Project Mogul

From Academic Kids

Project Mogul was a top secret project involving high-altitude balloons, started in 1947, whose primary purpose was long-distance detection of atomic bomb tests in the Soviet Union through detection of the sound waves in the upper atmosphere generated by the explosions. It was run by Dr. James Peoples, assisted by Dr. Albert P. Crary.

One of the requirements of the balloons was that they maintain a relatively constant altitude over a prolonged period of time. The design proved useful for other purposes. Project Mogul was the forerunner of the Skyhook balloon program, started in the late 1940s, and another spying program involving overflights and photo-surveillance of the Soviet Union in the early 1950s, called Project Moby Dick. The latter raised storms of protest from the Soviets. The balloons were also used for cosmic ray experiments.

The early Mogul balloons consisted of large clusters of rubber meteorological balloons. However, these were quickly replaced by enormous balloons made of polyethylene plastic. These were more durable, leaked less helium gas, and also were better at maintaining a constant altitude than the early rubber balloons. Constant altitude control and the polyethylene balloons were the two major innovations of Project Mogul.

Project Mogul and the Roswell UFO incident

It is maintained by some that one of the early balloon flights, Flight #4 from June 4, 1947, was what crashed near Roswell, New Mexico, and that the desire to maintain secrecy on this project eventually led to the Roswell UFO incident. Project Mogul balloons sometimes carried radar corner reflectors for tracking. The corner reflectors, balsa wood kites covered with sheets of a paper/foil material, were supposedly what triggered the confusion with the shiny flying saucers being reported by many other people at the time (see Kenneth Arnold).

One of the primary arguments against a Mogul balloon crash explaining the Roswell events is that only the purpose, Soviet atomic bomb detection, was top secret, but none of the equipment was classified. Since the purpose could not be discerned from any balloon wreckage, there was no need for military secrecy surrounding the recovery of one of the balloons. It is also maintained that any crash materials, such as rubber balloons and balsa wood/foil kites, were so flimsy and ordinary that they could hardly be confused by trained military personnel as coming from the more exotic reported flying saucers.

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