Footage from the live broadcast of the famous Tether UFO incident showing some of the strange bright objects believed to be UFOs by many. Credit: NASA

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About NASA’s Tether UFO Incident

One of the more unusual UFO incidents in history.


Humanity has launched several hundred crewed missions into space over the past decades. In many cases, something strange and inexplicable happened at some point during the missions – from strange anomalies and sounds to alleged encounters with UFOs.

In most cases, credible explanations are invented later to reassure the public that there isn’t anything unusual or significant, but there are also those cases that remain mysterious to this day–So is the Tether UFO Incident of 1996.


10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Tether UFO Incident

1. In February 1996, NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia was launched into orbit with one of the weirdest experiments to date. The Tethered Satellite System (TSS-1R) experiment was supposed to test the electrodynamics of a tether in the ionosphere, with the ultimate long-term goal of using such technology for generating electricity to supply future space missions.

2. When the time came for the deployment of the tether, it seemed like the operation was going smoothly. Unfortunately, the tether snapped and went away from the shuttle. Of course, it is good that no other equipment was damaged and no astronauts got hurt. The results of the experiment are not of particular interest to us for this article but I have to say that it was somewhat of a success and astronauts did obtain some significant data.

3. Since the satellite with the tether remained in a similar orbit, they regularly flew close to the shuttle, they could be observed, photographed, and filmed.

And so, when the distance between the shuttle and the cable was about one and a half hundred kilometers, astronauts Franklin Chang-Diaz and Claude Nicollier took a camera and began to shoot the cable during a communication session with the Mission Control Center on a live television broadcast.

That is, the MCC communicated with the astronauts in space and discussed the live footage. Here is the original unprocessed video of the Tether UFO Incident that was broadcasted live.


4. From about 2:50 in the video, you can see the mysterious bright objects, considered to be UFOs by many, appeared around the tether.

5. Strangely, the communication which we hear during the video does not contain any surprise or excitement from meeting the unknown. Both to the Mission Control Center and the astronauts in space, there was nothing unusual.

6. NASA was quick to give an explanation about the Tether UFO Incident. According to them, these were ice particles and space debris which has, of course, been rejected by believers and conspiracy theorists around the world.

7. There is obviously a lot of debris in space which is why I will not go in-depth with this part of the explanation but only about the ice particles. According to officials, they came to be from the shuttle’s toilet waste and additional water discharge.

8. First of all, the shuttle’s toilet is designed so that solid waste was stored and returned to the ground, while liquid waste was thrown overboard directly into space by a special system.

Secondly, it was in this mission that experiments with additional water discharge were carried out. Therefore, the shuttle, which did not change its orbit, was surrounded by a huge number of small pieces of ice that formed after the discharge.

9. Five years ago, a former NASA astronaut who flew during similar missions in the 90s openly stated that the mysterious objects in the Tether UFO incident were ice crystals flowing that had been floating alongside the shuttle for days.


10. Unlike other UFO incidents when explanations have not sounded convincing, in this case, it seems like there truly was nothing unusual in the footage. Of course, there have been numerous other theories from UFOlogists and netizens throughout the years. Some have suggested that the bright objects were large undiscovered life forms in space.

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Austin, J. (2016, May 09). Astronaut breaks 20-year silence over space shuttle ufo mystery with ‘conclusive proof’.
Christian, C. (2014, September 18). UFO believers claim NASA footage OF ‘TETHER Incident’ proves aliens exist.
Evans, B. (2016, March 07). ‘Broken at the Boom’: 20 years Since STS-75 (part 2).
RationalWiki. (n.d.). STS-75 incident.
Wikipedia. (2021, February 20). Sts-75.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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