Monday, December 19, 2005

What Was That UFO In Space?

Gemini 6 & Santa
Smithsonian Magazine

      Ten days before Christmas 1965, as a distant war was intensifying and the city of New Orleans was slowly recovering from a hurricane's devastation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration got an early holiday present: astronauts Walter M. "Wally" Schirra Jr. and Thomas P. Stafford, aboard Gemini 6, rendezvoused in space with Gemini 7, piloted by Frank Borman and Jim Lovell.

      Schirra and Stafford maneuvered their capsule to within a few feet of the sister ship for the first, historic, prearranged meeting in space.

      The maneuver required the most exacting pilot and computer control of a space vehicle yet attempted. Its success demonstrated to Mission Control that when it came to linking two vehicles in space, Houston did not have a problem.

      Then, just before Stafford and Schirra were scheduled to re-enter Earth's atmosphere Dec. 16, the pair reported they had sighted some sort of UFO. Schirra re-counted the moment when Staf-ford contacted Mission Con-trol in "Schirra's Space," a memoir he wrote with Richard Billings:

      "We have an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, probably in polar orbit. ... Looks like he might be going to re-enter soon. ... You just might let me pick up that thing. ... I see a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit."

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