Mr Linenger is a retired Captain of the US Navy Medical Corps and a former NASA astronaut who flew on the Space Shuttle and Space Station Mir. During his stay aboard the low-orbit satellite – which was in operation from 1986 to 2001 – Mr Linenger became the first American to conduct a spacewalk from a foreign space station and in a non-American made spacesuit. In total, Mr Linenger and his two Russian colleagues spent five months on Mir, logging up approximately 50 million miles and orbiting the Earth 2,000 times.
He revealed during a live interview with Bild in 2018 some of the bizarre things he saw in that time.
He said: ”Well I’m going to stick my neck out, but how many people think I saw a UFO when I was up there?
“Well I did, I saw things in the true sense of the word, unidentified flying objects – don’t take me out of context there – no aliens.
“But I saw stuff that made me call my crewmates over and say ‘what the heck is that?’
“We’d look and sometimes it was metallic, it was like a spoon if you were off in the distance and in the province of space good luck figuring out if it’s a really small object close-by, something floated out of the airlock.”
Mr Linenger went on to explain how gauging a sense of distance in space is near-impossible.
He added: “Or is it something 100,000 miles away that’s the size of a big spacecraft? It’s very hard to distinguish that, usually it was something you could kind of explain, maybe an external tank or something like that.
“But you would see things and you go ‘wow, that’s cool – I don’t know what that was exactly, but it’s not a satellite’.
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“It’s doing something different, but that’s pretty cool to see something like that.
“Then you definitely, just like when you see something weird [on Earth], call everyone over like ‘I don’t care what you’re doing, get over here and take a look at this.”
While living aboard the space station, Linenger and his two Russian crew members also faced numerous difficulties.
The most severe fire ever aboard an orbiting spacecraft, including failures of on board systems (oxygen generator, carbon dioxide scrubbing, cooling line loop leaks, communication antenna tracking ability, urine collection and processing facility.
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They also suffered a near collision with a resupply cargo ship, loss of station electrical power, and loss of attitude control resulting in a slow, uncontrolled “tumble” through space.
In spite of these challenges and added demands on their time restrictions, they still accomplished all mission goals and 100 percent of the planned US science experiments.
Three years after returning to Earth, Linenger retired from both NASA and the US Navy to live a slower-paced life.