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Did Ja Know?

Sea Grantís founder, Dr. Athelstan Spilhaus, headed a project that is still fueling UFO stories more than six decades later. The Roswell Incident has become synonymous with alien spacecraft in many a fertile mind. In reality, the debris found by a rancher in New Mexico was the remains of a highly-classified, high-altitude balloon experiment involving the New York University Balloon Group.

Although they were not cognizant of the scope of their work, the group headed by Spilhaus was contributing to Project Mogul. As there were no satellites at this point in history and few ways to know if the Soviets were testing atomic weaponry, the balloons were to keep a steady high altitude while carrying equipment for detecting sound waves generated by Soviet nuclear detonations and the acoustical signatures of ballistic missiles that might be traversing the upper atmosphere.

According to a military report prepared in 1995 to address continuing UFO stories, the debris found by a rancher and subsequently identified as a "flying disc" by personnel from Roswell Army Air Field was, with a great degree of certainty, the missing Mogul flight number 4, launched on June 4, 1947. There was a cover-up, but not because alien bodies lay among the debris. Mogul was a Top Secret U.S. Army Air Forces project and the downed high-altitude balloon almost blew its cover.

By Sea Grant Staff
October 2011

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