The launch of the International Space Station in November 1998 has given the human race a permanent residence in space—something that only decades earlier was pure science-fiction. The amount of information and knowledge that we can obtain from its perpetual orbit around our planet is priceless. With that quest for knowledge, comes a lot of strange stories, discoveries and sightings.
10The STS 114 ‘Boomerang’ Incident
The STS 114 mission on the space shuttle Discovery, was the first mission of its kind since the Columbia disaster two and a half years earlier in 2003. Since that tragic event, NASA had noticeably improved what were already tight safety procedures. Perhaps because of this, it was noticed almost immediately that a piece of foam had appeared to break away upon Discovery’s launch.
Discovery’s mission was to dock with the International Space Station and resupply the crew that were already on board. Before doing so, Commander Eileen Collins performed a maneuver that flipped the shuttle over, exposing its underside to allow photographs to be taken from the space station so as to search for any damage. When the pictures were studied, it was confirmed that this was the case, leading to astronaut, Steve Robinson, venturing out into space to carry out repairs. Following Robinson’s repairs of the shuttle, a strange object was caught on a NASA camera.
The object was white against the black backdrop of space. It flew by the shuttle in the distance, and then appeared to stop briefly before changing its direction. This movement led to the object being nicknamed “The Boomerang.” After investigating the footage, NASA stated the object was nothing more than space debris. However, some dismissed this theory, claiming the object’s change of direction was proof that it was intelligently guided.
9Cherry Tree Grows Six Years Ahead Of Schedule
In November 2008, 250 cherry tree stones were taken to the International Space Station. Once they were safely on board, they orbited the Earth over 4,000 times before being returned to the planet in July 2009. They were planted in 14 various locations, one of which was the Ganjoji Temple in Japan.
By 2014, six years earlier than expected, the sapling had grown to 4 meters (13 ft) tall and had produced several flowers. What was even stranger was that these flowers had five distinct petals, as opposed to the 30 that is usually expected to be found normally. Similar results had been recorded at three other locations.
While scientists can’t say for sure if the time the seeds spent orbiting the Earth from the space station played a part in their quickened growth on Earth, they stated that they “couldn’t rule out” it being a factor either. The seeds’ exposure to stronger cosmic rays in outer space was given as one possibility for the results they were now seeing. Ultimately, until further study is done, scientists do not know why the saplings have progressed the way they have, and if indeed it may have been coincidence.
8Kelly Tweets A Photograph Of An ‘Obvious UFO’
In July 2015, astronaut Scott Kelly innocently tweeted a picture from the International Space Station. Kelly, who set the record for the longest amount of time in space, sent the Internet ablaze for a short time, as UFO enthusiasts claimed to see a strange tubular space craft in the top right of the picture.
The picture made it to YouTube in a short video, which was viewed nearly a million times. The person who uploaded the video stated that he “found it hard to believe” that the object was not noticed by Kelly before tweeting the picture.
From a distance, the strange tube-like object does indeed appear to be a UFO orbiting above Earth’s surface. However, when the contrast of the picture was altered, it appeared to show that it was nothing more than the antenna of the space station itself. Not only does this solve the mystery as to what the object actually was, it also explains why Kelly wouldn’t have noticed anything strange when taking the picture.
7The ‘Twins’ Experiment
While he wasn’t tweeting pictures of supposed UFOs, Scott Kelly was involved in more mainstream experiments for NASA. With anticipation of future manned missions to Mars, NASA needed to discover the long-term effects on the human body of being in space. Being a twin, Kelly was the ideal candidate to monitor while in orbit and compare to his twin brother, Mark, on Earth.
Although the tests will not determine any conclusive results—they would need to be repeated hundreds of times to do this—NASA accepts that they may give them significant clues as to what to expect on long term space flights. As twins are as genetically similar, it allows scientists to study genetics against environment, and possibly make more educated guesses when and if they do venture out to the red planet.
The experiments will carry on for a further six months, following Scott Kelly’s return to Earth in March 2016, with further monitoring and samples being taken from both men before any results may be declared.
6Millennium Falcon Shaped Craft Spotted On ISS Live Feed
As recent as April 2016, 20-year-old Jadon Beeson from Stourport-on-Severn in Worcestershire, England, was viewing the live International Space Station feed on his mobile phone, when he suddenly stared at the screen in disbelief.
What appeared to be moving away from the space station, Beeson claims he spotted what looked like a “metal spaceship,” and resembled the Millennium Falcon—Han Solo’s prized space craft in the Star Wars movies. He said the object was visible for around two minutes and that it had a “blue glow” about it. Beeson admits he is a UFO fan, but that he has no idea what it was and found it all very strange.
Beeson sent a screenshot of the footage straight to NASA in hopes for an explanation as to what he saw. As of May 2016, he is still awaiting a reply. In most cases such as these, the objects tend to be put down to “space debris” of which there is much orbiting the Earth.
5NASA ‘Cuts’ ISS Live Video Feed
The International Space Station’s live video feed allows space enthusiasts to view the Earth and outer space via cameras that are fitted underneath the orbiting structure. On numerous occasions, there have been sightings of objects claiming to be alien visitors, which are almost always proven to be something much more mundane—such as space debris. However, a number of times, NASA has appeared to have severed the live feed seconds after strange objects have come into the camera’s view. This not only creates suspicion among already suspicious UFO hunters and enthusiasts, but tends to lend a little credibility to the fact that NASA does indeed have something to hide.
Recently, in March 2016, the feed was cut when a “horseshoe” shaped UFO appeared to come into view. Alien hunter Tyler Glockner, who uploaded the footage onto his YouTube channel, stated that NASA “had been doing this for years,” and that his channel has documented this for some time. He stated that sometimes the people monitoring the feed are simply not quick enough, and on several occasions, UFOs have been visible for some time before the screen “goes blue” and the feed is cut.
In January 2015, the live feed was also cut several seconds after a small grey object came into view, which appeared to be leaving the Earth’s atmosphere. The aforementioned Glockner claimed to had caught a similar example from June 2014 on a video he uploaded to his channel. The video managed to freeze frame on what appeared to be a large triangular space craft coming out of the darkness of space, approaching Earth. Six months earlier, another video appeared to show NASA cutting the live feed, when a strange yellow craft was said to be “docked” to the space station. On this particular occasion, the footage was left for two minutes before the blue screen took its place.
4The STS 115 Triangle Incident
In August 2006, while on its way to the International Space Station, the space shuttle Atlantis was said to have been “monitored” or “followed” by a strange set of triangular lights—at least according to UFO hunters. Whether the lights belonged to one craft or if they were individual objects was not stated. However, according to NASA’s usual claims, UFO enthusiasts saw nothing more than space debris . . . again.
On a serious note, NASA did investigate the lights. They seemed to have come into view just short of 30 seconds into the launch. With the memories of 2003’s tragic Columbia mission still fresh in everyone’s mind, NASA’s immediate response was to rule out the lights as parts of the shuttle that may have broken away.
NASA ultimately stated that although it is late in the launch to see this kind of debris, it is certainly not unusual. Debris can be jettisoned from the shuttle as the bay doors are opened during the lift off procedure. Another explanation offered was the lights, which they admitted were very close to the shuttle, could have also been ice. With that being said, Atlantis commander Brent Jett stated later that the objects didn’t look like anything he had seen outside the shuttle before, and was unlike any space debris he would expect to witness.
3Living Organisms ‘Clinging’ To The Outside Of The International Space Station
While on a spacewalk to collect samples outside the ISS in August 2014, Russian astronauts claimed to have discovered living organisms, alive and well, that were “clinging” to the outside of the orbiting craft. The organisms were said to be identified as plankton that most likely originated from Earth. The astronauts were not sure how exactly the plankton would have gotten there, nor how they had survived in outer space.
Scientists ruled out the theory of the plankton hitching a ride on a space craft, due to the fact that the species identified were not found anywhere near any of the launch points. They suspect that atmospheric currents could be responsible for scooping up the lifeforms and taking them on their journey to the space station. If proven to be true, it would suggest these currents travel a lot further than previously thought.
The fact that living organisms have been found 16 to 32 kilometers (10 to 20 mi) above Earth is nothing compared to the space station being 322 kilometers (200 mi) above the Earth’s surface. It would suggest that such lifeforms can survive in the complete vacuum of outer space.
2Commander Leroy Chiao’s ‘Bright Lights’ Incident
While serving as the commander of the ISS in 2005, astronaut Leroy Chiao witnessed a line of bright lights pass below him as he conducted a routine spacewalk.
Traveling at over 27,000 kilometers (17,000 mi) per hour, and over 322 kilometers (200 mi) above the surface of the Earth, Chiao wasn’t sure what he had seen, but he knew it was something strange, and made a report of it. Although the commander is very open minded, he was convinced there had to be a reasonable explanation for what he had witnessed. Further study appeared to show that there indeed was.
The space station was above an area on Earth that is well known for commercial fishing, and records show that this was happening at the time Chiao was outside the space station. The fishing boats use extremely bright lights as an aide to catch their haul. On this particular evening, there was said to have been a group of boats more or less in a line. When they flashed their lights, which were so bright they could be seen by Chiao, they appeared to be passing away from him as he was flying over them.
1Mystery Clouds And Lightning Study
In October 2013, crew aboard the ISS witnessed a strange “jellyfish” cloud hovering above the Earth. There was nothing scheduled to be launched from the United States that day, and initial investigations left the crew with no idea as to what they were witnessing.
Following a report from the Russian military, it appeared the cloud was the result of a Russian rocket test that had been carried out that day in Kazakhstan. The Russian report stated that the purpose of the test was to “confirm characteristics of the Topol missile,” as well as to test the launch site itself.
However, it wasn’t only strange clouds that were witnessed by the crew in the space station. One of the phenomena they were studying was lightning that occurs above the Earth’s clouds. These forks of lightning appear to shoot upwards. It is not known why or if they are related to the traditional lightning we see from Earth, or if it’s a separate reaction in their own right.
Scientists hope to be able to gain a better understanding of energy transfer through monitoring this strange lightning. In particular, they want to know how gamma rays are formed, and from what type of lightning this happens. Conventional wisdom tells us that gamma rays are formed in the absolute hottest places of the universe, but the fact that they have been witnessed within our atmosphere, has caused modern science to look again at this phenomena.
Marcus Lowth is a writer at Me Time For The Mind. You can also find Me Time For The Mind on Facebook.