Pioneering astronaut Gordon Cooper denies being the first astronaut
see a UFO while in orbit, but stands by his reports of a strange encounter
over Germany in the 1950s.
Cooper flatly denied the long-standing claim, repeated over the
various authors including UFOlogical saints Allen Hynek and Jacques
Valley, that he saw a greenish object with a red tail move past his
Mercury 9 spacecraft in 1963.
"No, somebody made a lot of money selling â€¦
lies on that one," Cooper,
the sixth American in space, told Art Bell on the syndicated "Coast to
Coast" talk radio show Thursday night. "It was totally untrue, sorry to
However, the retired air force colonel, who once lectured the
Nations on the reality of UFOs, still holds an "unshakable" belief in
extraterrestrial intelligence, thanks largely to personal experience.
"On one occasion, I saw some strange vehicles that we assumed
he told Bell.
In the encounter, which took place over Germany in the early 1950s,
Cooper saw "flights of fighters flying by in the same sort of formation we
flew, moving east to west." The U.S. Air Force base scrambled its own
pilots, including Cooper, who remembers the objects as looking "just like
saucers -- they were metallic looking, but we couldn't really get close
enough to see more than that. You couldn't see any wings on them."
At the time, Cooper entertained the possibility that the craft
might be a
new Soviet design, but "looking back now," he suspects "it was some kind
of extraterrestrial vehicle."
He also stood by his belief that he saw a UFO land at Edwards
Base in California in 1957. Although Cooper had been filming the base with
a camera crew at the time, the film, which he handed over to a
high-ranking officer from Washington, has never emerged.
Area 51 and the lost Gemini photographs
After another round of filming --- this time in orbit aboard Gemini
Cooper ran into trouble with the authorities when they confiscated film he
took from space. However, in contrast to UFO legend, this film did not
contain photographic proof of an alien encounter.
Instead, he had ran afoul of the authorities for taking pictures
"top secret" Nevada military base known familiarly as "Area 51".
"I found out fairly recently that one of the reasons it got confiscated
was I had inadvertently â€¦ overflown Area 51," while taking test photos,
Cooper had no comment on the Great Face on Mars.
"That's one of the reasons you need to send a manned mission to
study that stuff closer," he told Bell, gently criticizing today's NASA
and recent presidential administrations for lacking the "bravery" to build
on previous generations' space advances.