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From: (JamesOberg)
Newsgroups: alt.alien.visitors,alt.paranet.ufo,,sci.skeptic
Subject: Re: CSICOP's UFO Subcommittee (was Re: Jim Oberg -- helpful 
Date: 7 Apr 1996 00:53:19 -0500

Here's the way my research on the Gemini-11 "wingman" report (the word the
crew used to describe the object they sighted in September 1966) has been

Fusses over "7" and "11" have one lesson to teach: a person can have
lapses of memory, or at different times recount different remembered
versions of a past event, and not be a "liar". That event may be a few
weeks in the past, or decades in the past. What's important is what really
happened once any confusion is cleared up.

The Gemini-11 sighting got listed in several UFO books as anomalous, but
it was alleged at the time that tracking data showed it had been the
Proton-3 spacecraft in a terminal orbital decay.

The crew's eyewitness description (I've confirmed this with personal
conversations and letters with Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon) of the object
(they saw it much more sharply than the photographs turned out) was
strongly consistent with a manmade object in general (orbital altitude,
speed, ballistic motion, free end-over-end tumbling) and Proton-3
specifically (it was described as having "attached booster stages" around
its waist, like the triangle-tipped stages of a Titan-3, when it turned
out later to actually have triangle-tipped solar panels around its waist
-- pretty good corroboration!). This eyewitness description, meanwhile,
was utterly unlike any 'classic' UFO apparition.

At a UFO conference at Fort Smith in 1975, a young officer from NORAD --
Captain Steve Pease -- discussed NORAD's role in tracking objects in space
and showed a slide of one of the Gemini-11 photos, enlarged and labeled
"Proton-3". In front of the audience and later in face-to-face
conversations, he was explicit that NORAD computers had later shown the
close fly-by). I attended that conference, and later felt motivated to
obtain tracking data to match the two orbits myself.

It was this data which I obtained and analyzed in 1977 and shared with
Bruce Maccabee and Brad Sparks. The Proton-3 data was from NORAD tracking
and was bouncing all over the sky as the satellite neared final decay and
fiery reentry. The Gemini-11 data was harder to obtain, but I finally
found a NASA-JSC document which provided equator crossing longitudes. Some
manipulation was needed to match the formats, and I didn't know if the two
different types of data were compatible but I tried anyway, and in the end
I couldn't get them closer than five or six minutes. There never was a
time when I said I'd solved it and Maccabee pointed out a simple
arithmetic error -- that's a garbled memory and I have the letters we
exchanged to prove it.

I did not consider that computational result as proof they the object was
NOT Proton-3 for a fundamental reason: the computational process itself
had never been verified as reliable with any other checkable satellite
conjunction or close approach. I didn't know if it would work even if the
objects HAD passed close by, because it was new and was an untried

This is an important philosophical difference between me and other,
pro-UFO analysts: the failure of an unverified computational algorithm has
often been cited as PROOF that an original hypothesis is false, when it
may only cast doubt on the mathematical model used, especially as in this
case when the math model had NEVER then or later been validated as

During the mail exchanges, Brad Sparks indicated to me that he had found a
close approach with another US satellite. But he was not going to publish
his identification or share it with me -- as deputy research director of
APRO, under James Harder, his side was happy to champion "astronaut UFO
cases" and they had a doctrinaire aversion to releasing solutions of cases
they liked to use for publicity purposes. Again, I have the letters to
prove this.

I was satisfied (as they were) that the object seen by Conrad and Gordon
was a manmade satellite, and was willing to accept Sparks's claim (had he
only sent my verifiable data), but I remained suspicious the object really
was Proton-3 but that the problem lay in the computational approach to the
mix-and-match data.

However, I was happy to admit I could not PROVE it had been Proton-3, and
that's the way I wrote it up in my publications.

I kept the data (it had been a real trial to obtain it in 1976), and
recently I tried to see if an outsider could find the data themselves if
they wanted to start from scratch. It was a challenge.

I also looked at the data again using new satellite predictor programs now
available in home computers (in 1977-8 we did it by pencil). It was clear
that the old analysis was naive and inadequate -- in other words, that
when approached in 1996, an entirely different answer was possible. The
old "math model" had indeed been inadequate and conclusions based on its
failure were untenable.

I may well publish those results in a refereed journal such as the Journal
of Scientific Exploration, or in MUFON's UFO Journal. If so, please
forgive me for not scooping myself until it appears (such magazines
require original unpublished research, not information already released
via press conferences and the 'net). 

In the meantime I am delighted to collect quotations from self-proclaimed
experts who have never done a satellite computation about how it's
impossible for me to be right, or to tell the truth, or to really solve
the case. Patience is a virtue of the older and wiser heads, and I have
plenty of time to let things shake out. And time to chuckle over
well-earned "I told you so's".

Meanwhile, I do encourage independent analysis efforts, untainted by any
material provided by me and hence potential accusable of being forged,
faked, or twisted by me. It has been lonely for twenty years appearing to
be the only person in the UFO field with the ability to do from-scratch
satellite tracking computations (Maccabee and Sparks, don't forget, used
data -I- had obtained).  When I am asked for "independent support" of my
conclusions, what am I supposed to say, that nobody else even knows HOW to
attempt the analysis? Or that nobody else in the UFO field has bothered to

Nope, we need more interested people, because satellite tracking data has
been crucial to solving major UFO cases around the world (US, Russia,
France, Middle East, China, Argentina, Nea Zealand, etc etc) that
otherwise would have remained "unexplained". Hmmm ... now that MIGHT
explain why pro-UFO folks really DON'T want to learn this art, it's too
heartbreaking to really solve favorite cases -- nah, that's too cynical
and cruel, it can't be true...

What do I think the Gemini-11 sighting was? Right now with what I've seen,
and considering all the evidence at my disposal, I'd say the following
odds express my view:
Proton-3                          65%
Other manmade satellite  30%
Other spaceflight-related event 5%
Unexplainable stimulus  <<< 1%

This application of satellite tracking computations to solving classic UFO
cases has been highly productive and a lot of fun, and all I can say is,
if you're interested, get involved, because there's practically -NO-
knowledgeable work being done in the UFO world, they -NEED- the help. And
despite nastinesses here on the 'net by loud-mouthed know-it-all would-be
dragon-slayers, most serious ufologists of all persuasions appreciate
sound technical help.

And as the dragon usually said after the match, "Burp!".

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