Flight through Outer Space
When the flying saucer scare started, in 1947, few reputable astronomers publicly admitted a chance for interstellar space flight. But there has been a gradual change in the last two or three years. One proof of this came in February, 1951, when Dr. William Markowitz, a Naval Observatory astronomer, discovered a strange object in our solar system.
The day after the discovery Thomas R. Henry, the conservative science editor of the Washington Star, discussed the object with Dr. Markowitz and other Naval Observatory astronomers. In an article based on their views, Mr. Henry made this statement:
"Although highly improbable, the possibility cannot be denied that the new-found object is a space ship launched from some planet outside the solar system."
Later Dr. Markowitz concluded that the strange object was a peculiar type of asteroid with a unique orbit. But the fact remains that experienced astronomers and a careful science editor admitted the possibility of interstellar flight.
Other prominent astronomers have now publicly stated that the universe may hold many inhabited planets. One of these is Dr. Carl F. von Weizacker, noted University of Chicago astrophysicist.
"Billions upon billions of stars," Dr. von Weizacker has said, "may each have their own planets revolving about them. It is possible that these planets would have animal and plant life on them similar to the earths."
Our progress toward space travel has changed the minds of many engineers and scientists who once called this a fantastic dream. We have made long strides since the pioneering rocket tests of Dr. Robert H. Goddard which began back in the twenties. Most of this progress has been made in the last five years. Perhaps it was only coincidence, but our intensive drive for space travel did not begin until after the first flood of saucer reports.
Within a few months the Defense Department mapped serious plans for a moon rocket and an artificial satellite. In 1948 Secretary James Forrestal publicly announced the first steps.
"The Earth Satellite Vehicle Program, which is being carried out independently by each military service, has been assigned to the Committee on Guided Missiles for coordination. . . . Well-defined areas of research have been allocated to each of the three military departments."
Another hint of the government's interest was given by General Curtis Le May, when he asked Congress for Air Force research funds covering these items: "Flight and survival equipment for ultra-atmospheric operations, including space vehicles, space bases, and devices for use therein."
We are still several years from our first space flight. While a moon rocket could be built now, it would be a crude device compared with the space ships which have been planned. One reason is that we are waiting for atomic power. Also, rocket designers have almost outstripped the research scientists. This was frankly admitted last February by the chief of the rocket section at the Naval Research Laboratory.
"Present plans for space travel," he said, "and designs for space ships are based on a meager store of scientific
knowledge. Before we can attempt to transport human beings in a ship, we must produce a practical, reliable, unmanned satellite. To do this we need better, more efficient rocket power plants . . .
"We need more research on fuels, on high-temperature metals, and methods for cooling the inner walls of rocket motors and the outer skins of high-speed airframes."
However, we have learned some of the answers, using improved V-2s and other rockets. Powered by liquid fuels, a Wac-Corporal unit, fired at high altitude from the nose of a V-2, has climbed about 250 miles, reaching a speed of 5,000 m.p.h. Eventually rockets driven by atomic-powered jets, or perhaps a now-unknown propulsion system, will escape the earth's gravity and fly into free space.
In the frigid cold of the earth's shadow, space-ship cabins will have to be heated. But in sunlight, crews will have to be protected from the intense solar heat: even in our supersonic test planes, which fly at less than 100,000 feet, cockpits must be air-cooled. To safeguard crews in airless space, a balance must be found between the extreme cold on the shaded side of a ship and the tremendous solar heat on the exposed side. Methods now considered include combinations of black and white painting, and a slow, controlled rotation of the entire space ship.
Already, chemical air-purifying systems have been planned for crew compartments. Tests indicate that crews and passengers will breathe oxygen and helium, eliminating the danger from nitrogen bubbles.
After scores of rocket flights, engineers have developed complicated control and recording instruments which withstand the shock of terrific acceleration. The first crude inertial controls of the V-2 have been replaced by new devices which detect the slightest variation in speed. Gyroscopes a thousand times more accurate than those used in aircraft are ready for space-ship use, and automatic navigation equipment designed for guided missiles is being adapted for space rockets.
To learn what human beings can stand in space, Air Force and Navy space-medicine experts have made hundreds of tests. One series, made with the Air Force decelerator sled at Muroc Air Force Base, shows that humans can stand far more gs than was once believed. (One g is the normal pull of gravity.)
In these tests the G-sled, driven by rockets down a 2,000-foot track, swiftly reaches a top speed of almost 200 miles an hour. Near the end of the track it is halted by a powerful braking system—or, in the latest type, by a scoop lowered into a trough of water. When stopped in the shortest possible time, the force produced is at least 50 gs.
Major John P. Stapp, Air Force medical officer in charge of the tests, has taken 45 gs, facing forward on the sled. An even higher number can be taken by a human guinea pig facing backward during the abrupt stop.
"The highest tolerance has not yet been reached," says Major Stapp. "I believe it is much greater than ordinarily thought possible."
More exact tests are now being made with a centrifuge— a cockpit like chamber whirled at the end of a long trussed beam. During these experiments a pilot's reactions are automatically photographed; they can also be relayed by television to a control room. By timing him as he works out various problems, at different rotation speeds, observers learn how many gs he can take without mental lag and confusion.
It has been found that a pilot lying prone in the centrifuge can take four to five gs for almost ten minutes, and this is the average force expected in a space-ship take-off.
More elaborate centrifuges, simulating control and navigation rooms of space ships, have already been planned. Crews will be trained, under varying gs, in every step from take-off to navigating in free space, before they make their first flight.
Actual tests with mice and monkeys have shown what our spacemen can expect during launchings and even in
free space. Some of the details have been supplied to me from the Aero Medical Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Field.
Monkeys, enclosed in "capsules" with an oxygen supply, were fitted with medical instruments to show blood pressure, heartbeat, and rate of breathing. During the upward flight automatic radio equipment signaled all changes to Aero Medical men on the ground and no unusual effects were noted.
All the monkeys lived through the ascent to maximum altitude, but four were killed when their parachutes failed. The fifth landed safely, still enclosed in its capsule, but died from the desert heat before it could be found.
These experiments also showed Aero Medical men the effects of "zero gravity" or weightlessness, which spacemen will encounter when they escape the pull of the earth. One test, automatically photographed, showed the mice floating in their rotating drum, as the rocket started back to earth. For two or three minutes the rocket's downward speed equaled the pull of gravity, so that the mice were weightless.
When they were examined, after parachutes landed their drum, they showed no ill effects from having been "gravity free." Also, the photographs showed that a normal mouse was as much at ease inverted as when standing upright.
Probably humans will suffer no more serious effects, but there will be several odd complications, perhaps some uncomfortable sensations.
Once a spaceman is weightless, any careless movement may send him bumping into hard objects—falling upward, sidewise, or sailing the length of his compartment. If he raises his hand suddenly to scratch his nose, the lack of gravity resistance may result in a knockout blow—or at least a disconcerting jolt.
When he breathes, the exhaled carbon dioxide will stay in front of his face, to be breathed in again, unless the
air is constantly circulated. Because the human body is a closed system—unlike a plant—spacemen will be able to eat and drink without gravity. But drinking, for example, will not be simple. If a space-ship passenger spilled milk from an ordinary glass, the liquid would be suspended in mid-air. To prevent this, spacemen will probably use nippled bags.
Likewise, any loose object—a knife, fork, dish, or anything not fastened down—will float wherever it is placed. Frequently used equipment will have to be secured with clamps, or magnetized to cling to metal sections. Ordinarily sharp objects, like eating utensils, will have to have rounded tips or edges to prevent accidental stabs or cuts.
Just how long our future spacemen can endure the weightless state is a question. It may produce effects which will require designers to create an artificial gravity.
By putting jet planes into a "ballistics trajectory"—a course slowly but continually moving downward, like a falling shell—space-medicine researchers have been able to get "zero gravity" for up to 30 seconds. Pilots and crewmen in this weightless condition have described uncomfortable sensations, although they could think clearly.
On long space flights, this unnatural state may become mentally unbearable, even if it does not cause actual "space sickness."
There may be several ways of creating artificial gravity so that our spacemen will feel normal even in outer space. One way, suggested by Dr. J. C. Bellamy in 1950, would be to build a rotating space ship. Since then the same idea has been explored by Dr. Wernther von Braun, creator of the V-2, and also scientists of the British Interplanetary Society.
This type of space ship, which the English call the 'living wheel," would consist of a huge spoked device with crew's quarters in the hollow rim. The centrifugal force caused by rotation would provide an artificial gravity, so that crewmen would walk normally on a curved floor at right angles to the hub of the wheel.
Before large space ships can be built, we must produce some light-weight, heat-resistant metal. It may be an alloy combining the lightness of titanium, a silver-gray metal now mined near Quebec, with a heat-resistant metal similar to rhenium. Or some now-unknown alloy may be discovered before space ships go into production.
Judging from present progress, the first satellite will be launched in less than five years. It may be a two- or three-stage rocket, fired from a desert base, or it may be carried aloft by a giant jet transport, to give it an initial take-off speed with less fuel waste.
In either case it will be guided—by ground trackers or by robot controls—into its preselected orbit around the earth. As it circles the globe, automatic radio and television transmitters will relay information to Ground Control, showing various instrument readings and also pictures of the earth taken from the rocket.
After a time the satellite may be brought down gradually to lower altitudes, to see how slowly a space ship must reenter our atmosphere without dangerous overheating.
On a later test flight, if not the first, probably monkeys and mice will be sent up in capsules or drums, with automatic devices attached to signal physical reactions to Ground Control. During gravity-free flight, some animals might be released into a larger space, so that ground observers could watch the results of prolonged weightlessness.
When everything possible has been learned from these tests, the first manned satellite will take off.
For the first few minutes the crewmen will lie strapped on their G-couches, while robot controls guide the space ship upward. At the selected altitude either the robot or the crewmen will turn the ship into its orbit, where it will coast endlessly until a landing is desired.
If von Braun's plan is followed, the satellite will circle the globe every two hours, at right angles to the earth's axis. On each circuit, radar and telescopes will be able to scan a strip about 1,000 miles wide. By circling at right
angles to the earth's rotation, every spot on the globe will be observed during a 24-hour period.
In case of war, guided H-bomb missiles could be launched from this base and aimed by radar at any target on earth. The space base could also serve as a control-point for long-range missiles launched from the earth itself.
But the satellite's peacetime uses will be equally important. At this airless height astronomers will be able to see the stars more clearly; new discoveries about the universe will soon follow. Crews can warn the earth of approaching hurricanes and send data for accurate weather forecasting.
Living aboard for days, weeks, perhaps months, the crew will learn many things of value in planning long space flights. It will be a strange existence, even though radio and television programs will give crewmen a comforting contact with the earth.
There will be one danger—that a meteor might penetrate the sealed ship. Tiny meteors, speck-size, will vaporize on the "meteor bumper"—a thin, metallic nose shield-even though they hit at a speed of from 20 to 50 miles per second. The larger types, which are rare, would tear through the double walls—even a meteor half an inch in diameter could penetrate the cabin. Crews will be trained to throw emergency patches over such a hole and to rebuild cabin pressure swiftly, meantime using their space suits' oxygen supply.
However, astronomers have calculated that such disasters would be very unlikely—a space ship would probably travel for months without being endangered. Meteor showers will be plotted in advance to avoid extra hazard and once a space ship is in free space radar is expected to give warning of any dangerous object that may be approaching. It will take only an infinitely small change in course, probably automatic, to miss a collision.
After a satellite has been operated long enough to give crewmen experience, the next step will be a flight to the
moon. A new type of propulsion may make it possible to launch a manned rocket directly from the earth. But at present, von Braun and other rocket experts expect to construct space ships at satellite bases, with all the materials, fuel, and supplies carried up from the earth in three-stage freight rockets.
Actual construction will be done by engineers in space suits, already tested by the Air Force and the Navy. Floating in space, they will assemble the prefabricated ships, using reaction-flasks of carbon dioxide to push them from one spot to another.
Because of the moon's short distance from us, about 239,000 miles, the flight will be relatively easy. The first trip may be only a mapping expedition, by camera, radar, and visual observation. Or the crew may first make these checks and then land.
For the landing the crew will turn the ship around, descending stern-first. Once in this position, they will let down slowly, by a gradual decrease in jet thrust. Since the moon has no atmosphere, there will be no air resistance to heat up the ship.
Using space suits, the pioneers will set up a small base and make radio contact with the earth. Crews from other ships will later expand the base. Underground, air-conditioned shelters will be built as a protection against the daytime heat and the minus 214 degrees cold of the long moon night. Atomic furnaces will probably be used to supply heat, power, and light, as space-freighters bring in equipment, furnishings, and food from the earth.
The moon base will be doubly important. Guided missiles could be launched easily because of the moon's small gravity—only one sixth that of the earth. Once in free space, they could be guided by radar to any target on our globe. And because of the moon's small gravity, it will be a main take-off base for interplanetary flights. By taking on just enough fuel for a moon flight, space ships leaving the earth can carry larger loads of passengers and supplies.
When they reach the moon, they can take on a full fuel load, and still take off easily, with the moon's pull only one sixth that of the earth.
Unlike the earth-moon trip, flights to other planets will involve complicated navigation. Mechanical brains, like the present Goodyear L-3 GEDA, will work out the course, figuring when and where to intercept the target planet's orbit.
Probably Mars will be first solar planet to be explored. At its nearest approach, Mars is 35 million miles from the earth. Venus, at its nearest, is closer—25 million miles. But Mars, according to many astronomers, is the most likely to have intelligent life, and several peculiar incidents in the last three years seem to increase the probability.
The most important evidence is linked with the mysterious explosion on Mars in 1949. The strange blast was seen on December 9 by the noted Japanese astronomer, Tsuneo Saheki. Since Saheki has specialized in observing Mars since 1933, his report carried weight with world scientists.
According to Saheki, the explosion caused a brilliant glow for several minutes. This was followed by a luminous yellowish-gray cloud 40 miles high and 700 miles in diameter. After ruling out all other explanations, Saheki suggested it had been an atomic explosion.
Such a blast could be from two causes, Saheki said—a volcanic eruption or an artificial atomic explosion. If the latter, then it could only have been set off by highly advanced beings. In this case it could have been a test of some atomic weapon even more powerful than the H bomb —or it could have been an accident.
If it was an artificial explosion, there are three possibilities. It might have been caused by a Martian race; a race from another planet could have settled on Mars recently; or spacemen from outside our solar system might be using Mars as an operating base during their investigation of the earth.
Since the 1949 explosion, strange blue clouds have been seen above Mars by Walter H. Haas, director of the Society of Lunar and Planetary Observers—also by other astronomers. The cause of the clouds is a mystery.
Beside this recent activity, there are other unanswered questions about Mars. The most important concerns the long-disputed canali on the red planet, discovered by Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1877. Though Schiaparelli did not claim these "channels" were artificial, he did not deny the possibility that they were canals built to link the melting polar icecaps with water-starved areas on Mars.
Since then, many scientists have accepted this answer, among them Percival Lowell, who established Lowell Observatory in Arizona and studied the red planet for over 30 years. During this time Lowell discovered a precise network of over 600 canali—which he was convinced were waterways. Lowell's theory, stated in his three books,* was that Mars is a dying planet, with the melting icecaps it’s only remaining source of water. The Martians, Lowell believed, had built the canal network and a series of pumping stations in a gradually losing battle to perpetuate their race.
In addition to this, several astronomers have reported seeing odd geometrical symbols on Mars. To be visible from the earth, they would have to be gigantic. The most logical explanation is that the Martians were attempting to signal the nearest inhabited planet, perhaps in the hope of being saved from their slowly approaching doom. But even the existence of the symbols is denied by many competent observers.
However, the possibility that Mars is inhabited—at least temporarily—is serious enough to make it the first one explored.
During the flight robot calculators and automatic star-trackers will keep the ship on course. And by the time a
* Mars and Its Canals; Mars as the Abode of Life; The Evolution of Worlds.
Mars voyage is possible; a new method of navigation should be practical—radio astronomy.
In the last few years’ astronomers using radio-telescopes —giant parabolic reflectors with amplifying systems—have been hearing mysterious radio "signals" from the Milky Way and beyond. Their source is unknown.
At first scientists believed the peculiar transmissions came from hot objects of great magnitude, which they named "radio stars." But astronomers have been unable to identify them with any luminous objects.
In a recent report Dr. Grote Reber, Bureau of Standards authority on cosmic radiation, stated that such powerful radio waves could not be caused by any star, or group of stars'. He admitted he was puzzled by the signals, which combine to form an odd hissing sound.
"These mysterious radio transmissions," said Dr. Reber, "are one of the biggest questions in science today. We're not sure of their origin or what they mean."
In England two British scientists, Drs. R. Hanbury Brown and C. Hazard, have tracked some of the signals to the galaxy Andromeda. But like Dr. Reber, they do not attempt to explain the meaning, though they believe some unknown phenomenon may be the cause.
Inevitably, it has been suggested that the signals may be "scrambled" messages between inhabited planets, or between some planet and its space ships. It is also possible that some of the signals come from interplanetary navigation beacons fixed in space, or located on small celestial bodies which our telescopes will not pick up.
Message-scrambling is a familiar practice here on earth, but though Bureau of Standards scientists have recorded the signals on tape, no one has been able to separate the strange hissing into code or intelligible sounds.
So far, about 200 signal sources have been located in space. Whether natural or artificial, their locations are so precise that they could be used for accurate cross-bearings. Our future spacemen will undoubtedly use the signals to
check their courses, especially on long flights such as the journey to Mars.
As our first space ship to Mars swings into the red planet's orbit, its crew will begin long-range observations with telescopes and radar. If it seems to be inhabited, they would have to make a cautious survey before getting too close.
Either the crew will launch one or more small manned craft, or they will send down remote-control devices with cameras and television "eyes," such as we now use in radio-controlled drones. Meantime, radiomen on the ship will listen in for voice or code transmissions from Mars. If any are heard, the crew will record them and try to decipher their meaning.
To avoid alarming the Martians, the explorers would at first keep their observer units at a fairly high altitude. If they were not fired on or chased by Martian aircraft, the crew would begin a lower-altitude survey. In this preliminary check they would naturally photograph or televise any aircraft or space-ship bases, the planet's defenses, cities, and industries.
If Martian pilots tried to intercept the observer units with ordinary aircraft, the units could be easily maneuvered out of danger by remote control. But if the Martians also had space ships, the earth crew would have to retrieve its units—or possibly abandon them—and escape into outer space. Later they might steal back for night observations by radar and infrared devices.
After this first survey, the space-ship crew might return to the earth, or they might remain in Mars' orbit and report their discovery by radio. If the Martians seemed to be a possible menace to the earth, other space ships might be sent for a check-up en masse.
Provided the Martians did not have space ships, the explorers from earth could land on Mars' two small moons and set up operating bases. The outer moon, Deimos, is about 10 miles in diameter, while Phobos, the nearer one,
is a little larger. Their small size and lack of gravity would create problems, but they might serve as temporary bases.
It might take a long time to survey all the important areas of Mars. Deciphering their radio signals—assuming there were any—might take even longer, especially if broadcasts were in several different languages like those on earth. Because of this, a steady surveillance might go on for several years, before we could be sure of the Martians' reaction to our space ships.
If the long survey showed they were not hostile and that they were beings of a type we wished to know, we would undoubtedly prepare for contact. The first step would probably be an attempt at communication by radio, light signals, or by dropping messages.
It could take months to make our aims understood, and it might be impossible. Even if normally peaceful, the Martians might be terrified by our space ships; fearing invasion, they could interpret our peaceful messages as trickery and resist any attempt at landing. Or, after landings, our possible difference in appearance might set off panic and cause a desperate attack. In the end we might have to give up all efforts at conciliation and leave the Martians to their own devices.
Our explorers, of course, might find the Martians a dangerously hostile race. If our civilization were far ahead of theirs, we could still leave them alone, with safety. But if they had atomic weapons and space ships, or were nearing this stage, the earth governments would face a fateful decision.
They could try to avert interplanetary war by displaying our advanced space weapons, at the same time offering peaceful cooperation. If this were refused, they could bomb the Martian space bases and atomic weapon plants and end the threat.
The same program, with the same chances for peace or war, would apply to Venus, other solar-system planets, and possibly to planets of the nearest star systems.
How long it will take to fly to Mars, Venus, and other
planets is still conjecture. The distances are known, but the propulsion method is not. With liquid fuels, now used in rockets, some space-travel planners figure on a speed of 25,000 miles an hour. High as this may sound; it is far too low for space travel on a large scale. A round trip to Mars would take about three years, including an enforced stopover—a space-ship crew would have to wait until the earth was in the proper position before taking off for the long trip back.
Eventually, atomic-energy propulsion, mass conversion of energy, the use of electromagnetic fields, or some now-unknown method will make it possible to accelerate to fantastic speeds. Once in free space, where there is no resistance, a space ship can—theoretically—approach the speed of light, which is 186,000 miles per second. A few scientists believe even this is not the limit; Blarney Stevens, in his "Identity Theory," presents a reasoned case for higher speeds. But most prominent scientists accept Einstein's formula which sets the speed-of-light limit.
Though it may take centuries, many space planners believe we—or rather our descendants—will some day get close to the speed of light in the longer space voyages. Even at one half this speed trips within our solar system would become amazingly short.
But flights to stars outside our solar system, even at almost the speed of light, would take many years—unless Einstein's theory of special relativity provides a loophole, as some scientists believe. Alpha Centauri, for example, is 4.29 light-years from the earth; a round trip, without stopping or allowing time to accelerate and decelerate, would take 8.58 years. A one-way trip to Wolf 359, which was mentioned in the 1949 Project Sign report, would take over eight years, including acceleration time. Even longer periods would be required to reach other "nearby" stars, including Sirius, 9.11 light-years distant; Alpha Canis Minoris, 10.22; and Kruger 60, which is 12.62 light-years away.
There are a dozen other bright stars within this time
range. At least two, the binary stars 61 Cygni and 70 Ophiuchi, are known to have planets. Possibly one of them, or a planet revolving around one of the other stars, may have intelligent life equal—or even superior—to our own.
But the very thought of such long flights is appalling in terms of our life span. An earthling of 24 would return from Wolf 359 a middle-aged man, a stranger to his own globe. A traveler to Kruger 60 would spend over 25 years in space before he returned home.
Many years ago Magellan and his crew spent lonely years circumnavigating the globe. But they could break the monotony, dropping anchor in sheltered harbors. Few people on earth would accept unbroken years in space, even if they were sure of a safe return.
However, Einstein's theory of special relativity does provide a loophole. It is known as the "time dilatation factor." According to this theory, a space ship's travel time would shrink as it approached the speed of light, and the actual elapsed time would be far less than that at the point of departure.
Incredible as it may seem, the theory of time dilatation is accepted by numerous reputable scientists and space-travel planners. Other scientists, including Dr. Menzel, agree to the theory for one-way space flight, but insist that the return trip offsets the shrinkage in time.
One of the most thorough discussions of time dilatation may be found in the July, 1952, issue of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. It was written by Dr. L. R. Shepherd, the society's technical director and one of England's leading scientists.
After stating the formula involved, Dr. Shepherd adds that the time dilatation effect has been proved experimentally by observations on m-mesons passing through the earth's atmosphere.
To illustrate the principle, Dr. Shepherd assumes that a traveler, X, makes a round trip to Procyon, 10.4 light-years from the earth, while an observer, Y, remains here
to record the elapsed time. To simplify matters, Dr. Shepherd makes this a nonstop-trip and also disregards time for acceleration and deceleration—on such a long voyage they would not be important factors.
For this space trip Dr. Shepherd uses a travel velocity of .990 c (the speed of light). In this case, as he shows by the formula of special relativity, the time recorded by X is one seventh of that measured by Y, the earth observer.
As a result, says Dr. Shepherd, Y records X's return 21 years later, while to X the elapsed time is only three years. Unfortunately, as Dr. Shepherd admits, X's family and all his friends would be 18 years older than he was. Except for this, time dilatation would seem to be an encouraging factor leading to eventual long-range space travel.
Utterly fantastic though it may sound, time dilatation may be proved in some far-distant space flight—just as Einstein's much-maligned early formula, E = mc2, was finally proved true that fateful day at Alamogordo, when the first A bomb was exploded.
If it proves a fallacy, then only a greatly increased life span will make it possible for earthlings to reach the far-distant stars. Journeys to our neighboring star system will not be impossible for determined explorers, but the long years involved would be a barrier to regular flights . . .
When I finished this summary of our own space-travel plans, one fact stood out clearly. If we had come this far in the ten years since the first V-2 rocket, some other race with an earlier civilization could long ago have passed this point.
Reversing the picture of our own space-travel plans indicated several obvious facts. This unknown race had solved all the technical problems of propulsion, heat-resistant metals, and cabin-conditioning of whatever atmosphere they breathed.
From the precise survey operations of the discs, it was clear that these space beings had perfected remote control.
There was also evidence that they had equipped the discs with some types of television scanners or cameras or both. And judging from reports by Controller Harry Barnes and other trained observers, whoever guided the discs could hear and understand our radio transmissions.
In navigation these outer-space creatures probably had developed radio astronomy to a high point, using the mysterious transmissions we had heard for accurate triangulations.
If by any chance the discs were piloted, then these beings were entirely different from earthlings—able to withstand tremendous g-forces that would kill a human. Regardless of that, it was plain they were highly trained, super intelligent creatures able to plan and carry out a long survey of a strange planet apparently without mishap. From the manner in which the survey had been conducted, perhaps they had had experience in exploring other inhabited planets.
Reversing the expected reactions of Martians indicated the probable thinking of these unknown space beings. If they used humanlike logic, they would make exactly this kind of reconnaissance. Their aims, like ours in any future exploration of an inhabited planet, would be to learn what the earth race was like, how far we were advanced scientifically, and whether or not we could menace them in any way. After that they would decide on the next step.
And there I began to run into a blind alley.
There were several possible motives for the saucer reconnaissance, but none stood out as the probable answer. To narrow it down I would have to dig deeper.
Since the Air Force denied any idea of the motives, the only way was to search for clues in all the authentic sighting cases. I had already analyzed them as to saucer types, methods of operation, and certain other items. But a new check, searching mainly for the purpose, might turn up something I'd overlooked.
The cases were laid out on my desk, and I was about to start work, when the phone rang. It was Jim Riordan.
"Have you read See's interview with General Samford?" he asked me.
"I saw the AP story on it," I said. "But the Air Force is a little sore about that article. Chop told me they didn't interview General Samford directly—it was supposed to be labeled a hypothetical interview based on public statements he'd made."
"Well," said Riordan, "it gives the impression the Air Force is starting to plant the outer-space idea."
"Some Air Force people think the evidence should be given out," I told him. "But they don't want it hung on Samford this way."
"I get it," said Riordan. "Look, you said you'd show me some other ATIC reports. When can we get together?"
"It just happens I've got them out on my desk. How about tonight around 8?"
"That's OK, I’ll see you then," said Riordan.
After he hung up, I read over the AP story on See's article:
"The Air Force says it has no evidence that beings from some other world have visited this planet. But the Air Force also says it would be unreasonable to deny that such a thing could happen. The Air Force released its statement in reply to a question from the magazine See which wanted to know whether visitors from outer space had landed on the earth from flying saucers.
"The Air Force reply, in part, says:
"'As limited as man is in his knowledge and understanding of the universe and its many forces, it would be foolhardy indeed to deny the possibility that higher forms of life existed elsewhere. It would be similarly unreasonable to deny that intelligent beings from some other world were able to visit our planet, at least to travel in our atmosphere.
“‘However, the Air Force desires to reiterate emphatically
that there is absolutely no evidence to indicate that this possibility has been translated into reality.'"
Picking up the phone again, I dialed Liberty 5-6700, the Pentagon's number. When I got Al, I mentioned the Air Force answer to See.
"That's hardly on the level," I said. "You've got plenty of evidence—and don't give me that 'no bodies, no wreckage' routine."
Al laughed; it sounded a little forced. He didn't bother to comment on what I'd said.
"I was going to call you later," he said. "I've a couple of ATIC reports in here for you."
"Any new angles?"
"Yes, in both of them. They're the two Japan sightings you asked me to clear."
I told him I'd be in; the reports might throw some light on the purpose of the saucer survey.
When I saw Al, I asked him the latest on the Utah pictures. He went through the cigarette trick, fiddling with his lighter, apparently making up his mind what to say.
"The Navy's confirmed ATIC's analysis," he finally admitted. "And the official showing is practically approved."
I whistled. "Al, I never thought it would go through. By this time next week—"
"Hold on," he said, "it'll take longer than that. We've got to work out the public statement."
"Why would it take that long? You said it was all set."
Al didn't look at me.
"Several people have to pass on it. You know, channels-service red tape."
"Oh, sure," I said. "But the showing is OK'd?"
"As of now, yes."
Maybe it was, I thought as I left, but that didn't mean it would stick. From Al's evasive manner it was obvious a first-class battle had developed over the showing.
The silence group might win after all.
Clues to the Riddle
Before Riordan came that evening, I looked over the two sightings Al had cleared. The first Intelligence report covered the rotating lights report which Riordan had mentioned. Though the saucer had been sighted by several air crews and tracked by ground radar, the detailed report was made by Colonel Curtis Low, commander of the fighter escort wing in Japan. (As Colonel Low was mentioned in a news dispatch which briefly described the incident, I am using his right name.)
The Intelligence officer who interrogated Colonel Low had been seriously impressed by the wing commander's account.
"The pilot reporting," he said, "has held responsible command assignments for some time. The accuracy of his statements was consistent despite repetitive interrogation. His sequence of times, locations, and descriptions did not vary at any time. He is stable and thoroughly reliable. There were no activities of a meteorological nature or any inversion which could account for these sightings . . . This is a graphic description of an object falling definitely into the family of UFO."
The action began in the early evening of December 29,
1952. At about 7:30 p.m. an Air Force radar base in northern Japan received a call from a B-26 crew.
"We've just sighted a UFO. It looks like a cluster of lights—red, white, and green."
Moments later the Air Force radar men picked up the UFO. But because of the B-26's low speed, no interception could be made. At 7:45 an F-94 pilot radioed in, reporting the same type of device. The call was overheard by Colonel Low, who was flying his F-84 jet fighter at 27,000 feet
Three minutes later the wing commander sighted the strange machine, easily identified by its red, white, and green fights. He called Ground Control and was asked to try an interception.
As he climbed, Colonel Low switched off his lights. The object's lights did not change—proof that it was no canopy reflection. Keeping his own lights off to avoid detection, Low climbed to 35,000 feet. When he got closer, he saw that the saucer's lights were revolving in a counterclockwise direction—a steady rotation between eight and 12 times a minute.
Beside the shifting colors, Low could see three fixed shafts of white light shining outward. Apparently one part of the machine was rotating, but the change of colors was puzzling. At times the saucer was one solid color, white, green, or red. In between, the wing commander saw brief combinations—red-white, red-green, and green-white. But the three white beams remained constant.
After watching the device for a moment longer, Colonel Low opened his F-84 to full power. Racing in at over 500 miles an hour, he tried to close the gap. Apparently his unlighted plane was not seen for a second or two. Then the saucer increased its speed. Gradually pulling away, it disappeared in 30 seconds.
Five minutes later, circling at 35,000 feet, the wing commander saw the machine again. As before, it was at his level, but now moving parallel with the F-84. This time, as a test, Colonel Low left his fights on when he tried to
close in. Immediately turning west, the strange craft speeded up, so swiftly that it vanished in five seconds.
Eleven nights later, on January 9, 1953, another machine with similar rotating lights was sighted over Japan and tracked by radar. With the permission of Intelligence, Colonel Low mentioned both cases to war correspondents, withholding the details I have just given.
"Don't dismiss these as the reports of a few imaginative people," he warned the reporters. "These were corroborated sightings by trained pilots and radar operators."
When Riordan arrived, I showed him the report.
"I didn't know about the second case," he said. He read the description again. "These must be a new type—I never heard of them until Colonel Low reported this one."
"No, they're not new. One was sighted in 1950, over South Dakota. It was tracked by CAA control tower men, and a Weather Bureau observer got a good look with his theodolite. Also it was seen by the crew of an airliner. Then last July an Air Force jet pilot chased one over Michigan, and that same week people in two Michigan counties reported identical saucers—machines with rotating red, green, and white lights."
"I can't figure that," said Riordan. "What do you make of it?"
I told him about the rotating-disc theory.
"It may explain why the lights revolve," I added. "But they must be actual lights, and the same for the fixed white beams—the machine Colonel Low saw didn't show the usual overheating effects. The first time it probably didn't speed up fast enough, and the second time it's possible it disappeared so quickly that he probably wasn't able to notice."
Riordan stopped to fill his pipe.
"You know, they might be trying to signal us," he said as he lit up.
"Maybe. But you'd expect the lights to blink if it was some kind of code."
"Unless that combination had some special meaning they're trying to put over."
"This IR doesn't give any hint of that." I picked up the second ATIC report. "Here's another Japan case. See what you think of it."
The report, sent in as an IR, had been written in the first person by Lieutenant David C. Brigham, a young Air Force pilot from Rockford, Illinois. It read as follows:
"At 11:20 hours, March 29, 1952, I was flying a T-6 north of Misawa. GCI was running an intercept on me with a flight of two F-84's. One of them overtook me, passing starboard at approximately 100 feet, and ten feet below me. As he pulled up abreast, a flash of reflected sunshine caught my eye. The object which had reflected the sunshine was a small, shiny disc-shaped object which was making a pass on the F-84.
"It flew a pursuit curve and closed rapidly. Just as it would have flown into his fuselage, it decelerated to his air speed, almost instantaneously. In doing so, it flipped up on its edge at an approximate 90-degree bank. It fluttered within two feet of his fuselage for perhaps two or three seconds. Then it pulled away around his starboard wing, appearing to flip once as it hit the slipstream behind his wing-tip fuel tank.
"Then it passed him, crossed in front, and pulled up abruptly, appearing to accelerate, and shot out of sight in a steep, almost vertical climb. It was about eight inches in diameter, very thin, round, and as shiny as polished chromium. It had no apparent projections and left no exhaust or vapor trails. An unusual flight characteristic was a slow, fluttering motion. It rocked back and forth in 40-degree banks, at about one-second intervals throughout its course."
Riordan put down the report.
"That beats me," he said. "How the devil could an eight-inch disc fly, let alone maneuver like that?"
"It could have been spinning and he didn't notice it. It had the typical flutter—"
"You mean the electromagnetic deal again?"
"It's the only answer I can think of. The thing must have been a small remote-control observer type."
"But that little!" protested Riordan.
"Well, you know we've built some pretty tiny remote-control units for drones and guided missiles. With these new transistors in place of vacuum tubes, they'll be even smaller. And anybody intelligent enough to build flying discs would be way ahead of us."
"Yes, I guess you're right."
"If that report gets you," I said, "take a look at these."
Riordan went through the most dramatic cases, ending with the Gulf of Mexico sighting. His eyebrows shot up when he read the mother ship's final speed.
"Wow—over 9,000 miles an hour! That's almost unbelievable."
"I just got another report showing the same thing. It's from an ionosphere observatory—" I showed him the name, which the officials had asked me not to publish. "They track the lower ionosphere layers by radar, and it records any changes on a chart. One night they were tracking the E layer, over 50 miles up, and suddenly the radar picked up a terrific disturbance. The needle jumped all over the chart. Some experts analyzed the tracing later and they said that a solid object, flying a straight course, had passed over the station at between nine and ten thousand miles an hour."
Riordan shook his head.
"What's more," I said, "it bears out Smith's theory. The chart showed the ionosphere in a violent commotion, apparently upset by some powerful electrical force. It didn't get back to normal for over 30 minutes, and any air turbulence from the thing's passage should have died down long before that."
"This business is beginning to worry me," muttered
Riordan. "I'm absolutely convinced the things are from outer space. But what are they up to?"
"If anybody knows, I haven't been able to find out. Until lately I've always believed they were friendly. I still think it's an odds-on bet."
"Just because they haven't attacked us is no proof," Riordan said grimly. "If they're friendly, why haven't they landed?"
An airliner roared over the house in a low approach to Washington Airport. I waited until it was quiet again.
"They may not think its safe," I said. "They see our jets trying to intercept the discs—maybe they think we're just naturally hostile."
"They could radio us and talk it over—say what they want. They must know our language by this time. You told me that this Washington Airport controller, Barnes, thought they heard him talk to the pilots and—" Riordan paused. "Say, I wonder why Barnes didn't try calling them one of those nights."
"I asked him that. He said there was so much going on he just never thought of it. He told me if he had called, and somebody answered him, his hair would’ve stood on end. Of course, they might not have wanted to reply. I think that's the logical explanation for their silence. Though it's possible they couldn't answer."
"What do you mean?" demanded Riordan.
"They may not even talk."
Riordan stared at me through his pipe smoke.
"You haven't fallen for that super insect idea? It was in some Englishman's book—"
"I know—Gerald Heard's Is Another World Watching? No, I don't mean that. But a humanlike race might develop without using audible speech. They might make sounds higher in the spectrum, so that we couldn't hear them. There are such sounds—dogs hear some we don't catch. Or their speech sounds may be so different that they can't
master our words, even though they might understand the language after studying it a long time."
There was a silence while Riordan thought it over. Then he grimaced.
"Somehow, all I can think of is those crazy-looking drawings of Martians. If we knew what planet they come from, it might give us a lead—you think they really could be from Mars?"
"They may be operating from there, without being Martians. I've collected some educated guesses as to what planet it might be, if it's in our solar system—wait a minute and I'll show you the stuff."
While I was getting the file, a boat whistle sounded hoarsely from out on the Potomac. Riordan swung his lanky frame around, looked down the hill at the lights of a tug and two barges. He turned back somberly.
"Things like that make all this business unreal. There's a tug making, say, ten knots, and we sit up here talking about something flying over 9,000 miles an hour."
"And that 9,000 wouldn't be anything in free space," I said. "Well, here's one item on Mars—it's Project Sign's statement in their April, '49, release. It's short, but it covers the ground. I’ll read you the main points.
“‘Astronomers are largely in agreement that only one member of the solar system beside earth is capable of supporting life. That is Mars. Even Mars, however, appears to be relatively desolate and inhospitable, so that a Martian race would be more occupied with survival than we are on earth.. Intelligent beings, if they do exist there, may have protected themselves by scientific control of physical conditions. This might be done, scientists speculate, by the construction of homes and cities underground where the atmospheric pressure would be greater and thus temperatures reduced. The other possibilities exist, of course, that evolution may have developed a being who can withstand the rigors of the Martian climate, or that the race, if it ever did exist, has perished.’"
Riordan grunted. "In other words, they're guessing just like we are."
"It's all anybody can do. But you can figure the odds. Venus seems the next best bet—it might even be on top. In size it's almost a twin of the earth. It's always covered with clouds, so astronomers can't see the surface. But they've figured the cloud temperature at 140, in daytime, so it must get pretty hot on the ground."
Then I read the Air Force comment:
"The possibility of intelligent life also existing on the planet Venus is not considered completely unreasonable by astronomers. The atmosphere of Venus apparently consists mostly of carbon dioxide with deep clouds of formaldehyde droplets, and there seems to be little or no water. Yet scientists concede that living organisms might develop in chemical environments which are strange to us. Venus, however, has two handicaps. Her mass and gravity are nearly as large as earth (Mars is smaller) and her cloudy atmosphere would discourage astronomy, hence space travel.'"
Riordan brushed this last aside.
"If we can escape the earth's gravity, they could do it there, too. And they might use radio astronomy instead of telescopes. But what in hell would a man—well, call it a man—what would he look like, growing up in that atmosphere?"
"Probably a lot different from us. They'd almost have to be."
"You know that Sutton monster story?" said Riordan. "When I first heard of it—well, let that wait. What about the other planets?"
"Jupiter's not a likely prospect," I said, looking at the file. "Its temperature is around minus 220. Also, the planet's a lot larger than the earth, so its gravity pull is over two and a half times stronger. If you were on Jupiter, you'd weigh close to 600 pounds. You'd have a hard time lifting your feet. And a space ship would have to get up terrific
speed to escape that gravity pull, though I suppose it's possible."
"There's one point there," Riordan cut in. "Anybody from Jupiter would be used to heavy gs. We can take up to 50 gs for a second or so. Maybe they could take 100 over a longer time, enough to stand those turns and climbs the discs make."
"Could be," I said. 'But they’d have trouble if they landed on the earth. It'd be like a human on the moon— they'd have to be weighted down to walk normally. And that holds for Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn, too. From their size, they all must have strong gravity. But they're too cold for our kind of life—somewhere between minus 300 and 400."
Riordan started to thumb through the Pluto and Mercury folders.
"I can save you time," I said. "Pluto's nearer our size, but astronomers don't know much about it. It's so far from the sun it's always in darkness, and it's probably near absolute zero in temperature. Mercury is just the opposite. It's so near the sun that one side roasts. The other's always turned away, so it must be freezing."
"Don't some of those planets have moons?" asked Riordan, as I lit a cigarette. I flicked out my match and nodded.
"Yes, several of them. Jupiter's got two, Saturn nine, Uranus four—or maybe it's five—and Neptune and Mars have a couple apiece. But some of them are pretty small. Even the bigger ones probably wouldn't be any better than their planets—that is, to live on. That doesn't mean they—the planets, I mean—couldn't have intelligent life on them."
"You know any scientific background on that? Not this science-fiction stuff, but the big-dome guys."
There've been several books. I've got a couple—" I brought over my copy of Life on Other Worlds, by Dr.
H. Spencer Jones, England's Astronomer Royal, and read a marked paragraph.
“‘It is conceivable that we could have beings, the cells of whose bodies contained silicon instead of the carbon which is an essential constituent of our cells, and of all other living cells on the earth. And that because of this essential difference between the constitution of those cells, and the cells of which animal and plant life on the earth are built up, they might be able to exist at temperatures so high that no terrestrial types of life could survive.'"
"It sounds crazy," said Riordan, "but when you stop to think, the medicos have frozen some kinds of germs and it didn't kill them. Same for boiling them in water, too, I’ve, heard. So I guess it could be true. But the idea of beings like that with brains like ours—it's hard to swallow."
I put down the book.
"There's one consolation. Creatures used to some queer atmosphere couldn't survive here without space suits."
Riordan gave me a questioning look.
"Oh, you think that's maybe why they haven't landed? I don't see that that helps much—they could use space suits to attack us or just hit us without landing." He hesitated. "I started to ask about that Sutton monster story. What was ATIC's conclusion?"
"They swear they didn't analyze it, but I'm positive they did check into it." I told him what I knew about the case, and Riordan shook his head dubiously.
"It sounds as if there was something to it. Not a monster —I still can't see that—but it might have been a robot of some kind, the way they described it. What about that other story—the Florida scoutmaster deal?"
"So far ATIC hasn't made any report."
"You think he really saw something alive in that turret, or just imagined it?"
"I don't know. If Ed Ruppelt's report was on the level, ATIC didn't seem to take much stock in it."
"I don't either," Riordan said bluntly. Then he added
with a wry face, "Maybe it's because I don't want to admit some freak from space could be smarter than I am."
"Sure, I feel the same way. Just the same, it's possible. And remember this; we'd look as queer to them as they would to us. But don't let the monster idea worry you. Whoever's back of the saucers may be a lot like us—maybe even identical."
Riordan looked startled.
"How do you figure that?"
"Well, astronomers say there are millions of other suns. Some top men, like von Weizacker, think it's likely many of them have solar-system planets. Take our own system. Out of nine planets, one is inhabited—the earth. That's 11 per cent. Cut it down to one hundredth of a per cent, out in space, and there'd still be a lot of inhabited planets in the universe."
"That doesn't mean any of them would be like the earth."
"Why not? Astronomers say they're all made up of the same elements, maybe in different proportions. By the law of averages, some are bound to be like the earth, with the same atmosphere. Evolution would produce the same land of planets, animals, and people—or approximately the same. Maybe the only difference between us and the saucer people is that they're farther advanced, because their civilization began sooner."
"I hope you're right," Riordan said soberly. "At least we might be able to reason with our own kind. But wait a minute—think of the distances."
"Their planet doesn't have to be so far away." I told him about the nearest star system.
Riordan looked at me incredulously.
"But, holy smoke, the nearest one's over four light-years from us. You don't really believe anybody'd make a space trip that long?"
"Yes, if their life span was longer than ours. Some race on another planet may have wiped out all diseases—they
may live several hundred years. Our own doctors are predicting that we'll do it some day, and we've almost doubled our life span in the last two centuries."
Riordan knocked the ashes from his pipe. I could see him turning the idea over as he opened his tobacco pouch.
"That could be the answer," he said. "If they lived, say, 500 years, a trip of several years wouldn't seem so tough."
"It doesn't have to be the answer. There's another explanation."
"Hang onto your hat," I said. Then I told him about the time dilatation theory.
"Brother!" said Riordan. "Now we've really gone off the deep end."
"OK, it sounds screwy. I'll admit I don't understand it. But other big scientists beside Einstein accept it. If you want to check the figures, I've got an article here by a British astrophysicist—"
"I'll take your word for it." Riordan swung around and stared out into the night. "I wish I hadn't heard all this stuff. Those Intelligence reports prove the things are interplanetary, but they don't give any idea why we're being spied on. I was better off when I thought the saucers were bunk, back in '47."
"That's what some Air Force officers think—that people are better off not knowing, at least until they find out the motive."
Riordan jerked around in his chair.
"But Intelligence must have a damned good idea what's back of all this."
"They say not. That's why I've got all these cases out here. I've already analyzed them for other angles, but I wasn't looking for motives. So I'm going to recheck—"
"Let me help you," Riordan said quickly. "I've got the next two days free."
"We can probably do it in one. It'll be a big help—"
"Never mind the thanks," said Riordan. "To be brutally
frank, this is for me and mine. I want to know what this thing's going to mean to us, while there's still time to do something about it."
After Riordan left, I thought over his last remark. Probably millions of Americans would feel the same way. There'd be some, of course, who'd rather not know, if the answer proved to be bad.
Next morning, before Riordan arrived, I got out my sighting map and the analysis of saucer types. In the type breakdown all the sightings had been divided into day and night reports, then subdivided according to shape, size, color, speed, and maneuvers, with radar reports serving as a double check on visual estimates of performance.
It was a long analysis, and to save time for the motive check-up I underlined the main points for Riordan to look over:
Type 1. Mother ships, large rocket or "cigar-shaped" machines usually reported at very high altitudes. Sizes estimated by trained observers, from 600 feet to more than 1,000 feet in length; some indications they may be much larger. Color, silvery. Speed recorded by radar, over 9,000 m.p.h., with visual estimates of more than 20,000. No violent maneuvers reported.
Type 2. Disc-shaped machines of at least three sizes.
A. Large discs, 100 feet or more in diameter.
B. Medium-sized discs, with reports averaging about 50 feet in diameter.
C. Small discs, estimated from eight inches in diameter up to several feet.
Color of all discs, metallic silver except when showing the effects of overheating. Radar-clocked speeds, over 7,000 m.p.h., with visual estimates of more than 11,000. Maneuvers: Abrupt turns, climbs, and reversals, with very swift acceleration.
Type 3. Rocket or "cigar-shaped" machines, much smaller than mother ships, reported at fairly low altitudes.
Sizes estimated from 100 to 200 feet in length. Described as having a fiery exhaust, especially when accelerating. Color, metallic silver. Recorded speed, about 900 m.p.h.; visual estimates, over 1,500. Maneuvers: Less violent turns and climbs than the discs, and no reported reversals.
Type 1. No positive visual reports, but accurate radar tracking of mother ships.
Type 2. Discs of various sizes, with estimates less accurate because of darkness and the blinding effect of the discs' glow when seen at fairly close range. Colors, from pink to white-hot heat, sometimes combined with corona effect; also, corona effects predominating, at high altitudes, apparently when discs were not overheating.
Type 3. Rocket-shaped machines, similar to the daytime Type 3, with the same fiery exhaust, speeds, and maneuvers.
Type 4. A machine with rotating red-green-white lights and fixed white beams. May be a rotating disc type. Recorded speed, well over 1,000 m.p.h. Speeds estimated by competent pilots, more than 1,500.
Type 5. Bright green "fireballs," reported mainly over New Mexico. Shape and size unknown. Described as moving silently, at meteor speed, but—unlike meteors—on a straight course. Sometimes reported as exploding silently, over uninhabited areas of the Southwest.
For radar confirmation ATIC had given me their official analysis:
"In 35% of all radar tracking of UFO's, radar observations were confirmed visually as maneuvering objects or lights. Night radar trackings outnumbered day cases, 65% as against 35%. The analysis shows UFO speed from zero (hovering) up to fantastic speeds. In 60% of the cases, only one UFO was tracked; in 40%, there were several objects, sometimes sizable formations or groups. About 80% of the tracking was done by radar men at ground bases,
or aboard ship. The remaining 20% was done by aircraft crews or pilots in flight."
When Riordan arrived, I was working on the map, marking points where saucers had recently been seen. He helped me finish, then looked over my type breakdown.
"What's the highest speed ever reported?" he asked.
"About 42,000 miles an hour," I said. "But it didn't have any radar confirmation."
"Must have been some wild guess," Riordan said skeptically.
"No, two CAA control tower men at Terre Haute made the estimate. They saw this saucer go streaking over the airport and they figured the arc it traveled in a given time. The 42,000 figure was what they worked out if the saucer was over 3,000 feet high—and they were sure it was. They got confirmation on the sighting. A private pilot and his wife saw the same thing when it went over the atomic energy plant at Newport, Indiana. Even if the CAA guys were way off, it's obvious the saucer was one of the fastest ever sighted. My hunch is that it was a lot higher than 3,000—probably a mother ship that came down lower than usual."
"This Type 3—the smaller cigar-shaped saucer—have you got many confirmed reports on that?"
"Well, there was the Eastern Air Lines case, near Montgomery, and the Indianapolis rocket ship last July. Another one was seen at Watsonville, California, by the town police and two deputy sheriffs. They said it was cigar-shaped, flying low and leaving an exhaust trail. Later some people saw it at a couple of other California towns. There have been several foreign cases, and the 1949 Project Sign summaries mentioned quite a few."
"I guess it's definitely a separate type, then." He read over the night sighting list. "Those green fireballs—I haven't heard much about them."
"The stories on that broke while you were in Korea. It
has puzzled the astronomers—at least some have publicly admitted it's got them stumped. One of them is Dr. Peter Millman; he's Canada's top astrophysicist. Another is Dr. Lincoln La Paz, down at the New Mexico Institute of Meteorics. La Paz has been studying the green fireball deal, and he says they're not any kind of meteor he ever heard of."
"Why not?" said Riordan.
"For one thing, they don't make a sound. Also, they go straight, and meteors take a curved course. And La Paz says they wouldn't come that often if they were meteors— for a while, they were coming thick and fast. It's been going on since December, 1948." '
"Just in New Mexico?"
"No, they've been sighted in the East, and down in the Caribbean. But the Southwest seems to get most of them. One funny thing, no fragments have ever been found. Ordinary meteors usually leave some trace when they explode, if you look long enough. But the Air Force search parties haven't found a thing."
Riordan's black eyes flicked over at me.
"Then the Air Force takes it seriously?"
"Enough to set up a special project—they called it 'Project Twinkle.'" I told him about the three theodolite stations established at Vaughn, New Mexico, to get accurate triangulations on the green fireballs. Oddly enough, the mysterious objects were never seen by the men at Vaughn, though they were constantly reported over the rest of the Southwest. But when the project was moved to Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, the investigators had better luck. Several of the bright green balls were tracked up to the moment of explosion, at a speed of about 40,000 miles an hour. But searches over a wide area, under the explosion points, all proved in vain.
"What did they finally decide?" Riordan asked me.
"I don't know. The report's still secret."
"That doesn't look very good," Riordan said slowly.
"They must have been pretty worried in the first place, to set up a special project. And then to sit on the answer—"
"There's something odd about it, all right. Project Sign investigated the green fireballs, too, but they omitted most of the cases in the 1949 summaries; I just happened to spot a reference to them in another section. And the red spray cases don't sound good, either."
"The red spray cases? That's a new one to me."
"They happened back in '48. The things came down to 200 feet and exploded—" I started to get out the Project Sign summaries, then changed my mind. "Let's wait on that until we finish checking the map. Seeing those cases now might give you a wrong slant on the whole picture."
Riordan eyed me narrowly.
"I don't like the way you said that. If you mean what I think, it's bad news."
Friends or Foes?
It doesn’t have to be bad news, I told Riordan. I think it may depend on us. Anyway, let's check the things the saucers seem most interested in. Maybe you'll spot some clue I've missed."
"Have you plotted any foreign sightings?" asked Riordan, as I spread out the United States map.
"No, but they show the same pattern."
Riordan bent over the map, which showed the following key locations:
1. Atomic energy plants at Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Hanford, and smaller plants such as Newport, Indiana. The most frequent observations were over the Los Alamos area.
2. U. S. Air Force Bases as follows: Davis-Monthan and Williams, Arizona; Fairfield-Suisan, Hamilton, George, March, Muroc, and Travis, California; the Air Defense Command Headquarters, Colorado Springs; Patrick, Florida; Hunter, Moody, and Robbins, Georgia; O'Hare, Scott, and Chanute, Illinois; Andrews, Maryland; Westover, Massachusetts; Selfridge, Michigan; Keesler, Mississippi; Offutt, Nebraska; Grenier, New Hampshire; Holloman, Kirtland, and Walker, New Mexico; Mitchel, New York; Pope, North Carolina; Lockbourne and Wright-Patterson,
Ohio; Tinker, Oklahoma; Greenville, South Carolina; Rapid City, South Dakota; Carswell, Ellington, Kelly, Randolph, Laredo, and San Marcos, Texas; Langley Field, Virginia; McChord, Washington.
(In addition to these, as I told Riordan, UFO's have been sighted over or near American bases in Alaska, the Canal Zone, Greenland, Germany, Hawaii, Japan, and Korea.)
3. Naval bases and Navy and Marine Corps air stations at: Alameda, El Toro, and San Diego, California; Jacksonville and Key West, Florida; Atlantic City and Lakehurst, New Jersey; Tongue Point, Oregon; Beaufort, South Carolina; Norfolk and Quantico, Virginia.
4. The high-altitude rocket-testing base at White Sands, New Mexico, where discs circled or paced rockets in flight.
5. Aircraft plants in California, Kansas, Washington, and Texas, where most of the industry is concentrated.
6. Most of the major cities of the United States. The complete list is too long to use, but it includes important cities in almost every state, such as: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis and St. Paul, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Portland, Santa Fe, Des Moines, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Birmingham.
"There are some important sightings which don't show on that map," I told Riordan, "I didn't pinpoint all the spots where saucers have approached or circled planes, because it would look as though they were ground sightings. But there have been hundreds of those reports, as you know."
"Yes, and they've taken some close-range looks at the ground war in Korea, too. About the cities—what do the saucers seem to be checking?"
"There's been only one detailed report—the Washington case. When no airliners were near, the saucers flew over the White House, the Capitol, Andrews Field, the aircraft plant at Riverdale, and the Navy Yard. One or two circled
the airway radio beacons. Of course, they were all over the area, but those seemed to be the main points of interest. Whenever an airliner took off or approached the airport, several saucers would dart over as if for a closer look.
"Most of the cities where they've hovered or circled have defense industries, a big airport, or defense bases, so it's hard to tell just what they were looking at. One thing, they don't seem much interested in ground transportation; though there have been a few cases of saucers following trains. And several times I've seen unconfirmed reports of discs buzzing cars on highways. Some sounded like fakes, but there was one, last July, near Enid, Oklahoma, where the police said the driver was still shaking when he made the report."
"And I suppose his friends made a fool out of him," Riordan said tartly.
"Probably. Well, that's the general setup. Of course, saucers have been seen at dozens of other places, but these are the ones where they've made repeat visits or shown special interest."
Riordan stood up, moved restlessly around the room.
"Maybe I'm a pessimist," he muttered. "But with all those repeats at atomic plants, and checking on our planes and air defenses—well, it looks as if they're getting ready for an attack."
"I know it looks bad. But it's still just circumstantial evidence."
"Many a man's been hung on less," retorted Riordan. He took out his pipe, shoved it back into his pocket. "You say the pattern's about the same in other countries?"
"Except for the atomic energy angle and I couldn't check on that. Probably the saucers have looked over Russia's A-bomb plants, too, but only a few UFO reports have leaked through the Iron Curtain. I do know that two saucers circled the uranium mines in South Africa, some time back. And several were seen over Australia just after Britain exploded its first A bomb there. But there have
been enough reports to show that foreign air defenses and planes have gotten a close going-over. It's worried several countries enough to have them start investigations."
"Yes, you told me," said Riordan.
"But they haven't given out any official case reports that I know of. I've got a few unofficially. In one British case, a rotating disc chased a Meteor jet over Topcliffe Airdrome. And down in the Belgian Congo an air service fighter chased two saucers that were looking over an air base. There've been dozens of foreign airliner reports. Around February of '51, an East African Airways crew and some of the passengers saw a long, rocket-shaped saucer— the pilots estimated the length at about 200 feet. There was another case, farther back, in Australia, where everybody on an airliner signed affidavits describing a rocket-shaped ship they'd seen."
"I guess it's world-wide, then. I thought at first they were concentrating on us."
"I think they are, now. Probably because we've got the lead in A bombs and we look like the strongest nation."
Riordan shook his head moodily.
"That's what bothers me, Don. It looks as though they're measuring us for a knockout. And those green fireballs— if they're not meteors there’s only one possible answer."
"I know. Guided missiles launched from space."
"What else could they be? It would be simple enough to drop them from one of the big ships and guide them in by radar."
"You're not the only one who thinks it's the answer. I know one astrophysicist who says they may be warnings for us to lay off making A bombs—that's because most of them came in over New Mexico."
"That may be true. It's obvious they weren't trying to hit any bases or cities. With radar they wouldn't miss."
"No, they've already proved they can come as close as they want. Not with the green missiles—I'm talking about the red spray cases."
"What happened?" said Riordan.
"It was a queer business. I was surprised that Project Sign let it get out—you'll find it listed as Case 225 in the 1949 summaries. One night, back in '49, a strange reddish light was sighted at Albuquerque, where they'd also been seeing the green fireballs. The saucer came in at about 500 feet, then it suddenly dropped down to 200 feet and exploded in a red spray."
Riordan sat up quickly.
"Did it hurt anybody?"
"No, just scared a few people. It wasn't directly over the city. A pilot told me later it was out near the airport."
"Lucky—it could have set off a panic."
"Here's the part that clinches it. This happened on three other nights—same place, same hour."
"This is the worst thing you've told me," Riordan said slowly. "It's bad—damned bad."
"I don't like it, either. The things were guided there and exploded by remote control—there's no doubt about it. Of course, they could have been flash bombs for UFO cameras higher up, but I can't see it."
"Neither can I," said Riordan. "I happen to know there'd been several daytime sightings at Albuquerque—so why should they bother with night pictures, and four times at that?"
"All right, I admit it was some kind of small flying bomb being used in a test."
"And if they can guide a small one in that accurately," said Riordan, "they could put a big one—probably an A bomb—over any place they wanted to hit. It's plain as the nose on your face—those were ranging tests, for close-up control. The Air Force must know it, too."
"Project Sign didn't give any hint of what they thought. In fact, they left the case out of the actual summaries. But when they released the report it carried a secret analysis by the Air Weather Service—a check to see if balloons could explain any of the flying saucer sightings."
"Don't tell me they tried to call this an exploding balloon —four times in the same place?"
"No, they admitted it couldn't be. But that's how I found out what Case 225 was—and also how I got my lead on the green fireballs."
"You say they omitted those cases, too, from the Project report?"
"That's right. Here, I’ll show you."
I got out the copy I'd typed—the Air Force had released just one report. In the Project analysis section, six case numbers were followed by blanks—Numbers 223, 225, 226, 227, 230, and 231. Why the secret Air Weather Service analysis had been released, when it showed these omitted cases, had never been explained.
"That was right after my first article in True," I told Riordan. "They were in a hurry, trying to offset it, and I guess somebody slipped up."
"Just another snafu," he said. "What's AWS say about the green fireballs?"
"They called them green flares then. Here's Case 223— it says the object was definitely a green flare, seen near Albuquerque. The next one, Case 224, was listed in the Project section, but they don't say a word about any green flare. They just show that something was seen at Las Vegas on December 8, 1948, and then say to compare it with Case 223, which they omitted."
Turning to the Air Weather Service comment, I read it to Riordan:
"Case 224. Description exactly as that in 223, only at an altitude of 13,500 feet. Seen 2 ½ hours after scheduled balloon release time. Winds at levels from 10,000 to 15,000 feet, WNW, while flare was reported traveling at very high speed in WSW direction. Very accurate observations made by two FBI agents. Definitely not a balloon."
"Very bright deduction," Riordan said sarcastically.
"They had to say that, Jim, even though they knew the
balloon answer was ridiculous. I told you it was AWS's job to say yes or no on balloons."
"OK—it just sounded silly." Riordan picked up the report and silently read the other AWS comments, which were as follows:
"Case 226. Sighted one hour after release time at Albuquerque. Same green flare as in previous five or six cases, and moving into the wind from east to west. No balloon . . . Case 227. Read report of incident. Definitely not a weather balloon. Serves as a guide to interpretation of 223, 224, 225, and 226 . . . Case 230. Exactly as described in 223, etc. Definitely no balloon . . . Case 231. Another glowing green flare just as described above."
Riordan put his finger on the "guide to interpretation" line.
"That's the tip-off. Even then, they must have known those were guided missiles. That's what scared them into setting up Project Twinkle."
"It looks that way. But it still doesn't prove the saucer people are hostile."
"Are you crazy?" demanded Riordan. "It can't add up to anything else. You admitted the red spray things were ranging bombs under remote control."
"Yes, and I'm convinced the green fireballs are guided missiles. But those tests began four years ago. If an attack was all they had in mind, they'd have hit us long before this."
"What else could they possibly—"
The phone cut Riordan off. When I picked it up I heard a familiar voice.
"This is W. B. Smith. I've been here several days, but this is my first chance to call you about a talk. I know its short notice, but this is my last day in Washington."
"All right, I can meet you in about an hour."
"Good. I'm at the Shoreham Room 422-F."
When I explained to Riordan, he nodded.
"Maybe you'll get a new angle. Anyway, I've seen enough for one day. I still say its bad news."
"Well hash it over next time. There may be an out."
Riordan shook his head.
"I think you're kidding yourself—you just don't want to face it."
Driving out to the Shoreham, I thought over Riordan's remark. Maybe I was kidding myself. But there was one answer, which I'd just begun to see, that left a chance for a peaceful contact.
When I saw Smith, he looked the same as when I'd first met him, except for a sprinkling of gray in his black hair. But his manner was more sober as he told me the developments in Canada.
"My government is now taking the saucers seriously," he said. "The Defense Research project is secret, but I can tell you this. They're analyzing reports very carefully, and so is RCAF Intelligence. Several of our best scientists are helping on the technical aspects—they stopped scoffing after the sightings early in 1952."
A little later he told me his own project was also analyzing saucer reports, passing on their conclusions to the Defense Research unit.
"Since your project's under wraps," I said, "you can't tell me what the conclusions are. But what about your private opinion?"
"The same as before," said Smith. "After seeing all the new evidence, I'm more convinced than ever."
A few days before, I had read a news story about a flying saucer which the AVRO Aircraft Company was supposed to be building. According to the report, it was expected to have a top speed of about 1,500 miles an hour. When I asked Smith about it, he nodded.
"Since the newspapers have the story, I can tell you it's true. AVRO is building a new type of plane—revolutionary, in fact. I think it will make present types obsolete, but that's all I can say."
Then he suddenly saw what I had meant.
"It hasn't anything to do with our rotating disc experiments. It doesn't use electromagnetic propulsion." "Those disc tests are under security, I suppose?" Smith smiled apologetically.
"Yes, I'm sorry. We re still working on the disc problem, but that's all I can say. However, it might pay you to study Einstein's Unified Field Theory. You know it unites the forces of electricity, magnetism, and gravity in a single formula."
"It's just Greek to me. But I can see it may be the key to the discs' operation. By the way, are your radio monitors still listening for strange signals?"
"Yes, when they aren't busy with other work. However, they haven't caught any peculiar messages."
Smith opened his brief case and looked at some typed notes.
"Here's an experiment we tried. It explained something that puzzled some of our officials. You know how often a strange light will be reported by only a few people, out of thousands in a city? Naturally, some skeptics thought this proved such reports must be hoaxes. My group had a pet theory about it, so we made a test at Ottawa."
To carry it out, Smith said, they fastened a 500,000 candle-power aircraft flare inside an aluminum cone, suspending the cone under a large weather balloon so that the light would shine on the bottom of the gas bag. The flare itself would be hidden from the ground.
"We waited for a night when the wind would carry the balloon over a certain part of the city—an area where there was a night baseball game and two drive-in theaters. At 5,000 feet a delayed-action fuse set off the flare. All you could see was the glow on the under part of the balloon. The effect was striking, as if a lighted disc had suddenly appeared in the sky. We expected switchboards to be flooded with calls."
Smith paused and looked at me whimsically.
"There wasn't a single call that we know of. It's obvious why so few people see the saucers. Very few ever bother to look at the sky."
"Maybe you Canadians are just less excitable. That Indianapolis sighting last July was at 5,000 feet and it raised the devil."
"But that had rapid movement to catch the eye," said Smith. "Our balloon was moving very slowly."
"Any other tests like that?" I asked him.
"No public ones, but we're considering a 24-hour radar watch."
When I asked where he thought the saucers came from, Smith hesitated.
"I’ll give you this as my personal opinion. There's some evidence that they are operating from Mars. You know about the atomic explosion which Saheki reported, and the blue clouds seen since then?"
"Yes, I've seen the reports."
"There's another factor," said Smith. "The last time Mars approached the earth, I worked out a prediction. There were several sightings at the time I'd calculated. Of course, that's far from proof. But I think Mars will bear close watch. It may be the saucers' originating planet, or it may be serving as an operating base for some race outside our solar system."
"The moon could be another base," I suggested. "Some amateur astronomers have reported seeing lights in two or three craters."
I don't know of any official confirmation," said Smith. "It would be more logical to use the other side of the moon, which we never see. It would be an ideal operating base; they could reach the earth and return in a very short time."
For the next hour we switched to developments in the United States. I told Smith what I had learned, except for the Utah pictures.
"With all that evidence," he said, "your Air Force
Intelligence must be convinced the saucers are interplanetary."
"I think they are. How about RCAF Intelligence—and your other project officials?"
"I'm afraid I can't answer that. Of course, you can draw your own conclusions."
"They must have seen the same kind of evidence," I said.
Smith smiled faintly.
"From what you've told me, I think that's a safe deduction."
"What I was hoping for," I said, "was some opinion on the motive back of all this." I told him about the analysis Riordan and I were making.
"Now that I can answer," said Smith. "We haven't any conclusion as to the motives. It's my personal opinion that the saucer race hasn't made a final decision. I think it's obvious that all the survey data is being analyzed, so that they can decide what to do about us. Possibly it's being done by robot devices—the race must be far advanced in cybernetics. They could feed all the information to a robot predictor, so that it could indicate our probable future actions—whether we'd be dangerous to contact, or a menace when we get out into space. That's pure speculation, of course. The creatures may even be having difficulty in understanding the earth races—they might be super-intelligent in some ways and lacking in others."
"If we only knew what they want," I muttered.
"There's one hopeful thought," said Smith. "They may be so intellectually advanced that they consider war barbaric. In that case, if they decide we're not a menace but are too primitive by their standards, they may simply go off and leave us alone.
"Suppose, for instance, some of our pilots discovered a lost civilization down in the Amazon country. We'd investigate from the air to see how far advanced they were before risking direct contact. If they were a century or two behind us, with sectional wars going on, we'd possibly
leave them alone—unless they had something we wanted badly. But they might be only a decade or two behind us. In that event we'd at least keep a close eye on them in the future; I personally think we'd try to communicate with them, let them know there were other civilized nations, and start trading with them. But if for any reason they were a danger to the rest of the world, we'd have to bring them under control, by reason—or threat of force."
"It's an odd coincidence," I said as I stood up to go, "I used the same 'reversing' idea—but I applied it to Mars, figuring what we'd do if we found it was inhabited."
"It would be the same general situation," agreed Smith. "We're using human logic, however, and these beings may reason in an entirely different manner. They could be highly intelligent and yet coldly materialistic. In that event they would be ruthless in achieving their ends."
"Like the Communists," I said.
"Yes—perhaps raised to the nth degree. But I lean to the other belief, that they may have outlawed war except as a last resort. At least I fervently hope so."
At the door I asked him one last question.
"Do you know of any defense, if they should attack?"
Smith quietly shook his head.
"I think we would be quite helpless."
Going down in the elevator, I looked at my watch. It was almost midnight. We had talked more than three hours. Though I hadn't learned as much as I'd hoped, one thing seemed certain. The Canadian investigators must be convinced, like Smith, that the saucers were interplanetary. Smith had a scientist's religious regard for facts. If the RCAF and the two projects had unearthed any different evidence, he wouldn't hesitate to change his mind.
As I went through the Shoreham lobby I could hear a dance band playing in the Palladium Room. I glanced in at the gay crowd on the floor. What would they feel if they suddenly learned the truth about the saucers?
Maybe they'd take it more quietly than I expected. But
at best it would have a permanent effect on their lives . . .
The next morning about 10 Chop phoned from the Pentagon. He told me he had cleared some January cases I'd asked for.
"What's the latest on the Utah film?" I asked. Knowing the backstage fight against it, I expected to hear bad news. But Al surprised me.
"It's definitely settled. There's going to be a press showing."
"Boy, things will pop now! I'll be right in."
"OK. I may be tied up with Colonel Adams and the others for a while, but I'll leave the reports on my desk. If you're free, we can have lunch together."
When I got to the Pentagon, Al hadn't come back from the conference, so I looked over the ATIC reports.
The first was dated January 6, 1953. In the early-morning hours a saucer with red, green, and white lights had been sighted at Dallas. A CAA tower controller, a Weather Bureau observer, and other witnesses had given Intelligence detailed reports, but none of them had seen the lights rotate. Occasional blue and orange color effects made it hard to classify the saucer as any distinct type. Apparently it had been at a high altitude, where corona effects could be expected. Since ATIC had not finished its analysis, there was no final conclusion.
Clipped to this first Intelligence report was a memo Al had written:
"Note that Air Force pilots in Japan sighted a UFO with red, green, and white rotating fights, on January 9. This was also the date when the V-formation of blue-white UFO's was sighted over Santa Ana. The attached news items may interest you; I'm asking ATIC if they looked into the sightings."
The news stories showed five saucer reports. Two had occurred on January 11. Near Canton, Ohio, two gleaming discs had been sighted by civilian witnesses, and at Kerryville, Texas, an oval-shaped device, glowing orange-red,
had caused a peculiar interference with local television reception. From the 22d to the 24th, saucers had been seen at three places in California. Two brightly glowing UFO's had flown swiftly over Richmond; a formation of silvery discs had been sighted at Pomona, and an oval-shaped metallic-looking saucer was reported by pilots at Palmdale.
On January 29, the ATIC reports showed, there had been two military sightings. One was at Santa Ana, where a Marine Corps jet pilot vainly tried to intercept an orange-red disc. The second, another fruitless chase, took place near Millinocket, Maine, where the crew of an F-94 spotted a silver-gray oval-shaped machine flying at 23,000 feet. After they gave up trying to catch it, the saucer was sighted by two jet pilots from another squadron. By then it was at a higher altitude.
Without reporting it to GCI, the two pilots debated, by radio, whether they should try to intercept the strange machine. Unknown to them, part of their conversation was taken down by a radioman at a nearby Air Force base.
"Do you see that thing above us?" one pilot asked. "It sticks out like a sore thumb."
"If I were going to chase it," said the other pilot, "I'd drop my wing tanks first."
Evidently the two men had decided against an interception. The listening radioman didn't catch all their discussion, but he heard one revealing remark.
"I’ll never admit I saw the thing," one pilot said emphatically.
Plainly, some airmen remembered the "crackpots and bars" blast by Colonel Watson, though the Air Force had tried to offset it. I wondered how many other sightings had gone unreported.
When Al came back from the conference, he seemed a little tense.
"We've been working on the statement," he said. "Some of the PIO's and Intelligence are getting jittery."
"I don't blame them. When s the showing?"
"In about a week."
We went out to the main cafeteria, and after we sat down Al told me about the statement.
"The wording's just about set. It starts something like this— 'The color film you are about to see was taken by Warrant Officer Delbert C. Newhouse, seven miles north of Tremonton, Utah.' Then it tells how he saw 12 to 14 bluish-white objects and knew they weren't aircraft—well, you know the rest."
"Does it give the analysis details?"
"It tells how ATIC and Navy worked out the speeds, using the resolving power of the lens and other tests—also that the maneuvers are too tight for any known aircraft. It follows the original draft pretty closely—the one Dewey Fournet wrote."
"Then it ought to be straight dope, since he's the top UFO investigator here."
"He was." Al hesitated. "He's been put on inactive duty."
"Oh—his time was up, I guess."
"It sounds queer to me. Didn't he start this press-showing deal?"
"Well—he fought for it. Dewey's always wanted to give the public the facts."
"What's been changed from Fournet’s draft?"
"Just a few words here and there," Al said evasively. "It ends up saying the Air Force won't speculate on what the things are, but the analysis shows they weren't conventional objects like aircraft, balloons, or birds. Naturally, with those speeds and maneuvers, they couldn't be."
"What else?" I said.
"Good Lord, Al, the Air Force can't leave it at that. The press and everybody else in the country will be howling for the answer."
“I know that," Al said unhappily. "Well just have to say we don't know."
"You do, and the Reds will probably jump in and claim the saucers are theirs. Then you'll be in a sweet mess."
"They could have done so long ago, if they wanted to."
"But the Air Force kept saying the saucers weren't real. Once you admit they are real, and also say you don't know what they are, you're practically inviting the Soviet to claim they're Russian weapons."
"We could knock it down if the Reds said that. We could have some top engineers and rocket people go on the air and prove they couldn't be Russian. If necessary, we could give them the Gulf of Mexico and Oneida cases and anything else they'd need—"
"Then why not come right out and admit the saucers are interplanetary?"
"That's absolutely out. There's enough opposition even to showing the film."
On the way back to the press branch, I asked Al if he would clear the Utah sighting for me, including the basic facts on the film.
"I'm doing a book, using the ATIC cases," I told him.
"All right, I'll clear it, since you already knew about it."
"Can you give me a memo? I don't have my clearance list* with me—I’ll add the Utah case later, and you can initial it."
"OK, if you want it that way."
On the way home I kept thinking of the Air Force statement. I felt sure it wouldn’t work. The press showing would be dramatically played up in radio bulletins and in papers all over the country. In a matter of hours the Pentagon would be under tremendous pressure. Even if the Soviet didn’t claim the saucers as a secret weapon, using the Norwegian story as proof, public demands for an explanation would be overwhelming. In the end the
* See Clearance List, Appendix II, pp. 255-259.
Air Force would have to admit what the evidence showed —that the saucers must come from outer space.
Regardless of any initial hysteria it was bound to have an impact on many phases of life—religion, business, the struggle with Russia, and even the smaller things in our daily lives.
On the religious effect, I already had some opinions.
"It would strike at the heart of Christianity," one minister had told me. "What would we tell our people—that these other races had their own religions, or were also Christians? If we say the latter, they will ask if Christ was born and crucified on these other planets, so that those races also could know God. The very idea is grotesque-Christ's life here would lose all its divine meaning."
There was no doubt that some fundamentalists would have their faith shaken. But other ministers had told me the effect would not be so serious.
"There are many ways in which other planet races could learn of God," said one of them. "The truth could be brought to them without repeating Christ's sacrifice on earth."
The Catholic Church, too, accepted this possibility. The doctrine had been stated by the Very Reverend Francis J. Connell, Dean of Catholic University's School of Sacred Theology, in Washington.
"It is well," said Father Connell, "for Catholics to know that the principles of their faith are entirely reconcilable with even the most astounding possibilities of life on other planets."
Enlarging on the doctrine, Father Connell had even listed four types of creatures which might exist on other planets, ranging from near-divine to evil geniuses.
The effect on our military program was easier to guess. Under public pressure, Congress was sure to rush huge appropriations for space-travel research, with emphasis on weapons against a possible saucer attack. The struggle between Russia and America would probably be reduced,
if the Politburo were convinced the saucers were a threat. The Soviet might even join us in world-wide defense measures.
The effect on business was less predictable. Realtors might be swamped by people anxious to move from cities or away from defense areas. There might be a wild buying splurge, a boom in night-club and amusement business, with the hysterical slogan of "enjoy life while you can." If scare buying got out of hand, banks might be closed until public fear died down.
On the other hand, the news might cause only a few days' excitement, especially if the government hammered away at the saucers' lack of hostility. Even if the spacemen's motives were admitted as possibly hostile, eventually we would accept that danger as we have accepted the risk of being A-bombed.
But the initial impact, when the news first broke, was still a question. If there was a panic, it would probably come in those first few hours.
When I reached home, I got out some sighting reports which showed witnesses' reactions. One hint came from Mrs. L. G. Planty, a plane-spotter who saw a saucer at Massena, New York.
"It was eerie red in color and frightening," she told reporters. Other Massenans had seen the red disc as it passed above a drive-in theater. Most of them were merely curious; only two of three had been alarmed.
In Indiana a state policeman had described a "dogfight" between several saucers. "It was so weird I hesitate even to talk about it."
Another comment came from W. B. Harris, a fire department radio dispatcher who saw a UFO at Dallas.
"I wish I'd never seen it," said Harris. "It was too fantastic."
E. W. Chambers, the WRC engineer who saw the Washington discs, used almost the same words.
"I'm sorry I ever saw them. I keep worrying about what it means."
There were a few witnesses who had felt no fear. One was Saul Pett, an AP writer who sighted an orange-red saucer over New Jersey.
"I wasn't frightened at all," said Pett, "because the thing looked so peaceful and serene. There wasn't any appearance of menace.”
Letters from readers of my book and articles gave me another cross-section. Most of those who had seen saucers were soberly concerned, though only a few admitted any fear. Some showed the effect of certain scare stories published since '47. One of these stories reported that a nurse and a salesman, driving along a desert road, had been kidnapped by spacemen. Another described how a private plane had been stopped dead, suspended in mid-air, apparently under study by a saucer crew. A third fear-provoking story was built on the theory published by AMPRO Laboratory Associates, which suggested that spies from Saturn were circulating on earth, working for our downfall after a saucer invasion.
It was plain the foundation had been laid for nationwide hysteria. It might have been avoided—but that was water over the dam. The only hope now, it seemed to me, was to trust the American people and quietly tell them the facts.
For over five years they had heard suggestions that the saucers came from space. If they were not prepared now, they never would be.
There would be some hysteria, no matter how and when the news was broken. But after the first alarm, probably most of the country would settle down and soberly face the problem.
Maybe I was wrong—but somehow I felt the American people could take it.