Authors: Christian Lambright
“In the matter of physics the first lessons should contain nothing but what is experimental and interesting to see.”
In all the years I have studied this phenomenon I have never come across anything like the vehicles Ray had filmed. As bizarre as on-edge beam-pulsing vehicles seem even now, did we have the technology to build them prior to Ray having filmed them in 1985? Could these vehicles have been designed, tested, and manufactured in this country, or any other, in such complete secrecy that no one else had even conceived of or published similar designs?
As information spreads faster and faster, concepts and designs often end up being developed and worked on almost simultaneously by different people and groups around the world. When radical ideas appear there is usually some evolutionary path that can be followed in the science behind it. Often the same idea seems to occur spontaneously to several people at once. Rockets have been around since the Chinese were firing them off with black powder, and though it was many years before liquid fuel rockets appeared, the evolution of that propulsion is clear. Ever since the Wright brothers’ first airplane, virtually all aircraft still have wings of one type or another. The overall designs may have varied widely in moving from piston engines to jet power, but the science behind the changes has been evolutionary. If the Wright brothers’ second aircraft had been an SR-71, would such a radical leap in technology have raised questions about where the knowledge came from? How does the average person know what should and should not be possible? If, to quote Arthur C. Clarke, “Any technology sufficiently advanced would be indistinguishable from magic”, then to learn anything from an advanced technology we ourselves must have advanced far enough that we are able to recognize something in the “magic”. If we recognize something that leads to new ideas of what may be possible, and we then go back and validate those ideas in the lab, our knowledge will have forever advanced. Some of the magic might have gone away, but something even greater will have been revealed: the truth.
In the early 1990’s the Internet was still an exciting new world not yet commercialized and co-opted by huge corporations. Those were the days of 2400-baud modems and using Telnet connections to enter commands manually. The public was still virtually unaware of the Internet and it was hard to get access unless you worked for the government or military, or had an account through an educational institution. With an account at the University of North Texas, I taught myself UNIX and the Internet opened like a new frontier that in many ways seemed like magic.
As its popularity grew, one of the biggest benefits of having an Internet account was being able to subscribe to Usenet newsgroups where people with similar interests could exchange ideas. There were newsgroups on almost every topic people shared an interest in, including aviation and advanced aircraft. It is no secret that sightings of highly classified aircraft have sometimes been obscured by passing them off as UFO reports. Likewise, it became clear to many people interested in the UFO phenomenon that as our own technology became more advanced it would become harder to separate the real phenomenon from something of our own making. So, it only made sense to try to keep up with whatever information was available on advanced aircraft and classified projects. That information was often available very quickly on the Internet.
At that time there was one particular newsgroup (a ‘listserv’) where members discussed a variety of aviation topics, from the SR-71 to almost anything new and interesting. I was a subscriber, and each day or so I received an email packed with the latest messages sent to the “Skunkworks Digest”. The message subjects were always listed first making it easy to scan down the headings for anything interesting. On occasion there would be talk of the secret Aurora aircraft or exotic propulsion concepts, but most of the time the subjects were fairly general and I scanned the headings without stopping. Then, one night in 1995, I came across an interesting message about a major breakthrough. A professor and two graduate students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) had announced a “revolutionary approach to aerospacecraft propulsion”.
I had never heard of RPI, but what was being described in that message struck a chord. The professor and his students had apparently conducted an experiment in a hypershock tunnel that demonstrated the potential for using energy beams to reduce drag on aircraft. A hypershock tunnel is similar in some ways to a wind tunnel, but it is designed for testing at very high mach numbers. To produce the effects of hypersonic speeds, extreme pressures are built up and then suddenly released down the tunnel. Experimental models can be mounted inside and tested for aerodynamics and concurrent shock wave effects. The description I read brought such an incredible sense of déjà vu that I quickly went to the RPI web site to read the actual article. There, in the May issue of the RPI “Review”, was a small black and white picture of a disc standing on-edge with a narrow spike extending forward from its center. In that small picture a powerful burst of energy at the tip of the spike could be seen spreading the oncoming shock wave so that rather than hitting the disc full force it would pass around the edge of it. At that instant there was no doubt at all that what I was seeing was, for all intents and purposes, a small model of the object I had seen in Ray Stanford’s film. It was so clear that it was a bit unnerving. I had never heard of this professor but, as I read what he envisioned as possible using this new concept, I realized it was almost identical to what I had seen in Ray’s pictures. It was only a matter of minutes before I was on the telephone calling Ray.
After the usual hellos, I got right to the point and told him I had come across an article about an intriguing experiment that I thought was a spitting image for what he had on film. In the years since then he has often kidded me for suggesting that I thought perhaps someone had broken into his files. On that night however, I had barely started to read the article to him when I reached the name of the professor who had made the breakthrough. It was a very unusual name, and I hesitated for a moment trying to find the correct pronunciation. But I came close enough that Ray suddenly interrupted and said, “Oh that must be Leik Myrabo from RPI. He was here at my house a few years ago and spent three days looking at my films!”
To say I almost fell over would be an understatement.
I had never known about Myrabo’s visit, and Ray certainly had no idea what I was about to read to him. The significance of this incredible turn of events left me almost speechless. I told Ray that he had better sit down, and I heard him call to his wife to get on the phone and listen as I read the entire article. I will never forget his words once I had finished reading…
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that UFO research doesn’t pay off.”
That small experiment had validated the entire phenomenon. It had substantiated the claim that there are vehicles in our skies demonstrating levels of technology of which our own scientists were not yet capable. It absolutely and unequivocally invalidated the claim by the Air Force that nothing in the study of UFO’s had led to any advances in our scientific knowledge. I knew it, Ray knew it, and obviously some others knew it. In my opinion the game was over, the proof had been provided in a simple and elegant way. Who could deny this kind of evidence once they saw it? Well, it turns out Science and Ufology have at least one thing in common—the truth sometimes takes a back seat to more pressing concerns.
By the time I hung up the telephone I had learned how Dr. Leik Myrabo happened to hear about Ray and how he had finally appeared at Ray’s doorstep. It was a twisted route of serendipitous events, every bit as lucky as my spotting the article on Myrabo’s recent successful tests. In short, a young man who had known Ray for some time had decided to study engineering and, as fate would have it, had ended up at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. While there, he had met Leik Myrabo and in due course had apparently mentioned to Myrabo that if he saw what Ray had on film he would be “years ahead” of where he was then. Even with such a strong recommendation, Myrabo did not immediately make a trip to see Ray’s images. It was some time later when Myrabo happened to be in the Washington D.C. area for something else that he decided to call on Ray. That side trip turned into a visit of several days.
Over the years since that memorable telephone call, Ray has, on numerous occasions, talked about Myrabo’s reaction to seeing the images. I could tell from the way Ray spoke of it that he had been very happy with Myrabo’s response. From then on I wanted to know everything I could about Myrabo, both who he was and what his interests were. Over the next several months, I spent time searching for information on his background and his prior research, beginning with the information available on the RPI web site. Then, in September of 1995, an article appeared in Popular Mechanics
about his ideas and his work.
The most startling thing to me was the magazine’s story illustration—a disc-shaped vehicle blazing its way to the boundary of space. Though Myrabo had been working on lightweight spacecraft for some time, accompanying the article in Popular Mechanics was an illustration of a vehicle almost identical to what I had seen in Ray’s images, including the new concept of an “air spike” projecting ahead of it. It was very exciting to realize that, for all intents and purposes, our own technology was advancing based on concepts realized from seeing a film of something the public was being told did not exist!
At the time I had a small web site under the title “UFO’s: A Closer Look…” where I had posted a few articles I had written, notably on the Socorro case and the events surrounding Paul Bennewitz. After I found out about the RPI experiment and Myrabo’s connection to Ray’s film, and then having seen the illustration with the article in Popular Mechanics, I was determined to write an article revealing everything that I knew. In fact, I did write it. I included several illustrations of my own of the vehicle in Ray’s film and I included a link to the above article in Popular Mechanics. But at the last moment, just as I was about to publish it, I had second thoughts. I began to feel that if Myrabo was effectively proving that these vehicles do exist, even if the headlines were not saying it, then maybe it would be wiser to say nothing for the time being and let things progress.
I called Ray again and told him about the article I had written and that I had had second thoughts about publishing it, at least with all the names and connections in it. While things were still developing and Myrabo was building on the ideas I knew had come from Ray’s images, I certainly did not want to handicap him. As important as I believed the truth was, exposing the connection between Ray and Leik Myrabo at that time might actually be counterproductive. I had no desire to “out” Ray either.
At the time it did not even seem necessary because, considering how profound this development was, I was certain Ray would soon publish something himself. After talking with him, I came away convinced that we both felt, perhaps sooner rather than later, Leik Myrabo may even come out and reveal everything.
In the end I published a heavily edited version of my article, only pointing out the similarities between Myrabo’s experimental model and Air Spike concept, and an amazing film I had seen years earlier. I kept quiet about the real story. It seemed like the best thing to do at the time, and perhaps it was...but in the years since, I have often had my doubts.
“…nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge.”
—Edward U. Condon - 1968
(From an Air Force contracted study)
I made a point of following Myrabo’s work. He is by all accounts a brilliant engineer whose main area of interest at the time seemed focused on experiments with laser propulsion. Powerful lasers could be focused on small lightweight microsatellites in ways that could launch them off the earth, potentially into orbit. The pictures I saw of some of these experiments definitely fit the term “Lightcraft”, the name he had given to these laser launched vehicles. He had already imagined larger vehicles, some large enough to carry astronauts, and his early designs offered a fascinating look at brilliant and innovative thinking.