UPDATE The NASA Apollo-Saturn Rocket Test Launch UFO Sighting (Washington State MUFON, May
The NASA Apollo-Saturn Rocket Test Launch UFO Sighting
(Washington State MUFON, May 31, 1988.) I have some followup
information on the UFO report made by Jack Allen, a Boeing
engineer who currently lives in Snohomish, Washington. You may
recall from my first report that he was employed as a quality
control inspector in 1966 by General Electric at the Mississippi
Test Facility during a test firing of the second stage of a
Apollo-Saturn rocket. At that time he witnessed, along with many
others, a UFO approach the test facility and hover over the
updraft of the rocket burn during the duration of the test.
First, a correction in the name of the rocket. The rocket
that was being test fired at the time of the incident was the
second stage of the Saturn V-B rocket, not the Saturn IV-B as had
previously been reported. No test firings of the Saturn IV-B
occurred at the Mississippi Test Facility. This second stage
rocket is correctly referred to as the S-II-T or S-II-1,
depending on the version. I talked to Bob Lessels, a Media
Affairs officer at Marshall Space Flight Center (205/544-6539)
and he provided me with a chronology of possible dates. I also
talked to Jack Allen again to verify to the best of his
recollection which test firing it was, since it is unlikely now
that it was the first one.
A bit of background about the facility itself. The NASA
facility in question is located approximately 60 miles East of
New Orleans on the Gulf Coast in Hancock County, Mississippi, on
the East Pearl River. It has undergone a couple of name changes
since 1966. Until very recently it has been known as the
National Space Technology Laboratory (NSTL), and its new name is
the J.C. Stennis Space Center. The Public Affairs
representatives at the facility are Max Herring and Ms. Myran
The first captive test firing of the S-II-T occurred on April
23, 1966, according to Bob Lessels. He used as a reference a
NASA publication authored by David Akens entitled the "Saturn
Illustrated Chronology". Although the time of the firing is not
mentioned, a photograph indicates that it was a daytime firing,
not a night firing as reported by Jack Allen. The test was
successful and lasted 15 seconds.
The next firing was scheduled for May 10, 1966, but was
cancelled. On the 11th the engine fired for 47 seconds but there
was a premature cutoff. A third captive test firing of the S-II-
T occurred on May 17th, and lasted 154 seconds, followed by a
fourth test on May 20th which lasted 354.5 seconds. On May 28th
the S-II-T was destroyed in an accident during another test
firing and a full investigation into the cause ensued.
The destruction of the S-II-T caused the Apollo launch schedule
to be changed, adding about a month's delay.
On July 5, 1966 there was a successful test Apollo-Saturn 203
launch and the first flight of the S-II stage from California.
On August 13th the S-II-1 arrived at the Mississippi Test
Facility. On December 30, 1966 at the Mississippi Test Facility
the first static firing of the flight version of the S-II-1 was
conducted. On January 5, 1967 an 18-member S-II task team was
assembled, and Col. Sam Yarchin was assigned the position of
team leader. On January 11, 1967 the initial post-static
checkout of the S-II-1 ended. Finally, the source mentions that
a S-II-3 stage firing occurred on September 19, 1967, but it
doesn't say where.
Jack Allen is sure that the test firing occurred at night at
approximately 11:00 p.m. He now thinks that, if the first test
firing had been during daylight, the UFO incident must have
occurred during the second test firing. This would place the
occurrence of the event as May 11th, 1966, during the premature
cutoff of the test. This still needs to be further confirmed by
obtaining the exact time of the testing.
--Donald A. Johnson, Ph.D.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank