released a paper entitled ‘The Sustainability Solution to the Fermi Paradox’ (The Fermi Paradox is basically saying that if intelligent extraterrestial life exists, where is it? We should have detected it or have been visited by now. See Wiki for an excellent overview). Anyway, the authors conclude that “The Fermi Paradox cannot logically conclude that humans are the only intelligent civilization in the galaxy.” This short, nontechnical paper can be found here: http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0906/0906.0568.pdf . The authors explain their ‘Sustainability Solution’ and bring up good points for future SETI searches.

  • damian June 3, 2009, 6:55 AM

    The Fermi Paradox is an interesting concept, however it assumes an advanced civilization (like us) How do we reconcile an idea of a advanced intelligence that is not at all like us?

    What if the Universe itself is a technological achievement of an advanced intelligence? (no religious ideas here, purely a hypothetical)

    Thats the kind of definition of alien that is quite beyond our understanding, either by blurry pictures or the Fermi Paradox.

    It seems we are looking for a mirror of ourselves in the universe (and the blurry pictures) rather then considering what constitutes a design of an advanced intelligence.

    Damian K

  • S.E.Cycloid June 3, 2009, 7:33 AM

    Quote: “former astronaut Tom Jones says in the article. If a shuttle beams back 10 hours of Earth views each day, there are bound to be images and scenes that are misunderstood or taken out of context.”
    In other words: Tom Jones says “It’s Not Unusual”.

  • Jon Hanford June 3, 2009, 12:04 PM

    @ damien: you bring up a good point concerning the Fermi Paradox and its dependence on an Earth-based assumptions of human civilizations. My take on the paper I linked to was that the authors started out using anthropocentric assumptions on alien ETI as sort of a baseline and from there derived their assertion that the Fermi Paradox cannot be used as an argument against ETI in our galaxy. Indeed, the authors state “After all, there are many explanations for the absence of ETI civilization” (pg. 7) and “…we cannot rule out the possibility that ETI civilizations may follow a development pattern sufficiently different that we wouldn’t recognize it even if we detected its signal” (pg. 10). So it would seem that totally alien civilizations and their development would not be precluded or conflict with their proposition. This paper presented some thought-provoking dialog on the issue of ETI and the consequences and strategies of future SETI research (I noted their spotlight on the possible detection of past brushes with ETI within the Solar System, sure to get the attention of ‘UFOlogists’. Sorry, no detections yet, according to this paper, just an extrapolation of their arguments).

  • SkepticalEd June 5, 2009, 2:20 PM

    Common sense, logic and reason dictate that NASA can offer prosaic explanations for some of the claimed UFOs videotaped by astronauts. However, NASA also has a history of capturing UFOs that could never be explained prosaicly. They could never be called debris, ice crystals being pushed by thruster firings, etc. Even though Martyn Stubbs can be criticized on some of his claims he did produce a video back in the ’90s showing UFOs that NASA astronauts took great interest in resulting in long-time videotaping. Additionally, before there were shuttles, on some of the trips to the moon by unmanned and manned flights, using analog film, many UFOs were filmed on the way to the moon and fleeting above the surface of the moon. One piece of footage even includes what might be considered acknowledging flashes of light from one particular area which can only be seen using frame-by-frame advance once one videotapes the footage. Let’s keep clear minds here. No one can say with authority that we are being visited by extraterrestrials and no one can say with authority that there is other life in the universe besides us. But the fact is that the reality of UFOs cannot be denied, only fools deny, and that NASA recording equipment has recorded some of these UFOs. It would be downright stupid for NASA personnel and uneducated skeptics to deny what is recorded which is not explainable but it is there for all to see.

    Edward Lopez, UFOlogist since 1957.

  • SkepticalEd June 5, 2009, 3:00 PM

    Jorge Says:
    June 2nd, 2009 at 6:16 pm
    [You see, when you say that nobody has discredited Phil Corso’s work written down in “The Day After Roswell”,]

    Matter of fact: Corso’s claims have been refuted and only a fool would believe them anyway.

    [,,,Stanton Friedman, himself an ufologist who believes that we actually ARE being visited by aliens,]

    Stanton Friedman is the worst person in UFOlogy and I can only think of him as nothing but UFOlogy’s biggest fool and liar. The fact that he believes UFOs are this or that is meaningless since it is a fact that beliefs result from mental conditioning which doesn’t depend on evidence.

    In “THE DAY AFTER ROSWELL”, page 3 of the Introduction, Corso says he wasn’t in Roswell in 1947, and that because he wasn’t there he had to rely on reports of others; IOW, hearsay.

    In Chapter 1, “The Roswell Desert”, page 7, he says: “Although I wasn’t there that night, I’ve heard many different versions. Many of them go like this:” followed by hearsay.

    On page 23, he says: “These are the stories as I heard them, as people later told them to me. I wasn’t there at Roswell that night. I didn’t see these events for myself. I only heard them years later when the task fell on me to make something out of all this.”

    So the title of the book is misleading as it relies on heasay. What fell near Roswell had nothing to do with UFOs nor aliens. It was strictly the debris of a secret civilian/military project and one always has to go to the source for the truth. “Mac” Brazel found and described the debris, nothing alien about it.

    Phil Corso was a deluded man and so are those who support his claims.

    Edward Lopez, UFOlogist/Researcher since 1957.

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