by Maj. Donald E. Keyhoe (Retired)
Force officials believed they were errors of interpretation due to weather phenomena. Even during the past year, with radar reports rapidly increasing, some Air Force officers still believed these disturbing cases were caused by temperature inversion.
Accumulated evidence, revealed in this article, now proves that very few of the reports can thus be explained. As a result, many baffling "saucer" cases investigated by the Air Technical Intelligence Command are still listed as unanswered.
The most recent of these mystifying incidents was reported from Congaree Air Base near Columbia, South Carolina as this was being written. On August 20, 1952, radar operators at a nearby interceptor post were watching their scope when a strange "blip" appeared at an indicated range of 60 miles southeast.
Evidently the object shown was very fast moving, for within less than a minute each successive sweep of the beam renewed the blip in a different position, producing a row of widely spaced spots on the phosphor coated glass in a track that ran off the scope. Dumbfounded, the men hurriedly computed the speed.
It was more than 4,000 miles per hour..
The operators realized that to flash an alarm was useless. Moving at 70 miles a minute, the mysterious object would be 200 miles away before a jet interceptor could take off.
When I checked on this case, the Air Force made no attempt to gloss over the facts. The operators were experts, trained to recognize the blips of solid objects. The radar was working correctly. Something streaked through the skies that morning, but the Air Technical Intelligence Command frankly admits it has no explanation.
There are other unexplained Air Force cases almost as incredible. such as the tracking of an unidentified object at 1,700 m.p.h. near Kirksville, Missouri, and vain pursuits by jets at Dayton and St. Paul. (These and other important cases released to TRUE by the Air Force will be discussed in detail later.)
Not until last July, when unidentified lighted objects were seen at Washington Airport, did the general public learn that radar was tracking the saucers. Later, conflicting news stories gave many the impression that the Air Force had "debunked" all saucer reports and had no further interest. Major General Roger S. Ramey, Director of Operations, made the Air Force position clear in the following statement for TRUE:
"The Air Force, in compliance with its mission of air defense of the United States, must assume responsibility for investigation of any object or phenomena in the air over the United States. Fighter units have been instructed to investigate any object observed or established as existing by radar tracks, and to intercept any air-borne identified as hostile or showing hostile interest. This should not be interpreted to mean that air defense pilots have been instructed to fire haphazardly on anything that flies."
The Air Force attitude was amplified for me by another spokesman in this candid statement:
"We don't know what these things are and there's no use in pretending we do. We can't discount entirely that they may come from another planet, though we have no evidence to support it. We have found no threat to this country - there is not the slightest evidence that they come from a foreign nation - but until we know the answers we shall carry on a serious investigation."
Unfortunately, public confidence in radar has been badly shaken. Many Americans still believe that the Washington radar men, veteran air traffic controllers, were tricked by atmospheric conditions. The same cause was said to have created mirage lights in the sky, deceiving airline and jet pilots, control tower men, and other trained and experienced observers.
If this were so, serious problems in air traffic control would certainly
have to be solved. But the true story behind the Washington sightings has
never been told until now. To get that story, I spent considerable time at
the Airway Traffic Control Center at Washington Airport. I talked with the
controllers who saw the strange blips and also with outside radar experts,
Weather Bureau officials and radio astronomers. The final answer is startling
in its implications.
To understand the queer events that followed. you must first have a clear picture of the Center's operations. The Center is located entirely apart from the airport tower, which directs take-offs and landings and close in traffic. The radar room of the Center is a long dimly lit chamber, darkened so scopes can be easily read. Its radar equipment, by which controllers have guided thousands of airliners through fog and storms, is an M.E.W. (Microwave Early Warning) type similar to the sets used by the air defense forces.
On a nearby hill, a huge parabolic antenna, rotating six times per minute, transmits a narrow radio beam which swings around the horizon. When the beam strikes a plane, an "echo" or "return" is reflected back. Amplified. this appears as a small spot or "blip" on the face of a cathode ray scope. The Center's main scope. 24 inches in diameter, has a pale lavender glow. Traveling around the glass. like a glowing clock hand, is a purplish streak called the "sweep" which shows the direction of the moving radio beam.
As the echo comes back from a cruising airliner, a small round violet blip appears on the scope. At that spot, the phosphor coating of the glass maintains a diminishing glow. Every ten seconds, a new blip appears. showing the plane's changed position. The glass retains seven blips before the first one fades out. From the position of the blips and the space between them, the plane's course and speed call be seen at a glance, also its location, distance and compass bearing.
Besides the main scope, which is adjusted to show traffic within a 34 mile radius - a 68 mile circle - the Center operates two smaller console scopes which show the transmitter's full range of 105 miles, or a circle 210 miles in diameter.
radar scopes show other things than planes in the sky - irregular blobs are reflected from thunderstorms, thin spotty blips from flocks of birds, spreading blotches caused by rain or snow clouds.
Very-high-frequency radar sets can pick up even cobwebs or clouds of nearby insects. But these do not appear on the M.E.W. scope, nor would their echoes resemble the clear, sharp blip of a plane. There are two known things which can cause somewhat similar echoes - balloons especially equipped with large panels of metal for radar tracking, and "chaff" or "window." which are strips of aluminum foil dropped by military planes to jam radar sets. The presence of either is indicated by their drift at the speed of the wind. Strips of chaff, usually dumped by the hundreds, cause heavy returns which trained radar men can easily recognize. In addition, chaff falls to the ground. so that its blips soon disappear.
On the night of July 20, none of these things were involved, as an Air Force check has proved. The scope was clear of any strange objects until 12:40. At that moment, seven round blips, like those of planes. suddenly appeared in the southwest quadrant. Since no group of planes - military or civilian -was due to arrive, the Control Center men were immediately concerned. Harry Barnes, the senior controller, tracked the unknown visitors at 100-130 m.p.h. - a speed oddly low compared with their swift appearance.
Barnes quickly checked the consoles; both scopes showed the strange blips. He called in radar technicians; they found no flaw in the set or antenna. Worried, though the low speeds didn't indicate Soviet bombers, he called the Washington Airport tower. To handle local traffic, the tower has a separate set, an A.S.R. (Airport Surveillance Radar) with a 30 mile range.
Tower operators Howard Cocklin and Joe Zacko both reported the strange blips on their scope, and in the same position. So did Air Force radar men at Andrews Air Force Base, which uses an A.S.R. set. Not only that, visual observers at both points could see mysterious lights moving in the sky.
Flashing word to Air Defense, Barnes turned back to the scope. The unknown visitors had separated, were now over Washington, two near the White House, one close to the Capitol.
A few minutes later, the controllers bending over the scope got a new jolt. One blip track showed an abrupt 90- degree turn, something no plane could do. As the sweep came around, another of the strange objects suddenly reversed, its new blip "blossoming" on top of the one it bad previously made. The unknown craft, or whatever it was, had stopped dead from over 100 m.p.h., then completely reversed direction - all in about five seconds.
"Then we noticed another strange thing," Barnes told me later. "Some blips suddenly disappeared, between sweeps. I couldn't explain, until Jim Ritchey called 'Casey' Pierman to check on one group of the things."
Captain Pierman, flying a Capital airliner, had just taken off from Washington. In a few moments he radioed back that he saw a bright light where the scope showed one of the objects. At the very instant he called the Center, the object raced off at terrific speed.
"It was almost as if whatever controlled it had heard us, or had seen Pierman head toward it," said Barnes. "He said it vanished from sight in three to five seconds. But here's the important point: at that very moment, the blip disappeared from the scope.
"That means it must have raced out of our beam between ten second sweeps. It could have done this in one of two ways: First, it could make a steep climb at terrific speed, so that in ten seconds it would be above the vertical area swept by our M.E.W. set. [The beam's average altitude, at its highest point, is from 35,000 to 40,000 feet, far out, but it is much less near the airport. At 30 miles, it is about 8,500 feet, sloping to 1,200 at three miles.] Second, it could race horizontally off our 34 mile scope within ten seconds."
Considering the objects' relative position, just before they vanished, this last would require a speed of from 5,000 to 7,000 m.p.h. At the time, this seemed unbelievable to Barnes and the other controllers. But Captain Pierman later confirmed the objects' tremendous speed.
"They'd go up and down at terrific speed, or streak off and disappear. Between Washington and Martinsburg, we saw six of these fast moving lights. [Control Center showed them at the same position.] I don't know what they were, but they weren't shooting stars."
Another confirmation of the visitors' incredible speed came later that night, from the Washington tower. Operator Joe Zacko had been watching the A.S.R. scope when one of the mystery objects abruptly appeared just west of Andrews Field. Unlike the slower M.E.W., the A.S.R., with its 28-r.p.m. antenna, can track extremely high speeds. As Zacko watched, fascinated, the blips made a bright streak or trail, heading north- northeast toward Riverdale. Then the trail ended as swiftly as it had come.
Howard Cocklin, hastily called over by Zacko, also saw the bright trail. Together they figured the object's speed from its trace.
It had been making two miles per second -7,200 m.p.h.
"It was as if it had descended rapidly, almost vertically," Cocklin told me later. "That would bring it suddenly into the A.S.R. beam area. It seemed to level off for those few seconds, and then abruptly ascend out of the beam again."
Barnes and his men saw another significant maneuver that night. When they vectored a pilot toward one of the lighted objects, the strange blip disappeared. Then in a few seconds it reappeared behind the plane. Barnes commented, "If it was the same one - and I think it was - that was another of those high speed vanishing acts between sweeps."
(The same maneuver was reported from Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, on July 29. On this occasion a mysterious disk sighted by numerous ground observers - was seen to whip around at terrific speed behind jet planes sent up to intercept it.)
At 3 a.m., two Air Force jets, brought in from another mission, roared down over Washington. Just before they arrived, all the strange blips left the scope. Coincidence or not, as soon as the jets headed back for their base, the visitors reappeared and again swarmed over Washington. One, simultaneously plotted by the Center, Andrews Field, and the Washington tower, followed an airliner to within four miles of the airport, as the pilot watched its light. At one time, ten of the "saucers" were over Andrews Field, then at daybreak they were gone.
The shaken controllers, for the most part, agreed they had tracked solid objects capable of fantastic maneuvers.
"I'm positive they were guided by some intelligence," Barnes has since told me. "If no planes were in the air, the things would fly over the most likely points of interest - Andrews Field, the aircraft plant at Riverdale, the Monument, or the Capitol. One or two circled our radio beacons. But as soon as an airliner took off several would dart across and start to follow, as if to look it over.
On July 26, in the early evening, an eerie red lighted object flashed over Key West, Florida. A destroyer - escort quickly put to sea, and the Navy announced it would try to find the answer. Then official silence fell.
That same evening at 9:08 p.m., the Washington Center, still jittery, had another call from its unknown visitors. Again, the control tower and Andrews Field radar confirmed the blips. As before, the mystery objects hovered, made sharp turns, reversed, and vanished from scopes. Pilots, too, and ground observers watched the lights race off.
Of four pilots who saw the fast moving lights, one was flying a jet interceptor. This pilot, Lieutenant William L. Patterson, on seeing four lights, went after one at full throttle.
"I was at my top speed," he said on landing, "but I couldn't close in." His plane's maximum speed was better than 600 m.p.h.
When the story of these weird events broke, combined with full details of the July 20 sightings, the Air Force was flooded with demands for an explanation. Reluctantly, since Air Technical Intelligence at Dayton had not even begun its evaluation, Air Force officials in Washington released a public statement: since some radar reports were due to temperature inversion, this might explain the Washington sightings, including the odd lights.
Until then, few people except scientists, radar men and Weather Bureau experts had ever heard of inversions. In itself, a temperature inversion is a simple effect.
Ordinarily, air gets colder as the altitude increases, but under certain conditions there may be layers of warm air with cooler air underneath. Such inversions are common on the desert. At night, or when clouds suddenly shadow the hot ground, the surface quickly cools off. Air in contact with the ground also cools fairly quickly, but above this there is still a warm layer, its height and thickness varying with conditions. On top of this warm layer, the air becomes cool again, increasingly with altitude.
Since light moves slower in a denser medium, its rays are refracted, or bent, as they pass from the warm to cold air. It is this which causes "lake" mirages on deserts, or a watery sheen that appears ahead as you drive on a heated road. In both these cases, the hot cold layer refracts light waves from above the horizon, and these "bent" waves are simply reflecting the sky.
A spoon in a glass of water also illustrates the principle of refraction. Seen from a certain angle, the spoon appears to be bent sharply - a result of the different densities of air and water.
Like light, radar waves move slower in denser medium, and are bent by refraction. Under certain conditions, this can be caused when the waves strike layers of air with different temperatures.
According to Dr. Donald H. Menzel, of Harvard University, this effect explains many flying saucers, both the lights and radar blips. It is Menzel's belief that observers have merely seen reflections, either of ground lights - or of stars, the moon, or the sun. In the same way, he says, radar "saucers" are simply ground objects picked up by deflected radar beams and shown on scopes as strange blips.
The apparent high speed and violent maneuvers, he explains, can be caused by reflections of moving objects, such as cars and trains, or by turbulence in the inversion. In the latter case, the light or radar waves, striking agitated air, reflect unevenly, creating false effects of motion even from fixed objects.
At first glance, this would seem to explain not only the Washington reports, but all the simultaneous radar- and - light sightings. When word of this answer reached Washington Airport, the controllers and radar engineers were astounded.
"Every man in here knows temperature inversion effects," said Barnes. "When an inversion is big enough, it picks up all sorts of 'ground clutter' - water tanks, buildings, bridges, shore lines and so on. But anybody can recognize it - you'll see huge purplish blobs, but nothing like those blips we tracked. And in the six years I've watched these scopes, absolutely nothing - high speed jets, storms. inversions, or anything else - has ever caused echoes that maneuvered like that, and we have had identical weather conditions many times."
Every controller and technician backed him up.
"Besides that," Chief Engineer J. L. McGivern told me, "there was no ground clutter either time, except the big blotch we always have at the center of the scope, where the bottom of the beam picks up the airport buildings."
Art the Weather Bureau, I found the same answer. Vaughn D. Rockne, senior radar specialist. who is familiar with inversion effects, had never seen or heard of such blips as were tracked on the two nights in question.
Dr. John Hagin. the leading radio astronomer at the Naval Research Laboratory went even further.
"Even with an extreme inversion," Dr. Hagin told me, "conditions would have to be very, very unusual to cause such effects. In my opinion, the pinpointing of blips by three radar stations, and simultaneous sighting of lights at the same points, would make it impossible."
"How much of an inversion - what temperature change would be needed?" I asked him.
"Ten degrees Fahrenheit at the very least. Probably much higher."
As a final step, I asked the Air Force to select a radar expert to present the official opinion. The officer chosen was Major Lewis S. Norman, Jr., of the Aircraft Control and Warning Branch, who had made a special study of temperature inversion.
"Turbulence in an inversion layer absolutely is necessary to get the effect of high speed and fantastic maneuvers," Major Norman told me. "It can result from up or down drafts, or such 'burbles' may be caused by heated air from smoke stacks."
"At a minimum, how much temperature inversion would it take?" I asked.
"On the centigrade scale, between 5 and 10 degrees. If you used the Fahrenheit scale, it would take an inversion between 9 and 18."
Now I was sure of the truth. But to be doubly certain, I rechecked Weather Bureau charts.
On the first night, the inversion had been I degree Fahrenheit. The second night it had been about equally negligible - barely 2 degrees.
Here was positive proof. Temperature inversion could not possibly explain the Washington "saucer" cases.
Suddenly, as I recalled the words of the Naval Research experts, the hundreds of Air Force radar reports took on dramatic meaning. The rare conditions required to produce moving lights and blips certainly could not have existed in more than a few of these cases. There must be a large number still officially unexplained.
Going back to the Air Force, I asked two point-blank questions. Had Dr. Menzel ever been asked by the Air Force to determine if his theory would explain specific "saucer" cases? If so, what were the results?
Here are the Air Force answers:
1. Dr. Menzel had been invited to apply his theory to cases on record.
2. He had not attempted to explain any specific occurrences.
Following this, I asked the Air Force for typical reports and conclusions, from 1948 up to date.
One of the first cases, involving three separate incidents, took place in Labrador, at Goose Bay Air Force Base. About 3 a.m. on October 29, 1948. an unidentified object in slow level flight was tracked by tower radar men. Two days later, the same thing happened again. But the following night, on November 1, radar men got a jolt. Some strange object making 600 m.p.h. was tracked for four minutes before it raced off on a southwest course.
At the time, weather conditions were considered as a possible answer. But in the light of the new temperature inversion revelations, this obviously must be ruled out.
On November 6, the same year, Air Force operators in Japan tracked two strangely maneuvering objects for sixty five minutes. On the scope they appeared like two planes dog fighting, hut no fighters were in the area. This case is still unsolved.
On the night of November 23, 1948, an F-80 pilot flying near Furstenfeldbruck, Germany, sighted a circling red light. About the same moment, the object was picked up by an Air Force ground radar station. It was tracked as flying in circles at 27,000 feet, the same altitude at which the pilot encountered it. Because of his own maneuvers, he could only guess at its speed - somewhere between 200 and 500 m.p.h.
As the F-80 drew nearer, the object swiftly climbed up out of the pilot's sight. But before it went off the scope, operators tracked it to 40,000 feet. This case also is unexplained.
On February 22, 1950, Naval officers at Key West reported that two glowing objects had been tracked by radar men as they streaked above the air station. They were also seen by pilots and ground men, flying at a height too great for attempted pursuit.
Over a year later, on July 14, 1951, two strange objects were sighted above White Sands as Air Force and other observers watched a guided missile test. An optical tracker, using a 20 power monocular telescope, spotted one of the large objects near a B-29. Its presence was confirmed by two radar operators who tracked it at jet plane speed. Pictures taken on 35 mm film are said to show an oval shaped object, too indistinct because of the altitude to reveal details. At first, a balloon was suggested as an answer, but the "jet speed" approach shown on radar proves this was impossible. No definite conclusion has been made by Air Technical Intelligence analysts.
In the light of these earlier reports, the 1952 sightings now seem doubly important.
On June 19, 1952, a new incident occurred at Goose Bay Air Force Base - the fourth to date. Just after midnight, a weird red light appeared, holding a southwest course. At the same time, tower radar men caught it on their scope. After hovering briefly at 4,000 feet, the light suddenly turned white. At about this instant, the blip on the scope "brightened." This effect, familiar to operators, is seen when a plane banks, the larger surface exposed to the radar beam causing a sharper return.
Apparently. the unknown device had tilted for a swift maneuver. A second later, the blip returned to normal size, then vanished from the scope. The light disappeared at approximately the same moment. (This odd change in color, before a maneuver or increase in speed, has been described in numerous other cases.)
An even more puzzling incident was the Kirksville, Missouri, affair of July 13. It was 9 p.m.. when Air Force radar men picked up an unknown object, its blip indicating a solid device or machine the size of a B-36. Before it raced off into the night, its speed was tracked at 1,500 knots - over 1,700 m.p.h. Searching for a solution, one officer theorized that a thunderstorm might have caused the blip, but Washington Center controllers say this is impossible. To date, the A.T.I.C. has found no explanation.
Week after week, jet fighters are "scrambled" at points around the country for "saucer" chases. One of these alerts happened near Osceola, Wisconsin, three nights after the second Washington episode. As in many of these pursuits, the first reported speeds of the blips contrasted strangely with the objects' later maneuvers. Most of the blips were dawdling at 60 m.p.h. until the jets took off. Shortly afterward, one blip's speed jumped over 600.
Reaching 25,000 feet, one pilot spied some rapidly moving lights, a little east of St. Paul. At the same time, they were sighted by a trained Civil Defense sky- watch observer, just before they disappeared.
A meteor shower was first considered a possible explanation. It is true that meteors can be tracked by radar; this method is now used by several observatories. But an astronomer at the Naval Observatory, Washington, quickly ruled out this answer because of the first slow speeds. In addition, no meteor shower was reported on that night.
Two F-86 pilots had a little better luck in a chase on August 1. At the time, the press was refused permission to interview the pilots - a rule of the Air Defense Command. Since then, however, the A.T.I.C. has made details available for use in this article.
At about 10:45 on the morning of August 1, ground radar at Wright Patterson AFB picked up an unidentified object between the base and Bellefontaine, Ohio. It was also reported by ground witnesses as a mysterious glowing sphere. The two jet pilots, Major James B. Smith and Lieutenant Donald J. Hemer, were immediately dispatched to intercept it if possible.
As they reached 30,000 feet, both pilots saw a brightly glowing object hovering above them. To make certain it was not a ground reflection, they carefully maneuvered to view it from various angles. The 'saucer's" appearance did not change. Positive it was a solid object, both pilots switched on their camera-guns, nosed upward and made separate runs for pictures. Within a few seconds of the planes' maneuver, the "saucer" began to move off, disappearing at a high rate of speed.
When the pictures were developed, a round shape appeared on both films. But its speed or distance prevented distinctive details from showing in the prints.
No final conclusion has been made by the A.T.I.C. in this case. That this might have been a balloon, as suggested, does not stand up, for two reasons. First, and most important, no balloon can hover, then suddenly race off, outdistancing fast jets. Second, ordinary weather balloons will not show on radar scopes: as stated before, it is necessary to attach a metal radar "target" to reflect the beam. But if ground radar men had been tracking such a balloon, there would have been no mystery. All weather balloon records are available to the A.T.I.C. and no radar target balloon was within miles of the spot.
The only balloon in the general area was a standard radiosonde type, which holds a tiny radio transmitting set, and it was released thirty minutes before the pilots' encounter. Weather Bureau experts have informed me it is not possible to get a radar blip from this type of balloon. Even if it were possible, there would still be no explanation for the hovering and sudden burst of speed witnessed by two experienced pilots.
The violent maneuvers and high speeds frequently reported rule out all balloons - including the Navy's "skyhooks" which were once publicized as the correct explanation..
Every other conventional explanation has been proved false. One, given shortly after the Washington sightings, was put forth by a chemist named Noel Scott, who is employed by the Army. Scott announced he had produced tiny "saucers" of ionized gas in a vacuum jar experiment at Fort Belvoir. At the time, Scott told Air Force investigators he had no idea whether the conditions of his experiment were likely to exist in the atmosphere. To get the answer, I queried Dr. George Ray Wait, internationally known physicist of Carnegie Institute. Here's what Dr. Wait told me:
"I know of no conditions in the earth's atmosphere, high or low, that would duplicate those needed to make the laboratory models at Fort Belvoir."
In regard to unidentified objects observed visually and tracked by radar, Dr. Wait posed a key question: Are they navigated?
"If the reports of reversals, sharp turns, rapid climbs and descents are fully confirmed," he said, "no natural phenomena, to my knowledge, would explain such reports."
The swift acceleration of saucers, confirmed by radar and visual reports, far exceeds the acceleration of man-made rockets and guided missiles. In addition, no earthly craft can reverse from high speed or make the violent turns proved by radar tracks.
Some flying saucer skeptics claim that no solid object, not even a revolutionary space ship, could maneuver as reported, since it would be subject to the Earth's laws of gravity, momentum and inertia.
But there is one practical answer. By applying the propulsion force in the opposite direction, abruptly reversing its thrust, an object might be halted in a few seconds. On an M.E.W. radar scope, or as seen visually, it would appear to have stopped almost instantly. After this follower stop, a 90 degree turn could then be achieved by again changing the thrust.
A G-sled used by the Air Force gives a hint of the possibilities. This device, driven by rockets down a long track, attains high speed in a few seconds. Near the end of the track, it is abruptly halted by a powerful braking system. For an instant, the force acting on an occupant is many times the effect of gravity. Tests have proved that human pilots, for a fraction of a second, can take over 45 G's and live.
Perhaps human like beings could withstand the G forces of saucer maneuvers if applied for only a moment. It may be, however, that the objects are remotely controlled from higher up to avoid repeated exposure to such stresses. In any event, the maneuvers themselves are explainable by reversing or shifting the thrust of some radically new type of propulsion.
The increasing evidence from the radar-and-light reports cannot be denied. It is my opinion, as previously stated in TRUE, that the saucers are devices from outer space, exploring the Earth just as our government expects some day to explore other planets.
Though most authorities believe that life, as we know it is not possible on Mars or Venus, they do not exclude the possibility that different forms of life may have developed there. From these neighboring planets, the time required to reach the Earth would be relatively short. with the velocities now considered attainable.
If the saucers are not from planets of our solar system. then the problem of the vast distances from other stars' planets may seem insurmountable. But Einstein's theory of special relativity offers a solution now accepted by space travel planners in this country and abroad. Because of the relative nature of time and space the elapsed time for a round trip to a distant point will be less for the travelers than the elapsed time recorded on Earth when the journey is ended. However, the occupants of the space craft will be unaware of any difference during their trip; to them the daily passage of time, as shown by their clocks, will seem normal.
This difference, or "time dilatation factor" as it is called, will increase as a space ship's speed approximates the velocity of light.
Fantastic though it seems, time dilatation has been proved mathematically. In a recent Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Dr. L. R. Shepherd gives figures for a specific interstellar voyage. He assumes that a traveler, X, makes a round trip to the star Procyon, 10.4 light years away, while an observer, Y, remains on Earth to record the elapsed time here. He also assumes that, because of the long trip at maximum speed, periods of acceleration and retardation are negligible.
"Suppose X goes to Procyon and back," says Dr. Shepherd, "with a velocity of .99c (c equals the velocity of light]. While Y records X's return twenty one years later, X is aware only of a passage of three years...... The only shortcoming wo......that friends whom he left iii the bloom of their youth would be found in their dotage."
This latter effect, however unfortunate, does not alter the basic fact: time dilatation can greatly shorten interstellar journeys. Nor would trips of several years daunt human space explorers any more than long sea voyages daunted Columbus. Magellan and others who left home for extended periods to explore the globe.
To reach velocities close to that of light would, this scientist points out, require a source of energy more powerful than any known today---the wholesale conversion of mass into energy.
The problem is staggering---but so were the problems of splitting the atom. Races on other other planets, with civilizations perhaps thousands of years ahead of ours, could have found the answer and conquered space long ago.
Some Air Force officers still insist the saucers do not exist But regardless of such personal beliefs, the saucer investigation will go on. The growing body of data, it is hoped, may permit some conclusions to be drawn. So far, statistics aren't particularly helpful. A preliminary A.T.I..C. analysis of fifty radar reports taken at random from the files show incidents from land and sea, and speeds between zero and 4,500 m.p.h.; 80% from surface land or ship based radar installations, 20% from air-borne sets, and 35% were confirmed visually. Daytime produced 35% of the incidents, night 65%. In 60% of the cases, a single object was reported; in 40%, multiple objects. They flew straight paths more often than they maneuvered.
The latest plans of the A.T.I.C. attest to its serious attitude. One hundred special two lens cameras which can take simultaneous straight and spectroscopic photos through which the saucers' light may be analyzed, have been sent to strategic points---air bases, A-bomb plants, and other spots where the mysterious visitors have frequently been seen. The reports of airline pilots and other trained observers are to be studied more carefully than ever before. Even apparent hoaxes will be investigated.
The Air Force is admittedly touchy on one point---the question of interceptors trying to down the "saucers." General Ramey, reiterating his previous statement, emphasized:
"No orders have been issued to the Air Defense Command or by the Air Defense Command to its fighter units to fire on unidentified aerial phenomena."
Unless an object attacks our planes, or is obviously a threat to this country, the decision is left up to pilots.
In talking with Major Norman, the Air Force radar expert, I learned he had been an interceptor pilot and had once chased a strange light.
"On an interception like that," I said, "exactly what steps would you take?"
"First, you prepare for combat," be said. "That means your guns are ready in case you're fired on. Then I'd ease in close, if I could, for a try with my camera- guns. But I'd be very cautious, I'll tell you that."
"Suppose you got close," I said, "and saw some strange device. Would you signal for it to land---maybe fire a burst off to one side?"
He looked at me grimly. "Unless it attacked me, I wouldn't cut loose my guns---it might be suicide."
"Even if they weren't hostile," another officer told me, "barging in too close might scare them into attacking."
There is no doubt that many interceptor pilots remember Captain Mantell, who met his death while chasing a saucer near Godman Field, Kentucky.
Though he was said to have blacked out from lack of oxygen, there is still a lingering doubt among fliers.
Trying to communicate with the saucers would seem the next logical step. So far, the Air Force informed me, it has made no such attempt. When I suggested the idea to Controller Harry Barnes, he looked surprised.
"I was so intent on tracking them, I never thought of trying the radio. After all, what would you say?"
"How about this? 'You, out there three miles north of the airport; if you read me, make a right turn.'"
"If it did turn, my hair would probably stand on end." Barnes thought for a moment. "Maybe I'll try it, at that, if it ever happens again."
From all the hundreds of saucer reports, one fact stands out---there is no cause for fear. For years, these unknown visitors have been operating peacefully in our atmosphere. (I do not believe Mantell's plane was destroyed as a hostile act.) There has been plenty of time, if hostility were intended, for the intelligence back of the saucers to strike at our planes and our cities.
It is evident that exploration, and eventually contact, are the purposes behind the saucers' repeated visits. When that contact comes, it should be no cause for panic. Meeting intelligent beings who know the secrets of space should be of profound benefit to everyone on Earth.
It could be the greatest adventure of all time.--- Donald E. Keyhoe