UFO documents released by CIA are ‘real-life X-Files,’ expert says

British investigator said there are some ‘fascinating’ documents in the files

The CIA’s decision to declassify more than three decades worth of UFO documents is a “real-life X-Files,” according to one expert.

Nick Pope, a former employee and UFO investigator for Britain’s Ministry of Defense, said there are some “fascinating” documents in the files, which are more than 2,700 pages. However, the odd manner in which they were released and difficulties searching them will “fuel conspiracy theories.”

“There’s an irony in the UFO community expecting to find a smoking gun in material released by an organization they believe is part of a cover-up, and recent revelations about the Pentagon’s AATIP program and the [Unidentified Aerial Phenomena] Task Force suggest anyone looking in CIA files for the answer to the UFO mystery is looking at the wrong agency,” Pope said in an email to Fox News. “Perhaps these are the documents the government wants people to see, a bit like a magician who does something flamboyant with one hand, to draw people’s attention, while the important thing is going on in his other hand, behind his back.”

Photo by MBARDO on Pexels.com

The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) was formed in 2007 at the behest of former Sen. Harry Reid, Fox News previously reported. It reportedly ceased operations in 2012, but in 2017 The New York Times reported the Department of Defense was still investigating potential episodes of unidentified flying objects.

The recently released documents were uploaded to The Black Vault, a government-centric website run by John Greenewald Jr., who obtained them via a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests over the past few decades.

Last year, Greenwald purchased the CD-ROM that was created by the CIA. In a statement on his website, Greenwald said the CIA “claims this is their ‘entire’ declassified collection,” but added there is no way to verify that. “Research by The Black Vault will continue to see if there are additional documents still uncovered within the CIA’s holdings.”

There are a number of individual documents in the release, including the 1976 story of a government official being handed intelligence on  countless UFO sightings.

Perhaps coincidentally, the U.K. also released its so-called “X-files,” a document trove of reported UFO-related sightings early last year. The Royal Air Force ran a UFO unit for 50 years but shut it down in 2009 after coming to the conclusion that none of the reports offered evidence of a real threat.

After the U.K.’s decision to publish reported UFO sightings online, 61% of Americans surveyed said they wanted the U.S. government to do the same. 

The release of the nearly 2,700 pages of declassified documents comes just a couple of weeks after the New York Post reported that the latest COVID-19 relief and government funding bill gave the Pentagon six months to reveal what they know about UFOs. 

In August, the Pentagon announced it was establishing a task force to “detect, analyze and catalog” unidentified aerial phenomena.

FAA Approves First Fully Automated Commercial Drone Flights

American Robotics granted permission to operate drones without hands-on piloting

American Robotics Scout drones use acoustic technology to detect and avoid drones, birds and other obstacles. PHOTO: AMERICAN ROBOTICS

U.S. aviation regulators have approved the first fully automated commercial drone flights, granting a small Massachusetts-based company permission to operate drones without hands-on piloting or direct observation by human controllers or observers.

The decision by the Federal Aviation Administration limits operation of automated drones to rural areas and altitudes below 400 feet, but is a potentially significant step in expanding commercial applications of drones for farmers, utilities, mining companies and other customers.

It also represents another step in the FAA’s broader effort to authorize widespread flights by shifting away from case-by-case exemptions for specific vehicles performing specific tasks.

In approval documents posted on a government website Thursday, the FAA said that once such automated drone operations are conducted on a wider scale, they could mean “efficiencies to many of the industries that fuel our economy such as agriculture, mining, transportation” and certain manufacturing segments.

The FAA previously allowed drones to inspect railroad tracks, pipelines and some industrial sites beyond the sight of pilots or spotters on the ground as long as such individuals were located relatively close by.

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the nation’s first-ever fully automated commercial drone flights.

In documents posted to the FAA website, Massachusetts-based American Robotics Inc. got a partial grant of exemption on Jan. 14 that allows unmanned aircraft to fly beyond the line of sight of a remote pilot.

Signed by Flight Standards Service Deputy Executive Director Robert C. Carty, the grant allows American Robotics to operate its Scout quadcopter unmanned aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 20 pounds, in rural settings for research, development and training.

According to the grant, American Robotics’ operation would occur only during daylight in unregulated low-altitude areas with light air traffic and would be limited to 400 feet above ground.

In addition, any individual flights would occur within the boundaries of American Robotics’ customers’ “controlled access farmland” or similar rural environments meeting the same criteria.

“We conduct thorough safety assessments before issuing any unmanned aircraft operation approvals,” the FAA wrote to Fox Business on Saturday.

The agency also highlighted public interest in the case, writing that regulators would learn more about automated operations by allowing American Robotics to proceed with its endeavors.

“Once adopted on a wider scale, such a scheme could lend efficiencies to many of the industries that fuel our economy such as agriculture, transportation, mining, technology, and non-durable manufacturing,” the agency added. “Moreover, the operations will achieve a reduction in environmental impact, as they will involve a small aircraft carrying no passengers or crew, rather than a manned aircraft of significantly greater size.”Video

In order to meet standards, American Robotics tested fully automated drones for four years in eight states, according to initial reporting from The Wall Street Journal.

The Marlborough company’s Scout drones run on predetermined programs and weigh less than 20 pounds. They also have built-in acoustic technology to avoid birds and other aircraft, and safeguards to prevent malfunctions.

“With these approvals, American Robotics is ushering in a new era of widespread automated drone operations,” American Robotics co-founder and CEO Reese Mozer in a press release.

“Decades worth of promise and projection are finally coming to fruition” and will help to unlock the $100 billion commercial drone market.

Previously, the FAA allowed drones to inspect railroad tracks, industrial sites and pipelines, as long as pilots or spotters were in sight.

In December, the FAA said it would issue a long-awaited rule to allow for small drones to fly over people and at night, as well as require remote identification for most drones.

“The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement. “They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”

Mars missions, a super-powered telescope, and more exciting 2021 space events

Many exciting 2021 space events in store!

An artist's impression of the James Webb Space Telescope, finally set to launch this year.
An artist’s impression of the James Webb Space Telescope, finally set to launch this year.Northrop Grumman

Like nearly everything else in the world, space exploration hit a coronavirus-sized pause button early last year. But we were still able to thrust our way into the cosmos in an otherwise difficult, stressful 2020. And 2021 looks to be a pretty busy time for space both on the ground and out in the void. Here’s a list of missions we’re excited about so you can look forward to what cosmic insights this next orbit around the sun could bring.

A trio of Mars missions

For Mars fans, February will be an exciting month. The Red Planet will welcome the arrival of not one, not two, but three missions.

The first to arrive will be the United Arab Emirates’ Hope spacecraft, or Al Amal. The mission, which is due to arrive on February 9, will send valuable data back to Earth about Mars’ climate and weather. Assuming all goes well, this will mark the first Arab mission to Mars—or any other planet for that matter.

NASA’s Perseverance will touch down on Mars’ Jezero Crater, the site of a former lake, on February 18, where it will perform the most extensive search for past life on Mars to date. Built on the same basic bones as the Curiosity rover which has been trucking away on Mars since 2011, the car-sized Perseverance rover carries different instruments designed to search for signs of past microbial life. It will also deploy Ingenuity, a small helicopter that will demonstrate the first powered flight launched from the surface of another planet. Even more significant, Perseverance will cache the most intriguing Mars samples so that they can eventually be collected and brought back to Earth as early as 2031.

China, ever secretive about its space program, has not said when exactly its ambitious Tianwen-1 mission will arrive at Mars. It’s expected in mid-February where it’ll remain in orbit before sending a lander containing a rover to the surface in May. If it succeeds, China will become the third country to land something on Mars.

A next-generation space observatory

The much-delayed and highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope, plagued by technical problems and mounting costs, will also launch this year (fingers crossed). On October 31st, the Hubble Space Telescope’s successor will be positioned over 932,000 miles from Earth, where it will afford us unprecedented views of the universe in infrared; it’ll be the largest telescope ever placed in space, with 100 times Hubble’s light-gathering power.

“Webb is designed to build upon the incredible legacies of the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, by observing the infrared universe and exploring every phase of cosmic history,” said Eric Smith, NASA Webb’s program scientist, in a statement. “The observatory will detect light from the first generation of galaxies that formed in the early universe after the big bang and study the atmospheres of nearby exoplanets for possible signs of habitability.”

‘Lucy’ in the sky with carbon-rich asteroids

In October, NASA is set to launch the Lucy spacecraft. Over its 12-year mission, Lucy will visit the so-called Jovian Trojans—asteroids that share the same orbit as Jupiter but float hundreds of millions of miles ahead or behind the planet, trapped there by the giant planet’s gravity. It’s thought that the Trojan asteroids could hold clues to understanding the early Solar System—and perhaps even clues to the origins of Earth’s organic material.

Back to the Moon

Several missions are shooting for the Moon this year.

The first of NASA’s Artemis missions—an uncrewed test mission known as Artemis 1—is expected to launch in November 2021. The mission will provide engineers back on Earth with a chance to evaluate how the spacecraft performs in deep space and serve as a prelude to returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024.ADVERTISEMENT

In March, India is planning to launch its third lunar mission: Chandrayaan-3. This would be a second attempt at landing on the Moon after the crash of the Vikram lander on the Chandrayaan-2 mission in 2019. If all goes well, the Chandrayaan-3 rover will touch down on the lunar south pole’s Aitken basin—a 1,500-mile-wide scar created when an asteroid slammed into the Moon around 3.9 billion years ago.

And after a decades-long hiatus, Russia’s opening moonshot to reactivate the Russian lunar program plans is known as Luna 25. The much-delayed mission, which has been in development since the late 1990s, is tentatively set for launch in October 2021.

The poster child of commercial space

Last year, SpaceX made history when its Crew Dragon spacecraft proved it can ferry NASA astronauts to humanity’s home away from home—the International Space Station. SpaceX is expected to make those sort of trips routine, with two likely happening later this year. And 2021 might also be the year that we see SpaceX’s 165-foot-tall Starship vehicle, designed to one day take humans to the Red Planet, make it into orbit. Despite a beautiful belly-flopping opera with an explosive finale, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said last year he was “80 to 90 percent” confident that Starship would be ready by the end of 2021.ADVERTISEMENThttps://e893246bedbf0789049fc8236493320d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Notable things to look for in the sky

You can also feast your eyes upon cosmic spectacles from your own abode. On June 10, there will be an annular solar eclipse. That phenomenon occurs when the Moon is farthest away from the Earth to completely cover the Sun, resulting in a ring of light around the darkened moon. Much of Europe and the northeastern United States will see a partial solar eclipse. The best meteor shower of the year may be the Perseids, named that way since they appear to originate from the constellation Perseus in the sky. The stellar light show will peak right in the height of summer in mid-August. So, here’s a simple yet wondrous resolution for the new year: Look up!

NASA finds an alien planet with 3 suns

KOI-5Ab is approximately 1,800 light-years from Earth

NASA has discovered an exoplanet with three stars, one with a bizarre orbit that has left astronomers baffled.

The planet, known as KOI-5Ab was discovered in 2009 by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, but it was “abandoned” by scientists because the space telescope had easier candidates to identify.

“KOI-5Ab got abandoned because it was complicated, and we had thousands of candidates,” said David Ciardi, chief scientist of NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute, in a statement. “There were easier pickings than KOI-5Ab, and we were learning something new from Kepler every day, so that KOI-5 was mostly forgotten.”

This illustration shows the planet KOI-5Ab transiting across the face of a Sun-like star, which is part of a triple-star system located 1,800 light-years away in the Cygnus constellation. (Credits: Caltech/R. Hurt Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, or IPAC.)

This illustration shows the planet KOI-5Ab transiting across the face of a Sun-like star, which is part of a triple-star system located 1,800 light-years away in the Cygnus constellation. (Credits: Caltech/R. Hurt Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, or IPAC.)

KOI-5Ab is approximately 1,800 light-years from Earth. A light-year, which measures distance in space, is approximately 6 trillion miles.

However, thanks to NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and other Earth-based telescopes, KOA-5Ab has been given new life, with researchers discovering its perplexing orbit.

Due to its size, KOA-5Ab is likely a gas giant, similar to Jupiter or Saturn, but it circles a star in its star system, KOA-5A, once every five days. It’s also out of alignment from at least one of the other two stars and possibly both. 

“We don’t know of many planets that exist in triple-star systems, and this one is extra special because its orbit is skewed,” Ciardi added. “We still have a lot of questions about how and when planets can form in multiple-star systems and how their properties compare to planets in single-star systems. By studying this system in greater detail, perhaps we can gain insight into how the universe makes planets.”

In contrast, KOI-5A orbit KOI-5B each other, once every 30 years. KOI-5C orbits the two once every 400 years, leaving the four celestial objects in a skewed orbit as a result of different planes.https://8ad8b944968071790736e215a8f8d54d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

It’s unclear what caused the skewed orbit, though they “believe that the second star gravitationally kicked the planet during its development, skewing its orbit and causing it to migrate inward,” the NASA statement added. It’s believed that triple-star systems are roughly 10% of all star systems.

The findings were recently presented at a virtual meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Researchers have discovered other planets with three stars in recent memory. In July 2019, exoplanet LTT 1445Ab was found to orbit one of the three suns, all of which are described as mid-to-late-life red dwarfs.

In September 2020, researchers discovered that the GW Orionis star system, which is located at the edge of the Orion constellation, has two stars that orbit one another with the third orbiting the two siblings at a distance of approximately 740 million miles. Inside the rings could be dust, or the beginnings of a young exoplanet, which could explain the misalignment of the system’s gravitational pull.

More than 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered by NASA in total, approximately 50 of which were believed to potentially be habitable as of September 2018. They have the right size and the right orbit of their star to support surface water and, at least theoretically, to support life.

Astronomers Discover New ‘Celestial Autobahn’ in Solar System

An international team of astronomers from Serbia and the United States has discovered a new superhighway network to travel through our Solar System much faster than was previously possible.

A whimsical view of the planets of our Solar System and the missions sent from Earth to explore them. Image credit: Jenny Mottar / NASA.

The newly-discovered routes can drive comets and asteroids near Jupiter to Neptune’s distance in under a decade and to 100 AU (astronomical units) in less than a century.

They could be used to send spacecraft to the far reaches of our planetary system relatively fast, and to monitor and understand near-Earth objects that might collide with our planet.

Dr. Nataša Todorović of Belgrade Astronomical Observatory and colleagues observed the dynamical structure of these routes, forming a connected series of arches inside what’s known as space manifolds that extend from the asteroid belt to Uranus and beyond.

This ‘celestial autobahn’ acts over several decades, as opposed to the hundreds of thousands or millions of years that usually characterize Solar System dynamics.

The most conspicuous arch structures are linked to Jupiter and the strong gravitational forces it exerts.

The population of Jupiter-family comets as well as small-size bodies known as Centaurs is controlled by such manifolds on unprecedented time scales.

Some of these bodies will end up colliding with Jupiter or being ejected from the Solar System.

The structures were resolved by gathering numerical data about millions of orbits in our Solar System and computing how these orbits fit within already-known space manifolds.

Global arch-like structure of space manifolds in the Solar System. Image credit: Todorović et al., doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abd1313.

The results need to be studied further, both to determine how they could be used by spacecraft, or how such manifolds behave in the vicinity of the Earth, controlling the asteroid and meteorite encounters, as well as the growing population of artificial man-made objects in the Earth-Moon system.

“It should come at no surprise that Jupiter can induce large-scale transport on decadal time scales, as space missions have been specifically designed for Jupiter-assisted transport, with the flybys of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 being cardinal examples,” the astronomers said.

“That gravity assists can be enabled by manifolds is also well known to astrodynamicists.”

“Yet, their widespread influence on natural celestial bodies has been largely undervalued and unexplored.”

The team’s paper was published in the journal Science Advances.

NASA helps cement plan to return to the moon

JAXA will provide technical expertise, devices for a life support and environmental control system, batteries, thermal control and imagery components

Though NASA may have trouble returning to the moon by 2024, the U.S. space agency is doing what it can to eventually explore the lunar surface, announcing a formal partnership with Japan for the lunar Gateway. 

NASA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) formally announced the agreement that will see JAXA contribute to the Gateway, providing technical expertise, devices for life support and environmental control system, batteries, thermal control and imagery components. 

“We’re honored to announce this latest agreement with Japan to support long-term human exploration on and around the Moon as part of the Artemis program,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement. “Strengthening our international partnerships and commitments to Artemis puts humanity on a solid path to achieve our common goals of sustainable lunar exploration by the end of this decade.”

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Illustration of Gateway in lunar orbit with contributions from international partners. (NASA)

Illustration of Gateway in lunar orbit with contributions from international partners. (NASA)

A memorandum of understanding was signed between NASA and Japan at the end of 2020, the Japanese Foreign Ministry has said previously.

In addition, the new agreement will allow opportunities for Japanese astronauts to access the Gateway, which NASA said “will be determined following additional discussions, and documented in a future arrangement.”

“Leveraging the capabilities that international partners contribute to Gateway will be key to enabling access to the lunar surface,” added Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. “We are pleased to move forward in these groundbreaking efforts with Japan and our other partners.”

The Gateway, which is approximately one-sixth the size of the International Space Station, will act as a “rendezvous point” for astronauts traveling to the lunar orbit aboard the Orion spacecraft before they make their way to low-lunar orbit and ultimately, the surface. It will be used for both robotic and human expeditions to both the moon and Mars.

“The capabilities provided by Japan are critical to enabling the interior environment of the Gateway allowing our crews to live and work for longer durations,” explained Dan Hartman, Gateway program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “With the life support systems from Japan, longer duration missions for the Artemis crews can be accomplished with reduced demands on logistics resupply.”

Japan becomes the third international partner to commit to the Gateway. In October 2020, NASA and the European Space Agency signed a deal to cooperate on the Gateway. One month later, the U.S. and Canada signed a deal to collaborate on the lunar outpost as well.

The Gateway will be used as a base for NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program. In 2019, NASA unveiled its vision for the Artemis moon lander that will return U.S. astronauts to the lunar surface.

The Artemis program, the successor to the Apollo program, is notable for a number of reasons, including its goals of sending the first woman to land on the lunar surface and establishing a sustainable human presence on Earth’s natural satellite.

To date, only 12 people, all Americans, have landed on the moon. The last NASA astronaut to set foot on the moon was Apollo 17 Mission Commander Gene Cernan on Dec. 14, 1972.

Rolls-Royce and UK Space Agency launch study into nuclear-powered space exploration

The UK Space Agency and Rolls-Royce are joining forces for a unique study into how nuclear power and technologies could be used as part of space exploration.

Credit: Rolls-Royce

This new research contract will see planetary scientists work together to explore the game-changing potential of nuclear power as a more plentiful source of energy, capable of making possible deeper space exploration in the decades to come.

Nuclear propulsion, which would involve channelling the immense energy released in splitting the atom to accelerate propellants, like hydrogen, at huge speeds, has the potential to revolutionise space travel.

By some estimates, this kind of engine could be twice as efficient as the chemical engines that power our rockets today. Spacecraft powered by this kind of engine could, conceivably, make it to Mars in just 3 to 4 months – roughly half the time of the fastest possible trip in a spacecraft using the current chemical propulsion.

Nuclear space power is anticipated to create new skilled jobs across the UK to support the burgeoning UK space economy.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:

As we build back better from the pandemic, it is partnerships like this between business, industry and government that will help to create jobs and bring forward pioneering innovations that will advance UK spaceflight.

Nuclear power presents transformative possibilities for space exploration and this innovative study with Rolls-Royce could help to propel our next generation of astronauts into space faster and for longer, significantly increasing our knowledge of the Universe.

Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:

Space nuclear power and propulsion is a game-changing concept that could unlock future deep-space missions that take us to Mars and beyond.

This study will help us understand the exciting potential of atomic-powered spacecraft, and whether this nascent technology could help us travel further and faster through space than ever before.

Dave Gordon, UK Senior Vice President, Rolls-Royce Defence said:

We are excited to be working with the UK Space Agency on this pioneering project to define future nuclear power technologies for space. We believe there is a real niche UK capability in this area and this initiative can build on the strong UK nuclear network and supply chain.

We look forward to developing this and other exciting space projects in the future as we continue to develop the power to protect our planet, secure our world and explore our Universe.

It would not just mean a time saving – it would also radically reduce the dose of radiation taken on by astronauts that would be making future trips to Mars or other planets. The size of the dose increases the longer you spend in deep space, away from the bubble of protection given by the Earth’s magnetosphere.

The appeal of a small nuclear power generator for propulsion also comes from the fact that power in space becomes increasingly precious with distance from the Sun. In the outer Solar System, sunlight gets too dim for solar panels, and other technologies like fuel cells are often too patchy as a source of energy.

Nuclear propulsion is an idea that has existed since the 1950s, when the United States attempted to develop a rocket propelled by small atomic bombs tossed out the back.

CIA releases UFO ‘Black Vault’ documents early: How to see them online

Pentagon is slated to brief Congress on UFOs soon

Federal intelligence on extraterrestrial technology — at your fingertips.

By way of the Freedom of Information Act, thousands of the CIA documents on unidentified flying objects — or unidentified aerial phenomena, as the government calls them — are now accessible via download at the Black Vault, a website operated by author and podcaster John Greenwald Jr.

Photo by Lucas Pezeta on Pexels.com

The CIA claims they have now provided all the information on UAP they have, though there is no way to know that’s true.

“Research by The Black Vault will continue to see if there are additional documents still uncovered within the CIA’s holdings,” Greenwald promised in a statement on his website.

The release comes months before the Pentagon was due to brief Congress on what the military knows about UAP — a date dictated in the most recent COVID-19 relief bill which passed in late December.

The demands for alien intel became so many that the CIA eventually compiled it onto a CD-ROM, obtained by Greenwald and uploaded to the Black Vault, divvied into dozens of downloadable PDFs.

Greenwald told Vice’s Motherboard that he believes the documents are made difficult to parse for calculated reasons.

“The CIA has made it INCREDIBLY difficult to use their records in a reasonable manner,” he said of the “outdated” file format. “In my opinion, this outdated format makes it very difficult for people to see the documents, and use them, for any research purpose.”

Greenwald had filed multiple FOIA requests during the past two decades in pursuit of non-confidential findings on UAP collected by the US government since 1996, he said in a Jan. 7 blog post. In a 2020 interview, he told the Columbia Journalism Review that he began to inquire with the CIA as a teenager.

“You can take something that took more than a decade to come to my mailbox and give it to the public for free in an instant — that’s why I do it,” he said at the time. “I’m fairly hooked on the whole FOIA thing.”

Among the cache’s most intriguing clues is a heavily redacted document that shows that a former CIA assistant deputy director for science and technology “exhibited interest” in one particular unnamed object.

“He decided he would personally look into it, and after, he gave advice on moving forward. That advice is classified,” Greenwald tweeted from the Black Vault Twitter account.

The dump comes at a moment in history when Americans are particularly interested in alien intelligence, indicated by a recent uptick in UFO sightings, and viral popularity of media relating to extraterrestrial life.

Last year, the Defense Department officially declassified shocking video taken by Navy pilots in 2004 and 2015, which made international headlines when it was first leaked by To The Stars Academy, a UFO research group founded by former Blink-182 rocker Tom DeLonge in 2017 and 2018.

At the time, the department asserted that the footage “does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems” and “does not impinge on any subsequent investigations.”

The Nuclear Salt Water Rocket – Possibly the Craziest Rocket Engine Ever Imagined.

The Nuclear Salt Water Rocket is a rocket engine concept that uses a rapid nuclear reaction in a Uranium salt dissolved in water to create a high thrust, high efficiency engine which eclipses the performance of any rocket engine ever designed. It’s a concept originally presented by Robert Zubrin, which is appealing because it looks more scientifically plausable than many other futuristic propulsion concepts.

It’s also scary on so many levels, using a propellent that has to be stabilized by specially designed tanks, and relies on managing a small nuclear explosion with power outputs of hundreds of gigawatts.

Proposed design
Orthodox chemical rockets use heat energy produced by chemical reactions in a reaction chamber to heat the gas products. The products are then expelled through a propulsion nozzle at a very high speed, creating thrust. In a nuclear thermal rocket (NTR), thrust is created by heating a fluid by using a nuclear fission reactor. The lower the molecular weight of the exhaust, hydrogen having the lowest possible, the more efficient the motor can be. However, in this engine the propellant can be anything with suitable properties as there will be no reaction on the part of the propellant. In a NSWR the nuclear salt-water would be made to flow through a reaction chamber and out of an exhaust nozzle in such a way and at such speeds that critical mass will begin once the chamber is filled to a certain point; however, the peak neutron flux of the fission reaction would occur outside the vehicle.

Advantages of the design
There are several advantages relative to conventional NTR designs. As the peak neutron flux and fission reaction rates would occur outside the vehicle, these activities could be much more vigorous than they could be if it was necessary to house them in a vessel (which would have temperature limits due to materials constraints). Additionally, a contained reactor can only allow a small percentage of its fuel to undergo fission at any given time, otherwise it would overheat and melt down (or explode in a runaway fission chain reaction).[4] The fission reaction in an NSWR is dynamic and because the reaction products are exhausted into space it doesn’t have a limit on the proportion of fission fuel that reacts. In many ways NSWRs combine the advantages of fission reactors and fission bombs.

Because they can harness the power of what is essentially a continuous nuclear fission explosion, NSWRs would have both very high thrust and very high exhaust velocity, meaning that the rocket would be able to accelerate quickly as well as be extremely efficient in terms of propellant usage. The combination of high thrust and high specific impulse is a very rare trait in the rocket world. One design would generate 13 meganewtons of thrust at 66 km/s exhaust velocity (or exceeding 10,000 seconds ISP compared to ~4.5 km/s (450 s ISP) exhaust velocity for the best chemical rockets of today).

The design and calculations discussed above are using 20 percent enriched uranium salts, however, it would be plausible to use another design which would be capable of achieving much higher exhaust velocities (4,700 km/s) and use 2,700 tonnes of highly enriched uranium salts in water to propel a 300 tonne spacecraft up to 3.6% of the speed of light.

“NSWRs share many of the features of Orion propulsion systems, except that NSWRs would generate continuous rather than pulsed thrust and may be workable on much smaller scales than the smallest feasible Orion designs (which are generally large, due to the requirements of the shock-absorber system and the minimum size of efficient nuclear explosives).”

Forget the Christmas Star: Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn will form rare ‘triple conjunction’

It will occur this weekend and again in mid-February

Jupiter’s moon lo was once again partially illuminated with a fiery red glow in late December as a volcano erupted, spewing plumes of gases and lava. NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured images of the volcanic plume during its 17th flyby of the planet. The gas giant’s moon is considered the most active volcanic body in existence.

The “Christmas star,” a rare celestial event that occurs when Jupiter and Saturn, the two largest planets in the Solar System, form what looks like a double planet, was one of the highlights of 2020.

True to form, 2021 promises to top that.

This weekend, Mercury will join the two gas giants in what is being dubbed a “triple conjunction,” as the three planets will be within a couple of degrees from one another in the night sky.

Photo credit: NASA

Photo credit: NASA

“From Friday evening to Monday evening, the planet Mercury will appear to pass first by Saturn and then by Jupiter as it shifts away from the horizon, visible each evening low in the west-southwest and setting before evening twilight ends,” NASA wrote on its website.

According to Forbes, the three planets will be in the same two degrees of the sky in the Capricorn constellation.

EarthSky.org notes skywatchers may need binoculars to catch some of the planets, but the event can be seen by looking for Jupiter first, then spotting Saturn and Mercury. Jupiter will be the brightest of the trio.

The science website adds that it is best to “find an unobstructed horizon in the direction of sunset” to see these planets, starting stargazing no less than 45 minutes after sundown.

Unlike the “Christmas star,” this triple conjunction of planets has happened recently, last occurring in October 2015. By comparison, Jupiter and Saturn form a double conjunction once every roughly 20 years, though the most recent event was the closest the two had been to each other since 1226 A.D.

After this weekend, the next time the trio will form a triple conjunction is Feb. 13, 2021, just before Valentine’s Day.

The next two triple conjunctions are set for April 20, 2026 (Mercury, Mars, Saturn) and June 16, 2028, when Mercury, Venus and Mars make up the event.

What It’ll Take To Upload Our Brains To A Computer

As long as people have been alive, they’ve wanted to stay alive. But unlike finding the fountain of youth or becoming a vampire, uploading your brain to a computer or the cloud might actually be possible. Theoretically, we already know how to do it, and Elon Musk is even trying a brain implant with Neuralink. But technically, we have a long way to go. We explain the main technological advancements that we’ll need to make whole brain emulation a reality.

Mind uploading, also known as whole brain emulation (WBE), is the hypothetical futuristic process of scanning a physical structure of the brain accurately enough to create an emulation of the mental state (including long-term memory and “self”) and copying it to a computer in a digital form. The computer would then run a simulation of the brain’s information processing, such that it would respond in essentially the same way as the original brain and experience having a sentient conscious mind.

Substantial mainstream research in related areas is being conducted in animal brain mapping and simulation, development of faster supercomputers, virtual realitybrain–computer interfacesconnectomics, and information extraction from dynamically functioning brains. According to supporters, many of the tools and ideas needed to achieve mind uploading already exist or are currently under active development; however, they will admit that others are, as yet, very speculative, but say they are still in the realm of engineering possibility.

Mind uploading may potentially be accomplished by either of two methods: Copy-and-upload or copy-and-delete by gradual replacement of neurons (which can be considered as a gradual destructive uploading), until the original organic brain no longer exists and a computer program emulating the brain takes control over the body. In the case of the former method, mind uploading would be achieved by scanning and mapping the salient features of a biological brain, and then by storing and copying, that information state into a computer system or another computational device. The biological brain may not survive the copying process or may be deliberately destroyed during it in some variants of uploading. The simulated mind could be within a virtual reality or simulated world, supported by an anatomic 3D body simulation model. Alternatively the simulated mind could reside in a computer inside (or either connected to or remotely controlled) a (not necessarily humanoidrobot or a biological or cybernetic body.

Among some futurists and within the part of transhumanist movement, mind uploading is treated as an important proposed life extension technology. Some believe mind uploading is humanity’s current best option for preserving the identity of the species, as opposed to cryonics. Another aim of mind uploading is to provide a permanent backup to our “mind-file”, to enable interstellar space travels, and a means for human culture to survive a global disaster by making a functional copy of a human society in a computing device. Whole brain emulation is discussed by some futurists as a “logical endpoint” of the topical computational neuroscience and neuroinformatics fields, both about brain simulation for medical research purposes. It is discussed in artificial intelligence research publications as an approach to strong AI (Artificial general intelligence) and to at least weak superintelligence. Another approach is seed AI, which wouldn’t be based on existing brains. Computer-based intelligence such as an upload could think much faster than a biological human even if it were no more intelligent. A large-scale society of uploads might, according to futurists, give rise to a technological singularity, meaning a sudden time constant decrease in the exponential development of technology. Mind uploading is a central conceptual feature of numerous science fiction novels, films, and games.

Scientists Propose Permanent Human Habitat Built Orbiting Ceres

CERES STATION

It’s like something straight out of “The Expanse.”

A group of Finnish researchers are proposing a permanent human habitat in the orbit of Ceres, a massive asteroid and dwarf planet in the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter.

According to the team, this “megasatellite settlement” could be built by collecting materials from Ceres itself.

If that sounds familiar to fans of the popular sci-fi book and TV series “The Expanse,” that’s because in that fictional universe, Ceres Station plays a pivotal role as one of humanity’s first human off-world colonies. In the series, however, the space rock itself was spun up to create a crewed habitat on its surface with artificial gravity.

In a paper uploaded to the prewrite repository arXiv this week, the team argues that Ceres would be prime real estate because it has nitrogen, which could enable the creation of an Earth-like atmosphere.

In fact, they argue that the environment could even be “better than Earth,” since there’s no adverse weather or natural disasters, and plenty of living space to grow into.

They propose a number of smaller spinning satellites, attached to each other via magnetic tethers to create a massive disk-shaped megasatellite. Artificial gravity approximately equal to that of Earth could be achieved by spinning the massive structure around Ceres.

Such a habitat would have to make a full rotation around the dwarf planet in just 66 seconds to maintain the artificial gravity.

Connecting each habitat would be maglev train-like vehicles, a weightless experience to passengers.

“When first encountered, weightlessness causes nausea and vomiting for some people,” the paper reads. “However, in a settlement where people experience occasional weightlessness from childhood, it is plausible to think that they can tolerate it well during short trips.”

The settlement could also act as a stepping stone to other reaches of the solar system.

“The motivation is to have a settlement with artificial gravity that allows growth beyond Earth’s living area, while also providing easy intra-settlement travel for the inhabitants and reasonably low population density of 500/km2,” the abstract reads. That’s about the population density of New Jersey.

Thanks to its low gravity and fast rotation, the researchers argue that a “space elevator is feasible,” allowing easy transportation of materials from Ceres to other settlements without the need for much fuel.

So what about space radiation and the threat of meteorite impacts? The team has considered those threats as well. They propose a set of massive cylindrical mirrors that could do double duty by collecting sunlight and passing it onto the habitat, while also blocking submeter scale meteoroids.

The Earth has been spinning faster lately

earth
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Scientists around the world have noted that the Earth has been spinning on its axis faster lately—the fastest ever recorded. Several scientists have spoken to the press about the unusual phenomenon, with some pointing out that this past year saw some of the shortest days ever recorded.

For most of the history of mankind, time has been marked by the 24-hour day/night cycle (with some alterations made for convenience as the seasons change). The cycle is governed by the speed at which the planet spins on its axis. Because of that, the length of a day has become the standard by which time is marked—each day lasts approximately 86,400 seconds. The day/night cycle is remarkably consistent despite the fact that it actually varies slightly on a regular basis.

Several decades ago, the development of atomic clocks began allowing scientists to record the passage of time in incredibly small increments, in turn, allowing for measuring the length of a given day down to the millisecond. And that has led to the discovery that the spin of the planet is actually far more variable than once thought. Since such measurements began, scientists have also found that the Earth was slowing its spin very gradually (compensated by the insertion of a leap second now and then)—until this past year, when it began spinning faster—so much so that some in the field have begun to wonder if a negative leap negative second might be needed this year, an unprecedented suggestion. Scientists also noted that this past summer, on July 19, the shortest day ever was recorded—it was 1.4602 milliseconds shorter than the standard.

Planetary scientists are not concerned about the new finding; they have learned that there are many factors that have an impact on planetary spin—including the moon’s pull, snowfall levels and mountain erosion. They also have begun wondering if global warming might push the Earth to spin faster as the snow caps and high-altitude snows begin disappearing. Computer scientists, on the other hand, are somewhat concerned about the shifting spin speed—so much of modern technology is based on what they describe as “true time.” Adding a negative leap second could lead to problems, so some have suggested shifting the world’s clocks from solar time to atomic time.

Subaru Telescope Captures Images of Near-Earth Asteroid 1998 KY26

Astronomers using the Subaru Telescope have produced spectacular images of 1998 KY26, a future asteroid target of JAXA’s Hayabusa-2 spacecraft.

This image, taken with the Hyper Suprime-Cam on the Subaru Telescope, shows the near-Earth asteroid 1998 KY26. Image credit: National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

1998 KY26 is a nearly spherical and potentially metallic asteroid, classified as a near-Earth object of the Apollo group.

The object was discovered on June 2, 1998, by the Spacewatch survey at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

1998 KY26 has a diameter of approximately 30 m (100 feet) and a rotational period of 10.7 min.

It orbits the Sun at a distance of 1-1.5 AU (astronomical units) once every 500 days.

1998 KY26 is one of the two targets for up-close study by the Hayabusa-2 extended mission.

“After returning its reentry capsule to Earth, Hayabusa-2 departed for a new target object — a small asteroid known as 1998 KY26,” said Dr. Michitoshi Yoshida, director of the Subaru Telescope and an astronomer at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

“This will be the first mission to this small asteroid, so it is very meaningful both in terms of planetary science and planetary defense.”

On December 10, 2020, 1998 KY26 was photographed in the direction of the constellation Gemini as a 25.4-magnitude point of light.

“We successfully photographed the next target asteroid for Hayabusa-2,” Dr. Yoshida said.

“We hope that these data will facilitate Hayabusa-2’s new mission.”

“These Subaru Telescope observations will not only become very important data for Hayabusa-2’s extended mission, they will also give a boost to future missions,” said Hayabusa-2 mission manager Dr. Makoto Yoshikawa, a researcher in JAXA’s Institute for Space and Astronautical Science.

“We are grateful to everyone at the Subaru Telescope.”

The astronomers reported their observations of 1998 KY26 in the Minor Planet Electronic Circular.

A CIA spyplane crashed outside Area 51 a half-century ago. This explorer found it.

How urban explorers uncovered the site—and the memory—of a covert Cold War–era accident.

Lockheed A 12
Stealth A-12 jets were never meant to be seen, then one went missing in the Nevada desert.US Air Force

“Oxcart” was an odd nickname for the plane that killed pilot Walter Ray. Oxcarts are slow, cumbersome, and old. Ray’s A-12 jet, meanwhile, was fast, almost invisible, and novel. Among the US’s first attempts at stealth aircraft, it could travel as quickly as a rifle bullet, and fly at altitudes around 90,000 feet. On a radar screen, it appeared as barely a blip—all the better to spy on Soviets with—and had only one seat.

On January 5, 1967, that single space belonged to Ray, a quiet, clean-cut 33-year old who spent his workdays inside Area 51, then the CIA’s advanced-aviation research facility. Set atop the dried-up bed of Groom Lake in the Nevada desert, the now-infamous spot made for good runways, and was remote enough to keep prying eyes off covert Cold War projects. On the books, Ray was a civilian pilot for Lockheed Martin. In reality, and in secret, he reported to the CIA.

Ray’s last morning on Earth was chilled and windy, with clouds moving in and preparing to drop snow on the nearby mountains. He took off for his four-hour flight to Florida and back a minute ahead of schedule at 11:59 a.m., the sleek curves of the Oxcart’s titanium body triggering sonic shock waves (booms) as it sliced through the atmosphere. He’d done this many times, having already logged 358 hours in these crafts.

At 3:22 p.m., Ray radioed back to base: His gas was low. “I don’t know where my fuel’s gone to,” he said. He lowered the plane out of the speedy headwinds, hoping to save some fuel. But the altitude change couldn’t cut his consumption enough.

Thirty-eight minutes later, Ray radioed in more bad news.

The fuel tank’s low-pressure lights had blinked on. The A-12′s jet engines—so powerful that the director of central intelligence once said they sounded as if “the Devil himself were blasting his way straight from Hell”—began to fail, then sputtered out.

At 4:02, Ray sent his final known transmission: He was going to eject.

Home Plate—as this group of airmen referred to Area 51—began to search. They hoped to hear a transmission from the shortwave radio in his survival kit. For them, this hunt was also personal. Many worked on the same mission as Ray: developing planes that didn’t exist in a place that didn’t exist, sometimes risking an accident like this, which also wouldn’t exist.

Isolated in the desert, the group of about 30 staffers Barnes worked with on the site’s Special Projects felt like family. “We went up on Monday morning, came home Friday night,” recalls former Area 51 crewmember T.D. Barnes. “We couldn’t tell our wives where we were at or what we were doing.”

At 3:25 p.m. the next day, a helicopter found the plane, strewn across three canyons. The crews cut a road through the sand to schlep out the debris before anyone else found it—and found out about the secret flight.ADVERTISEMENT

Two days after takeoff, a CIA aircraft finally spotted Ray’s parachute, and men helicoptered in to locate their comrade. His chute formed a shroud around his body, and his ejection seat sat some 50 yards above him on the hillside. The two hadn’t separated, his parachute hadn’t deployed, and so he had slammed straight into the Earth. Blood spattered the ground, but Ray’s boots still had their spurs.

To explain the aerial search going on, the Air Force told the public a cover story: An SR-71 Blackbird—whose existence had recently been revealed–flying out of Edwards Air Force Base, had gone down.

For years, Ray’s crash sites remained largely hidden from the public. But in the late 1990s, an explorer named Jeremy Krans began what would become a decades-long quest to uncover it all, and ultimately to make Ray’s once-classified life public. “I felt that we needed to do something,” he says, “because nobody knows who the hell Walt is.”

Krans had a pastime that gave him the skills to do something about it: urban exploring, sometimes called “urbex” by the initiated. It’s the art of adventuring in and around abandoned or hidden structures, urban and otherwise. Urbexers scavenger-hunt for sites and then crawl through closed tunnels, scour old buildings, flashlight around finished mines, and trek through old military bases. The community—small and loose but dedicated, lurking and sharing on forums and blogs—is populated by photographers and amateur historians. They like to go places that used to be something else, to someone else. They’ve uncovered spots others likely never knew about, like the New Jersey State Hospital for the Insane and the rainwater drains under Sydney. Krans, once a frequent poster on the urbex forum UER.ca, has always favored defense sites, beginning with empty missile silos and ghostly military installations in his early 20s.

In 1995, he and a group of like-minded friends formed an exploratory crew dubbed “Strategic Beer Command” (a riff on the US’s then-recently disbanded Strategic Air Command). It would be a few years before they’d learn of Ray’s site, but the motivation was already there: a desire to remember what the rest of the world had forgotten.


Krans’s interest in aviation goes back to the 1980s, when his dad, a machinist fascinated by engineering and innovative planes, would sometimes bring home jet models. Krans’s favorite was the SR-71 Blackbird, a Cylon-ship of a craft, and the follow-on to the A-12 he’d one day search out. Meanwhile, Krans devoured films like Indiana Jones and The Goonies—tales of explorers and treasure-hunters.

His own journey into such journeying began just months after his father passed away. Krans’s employer, a General Motors dealership, had sent him to its Automotive Service Educational Program. He felt lost and listless, and spent hours killing time between classes in the school’s computer lab, largely sucked into websites about Area 51, where he had recently made a road trip. He started reading Bluefire, a blog run by a guy named Tom Mahood. In 1997, Mahood spun a tale of searching for—and finding—a long-lost A-12 crash site. It had taken him more than two years, 20 trips, and $6,000 to replace a sunk truck.

Mahood was a veteran prober of Area 51 secrets, having, for instance, dug into the conspiratorial claims of Bob Lazar, whose stories underpin most of the site’s alien lore. (The site’s true Cold War purpose wouldn’t be acknowledged until 2013.) Mahood first read about the A-12 crash in The Oxcart Story, a 1996 CIA history of the plane’s development, which said only that Ray’s craft had gone down about 70 miles from Groom Lake. That’s not a lot to go on. The lack of information appealed to Krans: a quest.

I’ve been here too many times and know too many places that it wasn’t. Like a life-size game of Battleship, it just can’t hide anymore.

– Jeremy Krans

Before Bluefire, Krans hadn’t heard of an A-12, let alone one that had gone down in the desert. The jet, he soon learned, was a marvel in its time. It could fly nearly four miles higher and four times faster (around 2,200 miles per hour, or nearly three times the speed of sound) than its predecessor, the U-2.

At such speeds, friction with the air heated much of its skin up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. In the 1960s, the only metal light and tough enough for such a feat was a titanium alloy, which made up 90 percent of the aircraft. The remainder comprised composite materials—relying heavily on iron ferrite and silicone laminate, swirled with asbestos—that absorbed radar, rather than bouncing the waves back to whoever was watching.

That wasn’t the end of the innovation list. The lubricants also had to work at both the extreme temperatures reached while traveling at three times the speed of sound, and at lower, cooler speeds. The engines needed “spike-shaped cones’’ that could slow down, squish, and then superheat the air coming in for better combustion. According to a CIA history of the plane’s development, without the spikes, the engines would only have gotten 20 percent of the required power. Amidst all this, pilots had to don astronaut-ish suits, with their own temperature and pressure controls and oxygen supplies.

While the A-12 represented a big leap forward, its usefulness would be short-lived. The US decided to stop flying over the USSR in 1960 after a U-2 pilot was shot down; satellites had begun to snap recon pictures from orbit; and the A-12 progeny, the SR-71 had performed its first test flight in 1964. The Oxcart flew only 29 missions, between May 1967 and May 1968, in an operation called Black Shield out of East Asia.

Ray was preparing for Black Shield during his final ride, which went sideways due to several factors: a malfunctioning fuel gauge, electrical mishaps, and perhaps an untested modification he himself had added—a common practice for test pilots. Ray, a short man, had added a 2-by-4 to his seat to make the headrest hit right. When he ejected, the wood kept him from separating from the seat, which stopped the parachute from deploying.

It was in that entrapment that Ray lost his life. And it was in that computer lab that Krans decided he needed to go find out where. At the time, it was just another exploration. “It’s Indiana Jones,” he says. “It’s treasure hunting.”

He liked how his explorations changed his conception of the past. “I’ve had a love-hate relationship with history,” he says. Reading stuff in school? Closer to “hate.” But seeking and finding something physical felt different. “You walk back in time, and you say, ‘Okay, what was happening right here if I was here 40 years ago?’” he says. “It gets you thinking.”

So he set out to think about Walt Ray.


Krans began collecting information that might lead him to Ray. The accident had left two crash sites, one for the pilot and one for his plane, which rocketed on after Ray ejected. He started with the details Mahood had spilled, which did not include the actual site of the crash. Urbexers don’t like to spoil the ending, or make it too easy for crowds to spoil the site itself, and generally leave what they discover as a mystery for others to keep solving. Maps and satellite images are typically their best tools, supplemented by databases of historical, military, or former industrial sites. UrbexUnderground.com recommends aimlessly following rivers, railroad beds, or rural roads—because those routes usually track development.

Mahood had scoured old newspapers. The Los Angeles Times put reports of the covered-up version of the crash four miles southeast of a Union Pacific Railroad site called Leith; the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun plotted it four miles to Leith’s southwest. Not helpful. He’d searched topographic maps and the land itself, looking for scars on the landscape, or roads that seemed to lead nowhere. Krans gathered all the information he could from Mahood’s descriptions.

Wanting to get more details, Krans told officials a “BS story” and then offered to cover a doughnut bill for the recorder’s office in Pioche, Nevada. Information gathered from the paperwork, which included Ray’s death certificate, revealed that the pilot had died 200 yards east of a particular mining claim, a couple miles from the larger Cherokee mining operation. Krans began to gather his own detailed maps of the area, and negatives of aerial photos. Soon, he knew approximately where Ray had met his end: just off an area called Meadow Valley Wash—a low drainage that flows with water when it storms. The spot was miles from anywhere, on the side of a hill whose poky desert plants scrape anyone who walks by, and over which wild horses keep watch.

A-12 crash site map
In the Nevada desert, urban explorer Jeremy Krans had only scant waypoints to work off in searching out a decades-old crash site.Popular Science

Krans first headed out in the fall of 1998, driving to Cherokee Mine, and searching for plane debris, at a site somewhere farther out than Ray’s landing spot. To try to find that second location, he took pictures, tried to match them to his maps, and marked down the labeled sticks denoting mining claims. Two more subsequent trips, over a few ensuing years, also revealed nothing.

He gave up for a while. But the story kept flying through his mind. Not a good quitter, he ordered more digital photos from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA. The results offered a few (differing) sets of coordinates for Ray’s hard landing and his plane’s.

The next time Krans went out, in 2005, he took eight people and three trucks. At the time, a flood had washed out the area, leaving 30-foot drops off the side of a narrow road. They uncovered nothing that he was sure came from a downed jet.

When he returned next in 2008, Krans brought along two four-wheelers, companions, and his daughter, Mercedes. At four years old, she’d been hearing about Ray much of her life. All they discovered were water bottles from earlier explorers.

“Something just told us that we were close,” Krans wrote at the time in a post on Roadrunners Internationale’s website, run by Area 51 veteran Barnes. The group aims to preserve the history of those who worked on Area 51′s classified aircrafts during the Cold War—and reunite, digitally and physically, the ones who are left, now that they can freely talk. The Roadrunners, about two dozen strong, have inducted Krans as an “associate member.”

On Krans’s next trip in 2009, he brought old hands and newcomers. One first-timer asked Krans if—after so many years of seeing nothing—he expected to just walk up and uncover the crash site. “Yup,” Krans said around the campfire, a cigar in his mouth and a near-empty beer in his hand. “I’ve been here too many times and know too many places that it wasn’t,” he wrote for the Roadrunners. “Like a life-size game of Battleship, it just can’t hide anymore.”

The next morning, the Commanders began their search where the group had halted the year before. It happened right away: As Krans was walking up a wash offshoot, something synthetic-looking caught his eye. Leaning down, he picked it up. It was an artifact from the A-12.

The others fanned out, and soon found their own pieces. They were right in the middle of the field of debris, left scattered by tragedy more than 40 years before.

Recalling this moment, Krans—who, since graduating from GM, has owned his own car-servicing shop and worked as an HVAC specialist—what it was like to find the site after so long, his voice breaks. “I don’t know how to describe it, I really don’t,” he says.

His limbic system manifests mostly in actions. Such as when, five years later, in 2014, Krans brought a memorial—a model of the A-12, welded to a metal pole—to near Ray’s resting place. He and Mercedes made it. They traced the plane’s edges onto body-shop paper, overlaid it onto a steel plate, and sliced the shape with a plasma cutter. Using a pipe bender from Krans’s old shop, they fabricated the engine housings, which stick out like devilish exhaust pipes.

At one point in their explorations, Mercedes asked her father why they were doing all this.

“Because nobody else did,” Krans told her.


Over the 12 years Krans and various Strategic Beer Command adherents had spent seeking, the true goal of their quest had shifted. “As I kept making trips back, I just—” he pauses. “It got to be more about Walt.”

It became about pulling Ray and the other Area 51 workers—like Barnes—out of anonymity and back into existence. “A bunch of these guys, they were ghosts,” he says. “They didn’t exist for that portion of their lives.” A little metal memorial could change that.

On a September day, I attempted to find it. Outside the small town of Caliente in southeast Nevada, the road turned to well-graded dirt, curving around the rocky mountains whose strata mark the tectonics and erosions that led them to their current state.

The much-worse road that winds up to Cherokee Mine doesn’t have a name. At the intersection, Google Maps says only “Turn left.” Deep gravel threatened to strand the tires; cacti aimed to pierce them. At Cherokee Mine, a wild horse watched from the ridge above, still as a monument.

It was hot outside—115 degrees, much different than the morning Ray took off.

In the valley, I stopped following the wash and hiked toward the approximate place where I thought Ray went down, based on a scouring of topographic maps—matched with a picture of the saddle where the recovery helicopter had landed 53 years ago, and a close reading of descriptions from Mahood’s and Krans’s adventures. I scampered up another hill, around its side, back down, up another, and then back to the wash to survey again.

Finally, from the elevation where I started, I saw above me a stick-like object poking up out of a rock just one ridge over. No, I thought. That’s a dead tree. But next to the wood, there it was: a matte black pole poking from the rock, a sculpture at its top. I had been right next to it, just like Krans was when he found the debris field, the remnants of humans past blending within the landscape.

Walter Ray crash plaque
Where Walter Ray crashed, makeshift memorials mark the long-unknown site.Sarah Scoles

When I reached the spot, a low buzzing came from the scaled-down plane. The wind was sliding across the open ends of its engine housings. Krans didn’t intend for that to happen; it’s just how moving air and open pipes work. “It almost brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?” Krans asks me later.

It did. I started thinking of Ray, falling to Earth. Here. Of a secret death to go with his secret life.

Drilled into the rock next to the memorial is a metal sign: Walter L. Ray, it says, the words welded into the plaque. In service of his country, 5 Jan 1967.

Past the Oxcart, there were no other signs of humans. No evidence of their aerospace achievements, wars cold or hot, lives, or deaths. Only this miniaturized A-12, whose silhouette sits stark against scrubby plants—its nose pointed toward Home Plate.

An Army-green ammo box sits nearby, bolted down and hosting notes from those few who’ve visited. Along with a laminated printout of Ray’s story, there’s a handwritten page from Krans, addressed to Ray. “I will always have a beer for you and the boys,” it says. “You guys earned it. And after the Roadrunners organization is gone, know that the memory will live on.”

The Roadrunners are getting older. The last reunion, which Krans attended, happened in 2015. After that, there weren’t enough of them left. One year at the Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame annual banquet, which has become something of a makeshift reunion for Roadrunners and their associates, Frank Murray, an A-12 pilot himself, came up to Krans and shook his hand. “You make us remember,” Murray told him.

Memories of their time inside Area 51 are, in fact, all the Roadrunners have of that ghost-like period of their lives. “None of us has ever got to go back out there,” says Barnes. “Once you leave, you’re gone.”

A Harvard professor says an alien visited in 2017 — and more are coming

A Harvard professor says an alien visited in 2017 — and more are coming!

When the first sign of intelligent life visits us from space, it won’t be a giant saucer hovering over New York. More likely, it will be an alien civilization’s trash. 

Avi Loeb, chair of Harvard’s Department of Astronomy, believes he’s already found some of that garbage. 

In his upcoming book, “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), out Jan. 26, the professor lays out a compelling case for why an object that recently wandered into our solar system was not just another rock but actually a piece of alien technology. 

The object in question traveled toward our solar system from the direction of Vega, a nearby star 25 light-years away, and intercepted our solar system’s orbital plane on Sept. 6, 2017. 

Professor Abraham Loeb and a rendering of ‘Oumuamua.
Professor Abraham Loeb and a rendering of ‘Oumuamua.

On Sept. 9, its trajectory brought it closest to the sun. At the end of September, it blasted at about 58,900 miles per hour past Venus’ orbital distance, and then, on Oct. 7, it shot past Earth’s before “moving swiftly toward the constellation Pegasus and the blackness beyond,” Loeb writes in the book. 

The object was first spotted by an observatory in Hawaii containing the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) — the highest-definition telescope on Earth. 

The space object was dubbed ‘Oumuamua (pronounced “oh moo ah moo ah”), which is Hawaiian for — roughly — “scout.” 

As space travelers go, it was relatively small at just about 100 yards long, but it was a big deal in the scientific community. 

For starters, it was the first interstellar object ever detected inside our solar system. Judging from the object’s trajectory, astronomers concluded it was not bound by the sun’s gravity — which suggested it was just traveling through. 

No crisp photos could be taken, but astronomers were able to train their telescopes on the object for 11 days, collecting reams of other data. 

The Observatory on Haleakala, Maui just before sunrise.
The Observatory on Haleakala, Maui, which contains the world’s most powerful telescope, caught the image of ‘Oumuamua.

At first, scientists thought it was an ordinary comet. But Loeb said that assumption ran the risk of allowing “the familiar to define what we might discover.” 

“What would happen if a caveman saw a cellphone?” he asked. “He’s seen rocks all his life, and he would have thought it was just a shiny rock.” 

Loeb soon opened his mind to another possibility: It was not a comet but discarded tech from an alien civilization. 

A number of unusual properties about the object helped Loeb make this conclusion. 

First were ‘Oumuamua’s dimensions. 

Astronomers looked at the way the object reflected sunlight. Its brightness varied tenfold every eight hours, suggesting that was the amount of time it took for it to complete a full rotation. 

Scientists concluded the object was at least five to 10 times longer than it was wide — sort of like the shape of a cigar. 

No naturally occurring space body we’ve ever seen has looked like it — or even close. 

“This would make ‘Oumuamua’s geometry more extreme by at least a few times in aspect ratio — or its width to its height — than the most extreme asteroids or comets that we have ever seen,” Loeb writes in his book. 

What’s more, ‘Oumuamua was unusually bright. It was at least “ten times more reflective than typical solar system [stony] asteroids or comets,” the author writes. 

He likens its surface to that of shiny metal. 

But the anomaly that really pushed Loeb toward his ET hypothesis was the way ‘Oumuamua moved. 

“The excess push away from the sun — that was the thing that broke the camel’s back,” he said. 

Using physics, scientists can calculate the exact path an object should take and what speed it should travel due to the gravitational force exerted by the sun. The sun’s pull will speed up an object massively as it gets closer, then kick it out the other side, only for the object to slow considerably as it gets farther away. 

Combined telescope image of the first interstellar object `Oumuamua, circled in blue as an unresolved point source at the center. It is surrounded by the trails of faint stars, each smeared into a series of dots as the telescope snapshots tracked the moving `Oumuamua.
Combined telescope image of the first interstellar object `Oumuamua, circled in blue as an unresolved point source at the center. It is surrounded by the trails of faint stars, each smeared into a series of dots as the telescope snapshots tracked the moving `Oumuamua.

But ‘Oumuamua didn’t follow this calculated trajectory. The object, in fact, accelerated “slightly, but to a highly statistically significant extent,” Loeb writes, as it moved away from the sun. 

In other words, it was clearly being pushed by a force besides the sun’s gravity. 

At first the explanation seemed simple. Comets show a similar acceleration, because as they approach the sun, their surface is warmed, releasing once-frozen gases, which act like a rocket engine. 

Those released materials, however, form a comet’s distinctive tail. Scientists looked carefully for that tail or any sign of gases or dust that might propel ‘Oumuamua and came up empty. 

Loeb calculated that with these and other anomalies, the chances that ‘Oumuamua was some random comet was around 1 in a quadrillion, leading him to his blockbuster hypothesis. 

But what was it exactly?? 

One possibility, weirdly enough, could be found in technology we already have here on Earth. 

Some 400 years ago, astronomer Johannes Kepler observed comet tails blowing in what looked like a solar breeze and wondered if that same force could propel rocket ships through space like the wind pushes boats through water. 

It was a smart idea that scientists now use to develop light sails for probes. Thin, reflective sheeting is unfurled in space to capture the particles streaming off the sun, propelling a ship at great speeds through the empty void. Alternatively, powerful lasers from Earth could be aimed at the sail to make it go even faster. 

Loeb, who is involved in a light-sail project to send a tiny, unmanned craft to a nearby star, said if we Earthlings have thought of this idea, then why couldn’t aliens? 

He and a colleague crunched the numbers and hypothesized that ‘Oumuamua was not actually cigar-shaped but possibly a disk less than a millimeter thick, with sail-like proportions that would account for its unusual acceleration as it moved away from the sun. 

As to its purpose, Loeb isn’t entirely sure. He speculated it could be “space junk” that once served as a kind of space navigation buoy used by a long-ago civilization. 

“The only way to look for [alien civilizations] is to look for their trash, like investigative journalists who look through celebrities’ trash,” Loeb said. 

Of course, not everyone in the scientific community agrees with his theory. 

In July 2019, the ‘Oumuamua Team of the International Space Science Institute published an article in Nature Astronomy concluding, “We find no compelling evidence to favor an alien explanation for ‘Oumuamua.” 

Loeb admits his theories have raised astronomers’ eyebrows, but he is resolute about his findings. “Some people do not want to discuss the possibility that there are other civilizations out there,” he told The Post. “They believe we are special and unique. I think it’s a prejudice that should be abandoned.” 

‘Some people do not want to discuss the possibility that there are other civilizations out there.’

Avi Loeb, Harvard astronomer and author of “Extraterrestrial”

Loeb said the skeptics are bending over backwards to assign natural origins to the object and that the explanations they’ve given to explain its weird properties don’t stand up to scrutiny. 

For example, some scientists have suggested that ‘Oumuamua’s acceleration was caused by frozen hydrogen on its surface turning to gas and driving it like a comet, and that hydrogen would have been invisible to Earth’s infrared cameras, which is why we didn’t detect it. 

But Loeb and a colleague published a paper showing that “a hydrogen iceberg traveling through interstellar space would evaporate long before it reached our solar system.” 

Whatever the truth, the stakes are high. 

The acceptance that an alien race has made contact — even through its trash — would trigger a serious search for more trash, leading us to scour the moon and Mars, for example, for debris that might have crash-landed thousands or millions of years ago. 

But, perhaps more important, any further discoveries could redefine our place in the universe. 

“It would put us in perspective,” Loeb said. “If we are not alone, are we the smartest kids on the block? If there was a species that eliminated itself through war or changing the climate, we can get our act together and behave better. Instead, we are wasting a lot of resources on Earth fighting each other and other negative things that are a big waste.” 

Since ‘Oumuamua’s appearance, a second interstellar object known as 2I/Borisov was spotted entering the solar system by a Crimean telescope in 2019. But that turned out to be a plain old comet. 

Until recently, our instruments have not been sensitive enough to pick up these kinds of visitors. But Loeb said technology will soon make it possible to locate more space travelers, and the only way the mystery of ‘Oumuamua will be settled is if a similar object is spotted and more thoroughly investigated with a probe. 

He said his book “should motivate people to collect more data on the next object that looks weird.” 

“If we find another and we take a photo and it looks like a light sail, I don’t think anyone will argue with that.”

FAA notified after large blue UFO seen above Oahu appeared to drop into ocean

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – An unidentified flying object spotted in the evening sky over Leeward Oahu prompted witnesses to call 911 on Tuesday.

The sighting happened about 8:30 p.m.

There are multiple videos of what appears to be a glowing‚ oblong mass — both in the sky and in the water.

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration say there were no aircraft incidents or accidents in this area at the time. But multiple witnesses reported seeing a large blue object fall out of the sky and into the ocean.

In a one video a woman can be heard saying, “Something is in the sky. What is that?”

Misitina Sape told Hawaii News Now she captured the image at 8:26 p.m. near Haleakala Avenue in Nanakuli.

Not long after, a woman named Moriah spotted what looked like the same object passing over Princess Kahanu Estates.

“I look up and then I was like oh s***!,” she said. “I started calling my husband and them because they were all in the garage. I was like hey. Come look up there. See if you see what I see. They all said yea!”

The 38-year-old says she’s never really been a believer in UFOs, but the bright blue object had them so intrigued they jumped in the car and started following it.

“I don’t know what it was,” she said. “This one was going so fast.”

The journey ended less than three miles from where it began. She says they stopped the car on Farrington Highway in front of the Board of Water Supply building after the object appeared to drop into the ocean.

In one of Moriah’s videos you can hear her say, “(It) went land in the water. Whatever it is.”

She described it as being larger than a telephone pole and says she never heard it make any sound.

“We called 911,” Moriah said, “For have like one cop or somebody for come out and come check em out.”

While officers were on scene Moriah says they spotted a second light.

“My husband went look up and he seen the white one coming,” she said. “The white one was smaller. Was coming in the same direction as the blue one.”

They lost sight of the object after it passed over a nearby mountain.

Thursday morning we asked Honolulu police if investigators figured out what fell in the water. A spokesperson told us they didn’t have any information.

Meanwhile, FAA spokesperson Ian Gregor said the agency received a report from police Tuesday night about a possible plane down in the area “but had no aircraft disappear off radars. And no reports of overdue or missing aircraft.”

Although Moriah’s had a couple days to think about it, she says she’s still baffled by what she saw.

“To this day I don’t know,” she said laughing. “If you guys can find out what it was, I like know, you know?”

What’s the Color of the Universe?

The universe is a pretty mesmerizing place. From all of the natural wonders here on earth to the Tesla roadster flying through our galaxy, there’s certainly not a lack of wonder surrounding us. All this amazement naturally leads us to one prominent question, “what color is it?”

Okay, well, maybe that’s just me, but a group of researchers has solidly confirmed what color the universe is. Are you ready for it? It’s beige. But not just any beige, the color of the universe is named “Cosmic Latte”. A team of astronomers from Johns Hopkins University gave the universe’s color that name in 2002 after running a series of tests collecting massive amounts of light samples.

Initially, in 2001, the researchers thought that the universe was a slightly less attractive greenish white, but in 2002, they issued a correction claiming that the light from 200,000 studied galaxies averaged together comes out to a beige-ish white. And, if you were wondering what the hex triplet value for this “beige-ish white” is, it’s #FFF8E7. All images and videos courtesy of the creative commons or used in accordance with fair use laws.

2020: A year of UFO news almost too strange to believe

The Pentagon played a huge role in the release of unclassified documents

If 2019 was a big year for UFO coverage, 2020 may have been the best year ever. 

No one can say for certain whether life exists outside of this planet, but the public’s interest levels in the subject have likely never been higher.

FIRST QUARTER

In January, the U.S. Navy said the release of certain classified briefings and a classified video about a UFO incident held by the Department of Defense “would cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security” to the U.S., in response to a public records request from Vice.

A couple of weeks later, the U.K. announced that reported UFO sightings by the British public will be published online for the first time. The Royal Air Force ran a UFO unit for 50 years but shut it down in 2009 after coming to the conclusion that none of the reports offered evidence of a real threat.

In mid-February, after the U.K.’s decision to publish reported UFO sightings online, 61% of Americans surveyed said they want the U.S. government to declassify the country’s so-called “X-files.” Fifty-eight percent said they believe the U.S. government “actively investigates extraterrestrial life.”

SECOND QUARTER

April was a blockbuster month as the Pentagon finally released unclassified footage showing “unidentified aerial phenomena” captured by Navy aircraft that had circulated in the public for years.

That same week, Tom DeLonge, the former Blink-182 singer and the head of To the Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences, the group that originally obtained the videos, said “UFOs are real” in a since-deleted tweet.

The videos, known as “FLIR1,” “Gimbal” and “GoFast,” were originally released to the New York Times and to TTSA.

The first video of the unidentified object was taken on Nov. 14, 2004, and shot by the F-18’s gun camera. The second video was shot on Jan. 21, 2015, and shows another aerial vehicle with pilots commenting on how strange it is. The third video was also taken on Jan. 21, 2015, but it is unclear whether the third video was of the same object or a different one.

In June, the topic spurred national interest once again, after President Trump told his son, Donald Jr., that he had “interesting” details on Roswell, N.M.

“So many people ask me that question,” the president said in response to whether aliens exist. “There are millions and millions of people that want to go there, that want to see it. I won’t talk to you about what I know about it but it’s very interesting. But Roswell is a very interesting place with a lot of people that would like to know what’s going on.”

When Trump Jr. further pressed his father on whether he would declassify details about Roswell, the president said, “I’ll have to think about that one.”

Later that month, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, asked the Pentagon for a detailed, unclassified report on unidentified aerial phenomena. Rubio cited concerns the issue has been given scant attention from the intelligence community while acknowledging the existence of an “Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force.”

THIRD QUARTER

Late July saw the explosive release of a report that mentioned a long-hidden UFO investigative unit within the Pentagon making its findings public, as well as “off-world vehicles not made on this Earth.”

In August, the Pentagon officially launched the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, boosting an effort by the Office of Naval Intelligence, to investigate UFOs following several unexplained incidents that have been observed by the U.S. military

This announcement came with its own controversies, Nick Pope, a former employee and UFO investigator for Britain’s Ministry of Defense, told Fox News in August.

FOURTH QUARTER

President Trump made news once again, this time telling Fox News in an October interview that he would take a “good, strong look” at whether there are UFOs.

In December, leaked reports from the Pentagon’s UFO task force discussed “non-human technology,” including an Oct. 2019 email exchange between high-ranking military officials.

Leaked Pentagon Photo Seems to Capture a UFO. Is it Real This Time?

Leaked Pentagon Photo Seems to Capture a UFO. Is it Real This Time?

Leaked Pentagon footage apparently captured a UFO | Image credit: Twitter

Leaked Pentagon footage apparently captured a UFO | Image credit: Twitter

The Pentagon report includes a leaked photo, an account of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena emerging from the ocean through the sky, and an admission that the object might have an extraterrestrial origin.

People are interested in knowing about any and every information on unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and aliens. Former US President Barack Obama also recently accepted on a show that he had asked for information about aliens during his presidential tenure, however, he did not reveal what he knows about aliens.

Now another interesting piece of news has surfaced related to UFOs. It is reported that there exist two classified reports by the Pentagon on UFOs. A leaked photo of a mysterious object is a part of the classified report, reported Daily Mail.

Reportedly, the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force of the United States Department of Defense issued two classified intelligence position reports in 2018 and the 2020 summer.

The report says that according to a detailed account from The Debrief, these reports circulated widely in the US intelligence community.

The Pentagon report includes a leaked photo, an account of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena emerging from the ocean through the sky, and an admission that the object might have an extraterrestrial origin.

Commenting on the revelation, Nick Pope, the person who investigated UFOs for the UK Ministry of Defence, said that it will give the public a peek behind the curtains when it comes to the handling of UFO issues by the government. As per him, this shows that the US government is taking the UFO phenomena seriously. Nick said that he expects there will be more revelations soon.

However, the Pentagon has not responded to questions related to the two reports.

An intelligence source has, however, said that this photo was included in the 2018 report. As per sources, the photo was captured by a military pilot from her mobile phone’s camera when it was hovering 30,000-35,000 feet above the ocean.

The image has been described as an unidentified silver cube-shaped object. It is said that the report has stated a legitimate possibility of the existence of alien or non-human technology.