(Note: I was able to contact the gentleman who made this report. I asked him several questions about his account that I needed cleared up for my own curiosity, and the veracity of the report itself. One question concerned his employment dates, which he very quickly cleared up.Secondly, I asked him about what mission was being broadcast as he watched the UFOs on the TV screen. I had thought it must be Apollo 15, and he verified this for me also.
I would also like to thank Eileen Nesbitt for her invaluable assistance in gathering information on this very important report.) (B J)
When I first started working for NASA, its initials, not the name, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, was how it was referred to. NASA is with whom I began employment in 1958 as a security guard on Wayside in Houston Texas. They hadn’t even started building Manned Spacecraft Center at Webster yet, which would later be called MSC at Clear Lake.
In 1961, I transferred to the Fire Department at the fledgling MSC and started training as a Fire and Safety Technician. The contractor responsible for Fire and Safety was Houston Fire and Safety. They held the contract for five years, losing out to Wackenhut Corporation out of Coral Gables Florida in 1966 because Wackenhut incorporated all phases of fire, safety and security under one blanket contract. Some say that George Wackenhut had first, Kennedy’s, then Johnson’s ear, but I haven’t seen proof of it.
Everybody who hired in as a Fire Fighter was cross-trained in almost every aspect of maintenance operations. I attended numerous schools on fire alarm systems, pump repair, electrical and mechanical maintenance, physical plant operations, and last and certainly not the least, fire, safety and security. We were told that we had to pass a very rigid security clearance investigation, and that our job would be forfeit if we did no pass. I passed with flying colors and kept my job. There were several who did not pass, and we were never told why they had been laid off.
When I started, there were approximately three hundred eighty men who were attached to the fire department there at MSC. I saw a lot of men come and go during my twenty-six years of employment, but I never saw anyone who was willing to speak out about the rigid security. Even in later years, I kept in touch with several of my closest friends, when conversations turned to anything we were told not to talk about, there was always someone there to remind us that we had been told not to discuss it, even after we were no longer there.
I saw things, and heard statements from Astronauts that I didn’t discuss, even with my wife or family. It was like a gigantic trust handed us and we honored it. To this day, I don’t talk about everything I heard when I was around the Astronauts, at least not in detail.
There were several incidents that occurred during my tenure as an employee and to several of the Fire Fighters that got all of us thinking about how our government wasn’t telling all they knew. For instance, in Building #1 on Johnson Space center, which was Building #2 when I first started work there, most of the north center of the second floor was the “crypto” room. We didn’t know what went on in the room, but we did know that we weren’t allowed in the room under normal circumstances. However, when an alarm came in at the Fire Station, we responded to the floor of the building that showed up on the enunciator panel at the station, One time, around 1964, we responded to Bldg.#2 to find that the alarm originated from the “crypto” room.
However, the doors were open and we just walked in to check the minor panel located there.
The whole east wall was covered with photos of UFOs. As we finished up, the officer of that room came back in and found us there. He actually pulled his sidearm and pointed it at us before demanding to know why we had entered that room.
He eventually accepted our explanation, but it took Everette D. Shafer*, head of NASA Security to vouch for us before the man would shut off his threats towards us. Everette Shafer reminded him, that had the armed officer been there in the room with the door locked, the incident could have been avoided. No, that was one very unhappy officer. I think he was Air Force, but I could be wrong; he was a Captain, I do remember that. When I came back from the Cape in 1968, we had another incident in the very same room, and the same officer was there also.
This time, he had Mr. Shafer to give the okay for us to enter the room, with him as our armed escort. But this time the walls on all four sides were photo-to-photo of UFOs and other very strange looking aircraft. We did our job, got out of there, but Mr. Shafer and the officer both told us to not speak to anyone of what we saw or observed in that room, ever!During Man Rated Tests, the fire department was trained to be rescuers should anything happen. Or job was to stand-by in readiness during many long hours of boring, repetitious, and meaningless exercises. Most times it was not the Astronauts themselves who performed the exercises, rather it was trained test subjects who did. We all became acquainted with them.
Buildings #7, #32, and #33 on Manned Spacecraft Center, were the test sites for Vacuum Chamber related tests. In Building #32, was housed the largest vacuum chamber in the free world. In Building #33, was the ultra-high vacuum test chamber, and Building #7 housed three test chambers. Building #7 is also where the Astronauts Space suits were manufactured.
Throughout the sixties, we performed numerous duties, some at MSC, while others were at Area 2000 at Ellington AFB in Genoa, Texas. Area 2000 was where the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle was tested and flown by test pilots and Astronauts. I was Crew Chief of the Contract Fire Department personnel at Area 2000 for close to a year, working all three shifts due to loss of personnel or whatever, but eventually being promoted up the ladder to Training Officer.
Not anything really special happened while I was Training Officer, but I did get to go places that was off limits to other personnel. It was one of my jobs to draw the pre-fire attack plans for every building on Site, to accomplish that job, I had the need to enter all buildings and accurately record everything of interest towards fire, safety, and security onto drawings. That is why I remember so much detail concerning the buildings, their locations, the interior layouts, and where all exits and equipment relating to Fire, Safety and Security were located.
Another part of everyone’s job was the Safety patrols during any mission. From the first day on the job, before we were trained to become good little NASA Fire Fighters, we were told that we would perform various duties during our employment, that we would be constantly training, ensuring that we all would have the latest knowledge to do our job with the highest of proficiency.
Part of the training regimen was to know, and I do mean know, every building so intimately that we could draw a set of plans for them in our sleep. We ate, slept, and dreamed of building plans; construction materials inside and out, how many panels and manufacturer name of all alarm systems; how to repair or reset those systems; what was in the buildings that could be dangerous to us during emergencies.etc. but mostly the interior layout, hallways, exits, room locations.
With that small introduction, I will now attempt to give you the details of the safety patrols for Integrated Mission Control Center, commonly known as Building #30 on Johnson Space Center.
Building #30 is not just one building, rather it is two separate buildings, each having distinct functions. There is the Administrative side that houses support personnel, and the Mission Operations Control Rooms, otherwise known as the MOCR. By the way, at the time I was there, the Admin side of Building #30 was the building that housed the office of James Oberg.
There are two MOCR’s located in IMCC, one on the second floor and one on the third floor. The building is like a big square, windowless structure sitting right next to the Southwestern Bell building. You can’t miss it, because it is the only building that looks like it. Three stories inside, it looks more like a five- storied structure from the outside. As you have most likely ascertained by now, there are some very high ceilings inside the MOCR’s.
Although we were never told we couldn’t go into the MOCR’s during missions, all of the safety inspectors assumed that we weren’t welcome, that maybe we would be a distraction. However, we were allowed in every section surrounding the MOCR’s.
On the second and third floors, there was the outside section, and the center section with a hallway completely around the inside of the building that separated the outside section from the inside. The outside section of the building housed the air handlers, workshops, soft and hardware support offices, and tool rooms, while the inside portion was dedicated to the MOCR and it’s support.
In the MOCR itself, was a huge screen that stretched across the entire wall. It was the mission map, which kept the technicians apprised where the vehicle was at any given moment during its orbits above the earth. On one end was the big television screen, which received its picture from a large bank of cameras directly behind the screen.
Those cameras generated a lot of heat, and part of our duty during inspections was to make sure that there weren’t any ignitable materials in that area. It was kept dark for some reason, but the cameras gave off enough light so a person didn’t stumble around in there. It was also very cold most of the time, especially during missions.
At the back of the MOCR is a series of glass windows. These windows are set into the wall that makes up the barrier that separates the viewing room from the MOCR. The viewing room has two doors for entry. Entry is accomplished by getting off the elevator, taking a right down the hall, and the first door is the first entryway. About twenty-five feet further down the hall is the second door. Situated between them is a small door about three to four feet high. This door lets a maintenance technician into the area under the viewing room.
On each side of the room, to the front are located phone booths, one on each side of the window. There are about eight rows of seats with a set of slight stairs that separate them into two sections. The seats are similar to any seat you may see in a movie house, but way more comfortable.
Mounted on the wall above the big windows are two large screen colored TV’s with several high mounted speakers so the viewer can listen in to the conversations between the Astronauts and the ground crews.
At the back of the room, right at the top of the center stairs, is a minor alarm panel. It was this minor alarm panel that safety had to monitor during all missions. The room was relatively quiet, cool and very comfortable. It was here I always chose to take a pipe break. My partner was also a pipe smoker, so we shared stories, listened to the quiet banter between the ground crew and the vehicle, and actually didn’t pay much attention to what was going on in the MOCR.
Nothing out of the way ever occurred in the Missions, but during one particular Mission, something so unique happened that I would always remember it. Jim Baker and I had been doing the regular routine safety inspection during a Manned Mission to the Moon.
We entered the viewing room at the end of our patrol, and as was our wont, sat at the back of the room to enjoy a pipe. We both smoked a pipe, and the viewing room allowed smokers. We had been there for no longer than fifteen minutes, it may have been longer, but I doubt it, when the stage left door opened and in walked several, at least five of the upper echelon administrators of Johnson Space Center.
Uh, it actually wasn’t called Johnson Space Center at that time; rather the name was Manned Spacecraft Center. Anyway, I do know that one of the people was definitely Chrome Dome, as we were irreverently known to call Dr. Gilruth. At that time I had hair and found it funny to refer to one of the finest minds our country had by the moniker, “Chrome Dome.”
Just prior to their entering the viewing room, Jim and I noticed that the Technicians in the MOCR had gotten up and left the room. Now, that isn’t unusual during a normal EVA, but the Astronauts were in Hadley’s Rille. They couldn’t be seen because they were over the edge, down in the Rille itself. The Lunar Rover was about thirty, maybe forty or more yards from the edge, and had the left front camera on the spot where the Astronauts had disappeared. You could hear the Astronauts voices talking, but as in most of the dialogs, we weren’t paying close attention to what they were saying. We did notice the technicians getting up and leaving the MOCR. Jim is the one who actually said something about it.
“Looks as if everyone got a bee in their bonnet at the same time, don’t it?” “Most probably their piss and lunch break,” I offered. It was right after I made that statement, that Dr. Gilruth entered, and several others came in with him. They didn’t look back, just went to the center of the viewing room and were talking excitedly among themselves and pointing towards the big screen to the right of the main screen in the MOCR.
Jim and I then paid close attention to what was on the screen. There was an object above the spot where the Astronauts were supposed to be in Hadley’s Rille, just hovering. I am totally positive as to it being an object; it was round, it had a shiny side with a shadow side, with the shadow side matching the shadows on the moon, and though all the video shots coming from the moon looked black and white, they could actually have been in color. The harsh lighting was probably responsible for the illusion of black and white.
Anyway, The object started a slow move from screen left to screen right. The camera on the left front of the Rover followed the object as it moved screen right. Soon it was apparent that it actually wasn’t moving screen right, but was circling the Rover.
The Rover has two mounted cameras on it. One camera was mounted on the left front and one on the right rear. As the object came into view of the right rear, that camera picked up the object and continued tracking it as it circled, very slowly around the Rover. It finally came to the point where the right rear camera could no longer follow it, so the left front camera picked up the image again and followed it to where it was once more above where the Astronauts were in Hadley’s Rille.
I uttered something that brought us to the attention of Dr. Gilruth and the others. “What the crap is that? What caused me to utter that phrase was, the object took off straight up and went out of sight in less than a second. It may have been longer, but seemed like it was gone in the blink of an eye, but I was still aware that it had actually gone straight up.
One of the men there, I still think it was Everette Shafer, turned and asked us what we were doing in the room, and we told them that we were there to inspect the fire alarm panel at the rear of the room and to take our smoke break. And to ask a question of our own. “What in hell was that about?”
Can you believe they actually told us it was a drop of oil on the lens of the camera on the moon? Truth! Now, I am not stupid, though I have done a few stupid things in my life, like getting married the first time, but I know a pile of schlock when I hear it! It wasn’t a drop of oil, no way!
I opened my mouth and said, “There’s no way it was on the lens on the camera on the moon.”
“The temperature would freeze the drop solid.”
To Which the man holding my clearance in his hand, reading my name replied, “I mean it was a drop of oil on the camera lens at the back of that screen.” To which he pointed. Okay, it was a good place to shut up and get out of the viewing room, but.. Once more I said something because as I have previously stated, I’m not stupid!
“There’s no way that drop of oil is on any one of those lenses at the back of the screen, because of the temperature.”
“The heat is high enough back there to set the drop of oil on fire.”
Who ever it was holding my badge in his hand, says, “If you want to keep your job, you’ll get out of here and keep your mouth shut about what occurred here.”
Not about what I saw, not about why I was in there, just get out and keep my mouth shut about what had occured. I pulled away from him, turned to Jim and said lets go.
When we exited the room, to our surprise, there was Dick Nieber and Loring E. Williams of security on the doors. They were as surprised at seeing us come out of the room as we were at seeing them standing guard there. Further, they told us that Andrado and two others were on the rear doors to keep unauthorized people out of there.
Then they told us their story: They were pulled away from vehicular patrol and told to go immediately to IMCC and the second floor MOCR viewing room and stand guard until further notice. They were told that absolutely nobody other than Dr. Gilruth and the people who were with him were to be allowed into the room. It’s no wonder our being there disturbed Dr. Gilruth and the others; we weren’t supposed to be there.
When Nieber asked us what had happened in there, we told them we couldn’t discuss it. They thought that the Astronauts had been killed. That was what had been circulating between them while they were guarding the doors to the viewing room. Wrong! That same evening, I sat at the typewriter and wrote out everything, time, date, place, and mission, plus all the names I could remember of who were there with all the facts concerning the incident, and asked Jim Baker to read it and sign it. He read it and signed it on condition that I would give him a copy of the report. I went to the copier, and made six complete copies of the report and gave Jim one of them.
Incidentally, when we arrived back at the fire station, Sgt. Thomas Walsh asked us to come to the dispatcher’s office to speak to him. He closed the door and told us that he’d received a call from Shafer, that no matter what we had seen or heard in the viewing room, we were not supposed to discuss it with anyone at all, ever, because it had to do with National Security. “National Security over a drop of oil on a camera lens?” I think not!
Jim Baker died in 1983 of a sudden heart attack. He was forty- six and one of my best friends and we got together regularly at his home, in his gun shop to discuss different people and things. The last time I saw him alive, I asked him if he still had his report hidden away and he told me he had actually burned his copy, but had given a copy to another friend from West Virginia who wanted it.
I retired in 1979, and moved to Austin Texas. I was security dispatcher for the LBJ Presidential Library there in Austin when I got a call from Jim’s daughter, Amey, telling me that her father had passed away early that morning.
Jim’s last words to me, there in his little gun shop was, “You sure raised hell over that drop of oil, but you were right, they were full of shit and you knew it.”
I looked it up recently and it was Apollo 15. For some reason, I have lost my original notes written up on NASA Fire Department’s old IBM Selectric. However, I must reiterate that it wasn’t a film, it was real-time and we observed the incident as it happened on the big screen in the MOCR on the second floor at Building 30, aka, Mission Operations Control Center.
We had stopped in the viewing room to check the minor fire panel at the rear of the room and then sat down to smoke our pipes. We had been in there about fifteen minutes when in walked Dr. Gilruth and about five other men. They didn’t even know we were in the room until the object took off straight up, this being after it had circled the Lunar Rover.
As I stated, it was the Flight where the Astronauts had landed close to Hadley’s Rille, and when the incident happened, they were out of sight over the edge, in the Rille. To the best of my knowledge, that is what was being told by the news media. However, when we returned to the Fire Station, nobody had seen the object, and Sgt. Thomas Walsh had taken us into the Dispatchers office and told us that he had received a call from Everette Shafer, NASA Security, telling him to apprise us of the oaths we had signed concerning National Security and the penalties attached to breaking the law.
*:Spelling may be Sheaffer, or Sheafer
270:22:37 Scott: Roger. Go ahead with your questions.
270:22:46 Henize: Roger. We’ll – we’ll admire the beautiful picture for – for a few minutes here.
270:22:56 Henize: Deke just passed out from the shock, incidentally.
[The crew appear in a row, facing the camera. Dave is camera-left, Al in the centre and Jim to camera-right. Dave has a noticeable beard after 12 days in space.]
270:23:15 Henize: Okay, fellas. I have a preliminary statement to make here. The questions you will be asked in this news conference have been submitted by newsmen here at the Manned Spacecraft Center who’ve been covering the flight. Some of the questions they raised have been answered in your communications with – with Mission Control, but the public-at-large has not necessarily heard them. The questions are being read to you exactly as submitted by the newsmen, and in an order of priority specified by them.
270:23:46 Henize: Question number 1. This last week, we have shared scores of exciting moments with you. Which single moment would you most like to live again, and is there any moment which you would never like to repeat?
270:24:03 Scott: Well, I guess we all probably have a different idea of which would be the single most exciting moment of the flight, and maybe we’ll just run through it one at a time. I guess the most impressive moment I can remember is standing up on Hadley mountain – Hadley Delta, and looking back at the plain and seeing the LM and the rille and Mount Hadley, and the whole big picture in one – one swoop. And I think we’ve got some pictures for you from up there, and I believe the TV was running at the same time, and I think that was probably the most impressive sight that I’ve ever seen. Al?
This information puts a whole new light on the following photos acquired over the years.
David Scott made his third space flight as spacecraft commander of Apollo 15, July 26 – August 7, 1971. His companions on the flight were Alfred M. Worden (command module pilot) and James B. Irwin (lunar module pilot). Apollo 15 was the fourth manned lunar landing mission and the first to visit and explore the moon’s “Hadley Rille” and Apennine Mountains which are located on the southeast edge of the Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains).
Photo NASA No AS15-85-11514
Photo NASA No AS15-86-11603
Photo NASA No AS15-87-11849
Photo NASA No AS15-87-11849-View of Mount Hadley as photographed by Apollo 15 during EVA. Another shot, showing Lunar Roving Vehicle tracks and above right the object with a bizarre shape. After sharpening out the picture, can be observed the lower part of the object becoming…a second hill…
Photo NASA No AS15-90-12187-In the middle of two hills can be observed the same object as in the previous picture.