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Space Shuttle astronaut explains UFO video (Video)

Astronaut Tom Jones was on board the Space Shuttle during STS-80 in 1996. On this flight purported UFOs were caught on camera. YouTuber Shepherd Johnson recently asked Jones his thoughts on the UFO video, which has since become an internet sensation.

Jones is well aware of the controversial online video and has commented on it in his blog. Shepherd makes note of that when he asked Jones about his thoughts on the UFO video in question. Jones told Shepherd:

 On every mission you see lots of debris that is released from the shuttle’s payload bay, or frozen propellant from the main engines or the thrusters that drifts along with you, in some cases for several days after you arrive in orbit. And so that little cloud of particles gets captured by the low light TV cameras on the space shuttle that are used by the ground controllers at night, and when those wind up on video, and if you don’t know the context for when those pictures were taken, those little particles might seem to you like distant stars or moving objects in space. The video I have seen in STS-80 is just that. It’s the low light TV camera capturing those ice particles in the very near field, only 10 or 20 feet away, and in the camera view they look like they are flashing, in fact they are just tumbling little ice flakes.

When asked about other astronauts who have had UFO sightings, Jones replied:

A number of people have seen things they can’t explain and therefore by definition it is a UFO, but what it really is, is unknown. Some people think they are spaceships, I don’t, but most of them, I think, under careful analysis are explainable like the ones on STS-80. I don’t think I have heard of anybody, in the astronaut corps, who has ever seen anything that they thought was unexplained.

Well, if Jones hasn’t, movie director J.J. Abrams has. In a recent video interview with NASA astronauts, Abrams claimed that an astronaut had told him that he had seen something “really strange” that led the astronaut to believe in extraterrestrial life.

As for STS-80, take a look at the video below and decide for yourself whether you believe the objects to be ice flakes, or something else.

Alejandro Rojas

Alejandro Rojas is a radio host for Open Minds Radio, editor and contributing writer for Open Minds magazine as well as OpenMinds.tv. For several years Alejandro was the official spokesperson for the Mutual UFO Network as the Director of Public Education. As a UFO/Paranormal researcher and journalist, Alejandro has spent many hours in the field investigating phenomena up close and personal. Alejandro has been interviewed by media organizations around the world, including the largest cable and network news agencies with several appearances on Coast to Coast AM.

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  1. “take a look at the video below and decide for yourself ” just won’t cut it, Mr. Rojas. It’s well past the point where promoters can honestly prescribe just looking at a youtube video as an adequate basis for ‘deciding’ what the video shows. Aside from relying on what an actual eyewitness [Jones] thinks, any serious investigator would need basic context of a video such as date, time, illumination and shadowing conditions, simo activities of the shuttle and crew, and all other factors that serious UFO investigators KNOW are critical to assessing ANY alleged UFO video. Except maybe ‘space UFOs’, Mr. Rojas? You offer the video to look at, without context — do you even know if the scene is day or night? If not, how can you possibly expect a naïve viewer to properly assess its origin?

  2. Wow, is it just me or does this guy seem like an arrogant prick. I mean c’mon, ice particles…. Does he think that people are retarded. I wonder how much money he gets every time he says that. Tom Jones you’re a piece of work. You capture some of the most interesting and definitive proof of UFO’s in space and you are going to tell us that all your buddies just know it ice particles… And how you don’t know anyone in the astronaut core that believes otherwise. Bullshit! I call bs!!! What a joke.

  3. Perhaps you can look this information up for us Mr. Oberg. Given your background, your expertise in this area are far superior than most. I provided an expert opinion from the astronaut. However, many people, such as Mr Ondis, disagree. I do not expect naive readers to be able to assess the object’s origins. I personally rely on expert opinion. However, everyone is welcome to their opinion and forming it however they wish.

  4. “Perhaps you can look this information up for us Mr. Oberg”. Isn’t this statement an indication that you are part of the problem, not part of the solution? I already looked it up years ago, posted it on the Internet, and shared it with Tom Jones and Story Musgrave, who also posted it. You visited and commented on Jones’ website, didn’t you see it there? Without such background information, I suggest it’s futile to try and ascertain the nature of the white dots by just watching the video, as you suggest your readers do. Not knowing the illumination and shadow conditions, how can you tell if they are sunlit or self-illuminated? This manufactured unawareness of context seems a recipe for failure of proper understanding. As an example, I asked you as specific, easy question: is the scene day or night? Do you or Mr. Ondis care to address this, or do you insist it doesn’t matter?

  5. I actually also provided the link to his website and his response to this video in the story. I have provided people with information, which is my intent. I do not intend to make people’s minds up for them. You always refer to “the problem,” but I am not sure what problem you are referring to. If it is that some people do not adhere to scientific findings to define their reality, then I think you will be frustrated with this problem for the rest of your existence. I am not saying these objects are unusual, I actually am content with Jones’ response, but I don’t feel the need to push my opinion onto others. I think your frustration with me is misplaced, because of your frustration with those like Mr. Ondis, who disagree with your findings, or those of Mr. Jones.

    I also agree with you that all of the items you listed matter, and as I said, so does expert opinion. Even with all of the answers to the items you listed, I am still not qualified to make a determination. So, as I have said, I rely on expert opinion.

    You seem to have made some assumptions about me, so I will make some about you. You seem to be frustrated with the world you live in, and how some people form their beliefs. I think this shades your views, an example is how you have misread my reply. There is no reason you should have assumed I would insist valid points don’t matter. I recommend that you come to terms with this frustration, and I think it will help with getting your points across. You kind of come off as a bit of a curmudgeon.

  6. If all ufos back 3 thousand years are just misidentification of natural phenomena,
    it still does NOT mean we are alone in the galaxy. They just haven’t gotten around
    to this neighborhood yet-we are located in a spiral arm approx.35,000 LY from galactic center.
    There are approx.300 Billion stars in the Milky Way,if one in a billion has an earthlike planet,
    that means there are potentially 300 earths with intelligent life in our galaxy. At least. Maybe more.

  7. “Curmudgeon” is about as kind a name as I’ve been called in a long time, so I’m glad for the opportunity to accept it with the civility with which it was offered, which was considerable — and appreciated.

    My genuine frustration lies with the inability of modern Internet search engines to track down not merely echoes, but refutations or attempted counter-arguments, to themes that are searched for. The result is just an echo chamber of reenforcing repetitions of all sorts of stories, UFOs only one of many topics.

    I am also bothered by the widespread belief that in a new arena of human endeavor, outer space, so many people just assume that things should look [and be interpreted as] just like other things familiar on Earth, or as visualized by Hollywood, instead of as they really look — UNEARTHLY.

    Nearby shuttle-generated ‘dandruff’ is a good example. The STS-80 view you showed is in daylight, while the stars are still out and the Earth surface is still shadowed. More bizarre, the space in front of the camera contains a ‘shadow zone’ extending back towards the horizon, tapering, caused by the shadow of the shuttle itself.

    Without knowing that — and without even knowing they SHOULD know that — naive and uninformed viewers will be clueless in correctly interpreting the appearance, disappearance, and motion of such dots, the ‘normal’ visual effects of prosaic phenomena in space. They will make assumptions from ground experience, and they will be spectacularly wrong.

    Can you do anything about that? Do you want to?

  8. Haha, well I am glad you appreciated the civility. I appreciate your view, and as exemplified here, your dedication to the details. As for your question, do I want to do anything about that? I certainly do. That is why I try to include scientific analysis if it has been done, and try to afford a generous amount of patience for people of your ilk who may have criticisms. Many UFO “researchers” do not. Can I do anything about that is another question. I try, in my own way, but to what effect? I am not sure. I can not help it if viewers are naive, but I can help it if they are uninformed. What they choose to do with that information is up to them. I do personally feel that people are more open to the information when it is offered and they feel their opinion, whatever it be, will be respected.

    When people want to refute clear evidence, which happens quite often, I try to examine why, instead of getting frustrated about it. This isn’t the only field that this happens in abundance, look at global warming, or religion, or a number of political issues. I think the answers here lie in the social sciences.

  9. What about the video documenting the tether failure? The particles there look mostly like debris also, but I seem to remember several of them changing direction in peculiar ways. What mechanic would you say could be cause to such behavior?

  10. This is ridiculous- what do you think this “astronaut” is going to say about this video? What do you think Oberg- the rage addict- is going to say about it? Oberg has the entire military, media, government and academia on his side and still he’s a bundle of nonstop rage. Why? What is he so threatened by? A tiny handful of UFO buffs?

    No, of course not.

    Oberg doesn’t dare say out loud why he is so threatened by this video and why NASA and others want it removed from the internet. He’s got a trillion-dollar machine standing behind him and yet he acts like he’s a lone voice crying out in the wilderness. What a laugh. He’s terrified of this video and others like it.

    Don’t listen to his words- pay attention to his rage, his apoplexy, his bullying, his ridicule tactics.

    This astronaut is just a technician, putting up spy satellites and other tools of the national security state.

  11. For those interested in the fascinating optical features of humanity’s newest arena of activity, and how they create astoundingly unearthly visual effects that are easily misinterpreted by minds mired in earth-based experience, I recommend my “99 FAQs About Space UFO videos”, at http://www.jamesoberg.com/ufo.html where verifiable but unexpected features of space are described. It’s with good reason that enraged proponents of the wilder misinterpretations and misrepresentations of these videos want their target audience to pay no attention to such evidence and such opinions.

  12. Jim, you said, “Aside from relying on what an actual eyewitness [Jones] thinks,” Thomas Jones admits that he did not witness what he calls “ice crystals” during the STS flight. He saw the objects when everybody else saw them, on that video, after the fact.

  13. Good point, Shepherd. He didn’t see that video until after the flight. But he was a real time witness to what he says was the same basic phenomenon, when he says, “On every mission you see lots of debris that is released from the shuttle’s payload bay, or frozen propellant from the main engines or the thrusters that drifts along with you, in some cases for several days after you arrive in orbit. ” Another category of eyewitnesses is the Mission Control team in Houston, who were quite familiar with the phenomenon and weren’t at all puzzled by it, as well as anybody in the world with a satellite dish or a cable service that carried the ‘NASA Channel’ — some of whom clearly did not know enough about spaceflight to properly interpret such scenes. But Jones and Musgrave and other shuttle crewmembers who have been asked, are consistent in their understanding these images look completely ‘normal’ for a shuttle flight.

  14. It wasn’t obvious to me where the link to Jones’ website was, at first, but I found the hyperlink on the phrase “UFO video”, of all places. At that link, Jones makes it clear what kind of witness he was: “I have spent many hours gazing out the shuttle windows during my 53 days in orbit, under all lighting and orbiter attitude conditions. The objects seen in the STS-80 videos are ordinary debris particles or ice crystals, some hit by shuttle thruster blasts that cause a change in their motion. Local lighting conditions also change the brightness of some objects as they drift into or out of shadow. I have never seen any evidence in space or on Earth of spacecraft or phenomena not explained by our routine space operations in the shuttle or Space Station programs. “

  15. So in other words, vague and anecdotal testimony lacking even a shred of evidence is more than adequate for Oberg when it argues against UFOs. If a UFO witness tried this kind of tack you can just imagine the rage Oberg would explode into.

    What a joke. What a complete farce.

  16. So, ice particles that slow down and stop? Ice particles that change direction and pulsate? I suppose the STS-75 tether incident was just “Ice Particles”, particles that clear move “behind” the tether and would be over 3 miles across? And no astronaut has come forward to say they have seen something unexplained…..I take it he never knew Eager Mitchell and Buzz Aldrin. Live in denial Jimbo, it is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view, a mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open!

  17. Nelly: “And no astronaut has come forward to say they have seen something unexplained…..I take it he never knew Eager Mitchell and Buzz Aldrin. Live in denial Jimbo.”

    I have known them personally and cordially for many years. Please share with me any link where Mitchell ever clams to have personally seen something unexplained — I suggest it’s you who might be confused. As for Buzz, before you swallow some deceptively edited cable TV crockumentary aimed at the gullible, perhaps you should familiarize yourself with Aldrin’s actual views, such as depicted here:


    I would be happy to let these two assertions you have made, when subjected to verifiable evidence, act as a measure of the relative level of reality-awareness we each have. Shall we proceed? Shall we learn from this disagreement?

  18. Distort, mislead and distract- the three main tenets of organized “skepticism.” When that fails, ridicule. These techniques all come from stage magicians, who trained the first generation of CSICOP media shills in how to deal with the public. It’s all in the public record. And in full view here.

  19. Nelly: “So, ice particles that slow down and stop? Ice particles that change direction and pulsate? ”

    Isn’t that what the astronauts who were there [Jones and Musgrave], said? Can we stipulate that in terms of visual effects outside their spacecraft, they are the best-placed and best-informed witnesses? On what basis — on analysis, experiment, experience, counter-testimony, or other type — do you reject their expertise? Please specify verifiable sources, not just anonymous Internet echo chambers.

    There’s no question such images look really weird, if you insist on interpreting them in earthside terms. Light, shadow, contrast, distance attenuation, and other features are unearthly and different. Add in the operational limits of the exterior cameras that captured most such youtube scenes and you’ll find many sources of misleading and easily misinterpretable visual cues.

    You can find on my home page a lot of background and context information, such as the actual console “User’s Manual” for those cameras.

  20. In reviewing my STS UFO files I located the exact email from Story Musgrave, only six weeks after the mission, stating unambiguously he had seen no UFOs on the mission.

    STS-80 launched on Dec 2, 1997, and less than six weeks later there were Internet stories of a video of a UFO fleet encounter. I was still working at Mission Control, I had worked with Musgrave since his own first shuttle flight in 1983, and sent him two emails which he responded to a few days later.

    From: James.E. Oberg@usahq.unitedspacealliance.com
    To: SMUSGRAVE@CA1.jsc.nasa.gov
    Date: January 23, 1997 8:26 AM

    Dear Story:
    The ‘net is buzzing with reports of a video clip from STS-80 showing dancing UFOs out the window (no mention yet of snakes!). Are you aware of any real events that might have given rise to this folklore?

    Date: 1/27/97 7:55 AM

    Date: January 23, 1997 3:39 PM
    Re: STS-80 video puzzle solved

    I checked out that STS-80 downlink video over lunch hour and found it was just a mesoscale lightning low-light level CCTV view, post sunrise, with various Orbiter-generated sunlit debris scooting back and forth through the field of view. It occurred on FD 12 during your post-sleep and the INCO was playing with the PLB CCTV. Nothing to get excited about!

    Date: 1/27/97 7:28 AM

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