Friday, April 30, 2021

Coast to Coast AM - The Moon Dust Controversy


There was an interesting question, or thought, or claim, raised on the NICAP Research site, that suggested there was never any Project Moon Dust. What was said, “And there was never any ‘Project’ Moon Dust! There was an attempt by the AF to set up one by that name (Moon Dust) but I don’t recall any documents proving that it was set up with that name and operational… There was a category of activity called ‘moon dust’ for recovery of satellite and space reentries and decays. Anyone in any agency having a report of that would slap a ‘Moon Dust” label on it without any project necessarily with that name.”

This struck me as especially odd. I mean, there were documents out there that related to Moon Dust and I had found four cases in Project Blue Book files that were stamped with the name, “Moon Dust.” True, they weren’t very good sightings, but the point is, these sightings were found in Blue Book.

I had also found a document in the Blue Book files that came from Headquarters, U.S. Air Force Message #54322 and dated December 23, 1957, which said the mission was “to collect and analyze raw intelligence reports from the field of fallen space debris and objects of unknown origin.”

I also mentioned that there were other documents, with a known provenance, that proved there was a Project Moon Dust. I figured that would be the last word, unless someone asked for some of those documents. That wouldn’t be a problem because there were, literally hundreds of them.

Brad Sparks had something to say about that. He wrote:

Sorry, but with all due respect, none of those documents say any ‘Project’ had a ‘PROJECT’ named ‘Moon Dust’ except the proposal in 1961 where I don’t see any succeeding documents showing a ‘Project Moon Dust’ was in fact set up – quote me some post-1961, correct me if I’m wrong.”

‘Moon Dust’ was a category of intelligence physical materiel set up in 1957 post-Sputnik long before any special project was even attempted to be set up as a ‘Project Moon Dust’-- in 1961. What were they doing in 1960, 1959, 1958?

‘Moon Dust’ was like a term like ‘HazMat,’ to use an analogy, which was used everywhere without any special project being set up called ‘Project HazMat’ -- and no rule that prohibited such a project with that name either.

Paul Dean wrote back to say, “I've got a 1980 era 20th missile warning squadron document that mentions "Project Moon Dust", not just ‘moon dust’”. 

And since Brad had asked about this, and although I believed he had some of these documents and understood them as well as I did, I wrote:

Interesting point here. We agree there was something called Moon Dust but it might not have been a "project."

And it is true that the references I found in the Blue Book files are merely stamped "Moon Dust," rather than "Project Moon Dust," at least, confirms the UFO component to it.

However, I have a copy of a letter sent to Robert Todd dated July 1, 1987 which said, "The nickname 'Project Moondust' no longer exists officially."

I suppose you could argue, with some justification, that this is in response to Todd's request for information on Project Moon Dust, so that answer, in referring to Moon Dust is just Colonel Thompson's (the officer who responded) way of identifying the request but doesn't prove there was a Project Moon Dust.

I have a copy of a letter to Senator Jeff Bingaman in which Colonel George Mattingley, Jr., wrote, "These teams were eventually disbanded because of a lack of activity; Project MOON DUST and Operation BLUE FLY missions were similarly discontinued." 

This seems to be stronger evidence that something known as Project Moon Dust did exist as a project. We often refer to Project Blue Book simply as Blue Book. True, I have a copy of a heavily redacted "Airgram" from the State Department that says, "The designator "MOONDUST" is used in cases involving the examination of non-US space objects or objects of unknown origin."

I wonder if we're not splitting a fine hair here. There is documentation about Project Moon Dust and there is guidance that Moon Dust will be used as an identifier on communications among various agencies and organizations. What is important here is that there was something called Moon Dust and it referred to UFO related material (and let me add here that in the case UFO means "unidentified" as opposed to "alien spacecraft.") It suggests another reporting channel and one that often-avoided Blue Book.

Paul Dean scanned the document he had mentioned and Brad Sparks had requested. Dean put it up for those who wished to see it. In response, Brad Sparks wrote:

Thanks Paul.

The 1982 20th MWS History mentions "Project Moondust procedures" without identifying them, or it, or where it is located.  Are they just remembering old procedures without looking them up (no Numbered Directives are cited)?  

Lots of people in the US Govt over the years including within the AF assumed there was a "Project" called "Moon Dust" -- just like anyone dealing with Hazardous Materials or HazMat assume there is a HazMat Dept they deal with, but no overarching "HazMat Project" but multiple HazMat units or depts everywhere. 

What we need to know, as this applies to all "Project" Moon Dust references is at least a few of the following questions answered:

1.  HQ:  Where is the "Project" headquartered? 

2.  Command:  Under what agency or command is the "Project"?

3.  Charter:  What is the charter directive or order setting up the "Project"?  Date? 

4.  CO:  Who is the Commander or Director of the "Project"?

5.  Letterhead:  Any "Project Moon Dust" letterhead available to show some of the above, where located, under whose command, etc.?

6.  Multiple "Project Moon Dust"s:  Were there and if so, why?  Was "Moon Dust" just like "HazMat" or "SAR" (Search and Rescue), every command or major agency has them, etc.?

Brad wasn’t through with his analysis and added some important information that should have been included in the first go-around. He wrote:

Quick correction:  Email got away from me before I could add that the copy of the ICGL 4 of 1961 was obtained by Jim Klotz in 2003, with thanks to Mike Ravnitzky and Dale Goudie.  

Further, I wanted to bold-italic highlight the Col Betz memo of Nov 1961, in para. 5g:

"g. Moon Dust:  As a specialized aspect of its over-all [intelligence] materiel exploitation program, Headquarters USAF has established Project Moon Dust to locate, recover and deliver descended foreign space vehicles.  ICGL #4, 25 April 1961, delineates collection responsibilities." 

Thus Moon Dust is an "aspect" of a larger "over-all" intelligence materiel exploitation program of AF Intelligence.  The IGCL 4 in line with that, when read together with the Betz memo, refers to Moon Dust reporting of satellite reentries and space decays, especially intelligence-sensitive "retrieval and examination" (exploitation) of "descended Soviet space vehicles" (and such) -- which are part of just such an "overall materiel exploitation program" (Col. Betz) or "overall project" (ICGL-4) as densely stated in ICGL-4 para. 6:

"Because of the intelligence connotations of MOON DUST regarding retrieval and examination by ATIC of a descended Soviet space vehicle, the overall project is classified Confidential, and MOON DUST Alerts are normally on a Confidential basis because of the intelligence association with [satellite] decay estimates.  The basic decay estimates (identification of the object and estimated date and hour of decay) are in themselves normally unclassified.  Thus, decay estimates, as such, can be released to observers or observatories...

Frank Warren jumped into the conversation. He wrote, “Haven't read all the minutia via this thread, so apologies if this has already been offered up. The attached partial file cites "Project" Moon Dust 3 times by my count, including the line that reads: "Project Moon Dust was suspended on 4 August 1960.”

Those documents were contained information from the Air Force that used the term Project Moon Dust. They follow here (note – they are not sequential):


Once again, Brad Sparks took a look at the material offered and then wrote:

Thanks Frank. 

The count of how many times "Project" is used with "Moon Dust" does not "count" too much, so to speak. :)  

What counts is whether there is any direct evidence (so far there is none) of a central national or global AF office called "Project Moon Dust," with a HQ address, a named Commander or Project Officer or both, a chain of command identified, a charter directive that set it up, an org chart, maybe some letterhead with "Project Moon Dust" at the top with HQ address, telephone, teletype address, etc., maybe 2 or 3 of the foregoing would be good.  Even better would be a Unit History of a national or worldwide Project Moon Dust for a recurring period, one for each year going back to its founding.  But we have nothing like that. 

Your 39th Air Division History (USAF in Japan) excerpt actually re-emphasizes the impression that "Project Moon Dust" was just an activity alert designation -- just like "Base UFO Officer" at each AF Base under Blue Book, where those Base UFO Officers were NOT Blue Book or part of BB nor were they their own "Project."  Just an assigned duty episodically carried out

This 39th AD History July-Dec 1960 states that "Project Moon Dust" was an AF-wide "intelligence alert" -- not an AF-wide office or military unit

"On 28 June 1960, we were alerted to look for signs of a Soviet missile shot to the mid-Pacific. The Navy was surveilling Soviet telemetry vessels which had moved into the usual Soviet test range in the Pacific; a test shot was expected to follow quickly. 

"Captain George L. Griffith, A0565506, was appointed project officer for Project "Moon Dust," a USAF-wide intelligence alert intended to sight and report Soviet missiles in flight or downed."

This "Project Moon Dust" in Japan could hardly be in Texas, too, etc.  

After barely a month this "Project Moon Dust was suspended on 4 August 1960" -- meaning the Moon Dust alert had been ended, until the next time.  It could hardly be a functioning military unit if it got activated and deactivated every few months or so. 

I suspect, but as yet cannot prove with a shred of documentation, that the AF Intelligence 1127th Field Activities Group at Ft Belvoir, VA, and predecessor units, might have served as a national or global "Project Moon Dust" as merely another hat for the Commander of the 1127th -- just like UFO field investigations were one of several assigned duties for the 1127th -- but unlike with UFOs where the 1127th was just backing up Project Blue Book, maybe (and this is speculative) someone tried to semi-formalize the 1127th organizationally as a "Project Moon Dust" dual entity.  Or maybe "Project Moon Dust" was a Division of the 1127th (which had several Divisions like the Air Attache Division). 

There is some countervailing evidence against this dual-hat, AF-wide central national HQ Project Moon Dust = 1127th theory, though.  ATIC also ran Moon Dust field team(s) seemingly apart from the 1127th, it is unclear.  That would mean TWO AF-wide "Project Moon Dusts"!!  But maybe the ATIC Moon Dust was subordinate to the 1127th's "Project Moon Dust."  Just don't know. 

Another bad piece of evidence against any AF-wide "Project Moon Dust" in, or as, the 1127th is the 1967 AF Intelligence History that includes the 1127th's History.  There is a "MOON DUST" subsection under "OVERT/SENSITIVE COLLECTION AND SUPPORT" but there is no mention of any 1127th acting as a HQ "Project Moon Dust" or any Project Moon Dust Division of the 1127th.  

It states that Moon Dust was an activity whereby NORAD SPADATS notified the 1127th's higher level supervisory staff in AF Intelligence at the Pentagon (Operations Plans Branch AFNIAAB of AF Intell AFNIN) of the deorbitings of 49 Soviet space objects and 17 US space objects (presumably spy satellites) in last half 1967, which must have been passed on to the 1127th as part of their procedure. 

The 1967 AF Intell / 1127th History is not shy about naming names and even HQs of, for example, 1127th's Dallas Resident Agency subordinated to the CIA Domestic Collection Service office in Houston, similarly in Chicago and LA.  This is on the same page as the MOON DUST subsection!  But no "Project Moon Dust" office specified anywhere.

Brad Sparks makes some very interesting observations about Moon Dust. It is clear from other documentation, specifically from the Department of State, that they were responding to directives or procedures issued by some authority. The question becomes is if that authority is the office that Sparks suggests, or if it is a series of rules and regulations initiated by another organization. Under those conditions, it is possible that Moon Dust was just an identifier as Sparks suggested.

However, there is another part of this that hasn’t been explored. Robert Todd learned that the name, Moon Dust, had been compromised. Todd requested the new name, what new code word was, but he was told that it was properly classified. It was not releasable.

That would also, seem to suggest, that there was no “Project” Moon Dust, but that Moon Dust was a code word needed for access to the information gathered under the umbrella of Moon Dust. It seems that the Department of State had been a little less than diligent in their protection of classified information.

The problem that arises is that there were teams that investigated Moon Dust incidents. As Sparks noted, there is a draft document that was leaked into the UFO community that referred to Project Moon Dust. It provided for its mission, its manning, and other aspects of its organization. But this was a draft document and we have seen no evidence that it was implemented, meaning, we have no further documentation for it.

I will note that as I looked through the Project Blue Book files, I did find reference to something designated as Project Horse Fly. This was a proposal to develop teams of junior officers who would deploy to UFO sighting locations to conduct investigations of those sightings. There is no evidence that the project moved beyond the planning stage. You can read about it here:

Given what Brad Sparks has provided, and the direction of the conversation, I have to wonder if he isn’t right about this. There was something called Moon Dust but was it a project or a code word for some other project? That means that the collection of the intelligence under the Moon Dust code was for another project, something hidden deeper.

We do have documents that mention the recovery of space debris, but in nearly all those cases, the debris was identified as terrestrial. Had they found something truly extraordinary it might have been sent forward for analysis under another name or project designation. Moon Dust was the cover for the important aspect of the research just as Blue Book turned out to be the cover for another UFO investigation that was hinted about by Allen Hynek and General Bolender.

Moon Dust might not be the proper name of the project that controlled the Moon Dust activities. We have seen hints about this and how various Air Force organizations have been tasked with UFO research in the past. It does seem, however, that Moon Dust, as an independent project might not have existed…

Or for the conspiracy mined, it was the cover for the real investigation. When the Air Force told Senator Bingaman that there was no Project Moon Dust and that the project had never existed, maybe that was the truth. Moon Dust was the code word for the real project and we just haven’t found it… Yet.


Capt Steve said...

So if Moon Dust was an intelligence alert and not a project, then would that imply that there were Moon Dust aware personnel at most, if not all, active Air Force bases? If so, I wonder what a search of unit/base activity logs might turn up?

Lemurian said...

Aztec UFO Crash: Yes It Happened:

Bob Koford said...

For what its worth, I recently shared a case with Frank Warren, September 1961, which was a Moon Dust alert. So it wasn't a program that ended on 1960.

The best,

car099 said...

Just listened the episode from May 19th, with Rob Del Re, good episode but i have to admit something, I am a huge fan of you Kevin I like yourlogical arguments, attention to details and all of the time and effort you have invested investigating many cases, exposing hoaxes etc.
But at some point i didnt know if i was listening to you or Michael Shermer, you guest was polite and he was nice, i don´t understand why you tried to put him against the wall, his arguments were always about his believes he never tried to convinced anyone...

It is a bad time to become a skeptic Kevin, many things happening right now...

Wish you the best!

KRandle said...

car099 -

His belief in MJ-12, his belief in Philip Corso, his lack of in depth research into the things he was saying and the lack of a logical follow through. I was trying to find the core of his belief, which is, apparently his father's UFO sighting. I didn't challenge that, but did challenge some of his assertions. He thought the Wilbur Smith papers important, but they relied on what Robert Sarbacher had said, except that Sarbacher hadn't seen anything himself. So, he was relying on third-hand information when there is much better stuff out there. That's my point... we need to raise the level of discourse rather than relying on bogus documents and third-hand gossip.

And thanks for the nice words.