Nasa's Unexplained Files (2012) s06e01 Episode Script

Saturns Moon Monsters

1 The monster outside your spacecraft.
If someone was knocking on your space-capsule door, would you open it? The aliens inside mutated, moving and munching on astronauts.
Alien creatures come bursting out of you, eating their way out of you.
And electric creatures from the electric planet.
What's the first thing it would go for? Would our power grids be the best buffet that it's ever had? These are NASA's unexplained files.
October 15, 2003.
Yang Liwei has been selected to become the first Chinese astronaut.
It's a big moment in a country when you send people to outer space for the first time, it's a big undertaking.
It's very difficult.
A lot of things can go wrong.
This will be a solo mission.
Yang will be utterly alone At least, that's the theory.
There's a different pressure if you're flying alone.
You know, Americans haven't flown alone since the Mercury program.
To be the first representative of your nation being launched into space for the first time on an untested spacecraft has to be terrifying.
He is under incredible pressure, incredible stress.
Initially, nothing seems strange.
Yang blasts off from the rocket site in inner Mongolia.
Launching a rocket is very perilous business.
1,000 things could go wrong.
The only difference between a bomb and a rocket motor is one has a hole in the back of it.
10 minutes later, Yang is 210 miles above earth On his own.
He's sure he's on his own.
You can't imagine how Yang felt after the rocket engines stopped rumbling and shaking him and he's safely in orbit.
The engines have cut off and you're starting to experience a microgravity or free floating, and there's just this quiet and this Serenity that happens.
In the dead emptiness of space, everything is silence.
Yang is the loneliest man alive.
Yang is getting ready for the work that he's going to be doing on orbit before he comes back down, and something unexpected happens.
All of a sudden, he hears this knocking.
It sounded like someone knocking at the door.
Anything that's a loud bang, that'd get the adrenaline flowing.
I can imagine how fearful he might have felt, thinking it might have been something that hit his capsule or something broke or maybe something more sinister was occurring.
The knocking shocks Yang.
It seems unreal.
The first thing you'd do is you'd check your instrumentation.
See if there are any emergencies the computer's detected or any malfunctions.
Is the skin of the spacecraft, is it peeling off? All readouts on the ship are normal.
There are no leaks, no depressurization.
To his horror, he hears the knocking again.
With all rational explanations rejected, he has to face a bizarre and terrifying possibility.
Is there something outside knocking to get in? Outside the capsule, it's minus 455 degrees.
There is no oxygen.
A human being outside the craft without a suit would find their body swelling to twice its size, as gas bubbles form under their skin.
There is only one creature known to man that can withstand these conditions A tiny, strange animal called a tardigrade.
Tardigrades actually produce antioxidants in their body that helps fight against the lack of oxygen.
But tardigrades don't knock.
At least not the kind we have on earth.
You're like, "wait a minute, what's out there?" He looks out the window.
Is a face gonna stare back at him? He doesn't see anything.
There's no explanation.
That's almost worse.
Is this just a figment of his imagination, you know, space madness, if you will? Your mind will start to wander, and none of those places that your mind stops is a good place.
I believe that it is possible to imagine things if you allow yourself to do it.
One of the greatest fears of every space agency is the extent to which space travel hammers the human mind.
We've done experiments on earth, putting people into small, contained spaces for long periods of time to see how they interact.
In 1999, an international crew enters an isolation chamber in Moscow for a 110-day psychological experiment to see how humans cope living and working in space.
It didn't go very well.
It's like living with roommates that you can never get away from.
I think it started verbally.
Next thing you know, they're physically fighting, trying to kill each other.
This was serious business, man.
There was blood on the walls.
Now, is it possible that Yang was going through a very similar type of space dementia and maybe that's where this knocking sound came from? But Yang's in orbit for less than a day, hardly time for space dementia to set in.
You know, Yang and I go back a little bit.
I can tell you he's a real stable person.
If he said he heard something, I believe he heard something.
Yang, aware of how rigorously China monitors and tests his psychological responses, keeps his cool when speaking to mission control.
If you're an astronaut and you want to fly again, you have to be very careful of what you say and to whom.
Yang knows the knocking is real but dares not show any fear.
He has been in space for 21 nerve-shredding hours, and throughout, the knocking continues.
That's a tough psychological challenge, and it's one that is very difficult to stay on an even keel with.
He now faces his final test, re-entry.
When you panic, what are you gonna do? You're in space.
Coming up, as Yang plunges towards the planet, is death at his door? Yeah, I'd be freaked out if I was him.
And could electric creatures from titan bring havoc to life on earth? Basically say bye-bye to our electric world.
October 2003.
China's first astronaut, Yang Liwei, is in space alone when he's terrified to hear someone or something knocking on the outside of his spacecraft.
He attempts to steer his craft back into the earth's atmosphere at over 17,000 miles per hour.
You're going so fast that the air actually ionizes outside, and that produces this hot plasma.
The plasma is in the thousands of degrees.
The craft eventually slows as a single parachute is released.
Landing rockets fire, and to Yang's great relief, his craft touches down safely in the gobi desert, inner Mongolia.
Yang worries that he will be thought mad or mentally disturbed, so he keeps quiet about the knocking on the outside of his capsule.
But privately, he becomes obsessed by it.
His best guess is that it's some kind of thermal effect.
As the spacecraft orbits the earth, its exterior is subjected to these tremendous changes of temperature, from the roasting sun to the freezing darkness of space.
So unless you rotate a spacecraft, you can't evenly distribute the temperature.
It's sort of like a rotisserie in a grill.
Yang starts secret tests in his own lab.
So he takes materials that are from his shenzhou five spacecraft and tries to subject them to different kinds of heat and to try to replicate the conditions that the capsule had experienced.
Despite years of repeated experiments, subjecting the materials from the craft to every type of stress, he cannot replicate the ghostly knocking.
As a engineer, people don't like to not be able to explain things with physics.
Eventually, Yang privately confesses what he heard to colleagues who've gone into space on subsequent shenzhou missions.
He can't let this go, and he tells the other astronauts that follow him about this knocking sound.
Their response amazes him.
They hear the same thing.
The question remains, why did so many astronauts hear it? What caused the noise? Was it something particular to that type of spacecraft, or was there something outside knocking, maybe trying to get in? Imagine earth visited by creatures from an electric world, beings created by electricity, who live by electricity who feed on pure power, who by their very makeup are able to harness and shape electricity, to use it to defend and attack.
This is the stuff of science fiction.
At least it was, until NASA makes an extraordinary discovery among the dunes of titan.
What monster could move these mountains of sand? June 30, 2004.
NASA's cassini probe goes into orbit around saturn.
It is the first spacecraft to do so, and beyond that, the first to study closely the planet's largest moon, the remarkable and mysterious titan.
Of all the worlds in the solar system, titan is actually the one that is arguably the most like earth.
You've got mountains, you've got rivers, you've got oceans, you've got clouds.
But in other respects, titan is quite different than earth.
It's something like minus 250 degrees.
You'd freeze to death.
This frozen world is a terrifying place.
There's no oxygen in the atmosphere.
It's all methane and nitrogen and even molecules that could be toxic to us.
Titan would be hell for humans but a perfect home for another very different kind of creature.
It's got all the ingredients for life, but not as we know it.
In 2004, NASA's cassini spacecraft reaches titan and maps a vast desert of what looks like sand dunes around the equator.
These dunes are as tall as the statue of Liberty.
Earth's dunes are made out of sand, out of silica, out of ground-down rock, but titan's are made out of frozen hydrocarbons and other organic molecules.
The dunes seem alive.
What's more, they're pointing in a direction that defies logic.
When scientists looked at the shape of the dunes from cassini, we noticed that hey, you know, the dunes are all pointing in one direction.
They're moving from the west to the east across titan, but when we talked to the atmospheric modelers, they said, "no, the atmosphere of titan" is moving from the east to the west.
" So how is it possible that you have these giant dunes facing the opposite direction that the wind is blowing? It just doesn't make sense.
To investigate further, cassini sends the huygens landing module to titan's surface.
Could there be something other than the wind that is acting on these dunes? Scientists come to an incredible conclusion The dunes are electric and this electricity is generated by titan's super powerful winds.
As the wind blows them around, these grains of frozen hydrocarbons rub up against each other and form an electrostatic charge like clothes in a dryer and that electrostatic charge clumps them together and holds their shape even in the face of the wind.
This whole desert is zinging with electricity.
An electric planet alive with power, currents licking the surface and permeating the landscape.
Electricity explains the dunes but not the direction of them.
What could drive a massive sand dune back on itself and reverse its natural direction? Once again, scientists are forced to contemplate something truly amazing.
Is there something living in the sands of titan that are actually causing the direction that we see happening? We know from our own earth science that electric creatures could exist on an electric planet.
Incredible new research on earth has uncovered a new kind of life form that might be right at home on titan.
These are microbes.
They can take electricity in its simplest form and produce that into energy and grow and reproduce.
These microorganisms that we are discovering now can actually eat and breathe electricity directly.
Bacteria that feeds on electricity? Well, that just opens up all kinds of possibilities for life.
The deserts of titan would be like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Titan is just a ball of fuel.
If you're the right kind of organism, there's a huge amount of energy to be gained from all that stuff.
There are indeed creatures who eat and breathe electricity, but on titan, they may be far bigger than the tiny electricity-eating microbes found on earth.
For the scale of landscape engineering that we're seeing here, these creatures have to be massive.
Coming up, power wars when electricity-eating monsters in our own solar system get hungry.
We would go back to the dark ages.
And an astronomer decodes a star chart said to have been made by aliens.
The map actually leads us to a constellation known as Zeta Reticuli.
Writers have conjured up the idea of electric monsters, embodiments of power driven by the need to acquire it and willing to use it for their own ends.
Science fantasy, it seemed, until NASA discovers what seems like an electric planet habitable by electric creatures in our own solar system.
Titan, saturn’s largest moon a world crackling with electricity.
Its landscape appears unnatural, formed not by the super powerful winds that blast the surface, but rather, it may be by giant sand-dwelling creatures who live off electricity.
Life forms on earth show the potential for such creatures to evolve.
On earth, we have sand worms.
We have creatures that generate electricity, even creatures that could survive on titan.
One of the most successful body plans in effect are nematode worms.
Nematode worms are extremophiles, able to survive in the most hostile environments on earth, such as volcanic deep-sea vents.
You can find them living almost everywhere on earth.
In fact, about four out of about every five creatures on this earth is a nematode worm.
They are all over the place.
You've eaten some today, I guarantee it.
In the atmosphere of titan, creatures that are tiny on earth could grow to enormous sizes.
Life on earth is limited by the forces of gravity.
This is why we don't see organisms like a butterfly that gets as big as an eagle, because gravity keeps them smaller.
Titan has gravity that's about 1/7 the earth's, and that could potentially allow creatures if they evolved on titan to be bigger than what you would expect on earth.
You could even imagine that on titan that we have something like frank Herbert's "dune," a famous Sci-Fi novel and movie, where you have these gigantic worm-like creatures that are just marauding through the deserts on their planet.
Maybe the same thing's happening on titan.
What if space debris from some asteroid collision or an infected probe were to carry organic material the short distance from titan to earth? What's the first thing it would go for? Would our power grids be the best buffet that it's ever had? They would have a voltage smorgasbord and suck all the power out of the earth's electric system.
We would go back to the dark ages.
The next NASA craft heading to titan could be dragonfly, due to land there in 2034.
Until then, we don't know what might be roaming the sands of titan.
We cannot tell what electric beings might look like.
We can only hope that when dragonfly arrives, what happens on titan stays on titan.
In 2008, scientists detect 20 large objects a year passing close to the earth.
By 2018, that number has more than tripled to 76.
It's terrifying.
The recent alarming rise in the number of asteroids almost hitting our planet is greatly increasing the likelihood of an earth-shattering apocalypse.
It's gonna be a disaster unlike anything we have seen in recorded human history.
Death from the skies could be due any day.
But why is there such a rapid and worrying rise in the number of near-misses? Astronomers have recently discovered we are about to enter what is in effect a kind of gigantic asteroid minefield.
The earth moves around the sun, but our whole solar system is actually moving in the milky way.
Our solar system slowly moves up and down like a cosmic fairground carousel through the plain of the galaxy, and that movement has terrifying consequences.
So the universe is massive, but there's about 80% of that stuff we cannot see.
We call that dark matter.
The leading theory for dark matter is these particles probably form a thin disk of dark matter throughout our galaxy.
Researchers believe that this disk of dark matter has enormous gravitational powers.
As our sun moves up and down through our galaxy, it hits denser bands, and it just might be that dark matter is causing objects to be thrown our way.
Effectively, dark matter is using its gravity well to slingshot asteroids and comets towards us.
Earth has not passed through this terrifying danger zone of dark matter for tens of millions of years, but the increasing number of asteroids suggests we may be headed for the dark-matter disk once more and at speed.
The result could be nothing less than a planetary catastrophe.
We're going up and down within the plain of the galaxy.
The period between those peaks is about 64 million years.
Cut that in half and you have about the period between extinction events on earth.
66 million years ago, the dinosaurs had a very bad day.
At that time, a celestial object over seven miles across plowed into the planet.
All the dinosaurs could do was look up at space, look at this humongous asteroid coming into the atmosphere, and enjoy the spectacle.
It smashed down near chicxulub, Mexico.
The chicxulub crater is enormous.
It's almost as wide as the state of Connecticut.
The impact on earth was apocalyptic.
The giant reptiles that had ruled the planet for hundreds of millions of years were wiped out.
When you get a large impact, all the material that's thrown up into the atmosphere then creates basically like a nuclear winter, killing off all kinds of organisms.
You start killing off the plants, you start changing the food chain, and then eventually, large dinosaurs, they're gone.
Just over 30 million years later, history repeated itself.
The earth was catastrophically struck again.
The popigai crater in Siberia is large enough to swallow New York City eight times over.
This impact causes the eocene extinction, in which many European species were wiped out.
When we look at the geological history of earth, and earth's layers are kind of like a book, it tells us that every 33, 35 million years, we get hit by something big.
The big worry is, well, we're due now.
Coming up, can we fight back against the dark-matter disk of death? What weapons can we use against this global killer? And space mutates the bugs in our bodies into alien killers.
It's only a matter of time before some strain emerges that we have no defense against.
Scientists have calculated the solar system passes through a deadly dark-matter disk every 30 million years.
Every time it does so, a barrage of life-exterminating asteroids get flung at the earth And sure enough, astronomers are warning that over the past few years, the number of major asteroids narrowly missing the earth is increasing rapidly.
So if we're talking about an impact on land, the crater is gonna be 20,000 foot in diameter, and then the devastation is gonna be 50 to 100 miles beyond that.
A blast of 500-mile-an-hour winds carrying a barrage of rocks the size of washing machines would flatten 90% of tress, buildings, and Bridges.
As devastating as a land strike would be, a hit off the coast could be even more deadly.
We're talking about setting out radial tsunamis in all directions.
If you don't get out of the strike zone, you're gonna be dead.
As we enter the dark-matter disk again, scientists are racing to plan defenses against death by asteroid.
The first solution is the same thing you may have seen in movies Nuke it.
But the most a nuke would likely do is fracture the asteroid into several no less deadly pieces.
The scale of these objects and the speed at which they're traveling is so large that a nuclear bomb probably wouldn't stop them anyway.
It's gonna be like a gnat hitting a jumbo jet.
It's not gonna be enough, but maybe you could nudge it out of the way, the same way that you might hit one ball against another one in a game of pool.
NASA is investigating whether it's possible to nudge these planet killers out of the way.
Well, we've actually hit an object in space before.
In 2005, NASA launched a mission called deep impact.
Deep impact's mission was to fire an 820-pound copper core into the tempel one comet to bring material up from beneath its surface for analysis.
Now, that copper was traveling at 23,000 miles per hour, and when it impacted that comet, it moved it just a little bit.
Even a tiny change in direction over hundreds of thousands of miles could be enough to cause an asteroid to miss the earth.
If you can move its orbit just a little bit and if you do it early enough, by the time it gets to where earth is, it misses us entirely.
If we can catch earthbound asteroids early enough and if we hit them hard, we may be able to deflect them.
NASA is already working on such an asteroid-deflection defense system.
Didymos b will be passing close by the earth in 2022, and NASA's dart mission is going to intercept it.
It's a bit like playing pool in space, except if you make the right shot, the prize is our survival.
But NASA's mission to Didymos is still three years away and has no guarantee of success.
In the meantime, the number of space rocks headed our way seems to be growing fast.
We may soon be facing a blitzkrieg of earth-shattering asteroids.
If we saw a relatively large object on a collision course with earth over the next few years, we wouldn't be able to do anything about it.
At this moment, there could be asteroids coming towards earth to spell our doom.
It is curiosity that has driven humans to send its astronauts and spaceships into the cosmos, but what they are bringing back is so much more than mere scientific data.
There is life out there, and it is about to impact us on earth.
March 2, 2016.
After 340 days in space, astronaut Scott Kelly returns home.
But doctors are shocked to discover his body is ravaged by the trip.
We're sending prime-specimen humans into space.
The astronauts are top-notch athletes.
They're supposed to be cream of the crop, but they get sick just from going into space and being in space.
Kelly is super fit, but like all humans, he carries thousands of different types of germs on or in his body.
When they are taken up into space, it seems these germs are beginning to mutate in deadly ways.
They grow faster in space.
We didn't know that.
The the longer astronauts spend in space, the worse it gets, as ever more mutations take place at an ever-faster rate.
And yet, going further into space will demand ever-longer journeys.
The longer we stay in space, the greater the chance of a biological catastrophe arising for when these microorganisms mutate and turn hostile.
Coming up, space pioneers plagued by parasitic passengers.
What happens if they mutate and they grow bigger and they're hungrier than normal? And a star map said to have been shown to humans by aliens.
If this map is true It's the most important map in human history.
Every astronaut is infested with trillions of tiny life forms.
They make up as much as five pounds of a human's total body weight.
A human being is actually like a spaceship.
We're a vessel.
We're carrying with us all sorts of organisms Bacterias, viruses, all sorts of microbial life that go with us wherever we go.
When you send a person into space, you're not just sending one organism, you're sending a whole ecosystem.
Inside our guts are an average of 40 trillion bacteria.
They also coat our skin and populate our lungs.
On earth, they're mostly not harmful.
Many are absolutely necessary.
They're required for digesting food, they're required in our immune system, they're required for all sorts of things, and when they go away or when they change, we usually notice this through some sort of ailment.
Scientists call this internal cargo of helpful alien creatures the microbiome, but in space, the aliens inside us are turning from friend to foe.
Away from the protection of earth's magnetic fields, you get much more exposure to radiation from the solar wind, and you're facing the potential for higher rates of mutation.
You're facing the possibility of bugs turning bad quicker.
The microbiome, the creatures that we are carrying into space with us as we go, could become superbugs and could become extremely deadly.
When they mutate, these alien microbes inside us don't just make us ill.
Scientists have discovered that they are also able to take over our minds.
The microbiome is considered almost a second brain.
There are connections to the brain via nerves in the body that affect our emotions and how we respond.
These tiny organisms affect and can even control our memory, our decisions, even our state of mind.
It raises the possibility that in this relationship, the bacteria are the puppet masters.
The whole human race could be living under their influence.
Mutant space viruses would produce altered human behavior never seen before on earth.
We don't want that to happen in space, where lots of risk could be involved by having one person go off the wheel.
Aware of the danger, NASA is looking for ways to feed healthy germs to astronauts, but its efforts so far are both crude and disgusting.
What doctors have found they can do is do a microbiome transplant, which is done by a fecal transplant.
They actually take a healthy fecal sample from a donor and then ingest it.
So think about that.
You would be eating your own earthly poop.
There's no amount of mayonnaise, ketchup, or mustard that you can put on this.
Feeding astronauts human excrement is a measure that can fight breaking-bad bacteria, but scientists have no way of protecting them against mutant parasites.
Human bodies can play host to over 350 known species, from single-celled protozoa like malaria to large multicellular tapeworms that burrow into your muscles, skin, eyes, or brain.
Some of these are extremely invasive, and they find their way to your gut.
There they'll lay eggs.
What happens if they mutate and they grow bigger and they're hungrier than normal? What's gonna happen to you when that happens? You might just watch in horror as these parasites just grow and expand and possibly even mutate, become more grotesque.
It could be very horrific, like in science-fiction stories, where alien creatures come bursting out of you or eating their way out of you.
That could be extremely horrific.
Zeta Reticuli is a twin star system 39 light years from earth.
Some suspect space agencies know more about this system than they're prepared to tell.
Now, in 1996, astronomers announced the discovery of a planet found in the zeta reticuli binary star system, but shortly after that, they retracted that information from the public.
There's a sort of cloud of ambiguity about this whole topic.
Does this does this star have a planet or not? Some linked this official ambiguity with an incident that happened in America in 1961.
Betty hill is a social worker.
Her husband, Barney, works for the postal service and is on a local board of the commission on civil rights.
As they are driving home to New Hampshire at night, they see a light in the sky.
It's not the moon.
The moon's in the wrong place.
It's not the planet Venus.
And it appeared to be rotating.
It appeared to be lighted on only one side, because they would see a blip kind of thing.
According to the hills, before they can speed away, a weird buzzing noise fills the car.
It caused the car to vibrate and a tingling sensation to pass through their bodies.
As if only a moment had passed, they were 35 miles down the highway.
When they look at their watches, and they can't account for three hours.
It's missing time.
And so the question is during those hours, what happened? 1961, American couple Betty and Barney hill see a strange light in the sky and lose all memory of the three hours afterwards.
Betty reports the alleged incident to pease air force base.
It's filed in air intelligence information records, but the story does not end there.
After having strange nightmares, the couple is referred to a hypnotherapist called Benjamin Simon.
During hypnosis, Simon invites the hills to recall every detail of what happened in those lost three hours.
And the story they tell is unbelievable.
Both Betty and Barney are brought aboard a spacecraft.
On the spacecraft, there are aliens.
They extracted DNA from both Betty and Barney Reproductive material, as well.
Barney and betty’s physical description of the aliens gives birth to a legend.
People usually observe this alien species as a big bulb head, gray skin, and big black eyes, with a tiny little nose and mouth.
They have two arms, two hands, two feet, and they function and they walk around just like humanoids.
This species is referred to as the grays.
The grays.
The grays.
The grays.
43% of all the abduction stories that people report describe the same exact creature, the gray.
Betty hill and her husband are the very first people to claim to have met and been examined by a gray.
After betty’s examination was over, she was left alone with the one that she called the leader.
Betty actually asks the head gray, "where are you from?" When she said that, he produced a three-dimensional-looking map.
So under hypnotic regression, she actually draws the star map.
Betty draws a series of circles and dots.
Between 12 of these are lines, which Betty says show trade routes of the grays.
So now when she comes out of hypnosis, now they have a physical record of this star map that the aliens supposedly showed her.
People were laughing at Betty.
"Oh, those stars don't exist.
That is stupid.
" The problem is there is no pattern of sky visible from earth that looks like the picture that she made.
But the science of astronomy is advancing fast.
Eight years later, an amateur astronomer, Marjorie fish, decides to investigate betty’s star map using the newly released Gliese star catalog.
So by this time, and this is in the early '70s, scientists have been able to measure the distance to the nearest stars.
Marjorie fish uses this information to create a three-dimensional map of the sun's sort of galactic neighborhood.
Fish assumes that the grays' 3-d map shows a view from somewhere other than earth.
She spends five long years comparing betty’s pattern of dots with her 3-d model, hoping to discover the location of the grays' home world.
She twists it and turns it and kind of looks at it from different angles, until finally, she's able to kind of make a match between the map that was recovered under hypnosis and what she sees with her star sculpture.
And this is how she found that two major dots in the star map could be the Zeta Reticuli.
In this moment, she realized this was exactly what Betty drew.
It's a triumph for fish.
The findings are published in astronomy magazine, but despite the hills' description of the grays and betty’s brave attempt to recall where these aliens came from, the claims failed to convince astronomers.
It just proves that like if you look through enough combinations of random dots, you'll get another collection of random dots.
But some investigators don't accept the random-dot theory.
Betty's star map is pretty rudimentary, but it is possible that it actually does depict Zeta Reticuli.
It does look quite similar.
If this map is true If this map is true, it's the most important map in human history.
Whatever the truth of Betty and Barney's story, for many, Zeta Reticuli will remain in our imagination, the spiritual home of aliens, at least until the real thing comes along.