by Clark C. McClelland, former ScO, Space Shuttle Fleet, Kennedy Space Center, Florida (1958-1992)
Prior to the fateful launch of the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, I had the honour and pleasure of sharing conversations with several members of that crew.
During one of many pre-mission preps for the Challenger mission, I came upon Lt. Col. Ellison Onizuka in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at launch complex 39. I had an assignment to assess some problems at the Launch Control Center (LCC) and needed to access the main drawing files. A file operator was there and I went to her for assistance. Ellison walked in on our conversation and we exchanged greetings. Jokingly, I asked him if he had important business with her, and he said "yes, Clark" with a big smile. I told her to help Lt. Colonel Ellison first, and I would wait. She opened a plastic bag that had a packet of goodies for this very important customer. Ellison "loved" those chocolate-peanut butter brownies that she baked for him when he was at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on training assignments.
Many astronauts at the KSC knew of my interest in the study of possible Extraterrestrial (ET) intelligence, and my association with Major Donald Keyhoe, Dick Hall and the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP since 1958), and the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), at Cape Canaveral and KSC.
Another evening while off-site, I once again accidentally came upon Ellison. He asked if I could give him an opinion regarding a topic that was sparking his curiosity. Ellison had a great interest in ET life and asked me my belief concerning aliens, and if I believed they have been here on earth? His question caught me by surprise.
As we walked slowly towards our destinations, I briefly explained what I had learned since 1947, the initial year I entered my UFO research. I briefly related what I knew regarding the Roswell case and that I had become more aware of it many years later at the Cape through several discussions with ABMA (Army Ballistic Missile Agency) personnel who were at White Sands Proving Grounds near Roswell, New Mexico in July, 1947. These men had worked directly with Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team of German Scientists who were at that base at that time. Onizuka said he was aware of that case.
I then told him my belief that life does exist among the stars and that it has visited earth throughout human history. He smiled in agreement. I thought to myself, what else does he know? Soon it became very clear.
Onizuka asked me if my surname had any connection with McClellan Air Force Base in California? I said not as far as I was aware. I asked him why? Ellison said he had a surprising experience along with other USAF aerospace flight engineers and pilots while on military training duty at McClellan AFB, about eight or nine years prior to his astronaut training.
He and this group were at this base for specialized training when they were directed to report to a viewing room. As they were seated, the room darkened and a movie began without the usual official introduction by a USAF officer.
They were all startled when a view of a facility similar to a medical examination room appeared on the screen and small bodies were observed lying on slabs. He heard several excited comments by the other officers seated near him. The small, strange looking creatures were humanoid in shape, and appeared similar to those described by alleged witnesses at the well-known Roswell site in the Southwest USA in 1947. They all had large heads, large eyes, slight torsos, arms, and legs. They did not appear to be of earthly origin.
Ellison then said, " Clark, my God, these highly trained officers and I were shocked by what we saw. We were not made privy to what we would see until it happened. We were all caught off guard. Perhaps it was a test of our psyche to determine our overall reaction. Well, we were all caught by surprise ".
Needless to say, I was also caught off guard hearing this revelation from a highly intelligent USAF officer and NASA astronaut. One who flew his initial space mission 51-C in the space shuttle Discovery a highly classified U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) mission under top secret conditions. It made me wonder what else Ellison knew, or perhaps had seen, during his first shuttle mission and USAF career?
I said "that’s amazing, Ellison! Were all of you given any opportunity to question what you saw?" He said, "No! We were then asked to exit the room and continued our scheduled technical activities as if nothing special had occurred. In my opinion, I have considered the possibility that the group was evaluated for individual reactions to what they saw. Perhaps it was a planned USAF psychological test for military reasons. Who knows, NASA may have evaluated it in my selection as an astronaut in 1978. You know, what would my reaction be if I actually saw an alien being"?
We arrived at our separate building destinations and briefly discussed his approaching second space mission in Challenger 51-L. He said he was anticipating a successful flight with Judy Resnik, Christa McAuliffe, and crew. I asked if we could discuss this topic again; and he agreed.
Unknown to us both, this would be the last time we would speak. He, Judy, Christa and the other crew members would be making their final mission on January 28, 1986. I was at the Kennedy Space Center and watched in disbelief as they and space shuttle Challenger fell into the Atlantic Ocean.
Upon leaving KSC for the night after being on duty for about 15 hours, I was driving home to my Port St. John Apartment when the disaster finally caught up with my emotions. I pulled to the side of the main NASA causeway crossing the Indian River and sobbed my eyes out for about ten minutes. God, how horrible it was, and still is to this day, in my memory.
God bless you Judy Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Gregory Jarvis and Ronald McNair. Thank you God for the honour of knowing all of them. And, please, if you would - - - make sure Ellison gets those chocolate-peanut butter brownies up there in heaven.