Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

The Amazing Story of the Salyut-6 Close Encounter


“On June 18, 1981, Gosplan called for an extraordinary conference, with the presence of UFO experts, cosmonauts and Soviet authorities, including military officers. Its moderator was the chief of the Soviet Space Program, General Georgi Timofeevict Beregovoy. Beside him was Vladimir Kovalyonok [Kovalenok], the cosmonaut who, along with Viktor Savinikh [Savinykh], stayed 77 days in space, aboard the Salyut-6 station. …  The revelation they made was to shock the world. It’s quite simply the story of a close encounter of the second kind – which didn’t go the third kind because mission control ordered: NYET. Salyut-6 made contact with an alien spaceship for fou4 days (with interruptions) and together they orbited Earth. The event involved five astronauts: Kovalyonok, Savinikh and three aliens aboard an unknown vehicle that had the shape of a sphere.” [Brazilian Manchete magazine, September 24, 1984]

It’s an Amazing Story. The tale describe how the cosmonauts managed to contact the extraterrestrial intelligences, first by a failed attempt flashing a light in Morse code, but eventually succeeding with an alleged mathematical message. There is also the physical description of the aliens, essentially human beings, or “similar to human beings”:

“They used light helmets, such as tight hoods. … They had thick and long eyebrows and straight noses, like those of Greek statues. What most impressed the cosmonauts were the eyes – large and blue, twice as large as ours – fixed on them, without a trace of emotion. Their traces were handsome, very dark. They reminded of solemn Hindu men. But no muscle moved on their faces. They looked like robots.”

It’s even more amazing because, according to the story, the contact was fully recorded in many photographs and a long film footage, which was shown in the Gosplan conference and even today must be kept highly secret in some Russian vault.


The bad news is that this amazing story is almost as fictional as those found on early pulp magazines such as Amazing Stories. It’s literally pulp fiction.

Russian researcher Boris Shurinov is especially critical of the promotion of this legend in the west. Quoting none other then Georgi Beregovoy – who was never chief of the Soviet Space Program – the source states quite clearly:

“Once I tried to investigate the subject myself. I read in a small Ukrainian paper about my  contacts with representatives of extraterrestrial civilizations and a film I allegedly showed members of the Politburo. I wanted to know where all that had come from, and found out it was a reproduction of an article published on Central Asia which in turn used an article from abroad. This is the degree of authenticity of this information.”

I also asked researcher Mikhail Gershtein, who kindly informed that another primary source in the story denies it all:

“In the documentary "V poiskah prisheltzev" ("In search of the extraterrestrials", 1988, in Russian) the producer showed this news clipping from the ‘National Enquirer’ to the astronaut Viktor Savinyh and translated some parts from it. Savinyh stated that it is pure lie: "They make us, the readers, fools as they want…"

Pure lies. But then, absence of confirmation, and even presence of denial can be taken by some as evidence of something to hide. The interesting thing is that the final source in the story confirms part of the story.

I saw this object and then something happened I could not explain”, repeatedly claimed Kovalenok.

“The object was the size of a finger. I was surprised to see it was an orbiting object … "It was hard to determine the size and the speed of an object in space. That is why I can not say exactly, which size it actually was. Savinykh prepared to take a picture of it, but the UFO suddenly exploded. Only clouds of smoke were left. The object split into two interconnected pieces. It was reminiscent of a dumb-bell. I reported about it to the Mission Control immediately.”

Kovalenok even made a drawing of the object.


“The Soviet press headlined the event widely. Soviet newspapers and magazines published a lot of articles and messages about it, but they were mostly critical articles. Journalists excluded the existence of the extraterrestrial reason. It was probably a UFO, but it was definitely not mysticism – two people watched it at the same time.”

Now, this is confirmation of a UFO, but there’s no mention of the Gosplan conference, nor of Hindu aliens, and not even a single picture. Where did those details came from?

Yes, it was invented on the West by some ‘yellow press’ writer – maybe Henry Gris”, Gershtein answered me. “In Russia this wild story was known only from the ‘National Enquirer’ article”. Indeed, the single source for all those amazing details is an article by Henry Gris on that pulp tabloid, the National Enquirer.

At the time the Enquirer was deeply involved with the UFOria, and wild tales “from behind the Iron Curtain”, where the stories could not be checked, were a carte blanche to embellish things. If the Amazing Story of Salyut-6 sounded extraordinary, what about the “Space Alien Baby Found Alive”?


The MUFON bulletin reprinted in 1983 a critical article by Anders Liljegren which exposed items from the Enquirer such as “Soviet Ships Buzzed by UFOs from Under the Sea” and “Space Alien Blasts Forest Rangers With a Bizarre Ray”, which Liljegren noted was copied almost verbatim from the details of a Finnish case that happened ten years before. “UFO researchers should put their NE issues into the depths of their waste-paper baskets where they rightly belong”, he recommended.


But even the purple space alien baby kept alive for a couple of months was taken seriously by some believers, and has been quoted as a real story that was covered up. The Salyut-6 legend is very prominent in Latin America, and the Brazilian UFO magazine promoted it as a real event in  no less than two cover articles, one published in 1985 – when the story was fresh, and from where these wonderful illustrations came from – and the other in 2002, where they actually quoted Kovalenok latest statements, but still had not figured the legend out. This is the magazine that announced Jesus would come in a flying saucer. In April 2007.

In this review of the legend, I trusted the work of Shurinov and Gershtein, and could not find a fac-simile of Gris original item – the best I worked on was a full Italian translation. If you didn’t throw your Enquirer issue on the waste bin, I would really like to see the source for this tale I first heard when I was a kid!


To sum it up: a UFO was sighted by Kovalenok and Savinikh aboard the Salyut-6 on May 5, 1981. But they couldn’t determine its distance and size, nor record it as the whole event lasted for only a few moments. The not exactly extraordinary sighting transpired in the Russian press, where intrepid Enquirer journalists such as Henry Gris picked it up and embellished it with the Hindu aliens. One has to concede it’s an interesting, if kitsch, tale. From the Enquirer the story circulated to the world, and made full circle back and past the Iron Curtain.

But what did the cosmonauts saw? In early 1978 there was another UFO sighting aboard the Salyut-6 space station, and this is yet another long story. But like the Amazing Enquirer Story, no record was captured and James Oberg suggests they could have seen a jettisoned trash bag.

If it had some Enquirer UFO issues inside it, as Liljegren recommended, it would make for a funny story.

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Posted in Aliens,UFOs | 2 comments

2 Comments so far

  1. Jim Oberg May 30th, 2011 10:52 am

    Good summary, fine investigation.

    The original story may have been in the ‘Weekly World News’, a sister publication to the ‘National enquirier’, and I may still have a copy of the clipping.

    Trash bags were what cosmonaut Georgiy Grechko reeported seeing on his first Salyut mission, and for a few moments the hairs on the back of his neck stood up, he recalled. Another bag actually jammed a docking hook on a later mission and required an emergency spacewalk to clear it.

    I consider the Kovalyonok original report of genuine interest. I note it occurred near sunrise near the South African missile test range at Overberg, back when they were starting to develop missiles to carry their secret A-bomb. But so far I’ve had no success in accessing actual launch records.

  2. ahalilguzel December 18th, 2011 5:53 pm

    ich glaube diese geschichte,k die aliens waren türken und keine hindus. das wort TÜRK heisst gottes söhne, die türken haben vebindung mit aliens früher waren nur türken in der erde in europa in asien und in amerika kontinent, sie haben in china weiße pramiten gebaut vor 10.000 jahre, die sümeren , mayas azteken inkas uyguren , die hunen alle waren türkischer volker.

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