; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Just the Facts?: NASA's Moon Rock Heist -- Did Germany Launch Rocket Crew In 1933? -- Tylenol May Save Guam's Birds

Revealed: How multi-million dollar NASA moon rock heist was an inside job carried out by physics geniuses

A new British documentary is set to reveal the incredible story behind the multi-million dollar moon rock heist at NASA - and how it was an inside job.

In July 2002 'physics genius' Thad Roberts and three accomplices pulled off perhaps the greatest ever theft in NASA history at the Johnson Space Centre, Houston, Texas.

Using their NASA IDs Roberts, and one female partner in crime, slipped into the centre at night stealing a 600lb safe containing moon rocks from every Apollo mission.

As well as samples from every Apollo mission between 1969 and 1974, they also managed to bag ALH84001 - a famous meteorite that might contain fossilised evidence of micro-biotic life on Mars.

Thad and his accomplice Tiffany Fowler managed to escape the lab and met the third gang member Shae Saur who was waiting in a car for them.

Thad and his fellow interns then were supposed to contact student Gordon McWhorter who was waiting 1,400 miles away in Salt Lake City, Utah, having tried to find buyers online.

The brainiac burglars eventually put the rocks up for sale on the web site of the Mineralogy Club of Antwerp, Belgium.

But a Belgian rock collector who got wind of the sale was suspicious, and he decided to contact the FBI. With the collector’s help, special agents set up a ruse to catch the thieves.

FBI agents had the collector e-mail 'Orb Robinson' (one of the interns who was offering the rocks for sale) and say he was interested in buying the lunar treasures.

But when Roberts and his gang agreed to meet the Belgian collector's 'relatives' in a Italian restaurant in Orlando, Florida, they were rumbled when the relatives were in fact FBI agents.

Thad was arrested along with the two women and McWhorter was also later picked up. Ironically the moon rocks - which were recovered from a nearby hotel room - were all safely returned to NASA on the 33rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Sadly for NASA 30 years worth of hand written Apollo note books - which were also in the loot - have never been recovered.

All three interns pleaded guilty. On October 29, Roberts was sentenced to more than eight years in prison for his role in the moon rock caper, as well as for stealing dinosaur bones from a Utah museum - the fossils turned up during a search of Roberts’ house. The fourth accomplice was convicted at trial.

Now the full story of the 'Million Dollar Moon Rock Heist' will be aired for the first time on the National Geographic channel at 9pm on Thursday, May 10.

Cris Warren, assistant producer for British filmakers Iconic Films, said it was estimated that the Johnson loot could have fetched up to $300million on the black market.

He said: 'The moon rocks were returned to US custody on, ironically, the same day Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the moon 33 years earlier.

'Thad Roberts, a member of NASA’s elite Co-operative Education Programme, was hailed in some quarters as a Physics genius and had a possible future as an astronaut.

'He had already been stealing fossils from the University of Utah and decided to hatch this can’t fail get rich quick scheme.

'The person you feel sorry for is Gordon McWhorter, he was recruited by Roberts to find a buyer for the rocks, but at the time he was vulnerable of smoking quite a lot of drugs.

'Gordon agreed to be interviewed for the film and gave us a brilliant interview. We also have the FBI and NASA and interviews with the other gang members.

'These rocks are national treasures and could not have been sold anywhere in the US, but if it had worked the gang could have been looking at six to 500 million dollars.'

Million Dollar Moon Rock Heist features exclusive interviews with key characters on both sides of the story.

They include the people closest to the real Thad Roberts, the world renowned scientists he betrayed, and the unlikely Belgian super-hero who proved to be his nemesis.

Undercover agents from both the FBI and NASA’s internal Federal investigations branch The OIG are also featured, to reveal the extraordinary operation they undertook to crack the case. - dailymail


NASA spots light being emitted from “super-Earth” planet

Light glowing from a "super-Earth" planet beyond our solar system has been detected by Nasa’s Spitzer Telescope.

Until now, scientists have never been able to detect infrared light emanating from 55 Cancri E, a super-hot extrasolar planet twice the size and eight times the mass of our own.

The Spitzer telescope was detected the super Earth's direct light for the first time using infrared vision.

Experts are hailing the latest discovery as a historic step towards the eventual search for signs of life on other planets.

55 Cancri E is one of five exoplanets orbiting a bright star named 55 Cancri in a solar system lying in the constellation of Cancer (The Crab).

Previously, Spitzer and other telescopes were able to study the planet by observing how the light from 55 Cancri changed as the planet passed in front of the star.

In the new study, Spitzer instead measured how much infrared light came from the planet itself – revealing some of the planet’s major features.

At 41-light years from Earth, the giant planet is considered uninhabitable.

The giant planet is tidally locked, so one side always faces the star. The telescope found that the sun-facing side is extremely hot, indicating the planet probably does not have a substantial atmosphere to carry the sun's heat to the unlit side.

The new findings are consistent with a previous theory that 55 Cancri E is a water world: A rocky core surrounded by a layer of water in a "supercritical" state where it is both liquid and gas, and topped by a blanket of steam.

Bill Danchi, Spitzer programme scientist at NASA, said: “Spitzer has amazed us yet again. The spacecraft is pioneering the study of atmospheres of distant planets and paving the way for NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to apply a similar technique on potentially habitable planets.”

Michael Werner, who also works on the Spitzer project, added: “When we conceived of Spitzer more than 40 years ago, exoplanets hadn't even been discovered. Because Spitzer was built very well, it's been able to adapt to this new field and make historic advances such as this.”

The planet was first discovered in 2004 and the new findings are published in the current issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters. - yahoo


Woman contracts flesh-eating bacteria after zip lining accident

It was a zip lining accident that went from bad to much, much worse.

Just one week ago, Aimee Copeland, 24, was enjoying a trip kayaking down a creek with some of her friends in Carrollton, Ga. But when Copeland stopped to ride on a homemade zip line along the water, the line snapped and cut a large gash in her left calf.

Now the University of West Georgia graduate psychology student is in critical condition after a flesh-eating bacterium entered her body through the wound in her calf, causing her leg to be amputated Friday night, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The Facebook page, “Believe and pray for a miracle to happen for Aimee Copeland” has been set up for people to stay updated on Copeland’s progress. According to a post on the page by her father, Andy Copeland, the doctors have said her chances for survival are “slim to none.”

"Today Aimee’s condition has worsened," her father wrote in an update. "Her temperature is up to 102 and the progress she made yesterday was lost overnight."

Initially, Copeland had gone to the emergency room at the Tanner Medical Center in Carrollton on Tuesday after she had received the gash. She thought the ordeal was over after the doctors stapled her leg up with 22 staples and told her to take pain medication, according to her father.

But Copeland returned to the hospital Wednesday after she continued to complain of severe pain in her leg. She was prescribed pain killers and sent home yet again.

The pain still did not subside, so a friend drove a “pale and weak” Copeland to Tanner Medical again Friday morning. When she arrived, an ER doctor diagnosed her with “necrotizing fasciitis” – a flesh-eating disease of the deep layers of the skin – in her damaged leg.

“The surgeons advised me that they wanted to try to save her leg, but at this point saving her life took precedence,” Copeland’s father wrote on the Facebook page. “They removed all of the infected tissue and advised that she would have limited, if any use of her leg.”

Copeland was then life-lighted to JMS Burn Center in Augusta, Ga., where doctors rushed her into surgery and performed a high-hip amputation of her left leg. After surgery, Copeland suffered a cardiac arrest, but the doctors were able to resuscitate her.

Since the surgery, Copeland has made progress, but her condition may be getting worse as her five major organs have started to shut down. Copeland’s friends have set up a website where people can donate blood and money to help save their friend’s life. - foxnews


Did the Germans launch a crewed rocket into space in 1933?

On October 29, 1933, the London Sunday Referee published a report from Rugen, an island in the Baltic Sea, just off the coast of Germany. Someone named Otto Fischer had flown inside a 24-foot steel rocket, to an altitude of six miles. Were the Germans really testing out a rocket that could carry people, nearly three decades before Yuri Gagarin?

Reports said that Otto was the brother of the rocket's designer, Bruno Fischer. The flight had been made in total secrecy because of a fatal attempt at a launch the previous year, combined with the fact that the flight had been made under the auspices of the Reichswehr, the German War Ministry. The rocket, the Referee reported, had been constructed in the town of Barmbeck, near Hamburg, and transported to Rügen.

"On Sunday morning, at 6 o'clock," the paper reported, "Otto Fischer shook hands with his brother and the small group of Reichswehr officials present to witness the experiment, and crawled into the rocket through the small steel door.

"Bruno Fischer and the three officials then retired to a small hollow in the ground about two hundred yards away and Fischer closed the switch that sent the rocket on its journey. There was a blinding flash and a deafening explosion, and the slim torpedo-shaped body was gone from the steel framework in which it had rested. Continue reading at io9


Guam using Tylenol-lace mice to get rid of invasive snakes

Wildlife officials in Guam are dropping Tylenol-laced, parachute-equipped mice from helicopters in an effort to wipe out an invasive snake population.

That measure is just one of many that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has resorted to in its desperate bid to control the non-native brown tree snake population, BBC News reported.

In the 60 years since the snakes arrived on the tiny island, their population has swelled to 2 million — and wiped out 10 of 12 native forest bird species in the last 30 years, according to one wildlife official.

They've also become the bane of Guamanians' lives, regularly shorting out power by slithering along lines and popping up in bed with people.

That has required the drastic measures like the airlifting of the dead mice laced with the common painkiller — toxic to snakes.

"If they eat that dead mouse containing acetaminophen, they will die," an official from the U.S. Department of Agriculture explained.

As officials battle the snakes with mice on the home front, dogs are helping to ensure the reptiles don't create headaches for other islands, too.

The dogs inspect every piece of cargo at a depot near the airport for stowaway snakes before the cargo gets shipped off the infested island.

"Cargo doesn't stop, the airport doesn't shut down, so we have to be there to make sure the cargo going on the airplane has indeed been snake inspected," the agriculture official said. - nbcdfw