An extraterrestrial hypothesis was also discarded when Mexican authorities were faced with an "unidentified terrestrial object" seen repeatedly in the not readily accessible reaches of the Sonora Desert, particularly in the enigmatic Zone of Silence . According to reports made by local residents, this ground-based UFO was a brilliant light that would move quietly along the desert surface, somehow skirting or rolling over the cacti and other desert plant life. A number of Mexican UFO researchers voiced an opinion that the strange light could be an American contraption resembling the Soviet Lunakhod moon-rover. A vehicle of this sort, they reasoned, would remain immobile during the hot desert day, recharging its batteries, and roam around at night on its "secret" mission. The real identity of the mysterious light was never established, but it was reminiscent of similar lights seen operating in the Brazil's dense caatinga forests.
A UFO allegedly went down over the Mexico's Sierra Madre mountains during the month of February 1967, causing a great deal of consternation on account of the number of sightings which had taken place throughout the country that year. The residents of Villa Del General Terán had heard a number of large explosions while a sphere descended toward the ground. When the object was examined by American scientists weeks later, it was determined to be " a manufactured titanium gas stowage sphere form a Titan III-C upper stage." The Titan rocket had placed seven communication satellites in orbit a month earlier.
Argentina has also been a favorite UFO port of call since the phenomenon first received attention in the postwar years, and in the heat of intense "flaps", man-made vehicles can sometimes be lumped in with the unknown ones. In 1980, the Argentine media carried a story about an Argentine-born NASA scientist named Fabio Hector Acuña, who notified his mother in Buenos Aires that the "flying saucers" seen over that country were the results of a NASA venture called Project Firewheel. The text of the message read: "On May 23, we will launch a satellite--look up at the sky from June 9th to the 15th around midnight. You will probably only see a flying saucer, but it will have been created by us. The project is called "Firewheel" and it consists of injecting an artificial cloud which will create something like a comet, and that is what you are going to see."
If it were ever positively determined that the UFO phenomenon was a purely terrestrial one, involving man-made craft, it probably woudn't cause much of a sensation in many Latin American countries. For a number of years, Dr. Antonio Las Heras, an Argentinian parapsychologist and talk-show personality, has worked hard at demystifying a number of cases that have formed part of the UFO canon for the past thirty years.
Las Heras concentrated his efforts on the July 1965 involving the sighting of a UFO over the Antarctic by Chilean, Argentinian and British polar research teams. The allegedly alien craft drove compasses crazy, caused magnetometers to produce wild readings. The official statement made at the time by Cmdr. Mario Jahn of the Chilean fleet stated that "it would be foolish to claim that we saw a flying saucer of the type seen in science fiction shows. What we saw was real--a solid object that moved at a tremendous speed...gave off a greenish light, and caused interference with the electromagnetic devices of the Argentine base next to our own, on Decepción Island." Dr. Las Heras suggests that the Decepción Island UFO of 1965 was, in fact, something much more mundane and by far more perilous: a nuclear-powered or warhead-equipped satellite belonging to one of the superpowers, spinning out of control. The EM effects that upset the delicate instruments could have easily been produced by a disintegrating nuclear reactor, or as a result of the satellite's self-destruct mechanism going into action. The satellite's disintegration in the atmosphere would have given the impression of zig-zagging to any earthbound onlooker. Not to disappoint his readers, Las Heras hastily adds that real UFOs were seen (and photographed) over Decepción two years later, at the height of volcanic eruptions that destroyed the island itself.
Las Heras' conclusions cannot be dismissed so easily when we consider that six months after the Antarctic episode, the northern hemisphere faced a similar incident in the woods of Pennsylvania.
The non-extraterrestrial hypotheses set forth for the December 1965 crash at Kecksburg, PA are considerable: a Soviet or Chinese satellite, a nuclear device of the sort mentioned earlier, or a U.S. space mission gone awry. Ufologist Stan Gordon, who has devoted decades to the study of the Kecksburg crash, has always taken great care to point out in his research that UFO and ET are not synonymous, particularly during this incident. Dr. James Oberg suggested that the object was recovered under such secrecy on account of its heat shield, which was far in advance of anything we believed the Communist Bloc to be capable of at the time.
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