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Space Exploration

Date: 03-18-03
Host: George Noory
Guests: James Oberg

James Oberg, who had a 22-year career as a space engineer in Houston, appeared on Tuesday's show discussing all things space oriented. "I'm the only journalist NASA officially described as whacko," Oberg joked when explaining why NASA cancelled their plan to have him write a book refuting the conspiratorial claims that Apollo never went to the Moon (it was partially a budgetary concern).

Oberg also discussed the latest theories about the Columbia Shuttle disaster, suggesting that it may have been a confluence of mishaps that brought the craft down. He hasn't ruled out one factor-- strange activity in the upper atmosphere, though he did say that a San Francisco photographer's image of an unusual bolt hitting the Shuttle may have been due to a camera flaw.

"Our space program has had surges and retreats...(but) it's a cultural, even a genetic imperative to keep exploring new environments," Oberg said. Going to Mars has practical benefits, but beyond that "cultures that believe in the future and act like they d0-- are the ones that have futures...We're the descendants of wanderers and explorers. The stay-at-homes all went extinct," he said.

A UFO Skeptic

Tonight's guest, James Oberg, an expert on space exploration, has over the years been skeptical of the UFO phenomenon. "We can account for decades of UFO sightings without resorting to supernatural explanations," Oberg said in a debate with famed researcher J. Allen Hynek back in 1985. Hynek at the time suggested that the phenomenon could be coming from a parallel reality or another dimension. Oberg pointed out that even creditable, intelligent witnesses would be capable of misidentifying flying objects such as when astronomers in the USSR reported UFOs in 1967 and it turned out they had actually witnessed tests of space-to-Earth thermonuclear warheads.

Oberg has also weighed in against the UFO hypothesis in the case of the STS-48 Shuttle Video from 1991, which was purported by some to show huge objects moving at sharp right turns. Oberg believes that such images have prosaic explanations. "It's a phenomenon that's very familiar," Oberg said on the Larry King Show. We've seen "this since the fireflies on John Glenn's flight…Spacecraft are surrounded by clouds of debris- ice, dust, insulation, and other fragments. These pieces…are fairly ordinary phenomena," he added.

As to the 1996 "Tether incident" of video from the Columbia shuttle which also was believed by some experts to show UFO activity, Oberg told Florida Today, "if you look at enough video, you see this as a standard out-of-focus effect. This particular camera system isn't designed for low light levels and it's being pushed beyond its specifications in order to zoom in on the tether."

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