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Just curious

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These NASA technicians (played by Steve Howell Bassett and John Ashton) don't realize this Discovery space shuttle camera contains an alien stowaway.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – In October 1985, one month after returning from a seven-day mission deploying and repairing satellites in space as part of mission STS-51-I, the Space Shuttle Discovery would be featured in an episode of the relaunched series The Twilight Zone called “Chameleon” and starring Terry O’Quinn (Lost, 666 Park Avenue) and Ben Piazza (The Blues Brothers, Bad News Bears). It was written by sci-fi screenwriter James Crocker and directed by horror master Wes Craven.

I addressed this in a post titled “Synchromystic shuttle missions, Tucson and ‘The Astronaut’s Wife.’” from February 2011. I note how the "Chameleon" episode really struck a chord with me and how it inspired me to incorporate a Space Shuttle in my cartoon series at the time – Kimball Parish. One of the characters in the series, Monty Colgate, prepares to leave on the Space Shuttle for a trip outside Earth’s atmosphere in fall 1985. As I wrote in 2011: “Strangely, the final panel was never completed that fall. Of course, the Challenger blows up the following January and I incorporate the tragedy into the final panel of that particular Kimball Parish cartoon.”

“It’s a little odd on a personal level, in retrospect. Just as when the first Space Shuttle launch, for the Columbia, took place in 1981. Anticipating the launch as a kid in Little Rock, Arkansas, I was at a friends’ house – Jason Piazza is his name (and yes, incredibly, he was a close relation to actor Ben Piazza who appears in this Twilight Zone episode and is absorbed by the alien light being) – and using a Star Wars toy I showed Jason what would happen to the Columbia by throwing it high in the air and watching it crash to the ground.”

Did I somehow predict the inevitable destruction of the Columbia? Well, as we know, 22 years later, in Febraury 2003, the Columbia did disintegrate upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere and came down over east Texas and parts of western Louisiana. As a reporter in that region at the time, I was there to cover the aftermath. Needless to say it was all very unsettling.

Klaatu barada nikto” says a young NASA technician to his no-nonsense colleague Brady Simmons (John Ashton) in The Twilight Zone “Chameleon” episode, as they remove the troubled “camera number two” that stopped working during the curious Discovery shuttle mission. While doing a spacewalk, a female astronaut reports seeing a blue flash near the shuttle's fuselage. It remains unexplained while the shuttle is in low-earth orbit.

As Brady removes the shoebox-size camera, he is enveloped in a bluish light and disappears. The camera remains. The camera is then put in an isolation room for observation and suddenly the blue light returns and there in Brady, looking normal in his white protective suit and eggman-like headgear.

Brady is annoyed and wants out but the scientists, led by Drs. Lockridge and Vaughn Heilman aren’t sure. It’s clear – in time – that this is not Brady Simmons. It is some alien life form (ETI) that has a bluish. glowing, “chameleon”-like and when Dr. Heilman (Piazza) is absorbed by the alien, it turns into a nuclear bomb, ready to detonate in two minutes. Lockridge is able to convince the alien life form (taking the form of the nuclear device taken from knowledge from Heilman) to not detonate and to explain humans are merely curious. The bluish-white appearance of the alien life form is identical to something I witnessed in my home in Wichita, Kansas in November 1990.

For the duration of STS-51-I’s mission, Discovery and its five-man crew orbited Earth 111 times over the course of a mission lasting 7 days, 2 hours, 18 minutes and 42 seconds. When it landed at Edwards Air Force Base it was on Runway 23.

Aboard that shuttle was astronaut Dr. William F. Fisher, a Texas native who would complete, along with another astronaut aboard STS-51-I, the longest space walk in history, up to that time.

Red Dirt Report spoke with Dr. Fisher this week, primarily about an usual, glowing vinyl copy of The Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a mysterious album rife with symbolism, high weirdness and beauty. It only seems appropriate that a curious astronaut seeking answers (with a healthy love of music and psychedelic rock concert posters) would be tirelessly trying to find out why his copy glows greenish blue under ultraviolet light when most do not. Please read "ALL AGLOW: A mysterious 'Sgt. Pepper's discovery."

Humans and aliens, it would seem, are fascinated with the cosmos. Seeking answers. Seeking meaning.

When Dr. Lockridge follows the alien-possessed Heilman outside the hangar, he begs the alien to let Brady Simmons and Dr. Heilman go. The alien informs him that the two men want to go with the alien and explore the wonders of the universe.

“If anything, there’s this … thirst.” The alien tells Lockridge (this actor would later play a man named “Locke” in the mystery program Lost) of the desire to explore and seek knowledge.

“Thirst?” asks Dr. Lockridge. “What thirst?”

“Come with us. Find out for yourself. We’re offering you the universe. A chance to see it all,” it says.

“No. No, no. I can’t,” Lockridge says with some uncertainty.

As the alien life form appearing as Vaughn Heilman begins to turn away, Lockridge asks it to tell him why he came to Earth.

“Just curious,” he replies, before turning into a bluish-white swirling orb of light and shooting up into the sky.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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