- COCOA BEACH, Fla. - Although NASA made an easy target during Friday afternoon's
opening session of the Space Coast UFO Conference at the Hilton, the most
rousing applause erupted after a swipe at the news media.
- Several hundred listeners gathered for
an event billed as the NASA Forum, which - for the first time, according
to conference sponsors - featured a space agency representative, Thomas
- But UFO researcher/author Stanton Friedman
scored a crowd pleaser when he charged, during the question-and-answer
session, "If any newspaper spent one-fifth of what they've spent (investigating)
Monica Lewinsky, we'd have the answers to flying saucers."
- Twenty years ago, Friedman, a nuclear
physicist whose contracts included classified projects, was the first to
investigate the 1947 accounts of a controversial crash in the New Mexico
desert. Now popularized as the Roswell Incident, that event has become
what Friedman contends was the beginning of a "Cosmic Watergate"
engineered by the military and civilian intelligence machinery.
- But with a NASA rep sitting at his elbow,
Friedman couldn't resist venting some frustration at the space agency -
"we don't have a project, we don't have goals" - and he wondered
what happened to the UFO data supposedly collected by NASA's predecessor,
the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.
- Smith, a space station and human exploration
specialist, preferred to talk about NASA's more conventional history and
a discussion of upcoming projects. He described himself as a "sympathetic
nonbeliever" who wasn't here "to deliver any kind of revelation.
It would be fine. It would also be career limiting," he added, provoking
- Forum panelist Vincent DiPietro also
had a major bone to pick with NASA. A senior systems engineer employed
as a contractor at Goddard Space Flight Center for 23 years, DiPietro was
the first to study enigmatic Martian surface features photographed during
the 1976 Viking mission.
- Citing a September Space News report
on the growing number of planetary scientists disgruntled over the slow
release of photo data from the ongoing Mars Global Surveyor project, DiPietro
suggested compelling new images were being consciously withheld.
- DiPietro criticized MGS camera operator
Michael Malin, whose contract gives him a six-month proprietary embargo
on the images. He said other scientists reported Malin had taken numerous
pictures of the so-called Face on Mars, other than the single one released
to NASA in April that appeared to reflect natural terrain rather than artificial
- "This leads me to believe we are
not getting all the facts from Malin Enterprises," DiPietro said.
- But not all the barbs came from the panelists;
the audience took their shots, too.
- One man asked Smith a question he said
he couldn't get NASA Administrator Dan Goldin to answer several years ago
during a public forum: "When (are you) going to tell the public about
the UFO presence?" The perplexed Smith replied, "The next time
I play golf with him, I'll ask him."
- Another exasperated audience member wondered
where the space agency's curiosity was when it came to UFOs, given the
level of public interest. "I've never heard a NASA official say, `Y'know,
this is interesting." '
- Friedman said the problem was with "ancient
academics and fossilized physicists" and "a failure of leadership."
- "It takes guts to say, `I don't
know' or, `that's interesting,' as you suggest."
- The Space Coast UFO Conference, sponsored
by Project Awareness of Gulf Breeze, continues its lineup of speakers and
workshops today and Sunday.