EXCLUSIVE: Astounded NASA conceals surprise Commercial Orbital Transportation Services demonstration

A Russian Progress freighter bearing Christmas gifts for the ISS crew docked on Friday at the International Space Station. Out of the Cradle has uncovered exclusive evidence of a massive NASA cover-up of a second, unpublicized docking that day. Transmissions aired on NASA TV during the Progress docking were altered in real time to conceal the presence of another vehicle approaching ISS at the same time.

Out of the Cradle has obtained a recording of the unedited transmissions, captured by a ham radio operator in Clear Lake. A transcript follows:

MCC-Moscow: Station-keeping. Range sixty meters. Rate zero.

ISS (Tokarev): I have a good view from TORU.

MCC-Moscow: KURS alignment nominal. Roll manoeuvre starting. Interference.

[At this point the picture from the docking camera aboard the Progress freighter momentarily broke up. Immediately after that, the transcript of the actual transmissions diverges from the edited version played on NASA TV]

ISS (Tokarev): What the?

[simultaneous transmission] MCC-Moscow: Say again, ISS? / ISS (McArthur): That can’t be right!

ISS (Tokarev): Wait one.

MCC-Houston: Alpha, Houston, ahhh, we’re receiving a rather interesting voice transmission on the S-band. Very funny guys.

ISS (Tokarev): Moscow, something passed in front of Progress.

ISS (McArthur): Houston, we are not, repeat, not transmitting on S-band.

MCC-Moscow: Valery, we lost picture briefly, but interference is clearing now. Automated final approach proceeding. Range forty-seven meters, rate zero point one five. Did you say some part of Station obscured your view of Progress?

MCC-Houston: And Bill, regarding your last, well – someone up there is definitely transmitting on S-band. Um, the folks here have asked that you secure the transmission until after the Progress docking.

ISS (McArthur): Houston, I’ve checked the comms config, and S-band is currently in the sequential still video config – not voice.

MCC-Houston: Roger that. We’re still getting something though. The guys are patching it into the big loop.

ISS (Tokarev): Negative, Progress is not obscured by Station. I am looking at Station from Progress docking camera through TORU. I don’t know how to say this, but…

Unknown: …ission to dock at PMA-2. This is North Pole One requesting permission…

ISS (Tokarev): I am currently looking at big red pressurized sleigh tethered to nine reindeer in…

MCC-Moscow: We see it too, ISS.

ISS (Tokarev): …reindeer in spacesuits. Actually, they look like modified US EMUs. I did not know you could get space helmet big enough for antlers.

MCC-Houston: You have got to be kidding me.

ISS (McArthur): I have good view of the ah…. of the um… I have a good view through the P1 truss camera, Houston. The err… vessel… appears to be aligning for a minus V-bar approach and docking.

Santa and ISS on the radar screen

North Pole One: Space station, can you hear me? This is Santa – Ho! – I mean, this is North Pole One. I trust you’ve been good boys – I’ve got some items for you that the elves couldn’t get manifested on the Progress.

ISS (McArthur): Read you loud and clear, North Pole One, ah… please stand by. Houston, do we have a procedure for this?

MCC-Houston: We’re looking.

MCC-Moscow: Valery, we still have Progress docking happening here. Range 23, range rate point one two.

ISS (Tokarev): Understood. Standing by with TORU.

MCC-Houston: And, ah, ISS, Houston concurs. Valery you and MCC-Moscow should take care of the Progress docking on the Russian segment, and we will help Bill with this – um – new US segment activity.

North Pole One: This would have been a lot easier if Mike Griffin had agreed to launch the Chimney Module I had the elves build for you guys.

MCC-Houston: And, Bill, about that procedure – we’d like you to join us at step seven-dash-one on page fourteen of the Visiting Sleigh Procedures Manual.

ISS (McArthur): [Stunned silence]. Now I really do believe that you guys have a procedure for everything.

MCC-Houston: We try.

ISS (McArthur): OK – step seven-dash-one Put Out Milk And Cookies is in work.

MCC-Houston: And for North Pole One: this is Mission Control Houston. Before we can clear you for docking, we just have to confirm that your vessel is certified to Visiting Vehicle standards.

North Pole One: Ho, ho, ho, Houston! I’m a toymaker on a tight schedule here! The reindeers’ R-EMUs only have consumables for seven and a half hours – I don’t have time for paperwork. If you insist on making this harder than it needs to be, I might have to put all of NASA on my Naughty Boys and Girls list.

MCC-Houston: Roger that, North Pole One, were talking about the options down here and we think we can reduce the requirement down to just a few questions so we can fill out a waiver.

North Pole One: I think we can live with that. Go ahead, Houston.

MCC-Houston: OK, can you tell us what type of propulsion and RCS systems your vehicle employs?

North Pole One: Yes, Houston, we use our FRRIP-drive for both of those functions.

MCC-Houston: North Pole One, we’re, ahh, not familiar with that acronym for your propulsion system.

North Pole One: Flying Reindeer Reactionless Impulse Propulsion.

MCC-Houston: Gotcha. Right. Ah – ok, we’ll just tick ‘other’ there. And your Guidance, Navigation and Control platform?

North Pole One: That would be Rudolf.

MCC-Houston: ‘Other’ it is, again, then. And we just need to know finally if your craft poses any contamination danger to the P6 solar array?

North Pole One: Well, Houston, normally I’d have been a bit worried that Blitzen might leave you an extra ‘present’ on the External Stowage Platform, but I had Hamilton Sundstrand build a waste management system into each of the Reindeer Extravehicular Mobility Unit suits.

MCC-Houston: And we’re assuming down here that you have a compatible docking mechanism?

North Pole One: You’re looking at the only sleigh in the universe with an APAS docking ring.

MCC-Houston: Roger that, North Pole One, you have a go for docking at PMA-2.

North Pole One: Thank you Houston. We won’t be staying too long, I think that Dancer and Prancer are working up to a fairly messy case of Space Adaptation Syndrome. Steady on, you two! I don’t suppose there’s any fresh hay on board ISS?

[The progress freighter and North Pole One docked almost simultaneously. Inexplicably, the NASA alterations stopped at this point, just as McArthur announced the successful North Pole One docking]

ISS (McArthur): Santa’s sleigh has arrived. Valery and I have been very good boys this year, so we’re certain there are going to be lots of goodies on board.

Many media outlets have mistakenly assumed that McArthur was jokingly referring to the Progress when he spoke of ‘Santa’s sleigh,’ however, now that we are in possession of the unaltered transmissions, we can categorically state that he was being somewhat more literal!

Merry Christmas to everyone, and especially the hardworking folk at NASA, from the crew at Out of the Cradle.

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