In July 1969, NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins successfully attempted the first human Moon landing. As they flew towards the Moon aboard their Columbia spacecraft, a short exchange between Mr Armstrong and NASA’s Mission Control at Houston, Texas, sparked many years of the baseless conspiracy theories and UFO claims. On the third day of the mission, the Apollo crew checked in with Houston to ask about a mystery object they say floating through space.
Apollo 11 audio transcripts show Mr Armstrong said: “Do you have any idea where the S-IVB is with respect to us?”
The S-IVB was the third stage of the Saturn V rocket used to reach the Moon and has by that point already jettisoned from the Apollo 11 Command and Service Modules.
Mission Control then replied: “Apollo 11, Houston, the S-IVB is about 6,000 nautical miles from you now. Over.”
The brief and seemingly inconsequential exchange has fuelled many claims over the years the Apollo astronauts saw an alien object from their spacecraft.
The rumours – which have been put to rest years ago – were so popular that a person confronted NASA in 2006 to demand answers.
In a question posed to NASA’s Lunar Science Institute, the person suggested NASA instructed its astronauts not to speak of the object.
A person asked: “Edwin Aldrin recently came out on in a special on the Science Channel and stated that the astronauts aboard Apollo 11 all saw unidentified objects which seemed to have been following them.
“He also mentions that they were briefed not to talk about what they had seen.
“What does NASA have to say in response to this? What were those objects they all saw?”
Mr Aldrin was forced to deny the accusations years later, even after NASA has explained what the astronauts saw.
The astronaut’s spokeswoman Christina Korp told The Washington Post in 2018: “He has never said he saw a UFO. This story has been a fabrication for the sake of headlines and is not true as far as Buzz Aldrin is concerned.”
Mr Aldrin also personally denied seeing a UFO in 2015 when he fielded questions from the public during a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session.
Because the astronauts did not know what they were looking at the time, Mr Aldrin admitted the object could be described as “unidentified” on a technicality.
However, he said: “It was not an alien. Extraordinary observations require extraordinary evidence.”
So, what exactly did the NASA astronaut see during the mission?
According to Dr David Morrison, who in 2006 served as the Interim Director of NASA Lunar Science Institute, there is a very simple answer to the mystery.
Replying to the question concerning Mr Aldrins’ appearance on the Science Channel, he said: “I just talked to Buzz Aldrin on the phone, and he notes that the quotations were taken out of context and did not convey the intended meaning.
“After the Apollo 11 crew verified that the object they were seeing was not the SIVB upper stage, which was about 6,000 miles away at that time, they concluded that they were probably seeing one of the panels from the separation of the spacecraft from the upper stage.
“These panels were not tracked from Earth and were likely much closer to the Apollo spacecraft.
“They chose not to discuss this on the open communications channel since they were concerned that their comments might be misinterpreted (as they are being now).
“Apparently all of this discussion about the panels was cut from the broadcast interview, thus giving the impression that they had seen a UFO.”
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