IMCAT Case Directory
  Category 08, Photographic / Video Images 
Rating: 5  

Skylab III Photo Incident
September 20, 1973
In Orbit, Over SW Indian Ocean

Fran Ridge:
Sept. 20, 1973; In orbit over Indian Ocean
During revolution # 1863. Astronauts Alan Bean, Owen Garriott and Jack Lousma spotted what they described as a red "satellite", which they photographed (4 color photos) and mentioned during a subsequent debriefing. We have radio conversation (transcript only) with Houston CapCom about 4.5 hours after the sighting of this object. There was no man-made satellite that could explain this sighting and hence the object was truly anomalous. This case is multiply-listed as a Cat 8 (photo), Cat 11 (sighting from air/spacecraft), and flagged as a NASA incident. 10 mins. Distance from Skylab was 25-30 miles. Estimated diameter was 800 feet.

Joel Carpenter:
One of the things that's so darn fascinating about this case is something that Dr Maccabee and Brad Sparks bring up in the article on Maccabee's site. One interpretation of the sighting is that the object was approaching on an orbit in a 51 or 52 degree inclination and about to intersect with Skylab's 50 degree (but much higher) orbit. They mention that that inclination was used by the Soviets. But actually, they often used 65 degrees. 51 degrees was used for certain very specific flights: the Salyut space stations and the manned Soyuz ships that docked with them. At the time of the sighting, Salyut-1 and Salyut-2 had been flown, and both had failed. Salyut-2 was launched in April 1973 and was actually the top secret Almaz military station, the counterpart of the US MOL reconnaissance space station. Salyut-2 had recon gear aboard, but failed before it was manned for the first time, about 2 weeks after it was launched.

Brad Sparks:
Skylab-3 remains a mystery with the color photos and optical ranging yielding an approximate 800-foot size of the space UFO, much larger than the largest satellite then in space (the 150-foot Skylab-3). [Sparks interviewed Skylab-3 astronaut Dr. Owen Garriott shortly after the return to earth - Fran Ridge].

Detailed reports and documents
reports/730920skylabIII_report.htm (Fran Ridge)
SL3-118-2137 through 2140.  This is only one frame but two different enhancements
Analysis of the Photos of a UFO Observed by Skylab 3 (Bruce Maccabee & Brad Sparks) [Skylab III] (YouTube)

NICAP Home Page