Luna Cognita
The "Tether Incident"

The "Tether Incident" - FORENSIC ANALYSIS.
June 06, 2009
Flightpath/velocity tracking of all unidentified objects (short demo)

One of the most controversial segments of video footage in the NASA archives is the now-famous TSS-1R "tether incident" footage that was shot during shuttle mission STS-75 back in early 1996. I am sure most of you have seen at least portions of it before, but as compelling as the original raw footage is, the enhanced forensic analysis of that incident (a brief portion of which you will see here today) provides a totally new and far more revealing look at what had already been considered by many to be some very impressive evidence. This brief presentation here is NOT the complete forensic analysis of the entire tether incident (not even close). This is merely an initial demonstration test that I put together while in the early stages of conducting an in-depth breakdown of this footage for another separate project I have been working on. What you will see here in this 4.5 minute video is a demonstration of object flightpath tracking being applied to two different "stable sequences" of tether incident footage (20 seconds and 53 seconds in duration respectively). I found these initial results to be so impressive that I decided I would jump the gun a bit and share these two enhanced sequences with you now so you all may see and analyze the scenes for yourself.

Obviously, the most important thing we are interested in when examining the tether footage is the movement characteristics of the many objects that can be seen flying around in the cameras field-of-view (FOV). Due to the large number of objects swarming all over, it can be difficult when examining the raw footage alone to properly visualize individual object velocity vectors or apparent delta-v changes. The high 'clutter factor' helps to hide the fact that many of these objects are experiencing some truly remarkable deviations in flightpath trajectory. In order to better visualize the movement characteristics of the various objects, I have built a series of flightpath tracking animations that were constructed from "stable sequences" of the original raw STS75 tether footage. For the purposes of this presentation, the term "stable sequence" refers to a segment of footage in which the camera platform remains perfectly stable - with no movement, shaking, or zoom interference that would serve to compromise the accuracy of the object flightpath tracks.

Rather than merely showing a basic continuous flightpath trace for each object from start to finish, I instead elected to employ a more dynamic display technique in this demo that allows for better recognition of not only the individual flightpaths for each object, but it also provides a real-time visual reference of the apparent velocity of each object at any given time. The length of the flightpath tail you see trailing behind each object is directly proportional to that object's speed - so simply put, the faster the object is moving across the camera's FOV, the longer the flightpath tracking tail behind it will be. If the object experiences an apparent change in velocity as it is moving around the scene, then the length of the flightpath tracking tail will adjust 'on the fly' to account for it. This allows for better visual recognition of any delta-v changes the objects experience. For the two different stable sequences shown in this presentation, I included both short-tail and long-tail flightpath tracking animations, with the only difference between the two versions being the length of the apparent velocity tail that marks each object's path.

As you will see, the flightpath tracking animations reveal that many objects experience some very impressive delta-v changes, with some objects floating across the FOV in "delicate arc" trajectories, and others exhibiting far more dramatic changes in flightpath that in some cases appears to result in abrupt 180-degree shifts in the velocity vector. These flightpath deviations must be due to either some external force acting upon the object (push/pull), or alternatively, we must also consider that there could be an internal force or thrust being emitted from the object itself that accounts for the changes in trajectory and velocity observed (the second option would of course denote some level of intelligent control being involved). You will also witness some objects that appear to materialize and de-materialize directly into or out of the scene (or at least into or out of the sensitivity range of the IR/UV imaging system that was being employed to shoot this footage).

In closing, I just ask you to please keep in mind that this is only a brief initial demonstration I am showing here, though I think you will still find it compelling. A much more comprehensive forensic analysis of the visual flightpath data from not only the "tether incident" footage, but several other scenes as well, is in the works. I hope you enjoy this in the meantime!

Cheers everyone!

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