re: Columbia plus one more obj

Philip Chien (
Sun, 8 Dec 1996 17:40:54 -0500 said:

>I observed Columbia and one other object in parallel orbit this morning. I
>understand that the ORFEUS-SPAS payload has already been retrieved and
>Columbia is scheduled to land one orbit later than my observation.
>So, what was the other object? I took a time exposure photo in case it
>turns out to be of a more curious nature.

I saw them too, and realized that it couldn't be ORFEUS because it had been
retrieved a day earlier.  The second object was also in a higher orbit
(much slower, I saw Columbia 'overtake' the other object) and quite clearly
in a 28.5 degree inclined orbit.  It was also bright and shining steady, so
it wasn't an upper stage.  By process of elimination it had to be either
Hubble or GRO.  And I checked the keps for both, and sure enough, it was

Of course the theroy of Dave Leestma, NASA's head of flight crew
operations, was that it was actually the alien spacecraft coming to pick up
Story Musgrave *before* the shuttle landing.

Apparently the space aliens didn't successfully pick up Story due to the
stuck hatch, because I did see him (and the rest of the STS-80 crew) about
six hours after their landing ...

A couple of days eariler I saw both the shuttle and ORFEUS in pre-dawn
skies here.  Both passed fairly close to the moon and Mars.  Regretably
that was not where ORFEUS happened to be pointed at the time.

Philip Chien, KC4YER
Earth News - space writer and consultant
note new E-mail address -