From: Lan Fleming <lfleming6.nul> Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2007 15:13:22 -0500 Fwd Date: Sun, 18 Mar 2007 07:08:56 -0400 Subject: Armstrong On The Apollo 11 UFO James Smith asked about the source of an assertion I made that Neil Armstrong had said that the object that he and the other Apollo 11 astronauts saw was ahead of the spacecraft. This seemed an important enough question that I went back and got the book from the library on which I based that assertion to make sure I got the details right. Below are some passages transcribed from page 431 of First Man, which is Neil Armstrong's authorized biography. The author was James R. Hansen. Hansen spends about two pages on this incident. I've omitted Armstrong's polemics about UFO nuts and psychobabble about how post-1947 UFO sightings were the result of Cold War jitters. Here are the salient paragraphs: ----- In Armstrong's mind today, there is still no doubt that what they all saw was a detached part of their own spacecraft. "We did watch a slow blinking light some substantial distance away from us. Mission Control eventually concluded - and I agree - that it was one of the Saturn LM adapter panels. These panels are enormous and would have been given a rotation in the process of their ejection from the S-IVB. The reflection from these panels would, therefore, be similar to blinking. I do not know why we did not see the other three panels, but I suspect that the one that was directly down from the Sun from us would have provided the brightest reflection." How the panel had kept up with the Apollo 11 spacecraft for over two days - and in fact, was out in front of it - was a simple matter of Newtonian physics. "When the SLA panels were ejected," Neil explains, "they had a very slight outward relative velocity, but their velocity along the flight path was essentially identical to that of the CSM-LM combination. The panels, therefore, having no atmospheric drag to slow them, traveled at the CSM-LM speed, but developed an ever-increasing lateral separation from it." ----- As can be seen in the above text, Armstrong doesn't explicitly say that the object they saw was ahead of the spacecraft; he only implies it was down sun from the spacecraft. It is the author, not Armstrong, who says that the panels were "out in front of" the spacecraft. But since this was an authorized biography, presumably Armstrong was the source of Hansen's explanation, which is incorrect. As a simple matter of Newtonian physics, the combined effects of the panel jettison velocity and the spacecraft's midcourse correction makes the preferred NASA explanation virtually impossible. At the distance of 577 miles computed by James Smith, the object could have been no more than a featureless dot, even under the magnification of the Apollo's 28-power telescope. It could not have appeared to be shaped like an "open suitcase" as Armstrong described it in the post-flight debriefing, or any discernible shape at all. And of course, contrary to what the author implies, Buzz Aldrin, at least, seemed to orignally have had plenty of doubt that the object was an SLA panel because of its observed shape. Those difficulties with the panel explanation notwithstanding, Armstrong's authorized biography says the object was an SLA panel, Aldrin's own book said it was an SLA panel, and Mission Control said it was an SLA panel, so that makes the panel explanation a 'fact' carved in stone, even though it's almost certainly wrong.
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