1965, December 16: Gemini VI Sights Strange Object?
There have been many allegations that the NASA space missions had many sightings and encounters with strange objects in space; this particular event is fully documented in NASA's records and voice recordings, and has been fully disclosed to the public.
On December 15, 1965, NASA's Gemini VI and Gemini VII carried out a sucessful manuvering test in orbit that proved the astronauts and ground control personel could bring the two ships together both safely and close enough -- within a few feet -- that they could theoretically connect the two, had that been the intention. After this close encounter both ships went their separate ways, with Gemini VI scheduled to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere the following day.
On December 16, the preparations for re-entry were exacting. Just a little prior to the scheduled re-entry, astronauts Walter Schirra Jr. and Thomas Stafford on Gemini VI called Houston ground control to report that they were seeing some sort of UFO; the personel at ground control were very tense, worried that this might interfere with the re-entry or endanger the astronauts. As reported by Schirra later, his call to NASA was:
"We have an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, probably in polar orbit.... Looks like he might be going to re-enter soon.... You just might let me pick up that thing.... I see a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit."
And then ground control heard it: the unmistakeably sound of tiny sleigh bells, accompanied by the tune of "Jingle Bells" being played on a harmonica.
The astro-nuts in question, Schirra and Stafford, had smuggled the tiny bells and the miniscule harmonica (just 1 inch long) onboard Gemini VI, which was no small feat as allowed personal items usually amounted to just a handle of stuff due to the tiny size of the compartment. They had hatched the plan weeks before launch, and practiced well before being shot into space... and it helped ease a lot of the tension in ground control.
Suiting up... to play a prank [Larger picture here]
This event is notable as the first live performance of music from space, and the bells and harmonica, which are now on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum, have the distinction of being the first musical instruments used in space. Little wonder Schirra and Stafford were smiling when the photo above was taken. Merry Christmas... and, I guess, April Fools!