Friday, September 16, 2011

BELGIUM UFO FLAP | Petit-Rechain UFO Photo: ". . . Patrick Marechal, Emerged to Announce he had Hoaxed the Image Using a Styrofoam Model"

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Petite Rechain UFO Photo
Burn, baby, burn

By Billy Cox De Void

Billy Cox     With American infrastructure crumbling, poverty at its highest level since 1993, and unemployment lodged at a stubborn 9.1 percent, any unconventional new science initiative — especially one involving UFOs, no matter how modest — would be laughed off as a joke. But when it comes to reality checks, it’s getting increasingly difficult to distinguish one category of joke from another.

The Obama administration is now reeling from accusations of pressing for a $535M loan to an upstart solar energy company in 2009 before the Office of Management and Budget had completed its risk assessment. We learned this week that loan recipient Solyndra went bankrupt, leaving taxpayers in a lurch for half a billion bucks.

Half a billion dollars — gone in the blink of an eye.

Rough transition: There’s a fascinating controversy underway now concerning the so-called Petite Rechain UFO photo. This was the triangle-shaped enigma allegedly taken during the 1989-90 wave over Belgium. It was featured prominently, as best evidence, in Leslie Kean’s UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record.

This summer, 21 years after the fact and just weeks before The History Channel aired its documentary take on Kean’s book, the photographer, one Patrick Marechal, emerged to announce he had hoaxed the image using a Styrofoam model. Although Marechel’s confession doesn’t negate the testimony of countless others who claim to have seen the UFO(s) at other times and other locales, it is damaging, not only to the book and the “Special Access” documentary, but to the entire process brought to bear in evaluating the photo’s authenticity.

Weighing in on the Petite Rechain photo was a team assembled by the Royal Military Academy in Brussels, and directed by Marc Acheroy, director of the Academy’s signal and engineering center. It also passed the smell test for satellite imaging specialist Francois Louange and nuclear physicist Andre Marion — both with French space agency CNES — as well as former NASA scientist Richard Haines, now with the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena. Conversely, speaking of credibility, there’s an ongoing discussion of Marechal’s integrity at Kean’s Facebook page, which is worth a look.

This begs a question: Would a formal U.S. screening panel, sponsored by, say, the National Academy of Sciences, have been astute enough to have detected this hoax (if, in fact, that’s what it is)? We’ll never know, of course. We went there before, back in 1966, when the USAF approached the NAS to produce a study to get the UFO monkey off the military’s back.

The Pentagon got what it wanted, but the big loser was science. The price tag on that sham study, known informally as the Condon Report, was $313,000. Adjusted for inflation, that works out to $2,023,688.11 in 2011. By what factor of that did we just throw away on Solyndra?

Imagine the hoots of congressional ridicule if we tried to funnel $2M — or 0.00016 percent of the $1.2 trillion tab for our military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan — into a legitimate NAS study on UFOs. Imagine, also, its potential for igniting public interest in science. Imagine, in the run-up to an election year, voters actually petitioning their representatives for a little consideration. Imagine elected officials contemplating those letters. Imagine a blue whale building a nest in a cottonwood tree.

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