Friday, October 08, 2004

Colonel Gordon Cooper, RIP

Gordon Cooper was an unlikely UFO advocate. With his movie star good looks and balls bigger than the moons of Jupiter, he was the quintessential American astronaut.

Colonel Gordon Cooper’s first mission on the Mercury/ Atlas 9 on May 15, 1963 was the most extensive American journey to space to date. Cooper was in space for over 34 hours, completing 22 orbits of the Earth. Persistent reports have circulated that, during his final orbit, Cooper witnessed a green, glowing, Unidentified Flying Object. Radar tracking stations in Australia were said to have tracked the object and the sighting was supposedly reported live on network news.

Cooper returned to space in 1965 as part of a two man team piloting Gemini 5. This time, Cooper along with Charles Conrad spent a total of 8 days in space performing a series of experiments and taking photographs. When Cooper returned to Earth, the film was confiscated by the Pentagon and deemed “Classified.” In his autobiography, Cooper claimed that he was instructed by President Lyndon Johnson to say no more about the photographs.

It is all very mysterious indeed and is the subject of much speculation as to whether or not NASA has been hiding UFO information. But there is a one major problem with these theories…Gordon Cooper explicitly refuted them. In fact, he repeatedly stated that the reports of UFOs during his space missions were lies, distortions, and half-truths which were used to substantiate something that he claims. “…didn’t happen, sorry.”

Of course, denials frequently only serve to confirm the suspicion of a cover-up, but in Gordon Cooper’s case they should be looked at pretty seriously. What makes Gordon Cooper different from all the sinister government lackies alleged to be involved in covering up the existence of UFOs is that he not only believed in them…he wanted the World to know about them. In fact, Gordon Cooper went gone so far as to address the United Nations urging them to take over the study of UFOs. In 1978, Cooper issued a passionate plea:

"I believe that these extraterrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets which obviously are a little more technically advanced than we are here on Earth. I feel that we need to have a top level, coordinated program to scientifically collect and analyze data from all over the Earth concerning any type of encounter, and to determine how best to interface with these visitors in a friendly fashion. We may first have to show them that we have learned to resolve our problems by peaceful means, rather than warfare, before we are accepted as fully qualified universal team members. This acceptance would have tremendous possibilities of advancing our world in all areas. Certainly then it would seem that the UN has a vested interest in handling this subject properly and expeditiously.”

He also described his own role in the suppression of UFO evidence.

“For many years I have lived with a secret, in a secrecy imposed on all specialists and astronauts. I can now reveal that every day, in the USA, our radar instruments capture objects of form and composition unknown to us. And there are thousands of witness reports and a quantity of documents to prove this, but nobody wants to make them public. Why? Because the authorities are afraid that people may think of some kind of horrible invaders. So the password still is: We have to avoid panic by all means.”

Although he admits to “imposed secrecy” on astronauts, he still asserts that there were no UFO sightings during his space missions. The reported sighting in 1963 was actually a misquote regarding the appearance of the Aurora Australiasis which is similar to the Northern Lights. The confiscation of his film did actually happen, but Cooper believes it was because he had inadvertently filmed a secret military installation. While he denies his involvement with extraterrestrials while actually in outer space, he has spoken extensively about his experiences with UFOs while serving as a test pilot in the military here on Earth.

His first sighting was in 1951 when he as stationed in Germany. According to Cooper, for two days, “hundreds of UFOs” flew over his Air Force base near Munich. Describing the incident in Omni Magazine, Cooper revealed an unsuccessful attempt at military engagement.

"They were large groups of metallic saucer-shaped vehicles at great altitudes coming over in flier formation in various sized numbers and for the greater part of two days these kept coming by. They were in fingertip formation, flights would cross under, back and forth, just the same kind of formations we used in fighter groups. They had the capability of changing directions a little faster than a typical fighter would, stopping, rapid starting, changing directions...."

Cooper also claimed a second encounter that was even more mysterious. In 1957, while stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, Cooper allegedly handled film containing photos of a UFO that supposedly landed at the base. His orders were to develop but not print the film. Understandably curious, Cooper snuck a peak at the negatives and saw the image of the UFO. While Cooper’s version contains certain discrepancies, Project Blue Book did indeed have a report that closely matches his story.

On May 3, 1957 two military photographers working on test firing range at Edwards Air Force Base spotted an Unidentified Flying Object flying low about 500 feet away. The described it as luminous and gold colored, shaped like a saucer with a dome on top. Before the ship flew away they were able to take an estimated 30 photos. By their account they turned them in to their superiors and never saw them again. Later that day, the two were told that the object they saw was a weather balloon distorted by an optical illusion created by the desert heat. An Army spokesman was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, “This desert air does crazy things." The newswire story portrayed the military as even less forthcoming saying that “intelligence officers at Edwards ... would say almost nothing of the incident.”

Cooper never claimed to have actually seen anything except the photos, but, aside from minor details, his story seems to check out.

The tales of Gordon Cooper are particularly vexing to skeptics, who are forced to admit he has an impeccable record and unimpeachable credentials as military officer, pilot, astronaut, and national hero. It is hard to ascertain a motive for Cooper to lie. This is a man who has no need to link himself to obscure intergalactic conspiracies. This is a man who has actually been to outer space. As one of the earliest astronauts, Cooper was an international celebrity. He lived at the forefront of world history and his reputation could only suffer by associating with Flying Saucer buffs and conspiracy theorists. Additionally, it should be noted that he refused to endorse the one theory that his reputation would surely bolster…that UFOs were accompanying our space missions. Cooper publicly stated his views on UFOs, but never wavered on his insistence that the astronaut sightings never happened. Well, except maybe once…

In a 1980 interview with Omni Magazine Colonel Gordon Cooper once again debunked the astronaut sightings but gave at least some credence to one.

“To my knowledge, the only astronaut on any of the Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo missions who ever saw anything that might have been a UFO was Jim McDivitt, but he didn't get enough pictures to prove anything substantial. That's the only case, in spite of all the stories you hear.”

Gordon Cooper, a true American hero, explored space and is now off on an even more mysterious journey.

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