Reminiscing

What follows below are the posts I wrote in the past. They’re about Area 51, UFOs, science and anything else that piqued my interest.  All are closed for comment so if you have something to say and share with the world comment to this post.

All Good Things Must Come To An End

It’s been almost a year since my last post and you may be wondering what’s going on here.  Well, to be honest, I’ve lost interest in Area 51, UFOs, secret aircraft,  and all the associated news. And it appears most readers have lost interest in SkyShadows; the last comment was 2 1/2 years ago. But I’ll leave this site up for a while.  The domain doesn’t expire until 9/11. (coincidence? I think not.)

Over the years since I first became interest in strange things in the desert I’ve had fun.  Lots of fun.   And I’ve learned a lot. Here are a few things of which I’ve become certain.

  1. There are no aliens at Area 51. Well, at least not extra-terrestrial ones. Never have been. And there  are no extra-terrestrial space craft there either.
  2. Bob Lazar did not work at a place called S-4 at Papoose Lake,  because there is no such place as S-4. But he did work part-time as a contract employee at Area 51.
  3. While wandering around the edges of Area 51 you meet some very strange people. And you meet some wonderful people. And some who are both.   And no, I won’t give names.

If you think there’s anything here of interest or value, feel free to copy and save it. Even if I keep the SkyShadows domain this blog will disappear by August 1, 2012.

Dave Bethke
still on the fringe of Houston

The End of an Era

Atlantis Final Touchdown
On Thursday, July 21st, in the pre-dawn darkness of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Space Shuttle Orbiter Atlantis touched down, marking the end of the last flight in this program and the end of a glorious chapter in US space exploration.

The shuttle fleet of 5 craft, six if you count the non-powered test vehicle Enterprise, were all named after historically  famous explorers’ ships. (Even Enterprise, which never really flew, was named after the Star Trek Enterprise which also never really flew.) The missions and the people behind them have amassed a staggering amount of firsts and records. 21,152 orbits of the Earth. 542,398,878 miles traveled. 1,332 days, 20 hours, in space. Incredible numbers for this 30 year project.

And now, it’s over.

The three remaining Shuttle Orbiters will be deactivated and sent to museums. Discovery, which has flown more than any other shuttle and which deployed the Hubble Space Telescope, will be sent to the Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.  Atlantis, the fourth shuttle built, the last shuttle to fly a servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope and also the last shuttle to fly will be sent to Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Endeavour,  built as a replacement for Challenger,  and the first shuttle to fly to the Hubble Space Telescope will be sent to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.  Even the prototype Enterprise, which never flew in space, will be sent to the Intrepid museum in New York City. Ironically, none will sent to the Lyndon B Johnson Space Center, home of the US Astronaut corps, in Houston.

The first tragedy came in 1986 and involved the second shuttle,  Challenger. It’s first flight was April 4,1983. Challenger, which made the first flight  in which astronauts used jet-packs for spacewalks and also in which a satellite was take from orbit, repaired, and re-launched met an untimely end when on January 28, 1986 on it’s 10th launch,  a booster rocket failed, burned through the external fuel tank, and caused an explosion. The result was the break-up of the vehicle at just 73 seconds into the flight. All seven astronauts perished.

The second disaster came to the first shuttle. Columbia first took to the skies on April 12,1981 with the launch and mission that was a verification of the whole system.   Further flights followed with more specific purposes such as satellite launches and scientific work. Columbia also was the only shuttle to land at White Sands in New Mexico.  But at the end of it’s 28th mission on February 1, 2003, Columbia and it’s seven astronauts were lost when the craft broke apart on re-entry.

Will it be the final chapter for U.S. Manned Space Exploration?  It could be.  Astronauts will still visit the International Space Station but that’s not really exploring.  And they will get there by hitching a ride on a Russian Soyuz capsule.  Correction – not “hitching” a ride but paying a healthy $62.7 million per astronaut, round-trip.   Sounds expensive until compared to the Shuttle.  Those flights cost $450 million each, round-trip.  With an average crew of 5, that’s still $90 million per astronaut.

But bargain or not, it’s still embarrassing. The United States, once the world leader in manned space flight is now relegated to paying the rival Russians to get there.  And there doesn’t seem to be anything on the horizon for future U.S. Manned Space Flights.  With an administration whose actions are anti-space and anti-scientific (unless it’s “Green Projects”) plus a staggering federal deficit, the future of U.S. space exploration seems in doubt.

I’m glad I was able to witness the glory days.  I hope future generations will be able see future glories.

Roswell Revisited

Annie JacobsonIt wasn’t a UFO.  No, no says investigative journalist Annie Jacobsen.  Instead Ms Jacobsen thinks it was a Russian spacecraft with “child-size aviators” developed in human experiments by Nazi doctor and war criminal Josef Mengele.  But Roswell is only one chapter and actually more of a tease.

The book, Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base, is reportedly a fairly straightforward investigative book about aviation and the military history of Area 51. I haven’t read it.  But after reading a New York Times review I plan to.

Oh yes.  The International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell is planning on a big summer tourist season.

The Vault

The VaultNo, it’s not Al Capone’s vault. This vault belongs to the FBI. And yes, it does contain a lot of information on the famous/infamous gangster. But it also covers a lot of other subjects.

In April, 2010 the FBI overhauled their FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) website and now, a year later has revamped the “Reading Room” and named it “The Vault“.  It has an excellent search feature. And while you can enter “Al Capone”, if your reading this page you’re probably more interested in searches like “UFO” or “MJ-12”.  There’s plenty there to keep you occupied for days.

The Vault has over 2000 documents on hand, most with dozens of pages. And while they cover all time periods of the Bureau, some have only recently been added.  Complete instructions are included, although it’s very straightforward and “user friendly”. I have to congratulate the FBI.  They really got this right.