If you hear of the Black Knight, you might imagine an evil medieval knight, riding a black horse, pillaging entire villages and murdering people.
Fear not. But perhaps at the end of this story, you just might wish your horse-backed dark knight were real.
The Black Knight is the name of an obscure dark object orbiting Earth which was captured by a NASA astronaut on camera during a space shuttle mission in 1998. According to conspiracy theorists, the origin of this craft is extraterrestrial, and as some have “reasoned out,” it might be as old as 13,000 years.
Mysteries about the Black Knight have been with us since the mid-20th century. In fact, there seems to be a rich amalgamation of several different stories, all relating to this strange, eerie object.
The Black Knight lore begins with Nikola Tesla. In 1899, the genius thought he had heard from aliens himself. That year, Tesla was carrying out experiments with a tall, bulky tower he had installed at his property in Colorado Springs. The pursuit of his endeavors was wireless power experiments, and as accounts suggest, he accidentally picked up some signals from outer space.
Tesla did consider that the received signals might be coming from an intelligent life form, perhaps from someone on Mars. When he shared this with contemporaries, he was largely dismissed. Years later, in 1968, scientists were able to validate that Tesla could have really received some kind of transmission. However, the explanation was that any signal that arrived had probably been emitted from some object floating in space, such as pulsars.
Also, Tesla himself never asserted that he picked up something from a satellite making its way around Earth. But some conspiracy theorists have surmised that the origin of these transmissions was precisely the Black Knight.
Further on in the narrative about this obscure artifact, floating somewhere out there near us, the Black Knight could have made its next contact in 1927. Only this time it surprised Jørgen Hals, an engineer from Norway who was carrying out radio signal experiments. Hals couldn’t explain why some of the signals he sent echoed back a few moments after the initial transmissions halted. For years, the mystery prevailed.
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More than four decades later, sci-fi writer Duncan Lunan penned an article that was published in Spaceflight Magazine, which tried to explain the strange signals picked up by Hals. He considered if perhaps an alien object, as old as 13,000 years and orbiting around the Moon, was the source of Hals mystery signals. Lunan never made any mention of the Black Knight, yet some theorists reportedly began affiliating the object he mentions with the estranged dark structure.
Another sci-fi writer, Donald Edward Keyhoe, is also associated with the Black Knight phenomenon. Keyhoe was a retired Marine Corps naval aviator, someone who had researched UFOs and took on writing fiction. His work and writing were most popular during the 1950s and 1960s, when the Cold War was at its peak and science-fiction was entering its golden era.
According to Keyhoe, aliens had indeed visited our home planet. Supposedly, he further made claims that a pair of satellites orbiting our planet were detected by the U.S. Air Force in 1954 (which is three years before the first human-launched satellite was sent into orbit). Presumably Keyhoe shared such statements to boost the popularity of his fiction.
Keyhoe’s statements, again, are linked with the Black Knight, just like another story that showed up in Time Magazine in 1960. The story described a satellite in a strange near-polar orbit that was initially correlated with Soviet spying. A clearer explanation was published a few weeks later, saying the odd-looking piece belonged to the U.S. Discoverer satellite.
In the end, the entire fuss about the Black Knight can be reduced to the spread of unsubstantiated stories and the unverified interpretation of others. According to NASA, and astronaut Jerry Ross, the object and all the stories connected to it are merely the result of a slip.
In 1998, a space shuttle mission was carried out at the International Space Station, the same mission which provided the most compelling evidence to conspiracists about the existence of the Black Knight – photographs!
The NASA mission that year, named STS-88, was launched on December 4, shortly after the time when construction of the International Space Station commenced, by joining together the U.S. and Russian modules, writes NASA.
Part of the mission included spacewalking, in which the team needed to install thermal space blankets for insulation on some of the components.
During the proceedings they lost several items (a normal thing that happens with these kinds of missions), including one of the thermal blankets they carried. As the item traversed away from the astronauts, becoming unreachable in the vastness of space, they had it photographed. Following protocol, the piece was cataloged as space debris (the task of the U.S. Space Surveillance Network).
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So, while NASA explains the photos of the much-discussed dark object as a lost space blanket, conspiracy theorists keep looking at it and saying… this is the famed, mysterious Black Knight, deployed there by aliens!
Stefan A. is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to The Vintage News. He is a graduate in Literature. He also runs the blog This City Knows