Science

The ‘Black Knight’ satellite: a hodgepodge of alien conspiracy theories

Sometimes introducing a news report will stop you in your tracks, forcing you to reread for fear that you didn’t get the point the first time. That was certainly the case when Mail Online published a story on March 21, 2017: “An alien satellite created more than 12,000 years ago to spy on humans has been shot down by elite Illuminati soldiers, UFO hunters claim” .

And with that, the conspiracy surrounding the satellite called “Black Knight” seemed to be very much alive.

More than 120 years have passed, the conspirators believe, since the Black Knight’s existence was first recorded. Those who subscribe to the theory invoke an alien spaceship in Earth’s near polar orbit, though they are based on such disparate evidence that it is not entirely clear why people link them. This all amounts to a strange concoction that has prompted some people to scream about cover-ups from NASA and other government entities. It is a legend that refuses to disappear.

UFOs and UAP: History, Sightings and Mysteries

Photographic evidence that is not evidence

Many of the early discoveries that have been linked to the Black Knight satellite theory relate to radio signals. But a series of images from 1998 really threw the heavenly cat among the pigeons. They were taken during STS-88, the first space shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

There, for all to see, were images released by NASA that showed a black object hovering above our planet in low Earth orbit. And it wasn’t long after the images were presented in front of a hopeful audience before people made some conspiracy sums and shared them with the rest of the world.

By way of explanation, STS-88 astronaut Jerry Ross noted that the ISS was in the middle of being built when the images were taken. The American team, he said, was on its way to connect the American module to the one created by the Russians and, as part of that work, they had brought four stump pin thermal covers. The task was to wrap them around four bare stump pins, which were rods that attached the module to the space shuttle Endeavor while it was being transported. This would act to prevent heat loss from the exposed metal.

Expedition 58: the mission of the International Space Station in pictures

A photo taken by an astronaut during the space shuttle STS-88 mission in 1998 that, according to the conspirators, shows the “Black Knight.” (Image credit: NASA)

Unfortunately, during one of the spacewalks associated with this job, things went a bit wrong – one of the covers came loose, causing it to float away along with a few other items.

“Jerry, one of the thermal covers escaped you,” STS-88 Commander Robert Cabana (now serving as NASA Associate Administrator) told Ross during the spacewalk, and it soon became clear that the cover it was lost forever.

Later captured on camera, this fugitive black object received NASA catalog number 025570. A few days later, the object fell out of orbit and burned.

Much of this information has been recorded. Former NASA engineer James Oberg, who knows Ross personally and the person who took the photos, cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, has shown that these supposed images of the Black Knight actually represent a very mundane object.

Related: Most Extreme Manned Spaceflight Records

The International Space Station (ISS) was under construction when the astronauts saw the “Black Knight.” (Image credit: NASA)

“Before leaving NASA, I led the trajectory design team that produced the mission profile,” Oberg told All About Space.

“Every step of the way, there is consistency with what I learned as a lifelong spaceflight operations specialist: why the blankets were needed, why did one of them come loose, why did it float out the way it was? He did, “he added. “The difference is that, to the general public, all of these characteristics are supernatural to people who are only familiar with the earthly principles of heating, work, movement, and dozens of other aspects never before encountered in the history of outer space.”

Given Oberg’s extensive debunking, you’d think the matter would have been shelved a long time ago. But not. Ever since the images were shared far and wide, conspiracy theories have persisted.

“They are probably some of the strangest 70mm photos to ever come out of the space shuttle program,” Oberg said. And apparently an update to NASA’s website caused the original links to not work, raising concerns about a cover-up. All normal journalistic practices were omitted: determining the timeline, asking for witnesses, seeking the larger context. “

The “Black Knight” is actually remnants of a spacewalk during the first space shuttle mission to the International Space Station in 1998. (Image credit: Future / Adrian Mann)

Historical evidence that is not evidence either

The conspirators absorbed the images of STS-88 into a growing body of “evidence,” claiming they were proof that the alien Black Knight satellite is actually out there.

Reaching that conclusion, however, has required great leaps of faith, and it has also required past observations to be included in the general story. Steadfast believers have had no trouble since 1899 searching for such “truth,” but, like photographic records, every piece of alleged evidence presented thus far has been very well explained without resorting to the Black Knight Myth.

So what happened in 1899? Nikola Tesla began to register some very strange signals, apparently from outer space. While in his barn-like laboratory in Colorado Springs that year, the Serbian-American genius inventor and electrical engineer noticed some unusual radio signals and speculated that they came from an intelligent alien civilization.

That is perhaps the least likely explanation, of course. Over the years, some people have speculated that Tesla may have detected emissions from a pulsar, a super-dense, rapidly spinning stellar corpse. But that is probably misplaced as well, scientists say.

“The first source of non-terrestrial radio waves was discovered in the 1930s, and it came from the center of our galaxy, which is the most powerful radio source in the sky at many frequencies,” said Varoujan Gorjian, a NASA scientist. Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “It wasn’t until the 1960s that technology evolved to detect the first pulsars. If what Tesla detected was a real signal and not an artifact from his instrument, it most likely came from Earth.”

Related: Fermi Paradox: Where Are The Aliens?

Why does the talk of the Black Knight persist?

People continued to use Tesla’s findings to reinforce the claims about the Black Knight. They also took into account the work of a Norwegian engineer named Jørgen Hals, who in the 1920s discovered that the radio signals he transmitted reached him a few seconds later. We now know them as delayed echoes and Hals was the first person to observe them.

However, the fact that we have no confirmed explanation for its cause has been taken advantage of, however: in 1973, Duncan Lunan wrote an article in Spaceflight magazine suggesting that people studying delayed echoes had overlooked the possibility that they were sent by An alien. spacecraft.

Lunan still has faith in an alien explanation for the recordings.

“Changes in long-distance echo patterns in apparent response to changes in outgoing signals from Earth really do look like responses from a Bracewell probe, and there is still no satisfactory natural explanation for the phenomenon,” he said, referring to a supposedly autonomous spacecraft designed to communicate with other civilizations.

However, if the long-distance echoes were deliberately produced by a probe, there is a problem that they stopped in 1975.

“If a probe was monitoring Earth, instead of trying to get attention, perhaps it belatedly discovered from the 1973 to 1974 publicity that it had revealed its presence in the 1920s and was withdrawn in 1975,” Lunan said. “That is the only explanation I can see for his apparent departure.”

And yet, despite all that, Lunan said that her investigation has nothing to do with the “Black Knight’s nonsense.” If there is a link between his theory and the Black Knight, it is not one that is being created by him.

Related: 13 Ways To Hunt Smart Aliens

A growing interest in UFOs

The Black Knight conspiracy theory may be with us for a while yet, as there is growing public interest in unidentified flying objects (UFOs) or, as the US military has recently renamed them, unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP).

This interest really began to rise in December 2017, when The New York Times published three videos captured by cameras aboard US Navy aircraft. The images showed objects that appeared to be maneuvering in ways beyond the capabilities of known technology.

That New York Times story also discussed the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), a previously secret American military project that searched for UFOs. Politico and The Washington Post published their own articles on AATIP around the same time, adding to the UFO momentum.

AATIP officially lasted only from 2007 to 2012. But in 2020, the military announced a successor program called the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, whose mission is to “detect, analyze and catalog UAPs that could pose a threat to national security. of the United States “.

This is a very practical concern for military officers. For example, what if some of the mysterious objects are alarmingly advanced reconnaissance ships developed by opposing nations?

So there is some real intrigue and mystery surrounding UFOs, some of which are difficult to explain. But that mystery doesn’t extend to the Black Knight, a wayward thermal blanket that burned up in Earth’s atmosphere more than two decades ago.

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