PITTSBURGH - Researchers and witnesses who believe a UFO landed in the woods of western Pennsylvania 40 years ago are marking another anniversary on Friday: two years since a lawsuit was filed to get NASA to release records of what happened.
A National Aeronautics and Space Administration spokesman says there's no cover-up: the "UFO" was a Russian satellite but government records documenting it have been lost.
Leslie Kean, an investigative reporter backed by the Sci Fi Channel, and a group connected to the cable TV channel sued the NASA two years ago under the Freedom of Information Act.
Kean wants files on what happened Dec. 9, 1965, in the unincorporated hamlet of Kecksburg, about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Witnesses described a "fireball" in the evening sky, and a metallic, acorn-shaped object about 12 to 15 feet high and 8 to 12 feet in diameter that landed gently in the woods, according to media accounts at the time.
Kean's attorney Lee Helfrich said she'll file a new court motion on Friday seeking to "jump start" NASA's search for the information.
"NASA has been stonewalling for too long, and in the process has given us a great record to show that it's recalcitrant and acting in bad faith," Helfrich said. "What is NASA trying to hide?"
Nothing, NASA spokesman Dave Steitz said.
The object appeared to be a Russian satellite that re-entered the atmosphere and broke up. NASA experts studied fragments from the object, but records of what they found were lost in the 1990s, Steitz said.
"As a rule, we don't track UFOs. What we could do, and what we apparently did as experts in spacecraft in the 1960s, was to take a look at whatever it was and give our expert opinion," Steitz said. "We did that, we boxed (the case) up and that was the end of it. Unfortunately, the documents supporting those findings were misplaced."
Kean and Helfrich don't believe that explanation.
Kean said Nicholas L. Johnson, NASA's chief scientist for orbital debris, determined the object couldn't be a Russian satellite or any other manmade object, after studying the orbital paths of known satellites and other records from 1965.
Johnson didn't immediately return calls for comment Thursday to his phone number listed on NASA's Web site. Steitz referred questions on Kean's claims to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, which didn't immediately comment.
Witnesses claim military personnel cordoned off the site, removed the object and threatened residents who questioned the incident. The military later called the object a meteor.
On Saturday, Kean, Helfrich and others connected to a Sci Fi Channel documentary will speak at the Kecksburg fire hall, where a mock-up of the object is on permanent display.
Kean said a pair of West Virginia University scientists who examined the reported landing site made two recent discoveries.
Forestry professor Ray Hicks counted tree rings and determined that trees in the area were damaged in 1965. Hicks, however, said the trees were likely damaged by ice, and then snapped off by the wind. He says his findings don't support Kean's claim that "something physically landed" at the site.
Geoarchaeologist J. Steven Kite says he found no evidence to support the high-speed impact of a meteor or other large object - which Kean says supports witness accounts that a spacecraft landed softly.