MARS POLAR LANDER VANISHES:Like its sister spacecraft, the Mars Climate Orbiter, the Mars Polar Lander (MPL) vanished on Friday, December 3, 1999 while on the final leg of its trip to Mars.
The $165 million spacecraft performed almost flawlessly during its 11-month, 470-million-mile voyage to Mars. It was set to land in the planet's southern hemisphere near the South Pole. Upon landing, two $29 million electronic probes were to be jettisoned in order to burrow into the soil in search of water or ice. The probes were named Scott and Amundsen after two Antarctic explorers.
The Mars Polar Lander entered the planet's atmosphere shortly before noon (California time). The spacecraft sent a radio signal acknowledging the launch of the Scott and Amundsen probes at 12:06 p.m. The MPL then began a 30-minute period of radio silence as it descended to the surface.
"After the first contact (with MPL) failed at 12:39 p.m.PST, there was a second try around 2:04 p.m. and a third try at 8:30 p.m., but there was no success in those efforts, either."
"'So far I feel like I've been stood up on a date,' Mars program scientist Dave Crisp said late FRiday. But he held out hope that his date with Mars is not off, just late. 'If that's the case, all is forgiven.'"
"Engineers kept telling the probe to scan the sky to look for Earth late Friday, but it couldn't connect."
All day on Saturday, December 4, 1999, the team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, USA attempted to make radio contact with the Mars Polar Lander and its two mini-probes. ""Going into two more tries late Saturday, officials at the Jet Propulsion Lab have tried 13 times to contact the three different probes without success."
Sunday, December 5, 1999, saw more heartbreaking news for MPL team members. "The failure to communicate with the spacecraft Sunday morning was a serious blow." MPL scientists "planned all day to try another method of communication at 9:40 p.m. PST, and if that failed, several more in the following days."
The Mars Polar Lander had two high-tech radio antennae aboard. The dish-shaped medium-gain antenna, located on the MPL's side, had to be pointed directly at Earth to communicate with the controllers. The tube-shaped ultra-high-frequency (UHF) antenna on top of the probe was able to communicate indirectly with Earth. The UHF antenna could send a signal to the Mars Global Surveyor, already in orbit around the planet, which would then relay the MPL signal to Earth.
"Just after 1 a.m. on Monday, scientists listened for a signal from the spacecraft's main antenna but heard nothing."
On Tuesday, December 7, the MPL team looked for "messages from a backup (UHF) antenna on the lander."
"If that failed, scientists were to make a final serious attempt to establish contact. They were to order the lander's main antenna to sweep the sky on Wednesday and beam signals to a wide swath of the universe."
"Two pods that rode the lander to Mars and were supposed to probe the Martian atmosphere almost are certainly lost. Nothing was heard from them Monday, the deadline for them to make contact with Earth."
Although no specific cause of the loss of the Mars Polar Lander has yet been announced, some NASA officials are speculating that the lander's rocket thruster fuel may have frozen during its long voyage through space.
"In particular, the panel warned that the hydrazine fuel for the lander's retrorockets might freeze in space, producing ignition delays, irregular pulses and possibly leading to a topsy-turvy landing."
On Tuesday, December 7, NASA officials said they had turned on "heaters to begin warming the hydrazine...before the lander began its descent on Friday."
"The panel" which investigated the loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter ten weeks ago "expressed worry that the lander's 12 thrusters had 'to act in unison to ensure a stable descent,' and that such a complex feat had never been tried before."
The loss of the Mars Polar Lander follows a pattern of doomed Mars missions. MPL's sister spacecraft, Mars Climate Orbiter, vanished while passing behind Mars to enter orbit. Pathfiner and its companion robot explorer, Sojourner, landed successfully on Mars but went dead six weeks later in 1997. The $1 billion Mars Observer vanished while enroute to Mars in 1993. (See the Minneaplois, Minn. Star-Tribune for December 8, 1999, "NASA plans sweeping review," page 1; the Duluth, Minn. News-Tribune for December 4, 1999, "Mars probe fails to make connection with scientists" and December 8, 1999, "NASA report blasts inner workings of two Mars projects." Also USA Today for December 6, 1999, "Still no noise from Mars Polar Lander, probes;" December 7, 1999, "NASA prepares for last calls to silent spacecraft:' and December 8, 1999, "NASA may delay Mars missions."
(Editor's Comment: Why do I get the feeling that the Mars Polar Lander is sitting in some giant saucer's cargo hold, right next to the Mars Climate Orbiter and the Mars Observer. Maybe the alien skipper plans to open a museum.)
CYLINDRICAL UFO HOVERS OVER SHANGHAIA large light gray cylindrical UFO appeared over the western end of Shanghai, the largest city in China, and hovered there for one hour on Thursday afternoon, December 2, 1999.
The hovering UFO was seen by about 100 people and was reported in two large newspapers, the Shanghai Daily, and the Wenhui Daily, in their Friday, December 3, editions.
Upon receiving a telephone call from an eyewitness, "a reporter for Wenhui Daily hurried to the 43rd floor of a building" and "claimed he saw an illuminated object stationary in the sky for ten minutes before it disappeared."
Two TV stations in Shanghai broadcast color video footage of the UFO, described as "an object darting through the sky with a flaming orange tail."
"A former researcher at the Shanghai Observatory, Professor Jiang Xiaoyuan, was one of the witnesses but he could not offer an explanation."
"The UFO hovered over the city for an hour and a half, reports said."
Radar operators at Hongqiao International Airport near Shanghai said they detected "nothing out of the ordinary" on their radar sets. (See the Chinese newspaper Wenhui Daily for December 3, 1999, "UFO appears in the sky over Shanghai." Many thanks to Jim Hickman of Aerial Phenomena Research Group for forwarding the newspaper article.)
CHINESE BIGFOOT TRACKED AT NATURE PRESERVEOn Sunday, December 5, 1999, the China Daily reported that a scientific team in the Shennongjia mountains of Hubeir Province, China had found physical evidence of a large hairy hominid, which they called "a wild man."
"Standing eight feet tall with long red hair and a taste for corn on the cob, (China's) Big Foot is back and apparently running around a nature preserve in central China."
"Chinese scientists are on the trail of the legendary beast after a hunter reported seeing a creature in Hubeir province in Shenongjia Nature Reserve two months ago, the China Daily said. The scientists found 16-inch footprints, brown hair and chewed corncobs and concluded they were not left by a bear." (See USA Today for December 8, 1999, "Big Foot Returns," page 24A)
(Editor's Note: Reports of hairy "wild men" in the Shennongjia mountains of Hubei province date back to 2,000 B.C. More recently, Zhou Guoxing encountered a seven-foot-tall hominid in the preserve in 1977. See Unexplained Mysteries of the Twentieth Century by Janet and Colin Bord, Contemporary Books, 1982, page 207.)
SEVEN UFOs SIGHTED IN BANDON, OREGONOn Monday, November 1, 1999, eyewitness A.S. and 12 other witnesses saw seven "circular things" in the sky over Bandon, Oregon (population 2,215), a small town on Highway 101 85 miles (112 kilometers) west of Roseburg.
"I was in Bandon at 9 a.m., visiting the cheese factory," A.S. reported, "And all of a sudden, I saw a flash of gray and looked and these things were headed for the (Pacific) ocean, which was right next to a campsite."
"They had a weird color on the bottom, like a little flash of blue light. They were going about twenty miles per hour and were three miles up. When I could not see them (anymore), I left my car." (Email Form Report)
SILVER CYLINDRICAL UFO SEEN IN DANDRIDGEUFO hotspot Dandridge, Tennessee (population 1,540) is back in the news again.
On Thursday, December 2, 1999, Patricia G. reports, "At 12:25 p.m. this afternoon, I was sky-watching and actually got lucky. A silver cylinder flying north to southwest was flying rather slowly. I'm afraid I can't tell the altitude, but it was large."
"At first I thought it might be a jumbo jet, so I looked through my binoculars, and to my delight there were no wings or tail, just a smooth silver cylinder. There was no jetstream or contrail or whatever you call it."
On Wednesday night, December 1, Patricia's daughter "saw a blue light that pulsated in the northeast sky. She said it was as large as a pencil eraser. She was driving home and lost sight of it when she got home."
GREECE DEPORTS TWO BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIANS"Two suspected members of a U.S. doomsday cult were deported to New York on Tuesday," December 7, 1999, "the second group expelled from Greece ahead of the millenium."
"Police said the two suspected cult members of the Denver-based group Concerned Christians and two children were taken into custody Monday (December 6, 1999) near the seaside town of Rafina, 15 miles (25 kilometers) east of Athens. Eighteen others were expelled Sunday (December 5, 1999) amid fears that the group was planning to mark 2000 with mass suicide."
"Those deported were U.S. citizens with expired resident permits, police said."
"Police have been looking for other suspected cult members near Athens, where the group is thought to have settled after 14 alleged members were deported from Israel in January." (See UFO Roundup volume 4, number 2--J.T.)
"The group's leader, Monte Kim Miller, has said he would die in Jerusalem this month and be resurrected three days later." (See the Minneapolis, Minn. Star-Tribune for December 8, 1999, "Greece deports two suspected soomsday cult members to N.Y.," page A10.) Although the professed born-again Christians of Miller's sect have committed no crimes, they have been hunted and hounded by the Shin Bet, Israel's security police. In October, "twenty-one evangelical Christians, including at least 13 Americans, were arrested in Jerusalem early Monday and ordered to leave Israel by Thursday." (See USA Today for October 26, 1999, "Israel orders religious groups out.")
(Editor's Comment: So much for religious freedom in the NATO countries. Yeah, you can tell these born-agains are a bunch of "terrorists." They're always walking around with a KJV. That's a Bible, by the way, not a firearm.)
Y2K: IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE D-DAYDecember 28 is shaping up as a key day in the Y2K computer crisis. Several sources now cite this date as the launch point of the USA government's response to Y2K problems.
According to WorldNet Daily, "President Clinton has already made plans to declare a national emergency because of expected disruptions caused by the Y2K computer problem, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) documents.
"A final training session followed by a mock Y2K disaster exercise will include the actual disruptions and problems that Y2K emergency planners believe will take place during the change to the New Year."
"Plans for the emergency" response "were made known to the FEMA officials and all federal employees in preparation for use by the Information Coordinating Center, run by the President's Council on the Year 2000 Technology Problem."
"The staff on hand at the Information Coordinating Center have been told to expect a presidential declaration of a national emergency. FEMA staff who will run the actual operation centers have been told the same thing."
"Should it become necessary, a presidential 'emergency' rather than a 'major disaster,' will be declared, and assistance will be focused on determining threats to life, health, safety and property, the Senate committee was told in a report from Lacy E. Suiter from the Response and Recovery Directorate of FEMA."
"A national emergency will be declared because FEMA officials have concluded that there will be more than 50 simultaneous Y2K- related disruptions throughout the country, which will stretch the nation's local, state and national emergency resources to the limit."
"The (USA) Department of Defense is so concerned that Deputy Secretary of Defense John J. Hamre has issued a memorandum to commanders in the field to be very cautious about using the military to assist civilian agencies. Hamre said local requests for help might seem appropriate, but he urged local commanders to be cautious about using the military to help with Y2K disruptions."
"'Immediate responses that appear rational from a local perspective, but could collectively undermine the Department's ability to execute operational missions, should be ruled out,' Hamre said."
"Hamre has ordered commanders to avoid using the military for Y2K problems unless there is a threat to life or damage to property."
"A presidential 'emergency' rather than a 'major disaster' declaration will be made if Y2K" disruptions exceed state and local resources available to deal with them, FEMA and other federal employees were told at the training sessions. (See WorldNet Daily for December 2, 1999, "Clinton set to declare national emergency.")
On Wednesday, December 1, 1999, Edwards Air Force Base, 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, suddenly terminated telephone and email communication with the outside world. The sudden security buildup triggered much speculation in the UFO community.
According to Rev. Billy Dee of UFO Sky Searchers Inernational (UFOSSI), residents in nearby Lancaster and Palmdale, California "saw 20 more (UH-60) Blackhawk helicopters brought in, along with many Marines. The Marines already have several large twin and single rotor helicopters, and I've seen them every night this week, flying in groups of three over Lancaster and Palmdale."
On Friday, December 3, 1999, a large truck convoy arrived at the base, Rev. Dee reported, which included "23 semis with stainless steel tank trailers, like fuel trucks, just plain stainless steel with no markings, 40 cement trucks, 13 flatbed semis carrying pallets of plywood, and four flatbed semis carrying nothing but Porta- Potties."
(Editor's Comment: No, I don't think the Porta- Potties are for aliens. Sounds like another big MOUT exercise to me.)
In addition, an airman with the New York state Air National Guard confirmed that December 28 would be the date of some sort of gocernment response to the Y2K crisis.
The airman, John B., told UFOSSI, "I am in the New York Air National Guard in an Active Guard Reserve status, and we were told yesterday (December 5, 1999) that we, as a unit in (USAF) Security Forces, are going to be on call from the 28th of December to the 7th of January for Y2K. Not that we are going to be deployed but just on standby." (Many thanks to Rev. Billy Dee for this report.)
(Editor's Comment: So it looks like the USA has joined Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Israel in putting troops on alert for possible Y2K trouble during the last week of December. Will Operation Abacus be launched? Stay tuned.)
1864: ROSWELL IN UPSTATE NEW YORK?In 1920, horror and fantasy writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) wrote to fellow members of the Gallomo literary club, talking about a strange dream he had recently experienced.
"I have lately had another odd dream--specially singular because in it I possessed another personality-- a personality just as definite and vivid as the Lovecraft personality which characterises my waking hours."
"My name was Dr. Eben Spencer, and I was dressing before a mirror in my own room, in the house where I was born, in a small village (Dolgeville, N.Y., formerly called Brockett's Bridge--J.T.) of northern New York state. It was the first time I had donned civilian clothes in three years, for I was an Army surgeon with the rank of 1st Lieut.."
"I seemed to be home on a furlough--slightly wounded. On the wall was a calendar reading FRIDAY, July 8, 1864 (Actually, July 8 that year was a Saturday--J.T.) I was very glad to be in regular attire again, though my suit was not a new one, but one left over from 1861."
"After carefully tying my stock (tie), I donned my coat and hat, took a cane from a rack downstairs and sallied forth upon the village street. Soon a very young man of my acquaintance came up to me with an air of anxiety and began to speak in guarded accents. He wished me to go with him to his brother--my professional colleague Dr. Chester-- whose actions were greatly alarming him."
"I, having been his best friend, might have some influence in getting him to speak freely--for surely he had much to tell. The doctor for the past two years had been conducting secret experiments in a laboratory in the attic of his home, and beyond that locked door he would admit no one but himself. Sickening odours were often detected near the door...and odd sounds were at times not absent."
"The doctor was aging rapidly; lines of care-- and of something else--were creeping into his dark, thin face, and his hair was rapidly going grey. He would remain in that locked room for dangerously long intervals without food and seemed uncommonly saturnine. All questions from the younger brother were met with scorn or rage--with perhaps a little uneasiness, so the brother was much worried, and stopped me on the street for advice and aid."
"I went with him to the Chester house--a white structure of two stories and attic in a pretty yard with a picket fence. It was in a quiet side street, where peace seemed to abide despite the trying nature of the times. In the darkened parlour, where I waited for some time, was a marble-topped table, much haircloth furniture and several pleasing whatnots covered with pebbles, curios and bric-a- brac. Soon Dr. Chester came down--and he had aged. He greeted me with a saturnine smile, and I began to question him, as tactfully as I could, about his strange actions."
"At first he was rather defiant and insulting-- he said with a sort of leer, 'Better not ask, Spencer! Better not ask!'"
"Then when I grew persistent (for by this time I was interested on my own account--HPL) he changed abruptly and snapped out, 'Well, if you must know, come up.'"
"Up two flights of stairs we plodded, and stood before the locked door. Dr. Chester opened it, and there was an odour. I entered after him, young Chester bringing up the rear. The room was low but spacious in area and had been divided into two parts by an oddly incongruous plush red portiere. In the half next (to) the door there was a dissecting table, many bookcases, and several imposing cabinets of chemical and surgical instruments. Young Chester and I remained here, whilst the doctor went behind the curtain."
"Soon he emerged, bearing on a large glass slab what appeared to be a human arm, neatly severed just below the elbow. It was damp, gelatinous and bluish-white, and the fingers were without nails. (my emphasis--J.T.)"
"'Well, Spencer,' said Dr. Chester sneeringly, 'I suppose you've had a good deal of amputation practice in the army. What do you think, professionally, of this job?'"
"I had seen clearly that this was not a human arm, and said sarcastically, 'You are a better sculptor than doctor, Chester. This is not the arm of any living thing.'"
"And Chester replied in a tone that made me blood congeal, 'Not yet, Spencer. Not yet!'"
"Then he disappeared again behind the portiere and emerged once more, bringing another and slightly larger arm. Both were left arms. (my emphasis--J.T.)"
"I felt sure that I was on the brink of a great revelation, and awaited with impatience the tantalisingly deliberate motions of my sinister colleague."
"'This is only the beginning, Spencer,' he said as he went behind the curtain for the third time. 'Watch the curtain.'"
"And now ends the fictionally available part of my dream, for the residue is grotesque anticlimax. I have said that I was in civilian clothes for the first time since '61 (i.e. 1861--J.T.)--and naturally I was rather self-conscious. As I waited for the final revelation, I caught sight of my reflection in the glass door of an instrument case and discovered that my very-carefully-tied stock was awry. Moving to a long mirror, I sought to adjust it, but the black bow proved hard to fashion artistically. And the whole scene began to fade--and damn the luck! I awaked in the distressful year of 1920, with the personality of H.P. Lovecraft restored. I have never seen Dr. Chester, or his young brother, or that village since. I do not know what village it was. I never heard the name of Eben Spencer before or since. Some dream!"
The strange thing is, Lovecraft's "dream" has roots in reality. There really was a Lieutenant Spencer. He was 1st Lieutenant E. Gary Spencer of the 94th New York Regiment, U.S. Army, and he was born in 1839 in the small town of Brockett's Bridge, N.Y., in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. I've seen the house where he was born. It's still standing! (See Selected Letters of H.P. Lovecraft, volume 1, Arkham House, Sauk City, Wisconsin, 1965, pages 100 to 102.)
Next Week: In Search of Doc Chester's Unusual Houseguest.
Unless Y2K comes early, we'll be back in seven days with more UFO and paranormal news from around the planet--and some pretty strange documentation from upstate New York--all brought to you by "the paper that goes home--UFO Roundup. See you then!
UFO ROUNDUP: Copyright 1999 by Masinaigan Productions, all rights reserved. Readers may post news items from UFO Roundup on their websites or in news groups provided that they credit the newsletter and its editor by name and list the date of issue in which the item first appeared.