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  Apollo boilerplate BP-1227 and the Soviet Union (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   Apollo boilerplate BP-1227 and the Soviet Union
Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-16-2010 03:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Soviet Union recovered and returned an Apollo capsule, as described by Encyclopedia Astronautica:
In 2002 this web site broke the story that the Soviet Union had recovered an Apollo capsule in 1969 and returned it to the Americans a year later in the extraordinary Cold War visit to Murmansk by the American Coast Guard icebreaker Southwind.

moorouge
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posted 09-17-2010 07:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Found by a Russian fishing vessel? There is certainly something fishy about this story.

One assumes that the boilerplate was taken to the recovery point by ship, according to the story either the Bay of Biscay or the North Sea. It is logical, is it not, that having cast it overboard, the same ship(s) involved in the exercise would then have recovered it?

For another foreign vessel to have 'found' it means that having cast it adrift the ship(s) sailed away to come back later. Is this likely? Or am I missing the point?

Whatever the answer, it smacks of gross incompetence on behalf of someone. And why no record of such an exercise in NASA documents? Or is there?

Ross
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posted 09-17-2010 07:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ross   Click Here to Email Ross     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This seems highly unlikely. The only, extremely remote, possibility would be a training exercise where the capsule would have been placed in the sea by one vessel, which would then have left the area. The training force would then enter the recovery area and recover the capsule. Such exercises are well known, if poorly documented. However, its hard to believe that the US would have carried out such an exercise anywhere near Russian vessels and even harder to believe that a Russian vessel would beat the recovery force to the capsule.

SpaceAholic
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posted 09-17-2010 10:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is a plaque on BP-1227 which in part commemorates the boilerplate's liberation from the USSR.

moorouge
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posted 09-17-2010 10:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes - I've seen the plaque. But it still doesn't explain how it was 'lost' nor why there seem to be no official mention of the circumstances in NASA records.

The plaque could have been placed by an unofficial source based on the original story as reported in 1970 by the Hungarian press.

And why were NASA still doing recovery exercises in 1969?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-17-2010 11:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The United States Coast Guard includes the recovery of BP-1227 in its record for the Southwind:
While in Murmansk, from 4 to 7 September 1970, over 700 local citizens visited the ship. CAPT Cassidy paid homage to Soviet and American dead at a local cemetery where American and other Allied sailors killed near Murmansk were buried. Also, the Soviets returned an Apollo training capsule (BP-1227) that they had recovered at sea. Apparently the U.S. Air Force Aerospace Rescue and Recovery personnel who were using the 9,500 pound capsule for training but lost it at sea near the Azores in February, 1969. It was recovered by a Soviet fishing trawler. Southwind, after first sustaining a "bump" by a Soviet icebreaker while departing Murmansk for home, carried the capsule back to the U.S. and deposited it at Norfolk before ending her cruise at Baltimore on 17 November 1970.
Further, an archive search shows that the Soviet Union announced the find and return of the boilerplate in 1970.

For example, The New York Times published the article "Soviet Plans to Return A Space Capsule to U.S." on Sept. 4, 1970:

The Soviet Union announced today that it had found an experimental capsule from the United States Apollo space program and would turn it over to a United States Coast Guard cutter in the northern port of Murmansk tomorrow.

The cutter Southwind, an icebreaker, has been on an oceanographic research mission in northern waters and was scheduled to make a routine stop in Murmansk for the weekend.

Embassy sources said that the Soviet Government had informed the embassy about three weeks ago that fishermen from Murmansk, while working in the Bay of Biscay, off France, had found a capsule.

And from UPI, as published in The Mikwaukee Journal, "Soviets Return Dummy Apollo," on Sept. 8, 1970:
The Soviet Union loaded a wayward American space capsule aboard a US Coast Guard ship Sunday and US officials said it "appears to an Apollo mockup capsule" of the type reported lost by the Navy in 1968.

moorouge
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posted 09-17-2010 01:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are so many inconsistencies in the Astronautix report.

It says that the capsule was lost near the Azores, in the Bay of Biscay and in the North Sea, this latter in 1970.

Further, that it was US Rescue and Recovery Forces and later the Royal Navy that lost it, or UK based forces.

Then there is the possibility that it was off-loaded at Portsmouth by the Southwind and not returned to the US "until the end of the Apollo programme," i.e. 1972.

I'd still like a realistic explanation of how it was lost to clear up these contradictions.

Was this test not part of the NASA training programme? This might explain the lack of records at NASA.

Finally, another twist to the story - what about the boilerplate CM that was supposed to be at RAF Mildenhall in the 70's?

RichieB16
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posted 09-17-2010 02:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for RichieB16   Click Here to Email RichieB16     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I personally doubt that a fully functional Apollo capsule would have been returned to the US from the USSR quickly. I'd be willing to bet the crew would have been returned but the capsule return would have been "delayed" for some made up reason to allow them to get a look at our spacecraft for a little bit. I'm sure we would have done the same thing had a Soyuz landed in our backyard.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-17-2010 04:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
I'd still like a realistic explanation of how it was lost to clear up these contradictions.
The U.S. Coast Guard reports that BP-1227 was lost in February 1969 near the Azores. The Soviet Union reported the capsule found in August 1970 in the Bay of Biscay.

If accurate, then the boilerplate was at sea for more than a year, ample time for it to traverse the distances between where it was lost and where it was found.

quote:
Was this test not part of the NASA training programme?
The U.S. Navy managed the recovery of the Apollo capsules. As part of emergency rescue preparations, the Navy worked with other nations' fleets to train for off-nominal landings. In the case of BP-1227, the U.S. Navy was reported working with the Royal Navy when the capsule was lost.

moorouge
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posted 09-17-2010 05:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What Soviet report mentions August 1970 as the recovery date? The Astronautix article says 1970 in its header and the Bay of Biscay when it gets to the hand-over. August is not mentioned.

If it was August and the capsule was handed back at the beginning of September 1970 it must have been very early August and near the end of the trawler's voyage.

There must be a record somewhere of how this capsule was lost and in what circumstances. The only credible evidence so far seems to be the US Coast Guard report on the history of the Southwind which mentions the loss and the handing back by the Russians. Why does it appear that there are no other records of this incident? The Astronautix report has so many contradictions that it has to be considered unreliable.

The question still remains - how did they come to lose a capsule on a training exercise? And why is there, it appears, no other record of this incident? Could there have been a cover-up to save face?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-17-2010 06:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
What Soviet report mentions August 1970 as the recovery date?
The Sept. 4, 1970 New York Times article cites:
...the Soviet Government had informed the embassy about three weeks ago that fishermen from Murmansk, while working in the Bay of Biscay, off France, had found a capsule.
Is it possible that the Soviets recovered the capsule earlier than August 1970 and just waited until then to inform the US embassy? Sure.
quote:
There must be a record somewhere of how this capsule was lost and in what circumstances.
I'm sure there are records, but I wouldn't expect to find them online.

As cited though, there are contemporary and modern sources online to establish that it did happen.

Ross
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posted 09-18-2010 09:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ross   Click Here to Email Ross     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've just read the article and I'm now convinced. The article includes photos taken at the time and several eyewitness reports. Apparently the capsule is now being used as a time capsule in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA!

MarylandSpace
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posted 09-18-2010 11:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MarylandSpace   Click Here to Email MarylandSpace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I enjoyed this thread and the included history lesson. Sometimes, not all of history is recorded and/or reported.

Where is Paul Harvey when we need "The Rest of the Story." Maybe someone, some day, will provide us with the rest of the details.

Skylon
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posted 09-18-2010 04:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
The question still remains - how did they come to lose a capsule on a training exercise? And why is there, it appears, no other record of this incident? Could there have been a cover-up to save face?
You'd likely have to dig into official UK Navy records. Something you would not find online. The information is probably there, you just need to dig through the records. History is tedious like that.

I also doubt it was seen as that big a deal. This was a boilerplate, far from a full up spacecraft, being used to give Naval personnel experience handling getting an Apollo CM out of the water, and a crew recovered. There was little the Soviets would have learned from it, except maybe confirming the dimensions of the thing, which they could just as easily read about in published NASA information (essentially it'd confirm what they'd read). I see no reason for the "cover-up" theory you suggest.

moorouge
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posted 09-18-2010 05:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There were recovery tests in the Atlantic, not in February but in January as referenced in the Apollo record -
January 24-29 - In addition, recovery training exercises were conducted aboard the U.S.S. Guadalcanal, the prime recovery ship for Apollo 9.
One has to assume that these were conducted in the planned landing area for Apollo 9 which was far from the Azores on the other side of the Atlantic. Is this when BP-1227 was lost?

moorouge
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posted 09-24-2010 04:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just to muddy the waters still further about the loss of BP-1227, there is this from Wikipedia -
BP-1227 - This was lost in the North Sea in early 1970, recovered by a Hungarian vessel, transferred to the Soviet Union, and returned to the US in September 1970 by the USCGC_Southwind.
I wonder if this is where Astronautix got their reference about the loss in the North Sea from? And where did the Hungarian vessel come from? Curiouser and curiouser!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-24-2010 04:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
I wonder if this is where Astronautix got their reference about the loss in the North Sea from?
The quoted passage was written on Jan. 8, 2010 (the entire Wikipedia entry dates back only to 2006). The Astronautica article was written in 2002...

moorouge
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posted 09-25-2010 01:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert - you beat me to it. I was going to edit my last message but the computer went on walk-about before I could do so.

It explains how Wikipedia mixed up the photos with the recovery. Hence their reference to a 'Hungarian vessel'. Just shows you shouldn't believe everything you read.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to track down the Royal Navy's part in Apollo recovery exercises and where BP-1227 was actually lost.

moorouge
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posted 10-15-2010 03:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
Meanwhile, I'm still trying to track down the Royal Navy's part in Apollo recovery exercises and where BP-1227 was actually lost.
I have just had a reply from the National Records Office in the UK. It adds another piece to the mystery. Apart from an offer to aid in the recovery of Apollo 13 there is no record of the Royal Navy being involved in any recovery exercises for the Apollo programme.

There is one ryder however. It might be classified (unlikely) and would require a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act.

So, it would appear that the answer lies in the U.S. somewhere.

To sum up the FACTS and the only things one can be certain of -

  • BP-1227 was handed to Americans September 1970
  • the only recorded recovery exercise by NASA for the period in question in the Atlantic was January 1969 for Apollo 9
    there was no Royal Navy involvement.

tetrox
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posted 10-15-2010 09:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for tetrox   Click Here to Email tetrox     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Whilst I have no knowledge of BP-1227 there is a link to boilerplates and the North Sea through RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk England, an American air base off the North Sea coast used as an Apollo standby in case of launch abort.

They regularly carried out recovery training utilising HH53 Jolly Green Giant helicopters and boilerplate.

moorouge
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posted 10-15-2010 10:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks, yes, we knew about this one as was mentioned in a previous posting.
Finally, another twist to the story - what about the boilerplate CM that was supposed to be at RAF Mildenhall in the 70's?
Be interesting to find out if it is still there.

moorouge
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posted 10-18-2010 12:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Further to my last posting. The boilerplate at RAF Woodbridge was BP-1206. One has to assume that it was placed there sometime in early 1970 for use in practice recovery exercises by 67th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron who moved to Woodbridge from Moron AFB in January 1970.

Moron AFB is located 35 miles SE of Seville in Spain and was designated as a Shuttle Abort Landing facility in 1984. Can one assume that the 67th would have been involved in Apollo recovery exercises from there? One possible location for the loss of BP-1227 is off the Azores.

The USAF has long since gone from Woodbridge and since 2006 it has been the home of an Army unit. What happened to BP-1206? Is it still there, or does it now have another home?

moorouge
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posted 11-06-2010 05:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Boilerplate capsule BP-1227: the mystery deepens with allegations of dirty goings on in the fog to resignations in high places. I'm still digging, so watch this space.

moorouge
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posted 11-15-2010 03:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Boilerplate capsule BP-1227 - an update.

I am satisfied that I have tracked down the source of the information displayed on the plaque of BP-1227 at Grand Rapids.

This comes from a letter to Grand Rapids Press, dated December 1976, from the Department of the Navy at Norfolk, Virginia.

The pertinent passage in this letter reads -

They were operating off the coast of England when somehow during the exercise it was lost at sea. ... As it turned out the Russians found it and returned it to United States Forces.
One may compare this to the actual inscription on the plaque which reads -
During an exercise off the coast of England it was lost at sea, found by the USSR and returned.
However, it must be stressed that this is sufficiently vague as to leave it open to many interpretations. It is also at varience with other information I have. This I am still in the process of verifying.

So, more later.

moorouge
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posted 11-30-2010 07:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Apollo series of boilerplate capsules were engineering models designed to facilitate tests on components and procedures for the Apollo missions. One of these procedures was the training of recovery forces worldwide.

The capsule in question - BP-1227 - would have had the same dimensions as the real thing and weighed roughly the same. To quote one source, "In general it was metal, very well made from thick galvanised iron.

Apparently the manufacturing technology was designed for a small series. Even the heat shield was not simulated."

According to experts from the CDBMB (the Soviet Central Design Bureau of Machine Building) who examined BP-1227 after its recovery, it had pieces missing, notably an optical glass lantern and its associated search light beacon.

So, who lost it? There are just two sources that might have some weight in answering this and both are in some agreement.

The first is a letter from the Department of the Navy at Norfolk, Virginia to Grand Rapids Press written in December 1976. This states "...when the Air Force was using it to train their ARRS aircraft (Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service)." The US Coast Guard is in broad agreement with this as its website says, "Apparently the U.S. Air Force Aerospace Rescue and Recovery personnel who were using the 9,500 pound capsule for training."

The unit most likely to have been involved is the 67th ARRS (the Night Owls) as they were in the given area at the time of the loss. More of this later.

Another party alleged to have a hand in the loss is named in the Encyclopaedia Astronautica. It states, "UK based naval units were training in recovery of an Apollo capsule." Later in the article it says, "W. David Edwards and Dwayne Allen Day then provided a final identification: The boilerplate CM lost by the Royal Navy."

Attempts were made to contact both Day and the originator of the Astronautica article, Mark Wade, to confirm their statements and ascertain the source of the allegation. No replies were received.

One now has to set the validity of these against the response of the Royal Navy Historical Records Office in Portsmouth, UK. Both by email and in a long telephone conversation they confirmed that they were unable to find any records of Royal Navy involvement. However, a query to the House of Commons Library did suggest that in April 1970 HM Government did offer assistance, should it be required, in the recovery of the returning Apollo 13 mission. Meanwhile, at Portsmouth, the naval historians reported that there were not even 'Chinese Whispers' about the loss of an Apollo capsule or of any Royal Navy involvement.

Now to where and when it was lost. Here the waters become very murky. Let's deal with the two US sources first.

The US Coast Guard website says BP-1227, "lost it at sea near the Azores in February, 1969." Elsewhere is a report that BP-1227 was eventually recovered in the Bay of Biscay. This was reported in the New York Times on 4th September 1970 as, "the Soviet Government had informed the embassy about three weeks ago that fishermen from Murmansk, while working in the Bay of Biscay, off France, had found a capsule."

But is this likely? One must consider two factors. First, the CDBMB report says that there were no signs of corrosion on the capsule. Second, a leading UK meteorologist was consulted about the feasibility of a capsule drifting from the Azores to the Bay of Biscay. His response was that the prevailing ocean currents and winds made this very unlikely unless the incident took place well to the north of the Azores. Well to the north places the incident very close to the Bay of Biscay!

The Bay of Biscay is also a strong candidate for where BP-1227 was lost. But more of this later.

It is worth noting at this point that the only record of an Apollo recovery training exercise recorded in the NASA Chronologies is for the 26-29th January 1969. According to NASA, this was in support of the forthcoming Apollo 9 mission. However, there is a cover postmarked 26th January 1970 from one of the vessels taking part which indicates that it was for Apollo 10, while there is yet another suggestion that the exercise was training for the Apollo 11 flight. Unless, of course, there were three simultaneous exercises!

Now for the second US source, the letter from the Department of the Navy at Norfolk, Virginia. This very clearly states, "They were operating off the coast of England when somehow during the exercise it was lost at sea."

Two 'official' sources and two totally different locations for the loss of BP-1227. There is some reason to believe that 'off the coast of England' is actually somewhere in the North Sea. The problem is that apart from this very vague location there are very few other details to go on.

Some reports say that the loss occurred in fog and that it was early in 1970. January 1970 did have some foggy days. Meteorological records show that there was limited visibility from the 8th to the 15th, on the 18th and on the 29th. Fog is rare in February and March due to the prevailing conditions. So, it is possible that we have a when with the proviso that the capsule actually was lost in the North Sea.

It is possible we may have also a who. Both the Coast Guard and the US Navy say that those responsible for the loss were Air Force units. One unit, as has been mentioned previously, can be placed in the vicinity of both the Azores and the North Sea on dates when it is possible the capsule was lost - the 67th ARRS. Until early January 1970 the 67th was based at Moron AFB in Spain, well within range of the Azores. It then transferred to RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk, UK just a short hop to the North Sea.

With all this information available one would think that it would be possible to easily trace the details and circumstances surrounding the loss of BP-1227. But this is where one hits a total silence.

Ramstein AFB in Germany was designated the European coordinating centre for Apollo recovery operations. When asked they said that they had no information in their records about Apollo exercises or operations.

The Royal Navy's lack of information has been mentioned previously. RAF Woodbridge was closed in September 2006 and is now home to the 23rd Engineer Regiment. An enquiry was made to the Commanding Officer about Apollo training exercises in the hope that base records would exist especially as Woodbridge was the home of another Apollo boilerplate capsule, BP-1206.

No reply was received. There is a possible explanation for this. According to other military archivists consulted it is highly likely that the records relating to RAF Woodbridge were destroyed when the base was closed as an RAF station. This, it seems, is a fairly common practice in the military.

This leaves the people who ought to know what happened - NASA. Again, enquiries thus far have drawn a blank. When asked, Roger Launius, the chief NASA historian at the time, knew nothing about it. There do not appear to be any records of this incident in NASA records or perhaps any that they are prepared to admit to.

Before moving on to the Russian side of the story lets quash two further anomalies in Mark Wade's account of this incident.

He publishes a photo of the capsule aboard the USCGC Southwind which he claims was taken whilst the ship was in the Kara Sea. However, the same picture appears in the Coast Guard history of the Southwind with the caption that it was taken in November 1970 as the ship was in Baffin Bay.

This calls into question another suggestion in the Encyclopedia Astronautica version of events. Since the Southwind docked at Baltimore at the end of its voyage on 17th November 1970 having called in at Norfolk to drop off the capsule, it is highly unlikely to have had the time to make a journey across the Atlantic to leave the capsule in the hands of the Royal Navy at Portsmouth.

Besides, the way the history of the Southwind is written suggests that the visit to Portsmouth was before the hand over. As has been previously stated, the Royal Navy have no record of any such incident.

There are further curiosities about the Coast Guard records. According to the Southwind history, the ship was in Murmansk from the 4th to 7th September. Yet most accounts list the hand over of the missing capsule as the 8th September.

Another oddity is that there is no mention of the Southwind in another section of the Coast Guard website that lists a Daily Chronology Coast Guard History. When asked about this omission, a Coast Guard Historian said that the site was continually updated but that they were concentrating on ships that were still on active service. Nevertheless, it does find the space to record that in November 1970 the captain of the Vigilant allowed Russians to board his ship to forcibly remove someone attempting to defect.

Which brings us to the Russian account of the story. According to the Russian Embassy in London, official records of this incident were due for release in 2001. However, when asked where these could be viewed no response was made. Nevertheless, two accounts were found that paint a very different story to that found elsewhere.

The first was written in 2005. It gives the location for the finding of BP-1227 as the Bay of Biscay and that it was handed back in an 'arranged' visit to the Southwind at Murmansk on the 8th September. At the hand over there were no media reporters present except for a Hungarian named Tamas Fiher (Feher?). It was his photo that appeared in the Encyclopedia of Space Reaearch published in Budapest in 1981. Later, this was found by a Hungarian historian, Sandor Shuminski, who was responsible for breaking the story in the west.

The account claims that BP-1227 was lost in the fog by the Royal Navy during an exercise in the emergency recovery of a spaceship and picked up by a Russian trawler. It goes on to suggest that this was not a chance event but the result of a specially conducted operation due to the interest of Russian intelligence in the Apollo programme. Having examined the capsule, its return was arranged as nothing could be learnt from it and it was considered to be a gesture of goodwill in the improving relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States.

This article has a sting in the tail. The surprise of the crew of the Southwind at being the recipients of an Apollo boilerplate capsule in Murmansk is put down to the fact that the Americans thought that the capsule had sunk and rested at the bottom of the Bay of Biscay. It goes on to claim that such was the scandal in Washington that it led, in part, to the resignation in September 1970 of Thomas O. Paine, the NASA Administrator at the time.

Another reason given is that Paine was opposed to the Soviet-American cooperation in the planning of the joint ASTP mission. The article ends by saying that the documents relating to the loss are to be declassified in 2021 (c.f. what the Russian Embassy said), though it does add "unless it is decided to extend the 'statute of limitations'."

The second Russian source has no date and is even more surprising, though it may be the reason, if true, for the secrecy surrounding the loss of BP-1227.

It starts by suggesting that there was an agreement between the Russians and Americans to keep details of the events surrounding the loss secret. Perhaps it is not surprising when it is linked to the accident and eventual sinking of the Soviet nuclear submarine K-8 in the Bay of Biscay in early April 1970.

The author suggests that whilst the Americans were on exercise with BP-1227 during preparations for the Apollo 13 mission the submarine got into trouble. This caused the Americans to rush off to the scene of the accident leaving the capsule floating by itself in the Bay of Biscay. Whilst they were away a Russian trawler/spy ship nipped in and stole it.

As the article expresses it, "While the Americans dropped the watch and went to climb into someone else's garden, someone dug in their own." Once K-8 sank, the Americans returned and, not finding the capsule, assumed that it had sunk.

If, and it's a big IF, this is what actually happened it is no wonder that there has been built a wall of silence round the loss of BP-1227. It would explain the misinformation and the reluctance of the authorities to answer questions. But what a story!

Of course this is pure conjecture. But then, with conflicting stories and in the absence of hard evidence from official sources, so are the other accounts of what happened. In the end, it seems the answer to exactly what the circumstances surrounding the loss of BP-1227 is as far away as ever. Perhaps one day the truth will out.

moorouge
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posted 01-20-2011 02:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An update - and another closed door.

ARRS records are not helpful as per this reply:

After combing the unit histories of the 67th ARRS and 40th ARRW, I could not locate anything regarding the loss of Apollo boilerplates. The histories only mention support of actual Apollo missions – basically listing how many helicopters, personnel and equipment were on alert. Training for Apollo rescues is briefly mentioned, but locations and equipment used is not listed at all.
We will keep trying though I'm beginning to wonder if one of the Russian accounts is correct. There was an agreement to keep the circumstances of the loss secret.

moorouge
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posted 02-07-2011 03:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Further to my research into the loss of this boilerplate, I have uncovered some more contemporary reports on the hand-over. These give a little more information – but not a lot!

One report quotes a NASA official as stating that the capsule was lost by the Navy two years prior to its return. This puts the loss in 1968, the earliest date yet mentioned. This is repeated in a second report – lost by the Navy in 1968 but adding that it was on an undisclosed date in the Atlantic.

Two articles describe the capsule as ‘an experimental capsule launched under the Apollo programme’. Both these say that the loss occurred in the Bay of Biscay, one adding that it was off the coast of France. However, they do admit that there was some debate about what was lost, with one saying that it ‘is a dummy Apollo capsule’.

There is some confusion as to when the US Embassy in Moscow was informed that the Soviets had recovered BP-1227. One article states that the Embassy was informed ‘some weeks ago’ that it had the capsule. [This ties in with the three weeks already recorded in my original piece.] Set against this is a report that Tass, the official Soviet news agency announced ‘unexpectedly that the government had an experimental space capsule’.

Whatever the truth, the reports say that the capsule was placed in the care of two US Embassy officials. One curious feature about this is that when the visit of the Southwind to Murmansk was announced by the Embassy no mention was made of the capsule. This would seem to confirm the surprise reported by the crew that they were to transport the capsule back to the States.

It is becoming increasingly clear that someone, somewhere knows what happened to BP-1227. As I have said – whenever I get close to an answer a wall of silence descends.

The answer, I believe lies in first discovering to whom BP-1227 was allocated by NASA. They admit that once recovery crews were trained, no NASA personnel were necessarily involved in recovery exercises, these being left under the direction of the lead diver. Another question arises out of this. Who organised these exercises? Was it an ARRS unit or was it the Navy? Once answers to these are found we may get a little closer to resolving how BP-1227 was lost.

I really would appreciate some help from cSers. Perhaps someone in the States is curious enough to spend some time and invoke the Freedom of Information Act on my behalf as I’m certain that the answer lies either in NASA or the Navy records.

moorouge
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posted 04-28-2011 03:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A brief update.

Still nothing from NASA records about BP-1227. It seems that they did not keep records as to where the boilerplates were allocated. However, I do know that NASA 'old timers' are intrigued by this mystery, so perhaps their interest will turn up something.

Boeing has been contacted, but they have no surviving records either. The Smithsonian appears to have none also.

Nevertheless, the search continues and any input from the cS community will be most welcome.

moorouge
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posted 07-15-2011 02:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Another update and curious.

This morning, out of the blue, I received a mail from a Russian blogger. He says that he has recently joined the cS community but has been unable to post the contents of this mail.

Be that as it may, in it he claims that BP-1227 was not lost but stolen by the GRU during the course of a naval exercise called 'Ocean-70'. [This may tie in with a Russian report I have posted earlier.]

However, he goes on to say that it was thought to be part of the 'Moon hoax' and that BP-1227 was a component of a false Apollo 13 launch. It was tracked by Russian naval ships, recovered and taken to Murmansk for examination by specialists from the NPO. [Again, I have reported this but NOT the hoax element.]

I have passed this information on to my contacts in the US for their comment and have contacted the Russian blogger for more information.

On edit - Ocean-70 was the exercise that saw the loss of the nuclear submarine K-8.

moorouge
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posted 07-17-2011 02:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some more from Russia...

This is mentioned in my post of 30th November 2010 but now some more detail.

It is alleged that BP-1227 was used as a lever to force the US to grant trade concessions in return for keeping secret the loss of the capsule during a training exercise that coincided with the Russian naval exercise Ocean-70. Mentioned are cancelling restrictions on the export of oil/gas to Europe; agreements on arms limitations; import of US grain at reduced prices; US help in the construction of a car plant; and the agreement for the Apollo-Soyuz flight.

The source goes on to suggest that there is some credence given to this by the fact that no mention was made in Russia until the story was broken some thirty years later.

It queries also the fact that a Hungarian photographer was present to take photos in what, it is alleged, was a restricted area. Murmansk, it says, was home to Soviet nuclear submarines and military assets and any access was strictly controlled by the KGB. Hardly the place for a foreign national to go roaming.

Maybe, maybe not. But it is strange that, as I have reported, there is no official source that can either confirm or give an explanation as to how this boilerplate came to be lost.

We shall see!

stsmithva
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posted 07-17-2011 07:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
It is alleged that BP-1227 was used as a lever to force the US
It's ridiculous to think that holding a lost boilerplate - a virtually empty shell with no classified material - would give the Soviets enough leverage to gain concessions worth at least millions of dollars, and especially "agreements on arms limitations." Throw in the belief that he's saying it was all part of an Apollo hoax, and I have to ask if he is just pulling your chain or is a nut not worth paying attention to.

moorouge
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posted 07-17-2011 12:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think that I ever suggested it was the actual capsule that is alleged caused the possible resulting concessions, but the manner of its loss.

Besides, it's a poor researcher that doesn't look under every stone.

moorouge
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posted 07-21-2011 02:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Another piece of the jigsaw.

Information from a Russian newspaper suggests that the loss was in the Bay of Biscay on the night of 11/12th April 1970. It claims that because of weather conditions at the time - squalls and snow showers - the recovery forces of the US Navy lost sight of it. These forces were being shadowed by a Russian spy ship as the Navy had declared it a restricted area and it was this vessel that nipped in and picked up the capsule.

If true, there remains the question as to why there are no records to be had of this incident. And, is there a link with exercise Ocean-70?

Lou Chinal
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posted 07-21-2011 01:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is the "Southwind" an icebreaker or a fishing trawler?

moorouge
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posted 07-21-2011 04:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Lou Chinal:
Is the "Southwind" an icebreaker or a fishing trawler?

Neither - the 'Southwind' is/was a US Coast Guard cutter, as detailed earlier in this thread.

Lou Chinal
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posted 07-22-2011 08:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If the "Southwind" is/was a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, what was it doing in Murmansk?

Ross
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posted 07-22-2011 08:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ross   Click Here to Email Ross     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I believe it was a goodwill visit. Quoting from Wikipedia:
In 1970, Southwind visited the port of Murmansk, being the first US naval vessel to visit a Soviet port since the start of the cold war. During that visit, she took aboard a boilerplate (BP-1227) from the Apollo Program.
Actually it was quite appropriate that the USCGC Southwind was the first US naval vessel to visit a Soviet port as she was leased to the Soviet Union between 1945 and 1950 and named the Admiral Makarov.

moorouge
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posted 09-30-2011 05:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Today I have received a response to a FOIA request from the Department of the Navy. This says and I quote, "We have determined that, if the records you are seeking still exist, they are no longer in the possession and control of the Navy."

There is one avenue left to explore, which I am doing. Meantime, the true story of how BP-1227 came to be in the hands of the Russians remains a mystery.

moorouge
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posted 11-06-2011 11:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by stsmithva:
It's ridiculous to think that holding a lost boilerplate - a virtually empty shell with no classified material - would give the Soviets enough leverage...
I'm not saying that this is connected, but it is curious...

From a 1971 CIA declassified (in part) report on a National Intelligence Estimate on the Soviet Space Programme. Having stated that, "Nearly all past efforts by the US to induce the Soviets to engage in cooperative or joint space programmes have met with limited success." The report goes on to record that in October 1970 - a month after the return of BP-1227 - talks began on the desirability of compatible Soviet and US rendezvous and docking systems.

moorouge
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posted 11-18-2011 01:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A bit more information about BP-1227.

The official title transfer of Boilerplate BP-1227 from NASA to the National Air and Space Museum took place on November 4, 1976. It appears to have gone directly to Grand Rapids from Norfolk that same month, with NASM handling the object as an outgoing loan to the Grand Rapids Public Museum. NASM de-accessioned the boilerplate and transferred title to the Grand Rapids Public Museum March 28, 1986.


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