Nick Redfern is an alternative historian and author of a number of books on UFOs and government secrecy. Unlike a lot of conspiracy theorists, however, Redfern brings a thoughtful and critical eye to these questions and complements his speculation with methodical archival research. That’s why the title of his most recent book is likely misleading. The NASA Conspiracies: The Truth Behind the Moon Landings, Censored Photos, and the Face on Mars is less about whether those popular conspiracy claims are true, and more focused on why a public administration like NASA has developed a culture of secrecy in the first place. In the article below, Redfern takes us on a fascinating tour through the minds of NASA administrators in the 1950s and 60s, key decades for the American space program and its role in national security.
On October 4, 1957, the Western world was shocked to its core when the former Soviet Union launched into Earth-orbit the Sputnik 1 satellite, which succeeded in traversing the globe at a stunning 18,000 miles-per-hour and emitted radio-signals for a full twenty-two days. And although the life of Sputnik 1 was destined to be a short one – while falling from orbit on January 4, 1958, it burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere – the propaganda value of its launch alone, at the height of the tension-filled Cold War, was near-incalculable. The U.S. Government, in particular, feeling both panicked and highly vulnerable by the fact that the Russians had overwhelmingly trumped them in the race for outer-space, quickly recognized the dire need – scientifically, psychologically and defense-wise – to catch up with what, at the time, was most certainly the biggest and largely unforeseen and unanticipated development within the Communist world.
The U.S. Congress, which was overwhelmingly alarmed and utterly appalled by what became known as the “Sputnik Crisis,” demanded rapid and concerted action on the part of the government as a whole. Under no circumstances at all, it was forcefully argued, could the Soviet Union be allowed to gain a significant foothold in the previously-uncharted domain of outer-space; and particularly so if that same domain was ever to become significantly militarized. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his advisers, recognizing that the world around them was changing rapidly, drastically and in largely unanticipated ways, took quick and deliberate steps to try and rectify the situation and to redress the delicate balance of power that existed at the time. The dire need for a new agency to deal with an equally new realm, namely that of outer-space was clearly realized and was eagerly beckoning.
Notably, following the launch of Sputnik 1, there was a sudden and intriguing increase in the number of UFO sightings reported from within the confines of the United States of America. While those of a distinctly skeptical nature might give much consideration to the possibility that many such reports were merely due to over-excitement, Cold War nerves, hysteria and concern over the surprise Russian launch, other events could not be dismissed quite so easily. An FBI report on UFOs of November 12, 1957 made that more than abundantly clear:
“Within the past two weeks reports have increased tremendously and some of the more serious have been described as follows: An object had landed in Nebraska with six people aboard, the persons had talked to a Nebraska farmer and then sped off into space; a fiery object was seen flashing across the southern skies from Albany, Georgia, to Miami, Florida; a Coast Guard cutter had sighted a huge object flying over the Gulf of Mexico; and persons in the Southwestern states while driving their cars have allegedly seen UFOs that caused the engines in their automobiles to stop.”
From the latter part of 1957 through the early months of 1958, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) initiated a careful study to determine precisely what the creation of a new non-military space agency might very well involve, how that same agency might successfully liaise with the U.S. military, and the potential nature and scope of its overall functions and goals. On January 14, 1958, NACA prepared a document titled A National Research Program for Space Technology that, in part, stated:
“It is of great urgency and importance to our country both from consideration of our prestige as a nation as well as military necessity that this challenge [Sputnik] be met by an energetic program of research and development for the conquest of space. It is accordingly proposed that the scientific research be the responsibility of a national civilian agency. NACA is capable, by rapid extension and expansion of its effort, of providing leadership in space technology.”
And the plans of NACA most certainly did not disappoint those within officialdom who had been caught totally off-guard by the Soviet development. Spurred on by the controversies surrounding the Sputnik affair, the agency launched into space the United States’ first artificial satellite, Explorer 1, on January 31, 1958, at 10:48 p.m., Eastern Standard Time. A little more than a month later, specifically on March 5, James Killian, at the time the Chairman of the President’s Science Advisory Committee, prepared a memorandum for the attention of President Eisenhower titled Organization for Civil Space Programs. It was a document designed to decisively encourage the rapid establishment of a civilian space program based upon a strengthened and re-designated NACA. Eisenhower and his presidential advisors were highly impressed.
In April 1958, and as a direct result of NACA’s growing vision, Eisenhower proudly stood before Congress and delivered a formal, executive address that detailed the plans for the creation of just such an agency – an agency that was originally going to be called the National Aeronautical and Space Agency. Congress swiftly passed the bill on July 16; albeit somewhat rewritten, as the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958. Thirteen days later, Eisenhower formally signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, thus establishing the renamed National Aeronautics and Space Administration: NASA.
Even its very earliest years, NASA found its path crossing with that concerning life on other worlds: at the dawning of the 1960s, when NASA’s plans for outer-space activity reached stratospheric levels, Donald N. Michael, of the prestigious Brookings Institution, prepared a document for NASA’s Committee on Long Range Studies titled Proposed Studies on the Implications of Peaceful Space Activities for Human Affairs, and which was submitted to the House of Representatives in the 87th United States Congress on April 18, 1961. It proved to be a pivotal moment in the long and winding history of NASA. And in relation to the possibility that the Human Race would one day encounter beings from other star-systems and galaxies, the author of the report wrote:
“Recent publicity given to efforts to detect extraterrestrial messages via radio telescope has popularized – and legitimized – speculations about the impact of such a discovery on human values. It is conceivable that there is semi¬ intelligent life in some part of our solar system or highly intelligent life which is not technologically oriented, and many cosmologists and astronomers think it very likely that there is intelligent life in many other solar systems. While face-to-face meetings with it will not occur within the next twenty years (unless its technology is more advanced than ours, qualifying it to visit earth), artifacts left at some point in time by these life forms might possibly be discovered through our space activities on the Moon, Mars, or Venus. If there is any contact to be made during the next twenty years it would most likely be by radio – which would indicate that these beings had at least equaled our own technological level.
“The knowledge that life existed in other parts of the universe might lead to a greater unity of men on earth, based on the oneness of man or on the age-old assumption that any stranger is threatening. Much would depend on what, if anything, was communicated between man and the other beings: since after the discovery there will be years of silence (because even the closest stars are several light years away, an exchange of radio communication would take twice-the number of light years separating our sun from theirs), the fact that such beings existed might become simply one of the facts of life but probably not one calling for action. Whether earthmen would be inspired to all-out space efforts by such a discovery is a moot question. Anthropological files contain many examples of societies, sure of their place in the universe, which have disintegrated when they have had to associate with previously unfamiliar societies espousing different ideas and different life ways; others that survived such an experience usually did so by paying the price of changes in values and attitudes and behavior.”
Since that historic date, NASA has placed satellites into Earth orbit; blasted men and women into space; put a handful of brave astronauts onto the surface of the Moon; revamped and revolutionized space-travel with the Space Shuttle; sent unmanned probes to such planets as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and Venus; and ensured that humankind is no longer tethered to planet Earth.
But that is not all: behind the scenes, there is a very different NASA; a darker and shadowy NASA. It is a NASA that is seemingly populated to near-bursting point by stories of high-level cover-ups and secrets relative to UFOs, flying saucers, alien-life-forms from far-off worlds, crashed extraterrestrial spacecraft, dead aliens held in cryogenic storage, the notorious Face on Mars that many researchers of the puzzle believe was built millennia ago by a race of now-long-extinct Martians, the issue of whether or not the historic Apollo Moon-landings of 1969-72 were faked, classified photographs of alien spaceships, and shocking and sensational testimony from NASA’s very own astronauts on their beliefs, and sightings, of a definitively UFO and alien nature.
In the world of NASA, nothing is quite as it seems!
Article author: Nick Redfern