This testimony belongs to the SIGMA (Commission of the French Aeronautics and Astronautics Association) devoted to the study of UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena).
Jean-Pierre Morin is a former fighter pilot, knight of the Legion of Honor, officer of the national order of merit and former director of the CNES (French National Center for Space Studies).
“I left Blandine Base with three passengers and took the (only) road to the East. It was a pitch black night. No moon. I drove through Bacchus Base, Belier, Centaure, and other Dragons launching base, all quiet and dark. After two minutes, I turned off to the North, in direction of Hammaguir Airport which was without lights too. Not long before arriving to the airport, I turned off to the East on a road parallel to the airstrip. Inside the car, we were having a heated conversation. This launching was a rehearsal for the actual launching on January 11 and we had had various technical incidents: a door opening inopportunely during the atmospheric ascension, the main parachute had not fully opened leading to a brutal landing, and faulty scientific results. The next day should be faultless!
At that moment Mercier, sitting on my right, drew my attention to a light in the sky, low on the horizon, standing slightly on the right of the road. It looked like the light of an airplane about to land: nothing to be surprised of, as one is driving along an airstrip, even if its lights are turned off. Yet, the aircraft whose light was getting bigger should come across our way but it stuck on the right. I am myself a pilot and I flew on many planes including Mirages, so I thought the pilot was doing a “down wind” to land against the wind. How strange! We had not noticed any wind by the gate.
Suddenly, everything got out of control. My 2CV motor jolted. I thought I could be running out of gas but I looked at the gauge and it was ¾ full. The motor stopped though I had not touched the ignition key. The four of us jumped out of the car whose lights remained turned on. We watched the object coming up towards us. The total absence of sound was striking, as in the desert one can hear a fly one kilometer away. The absence of sound suggested that the aircraft, which was coming towards us, was not an airplane but rather a balloon.
The night was moonless and cloudless. We could see a thousand of stars with the naked eye. Those who have been in the desert at night where humidity is below forty per cent know how hard it would be to see a bare part of the sky, with no sparkling stars. Any aircraft flying in the sky masks the stars, and its apparent shape as well as its fuselage is outlined. As it was coming closer to us the object took the shape of an airship, some sort of Zeppelin. Its elevation was 2º when first observed, maneuvering faster until it reached 45º when it passed before us. This only means that its cruising altitude roughly corresponds with the distance that separates us from its horizontal track.
The “airship” was in front of us. Its length was about four times the lunar diameter, and its height about one lunar diameter. There was still no sound and no wind. I could clearly make out, especially in the front part, multicolored sparks (orange, green, blue and red) which I interpreted as ambient ionization. No trace of spacecraft propulsion. The object estimated speed was about ten to twenty kilometers per hour. Extremely slow!
The four witnesses remained silent, probably flabbergasted by what they were seeing. I too was so astonished that I had forgotten they were there. The only physical anomaly was to be hearing a very small crystalline jingling, similar to what one can hear scuba-diving. Then the object went away. The sparkling could not be discerned any longer. It was now mingled into the yellowish light that looked like a landing light. This seemed to prove what I called ionization, a single light source that is in fact isotropic when seen from close up. I did not make out any windows. The object was getting farther and looked now identical to when Mercier first warned me.
Suddenly, on our right, on the ground, far away, two lights in the night. It took me a few seconds before I realized it was Courtès team coming back to the base to have dinner after finishing up their intervention. We could clearly hear the sound of the 2CV that was about two kilometers away. How lucky we were: four astronomers on board! They would be able to explain this thing which had become a planet in the sky like Venus (less shiny though). Hopefully the light would stand by while they were coming to us.
I reckoned the observation lasted the same time they must have spent on the gangway (time they would confirm, of about twenty minutes). I expected their vehicle to suffer the same aggression (magnetic?) as us. They did not though and the object was far away now carrying on his linear route. By the way, its trajectory led him to pass close to the Véronique rocket erected under the gate. On a map, extending the road that passes across the airstrip, which was perfectly followed up by the object, one can see it passed by the rocket at five hundred meters! Could it be a foreign power, the Soviet Union or the US could have sent a reconnaissance aircraft to evaluate the rocket? Unlikely, even if the last decade was full of soviet surprises.
The astronomers’ 2CV turned right, just like I did before and came towards us: they had not noticed anything. The object was far away, in their back. They saw us and stopped jeering: “what’s up Cnes, you broke down?” I hurried them out of their vehicle and showed them the object, still visible, almost stationary. They immediately spotted it… and became silent too. Of course, I told them everything about what we had seen for the last twenty minutes. The first one to speak up was Courtès: “it looks like a balloon lighted up from the inside”. I am sure, for I saw it from close range, that there was no internal light source but an unusual external ionization.
Suddenly, the object made a left-turn: its elevation stopped decreasing and it started to go up, first slowly and then faster. The object flew across the stars with the size of a star: its shape was no longer outlined.
The astronomers watched the scene speechless. Courtès and Viton admitted they could not understand what that was. Yet, they are professionals of the sky! After having taken a “s”-shaped trajectory the object stabilized in the direction of the South-West, at about 60º. It shrank and the light turned off right there as if the object was radially speeding away from the Earth. The ascent phase lasted about 15 minutes. Courtès and Viton pointed up right on the spot where it vanished. I confess I do not remember it but they must recall.
We went back in our cars. My 2CV throbbed right away. We had dinner together at the base. The astronomers would not speak; almost offended they could not explain what they had seen in the sky. I told my story again and the three others disagreed only on one aspect. They reckoned the object had seen us and taken up avoiding action. I explained to them they had been victims of an optical illusion.
I knew what I was talking about. In 1963, less than four years ago, appointed to the Mirage 3 test section, I had attended during the year more than twenty Mirage flybys at very low speed. Each time there was a stampede, everyone wanted to see the show from the jaded pilots to the secretaries. A small dot getting bigger appeared on the threshold at a hundred meters altitude, and slowed down while keeping up the same altitude increasing its attitude. And the airplane passed before an audience of experts, extremely close to a stall, conveying the impression of a certain heading instability, straight up all along the experience! The variations in its elevation and in its bearing, correlated to the distance, are engraved on my brain: I can affirm that the object’s trajectory in Hammaguir was similar to that of the Mirages “low speed” in Mont-de-Marsan. There were just four differences:
In the morning of January 17, we had better fish to fry. I only checked that no military activity had been carried out at the base the night before, not even a sounding balloon reported for instance. After a flawless countdown, Véronique, its latest technology and its module took off without any problem. It went so well that it flew back again on April 4th in 1967, only 77 days after!
Hard scientific data had been instilled to the astronomers who were unwilling to write anything about what they had seen. When I came back to Brétigny I did not do anything not knowing to whom I could report my observation. I talked about it to some people who quickly made me understand I should not tell such ghosts stories if I wanted to make a career in the Cnes.
After all, in the desert of Sahara, I simply could have been the victim of… a mirage.
In 1968, appointed to the Program Direction, I heard that Claude Poher was trying to demystify the UFO issue. I gave him my testimony about two years after it happened and even helped him in some investigation cases which would turn out to be optical illusions for most of them. Appointed at Kourou in French Guiana, I quitted dealing with UFO matters, strongly encouraged by Jean Gruau not to ever mention the event of January 16, 1967 again in front of other people, at risk of loosing any credibility.
Today I do not risk anything any more. That is why I have revisited the past with the surprise that this long night sighting memory had remained so vivid in my mind, as if it was yesterday!”
SIGMA “January 1967 – An OVNI flew over Hammaguir”
Testimony of Jean-Pierre Morin
November 2, 2009