A replica of the Venera 7 landing capsule. Kosmos 96 is rumored to have had a similar capsule. (courtesy of nationmaster.com)

An earthly source?

ŠTim Printy July 2006

In 1993, skeptic James Oberg suggested that what happened at Kecksburg was not a UFO crash and was not a meteor. Instead, Oberg reported that it could have been the capsule from Kosmos-96, a Venus space probe, which had failed shortly after launch. It was shaped something like an acorn, which fit the shape reported by Bulebush and Romansky. In his 1993 article for Omni magazine, Oberg notes that the orbital data did not support it but he also noted that data could have been for the booster rocket and not the capsule:

The released tracking data couldn't be positively identified with specific pieces of the failed probe. It could have been the jettisoned rocket stage or a large piece of space junk. The probe itself could have been headed off toward Kecksburg. (Oberg UFO)

This meant that the capsule may have come to earth at a later time. According to the USAF, Kosmos-96 had crashed to earth twelve hours earlier but Oberg suggests that it could have been a ruse by the United States so the Soviets did not know we had recovered some of their spacecraft. The data could have been faulty or the it could have been altered as a form of cover-up. The reasons were obvious according to Oberg:

In the 1960s, U.S military intelligence agencies interested in enemy technology were eagerly collecting all the Soviet missile and space debris they could find. International law required that debris be returned to the country of origin. But hardware from Kosmos-96, with its special missile-warhead shielding, would have been too valuable to give back. (Oberg UFO)

Needless to say, Oberg's suggestion was dismissed because the USAF data pointed towards a return to earth twelve hours before. Some of those people who want to accept this data also reject the information that the USAF recovered nothing that evening at Kecksburg. This is a good example of saucer logic:

  1. The USAF/NASA lie about UFO reports and recoveries
  2. The USAF/NASA do not lie about their orbital data when it eliminates a conventional explanation.

Since conspiracies expect the government to lie, why do they suddenly feel that the government is telling the truth in this case? This was the argument put forth by Oberg and he put forth a logical reason for this being done. This Kosmos-96 connection stayed pretty much in limbo until the late 1990's when more data was released regarding the orbital elements.

In December of 1998, James Easton released his Pulsar Newsletter No. 2. In it he described his research into the Kosmos-96 connection. Most importantly, James reported the following exchange between himself and Dr. David Williams of the National Space science data center:

I wrote to Dr. David Williams, the mission's contact at the National Space Science Data Center and asked if he might be able to shed any further light on a possible connection with the Kecksburg events. Dr. Willliams was most helpful and replied, "Unfortunately we don't have much information on the Cosmos 96 mission here at the data center, but I have at least something I can add to our record... According to the 'Handbook of Soviet Lunar and Planetary Exploration' by N.L. Johnson, the Cosmos 96 may have exploded during an orbital restart into 8 large pieces which entered the atmosphere around December 9. There is apparently information on this in Science News of 22 July 1967 and 'Soviet Space Exploration, the first decade' by W. Shelton (1968, p. 231)"..."I still haven't found much on Cosmos 96, even after contacting the U.S. Space Command, but I've put a mention of the Kecksburg incident in the record at: http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/database/www-nmc?65-094A (note: this is now found at http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog?sc=1965-094A)'This mission was intended as a Venus lander, presumably similar in design to the Venera 3 which had launched a week earlier. The spacecraft attained Earth orbit and the main rocket body (65-094B) separated from the orbiting launch platform. It is believed an explosion (perhaps during ignition for insertion of the spacecraft into a Venus transfer orbit) damaged the platform, resulting in at least six additional fragments (designated 65-094C - H). The damaged spacecraft remained in orbit for 16 days and reentered the Earth's atmosphere on 9 December 1965. There is some speculation that the reentry of the Cosmos 96/Venera-type spacecraft was responsible for a fireball which was seen over southwestern Ontario, Canada and nine states from Michigan to New York and purported to have subsequently landed in Pennsylvania southeast of Pittsburgh near the town of Kecksburg (40.2 N, 79.5 W) on 9 December 1965 at 4:46 p.m. EST local time (21:46 UT). Uncertainties in the orbital information and reentry coordinates and time make it difficult to determine if this could have been the Cosmos 96 spacecraft". (Easton)

Easton also exchanged information with James Oberg. At the time, Oberg continued to point out that part of Kosmos-96 could have been responsible for the Kecksburg controversy:

The Soyuz-1 impact was at about 300-400 mph but the most damage was the explosion of the soft-landing engine post-impact. A Kosmos-96 type vehicle would have impacted somewhat slower because it would have been smaller. But orbital elements released by NORAD showed that at the time of the reported impact, K-96 was not passing anywhere near Kecksburg. The only way to reconcile the tracking data is to:

1. Either assume the tracking data was generated as camouflage for the true flight path which crossed PA at the right time, or

2. Assume there were other fragments in higher orbits (quite plausible considering how the vehicle originally exploded weeks earlier) that underwent different orbital evolution before decaying at the "matching" time of day and location. (Easton)

This argument began to fail simply because there was no evidence that an actual recovery had occurred and nothing could be found to suggest that the capsule had come down in Pennsylvania.

By 2003, it became apparent to Oberg that the Kosmos-96 connection was unlikely but had not been completely eliminated. Oberg still maintains that Kosmos-96 could still have something to do with the events in question but he now felt the meteor explanation was most likely:

I will not _mislead_ anyone by arguing that _I_ happen to want people to believe that the Kosmos-96 prosaic explanation is credible and consistent with all trustworthy evidence. The least unlikely explanation in my view is that the natural fireball meteor - and it was so well observed and recorded that it looks exactly like thousands of other natural bolides and it's pre-impact trajectory could be computed and found to be 'natural-meteoroid-like' - led to somebody's suspicion that it was connected with the imminent entry of a very high-priority space object (Kosmos-96) so when the meteor was seen and reported, some low-level DoD pawns drove over to nose around. (Oberg Re: Kecksburg)

This could have been the reason that Bluebook had sent the AF personnel from Oakdale to look into the case in the first place. How many times during bluebook did the USAF immediately send personnel chasing a crashed spaceship report? Not often as far as I can tell. If the USAF had thought that a piece of Soviet hardware had fallen into the US, it would need to be identified and recovered rapidly. However, it seems unlikely that a piece of Kosmos-96 actually made it to that remote Pennsylvania area and the records show that nothing at all was found.

With the Kosmos-96 spacecraft becoming an ever increasing unlikely source of the stories being told, one now questions if anything really crashed that evening and the new Kecksburg legend is simply wild tales being told by publicity seekers. In 2003, the Sci-Fi channel stepped in and "tried" to set the record straight.

Works Cited

Easton, James. "The "Kecksburg" Incident:Update on Recent Developments. " Pulsar Newsletter No.2. Available WWW:http://www.parascope.com/nb/articles/pulsar02.htm

Oberg, James. "UFO update - alleged crash of a UFO in western Pennsylvania on Dec 9, 1965". Omni Magazine. September 1993. Available WWW: http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1430/is_n11_v15/ai_14086519

-."Re: Kecksburg on Sci-Fi channel" 25 October 2003.UFO Updates Mailing list. On line posting. Available WWW: http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2003/oct/m26-001.shtml


Chapter 6: Science FICTION versus Science FACT

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