I hope this does not make me a conspiracy theorist, because on this one, I think the government is hiding something and I disagree with those who have dismissed this as a non-event.
On December 9 1965, a fireball streaked across North America and was sited in the Great Lakes region of both the United States and Canada. There’s no doubt that this happened, as it was seen by many and produced sonic booms which were recorded on seismometers. It was also seen in Pennsylvania, where some reports indicated that debris or meteorites may have started grass fires (there were grass fires, but whether or not this caused them is unproven.)
In the town of Kecksburg PA, local residents reported that an object landed (or crashed) in a small wooded area. It has been pointed out that it’s not uncommon for observers of a meteor or other falling object, such as a satellite, to mistakenly believe that it has landed somewhere it has not due to an illusion which occurs when the object crosses over the horizon. If there are trees or some other obstruction in the foreground, it can appear that the object has landed in the area behind the obstruction. This phenomena is fairly common and it’s certainly possible that this is what occurred in Kecksburg, although there is some evidence to the contrary.
The Pennsylvania State Police were called and arrived to search the area, and the local volunteer fire department was also on the scene. The State Police initially stated that they were turning over the site to the US Military, implying that there was something significant in the area and beyond their experience of jurisdiction. However, later an official statement was released stating “The Pennsylvania State Police have made a thorough search of the woods. We are convinced that there is nothing whatsoever in the woods.”
At this point, the official documentation ends. While there’s no doubt that something was reported and that there was an official report, any information about an object in the woods that night comes only from eyewitnesses – who are, of course, notoriously unreliable. There are, however, a few pieces of indirect documentation to the event. A Journalist from a local newspaper filed a report stating that an object had been found and the military had secured the area. The reporter Bob Gatty, was at the site at the time and his story indicates that he had verified these events and seen them himself. Despite these reports and the fact that the State Police had clearly stated that they did summon the military, the official line is that the US military never went to the location that night.
There is no doubt that many people in the area believed something did crash at the site on that night, although this does not mean anything did.
The official story from the US government is that nothing happened that night in Keksburg. There was no military operation, nothing of any kind struck the ground and certainly nothing was recovered. The witnesses were all mistaken or had confused other events around the same time period. Furthermore, it was certainly not a Soviet space probe because no Soviet space probe landed in the US that night. One did re-enter the atmosphere over North America on the same day but 13 hours earlier, it either burned up completely or any parts that survived crashed far out to sea, or possibly in a remote part of Northern Canada, with no debris ever recovered. The fireball that was seen and photographed was an unrelated meteor burning up in the atmosphere.
This is certainly possible. It would not be the first time that old memories, rumors and a lot of inductive logic produced something out of nothing, but there are a few things here that seem to indicate that this could be a little more than a coincidence.
There were also some who claimed that the US military or other government agencies requested (or told them) not to report the incident or even confiscated films and cameras. One witness, a news director from a local radio station by the name of John Murphy was on the scene before most of the authorities. He called back to his station to tell them that he had made it to the site and there was some kind of object at the location. However, Murphy did not air the story or publish the photos. His wife and others later stated that he had been approached by government officials, who confiscated the film and told him that the incident could not be reported due to issues of national security.
There have also been a few former soldiers who came forward over the years and stated that they were part of the security detail that arrived at the site.
Of course, reports of government intimidation, military security and alike must be taken with a grain of salt. These kind of things have been reported many times and debunked nearly as many times. However, it is not beyond the realm of possibility, as it is well documented that the military did occasionally respond to incidents in a manner similar to that reported by eyewitnesses. For example, in 1963, the military and CIA responded to a reported crash in Utah, secured the area and interviewed witnesses, telling them (in no uncertain terms) that they were not to report what they saw or retain any photographs. It was later revealed that the incident was the crash of a then top-secret A-12 Oxcart aircraft.
Some of the wittiness reports of the events in Kecksberg come from what would appear to be credible witnesses, including the local fire chief. These are a few of the statements made:
There, maybe a quarter-mile into the woods, lay this thing — burnt orange, maybe 10 feet long, shaped like an acorn
It was smoldering and cracking, sparks coming off it … no sign of life, with a sour smell, sort of like sulfur
It was half-buried, after tearing a trench into the ground with a belly-flop landing
The Army was definitely there. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s irrefutable. I saw them
We tried to sneak around to see what was going on
A guard turned us away
So, something was definitely there. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have any idea what it was, but the Army doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t come out to guard a patch of woods
one big, huge piece of metal buried in the mud … goldish, copperish, yellow, quiet as a church mouse
I’m running around, looking for bodies and scratching my head and my butt because there aren’t any
There’s no loose pieces. This thing has no rivets, no portals, no way to get in and out
[Romansky's confusion seems to stem from the fact that his fire company was called on to respond to a "plane crash"]
Could they be making this all up? Or mistaken? It’s certainly possible, although it does seem a bit strange that so many wittnesses reported the military being in the area but never seeing anything themselves. If you’re going to make up a story, it seems like claiming you never saw anything other than a guard who told you the road was closed is a bit boring.
This photo shows the area of the reported crash as seen by a 1967 air survey. There is a path that could be the tench and damaged vegetation described by witnesses. Of course, this doesn’t prove anything, as it also could be any number of other things, but the line seen was not present in photos taken in 1957 or 1963 and has since grown over by vegetation. The fact that it does not appear absolutely straight could simply be the local topography. While the presence of this anomaly doesn’t prove anything, it’s absence could have been strong evidence that nothing had landed in the area.
A few things that those who claimed to have seen the object all agree on:
- It appeared to have hit the ground at an angle in a ballistic manner, leaving a small trench behind it
- It generally has been described as looking more like a man-made piece of technology or some kind of metallic junk and not otherworldly
- The shape was often cited as being like an acorn – a blunted kind of capsule-like shape
- It had some kind of writing on it that did not use the English alphabet
- It had some kind of seam on it or appeared to have some kind of lid or some means of opening it up
The following illustrations have been made by those who claim to have seen the object or were drawn by others based on their descriptions and verified by those who claim to have been there:
On November, 23 1965, the Soviet Union launched a Venus probe known as Cosmos-96. The Soviet and Russian Space program has the rather confusing custom of retroactively renaming any spacecraft that fails in its mission “Cosmos-xx,” and thus the spacecraft is known as Cosmos-96, because it was a failure. Had it succeeded in making it to Venus, it would probably have been known as Venera 4, but when the upper stage of the rocket failed, the spacecraft was left in earth orbit and all references to it officially became “Cosmos-96″ and the name “Venera 4″ was reused for the next mission, which did make it to Venus. (Yes, it makes the whole thing very confusing to keep track of)
As it turns out, Cosmos-96 reentered the atmosphere on the night of December 9th, the same night the object was reported to have crashed in Kecksburg PA. The probe had been left in a decaying earth orbit which caused it to reenter the earth’s atmosphere while traveling south, over the North Pole as it crossed over the North American continent.
The official version of the story is that the Cosmos-96 spacecraft was not on a trajectory that would not have allowed it to crash in Pennsylvania. However, it would have come pretty damn close, if the trajectory had been different by just a few degrees, it could have put it on a path with Kecksburg. Based on the orbital data, this does indeed appear to be the case – Cosmos 96 could not have landed in Keksburg due to its ballistic trajectory alone.
The Soviet Union (and now Russia) don’t provide a lot of information about their planned missions that failed, however, it appears that the Cosmos-96 vehicle was intended to eject a capsule into the atmosphere of Venus (as those which became before and after all were intended to do the same.) This capsule was packed with scientific instruments and was designed with a headshield and armored construction to withstand the entry into the atmosphere of Venus.
The capsule did not have engines to allow it to make a “soft landing” but it likely did have a parachute, as other Venera probes did. The primary purpose of the capsules carried by the first generation of Venera probes was to provide atmospheric data, not to continue to transmit after landing on the surface of the planet. Since the capsule was intended to enter the atmosphere of Venus while the main spacecraft would continue past the planet to a heliocentric orbit, it would have been accelerated away from the trajectory of the primary spacecraft with some force. It is likely that if the two portions of the spacecraft separated, the capsule could have landed some distance from the trajectory of the primary spacecraft. Furthermore, as it was a ruggedly built piece of equipment, and designed for reentry, it is highly likely it reached the ground intact.
The Venera surface probes had a protective “lid” on the top which would have come off shortly after reentry – assuming the probe had been properly activated at reentry. The ejection of the lid would allow the probe to deploy a parachute, communications antennas and several atmospheric analysis instruments. The lid was designed to protect the instruments from the harsh enviornment of space and reentry and was attached using explosive bolts.
Cosmos-96 was a Venera 3MV-4 type probe, nearly identical to the Venera-4 mission probe. (Venera-4 actually used the 3MV-3 type spacecraft, which was nearly identical to the 3MV-4) This type of lander is similar to the one probably carried by Cosmos-96, although no images of that exact probe are known to be public.
The above reentry vehicle is from Venera – 4, but it is very similar to what Cosmos-96 would have carried. It is not entirely clear whether there would have been Russian text on the reentry vehicle, but it would not be unusual for it to carry an inscription. Many illustrations of capsules show them as being painted white with “CCCP” on their side. However, this was only the case with prototypes and museum pieces. The actual probes used had a brown heat shield.
There are some other interesting coincidences: there were several reports of the object giving off smoke, smelling like burning material or sulfur or that the metal surface seemed scorched. These are all entirely consistent with ablative heat shields of the era.
There are a few inconsistencies, however. Many of the witnesses stated the size of the object was larger than the Venera lander. Many compared it to a VW Beetle. However, it’s also possible that they simply overestimated the size.
The skeptical side:
A number of UFO skeptics who investigated the incident have concluded that nothing fell in Kecksburg and that the Cosmos-96 spacecraft could not have been responsible for something falling in that area, because its trajectory was not quite right to impact in Kecksburg.
Reports of the sightings of the fireball seen over the great lakes region and triangulation of seismic data was initially reported to have conclusively shown that an object associated with the fireball could not have landed at Kecksburg. However, later review found that it was remotely possible that Kecksburg could have been the final location due to the level of error in the triangulation.
The image to the right if from a website claiming the fireball and Kecksburg object were some type of alien craft or other classic “UFO” case. Such a path would explain both the Kecksburg object and the location of fireball sightings. Of course, it also would require the object make a turn mid-flight, something that could not be explained even by strong aerodynamic forces on a capsule.
The bellow image is from this site. It shows the flight path as approximated by triangulation of photograph locations.
Clearly there are much different estimated trajectories based on the method used to establish the direction of the fireball. The only thing that is not disputed is that it was seen in the Detroit and Western Lake Erie region.
If the area seen on the aerial photo from 1967 was the path of a crashed object, then this is the direction it would have come from and the resulting trajectory:
Even given the lack of precision, it seems the object would have had to be on a different trajectory from the primary fireball.
I can tell you categorically, that there is no way that any debris from Cosmos 96 could have landed in Pennsylvania anywhere around 4:45 p.m.[...] ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an absolute. Orbital mechanics is very strict
Dr. Johnson is right. Orbital mechanics are very strict and if the object had been governed entirely by its own ballistics it could not have been Cosmos-96. However, nowhere does he, or others who have analyzed the path, consider the possibility that part of the spacecraft could have been ejected from the other with enough Delta-V to alter its path.
However the Venra probe was designed just for that. As the main Venera vehicle would only fly by Venus, before continuing into a heliocentric orbit, the capsule was ejected by a pyrotechnic charge, which severed the straps that held the capsule to the spacecraft bus and sent it on its way to Venus. If this charge fired before or during reentry, it would assure that the capsule would not be on the same trajectory as the main spacecraft.
Cracks in the official story:
The official line from the US government has always been that nothing crashed in Kecksburg. No military investigation ever happened. No object was recovered and all the witnesses were mistaken. However, there are some unusual and suspicious holes in this story. For one thing, there is a conspicuous absence of any documents relating to the event. Clearly residents did believe something had landed and reported it, and even if there was nothing to it, there should have been some record of an investigation. Even an official report which amounted to little more than “We checked this one out and there’s nothing to it,” would have been expected.
During the Cold War, the US Air Force maintained a secret program to recover debris from Russian or Chinese spacecraft, whenever one reentered the atmosphere over US territory or territory controlled by other allied or NATO countries. If a suspected reentry occurred in a friendly area, teams were dispatched to search for debris that could potentially be collected and analyzed for technical intelligence. The best known incident of this type was Cosmos 954, which reentered over Northern Canada and which a joint US and Canadian recovery operation ultimately recovered over a dozen pieces of. This incident is noteworthy because the satellite carried a nuclear reactor – leading to concerns of radioactive debris, but this was not the only time that a Soviet satellite or debris from one was recovered.
Then in 2005, a stunning statement was made that contradicted all previous reports. A NASA spokesperson stated that the agency had assisted the Air Force in analysis of material from the recovery of a “Russian Satellite” from the site. After being sued by a reporter, NASA released some additional documents from the period, which appeared to confirm a Soviet spacecraft was recovered. However, the most important documents were reported to be missing or unavailable to NASA. Despite the admission of NASA that documents do (or did) exist on the analysis of Soviet space debris, the Air Force has not commented and maintains that there was no object and no documents relating to an object.
Possible motive for deception and secrecy:
There are numerous reasons why the US government would prefer not to admit recovering a Soviet space probe, even today. The most obvious is Cold War secrecy and the fact that the government would not want the Soviets to know what we knew of them and their technical capabilities. Now, even though the Soviet Union is gone, the extent of the US effort to recover debris and the analysis done would still be a sensitive matter.
Finally, there is the matter of diplomatic and international concequences. If a piece of a Soviet Spacecraft fell in the US and was recovered, it was likely taken apart, photographed and analyzed, possibly resulting in the object being destroyed or reduced to little more than its raw parts. Considering that it was not intended to land on US territory, the Soviet Union could claim that the object was the result of a mishap but that it had not been abandoned and it was legitimately still their property.
By convention, it would have been the responsibility of the US to return the object to the Soviet Union, as was the case when the Soviet Union recovered a US space capsule “boilerplate” in 1969. Even today, admitting that the spacecraft was seized and kept by the US could cause a minor international incident.
What I think:
I think it was indeed the capsule from Cosmos-96. There’s just too much here, especially given the strange and conflicting statements from the government. That puts me in direct opposition to many skeptical investigators. However, I want to be 100% clear on something: I don’t know that it was Cosmos-96, I’m not sure that it was Cosmos-96 and I could be entirely wrong on it being Cosmos-96. It might have been nothing.
I won’t say I can prove that it was Cosmos-96, but I still suspect that it was.
This entry was posted on Thursday, February 18th, 2010 at 12:43 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Conspiracy Theories, Good Science, History, Paranormal, Space. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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