UFO fears quickly shot down

U.S. Army missile test from N.M. caused quite a stir in Cortez area

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This photo was taken around 6:30 a.m. Thursday looking south of the Cortez Airport. It shows the contrails of a missile that was launched from New Mexico. Witnesses reported seeing the sight from as far away as Phoenix, Tucson and Las Vegas, Nev. Enlargephoto

Photo Courtesy Holly Jensen

This photo was taken around 6:30 a.m. Thursday looking south of the Cortez Airport. It shows the contrails of a missile that was launched from New Mexico. Witnesses reported seeing the sight from as far away as Phoenix, Tucson and Las Vegas, Nev.

Montezuma County’s UFO incident on Thursday morning failed to live up to the July 1947 Roswell, N.M. UFO incident where many still think an alien spacecraft crashed into a New Mexico farm and killed all of those on board.

Cortez’s mystery was solved hours after it began with White Sands Missile Range reporting the mysterious light in the sky to the south was a missile that had been launched from Fort Wingate near Gallup, N.M.

Lisa Blevins, public affairs specialist for White Sands, said the light in the sky south of the Cortez Airport was from a missile contrail from the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico that is based just outside the city of Alamogordo.

Blevins confirmed the contrail was from a Juno ballistic missile that was fired at about 6:30 a.m. Thursday from Fort Wingate.

The Juno missile was then targeted by an advanced version of the Patriot missile fired from White Sands.

Blevins said the Patriot missile’s role was planned, and added the whole exercise went off without a hitch.

“We often launch targets from Fort Wingate,” she said. “This was a Juno target missile from Fort Wingate.”

She said reports the missile may have flown off course and had to be shot down were completely untrue.

“It was a great shot,” she said. “It flew to White Sands Missile Range where it was supposed to be intercepted by a Patriot missile.

“Everything went as planned,” she reiterated. “It was a perfect and beautiful launch. Everything I have been told is that everything went off as planned. There was no impact (to anyone).”

Blevins said the clear skies at launch time resulted in the missile becoming more visible, and there were reports the missile could be seen as far away as Phoenix, Tucson and Las Vegas.

She added that White Sands did not realize the view the public would have of the missile or the curiosity that came with the launch.

Cortez residents, who saw the light in the sky Thursday morning, were at a loss to explain what it was they had actually seen.

Russ Machen, Cortez Airport manager, had no idea what it was.

When contacted Thursday morning, he said that the mysterious fireball in the sky did not come from the airport.

He said the light in the sky was not present when a plane departed for Denver at about 6 a.m.

Machen also said the airport received calls from dispatch about explosions, but added it had nothing to do with the airport.

The last official reported UFO sighting listed on the National UFO Reporting Center website was Aug. 18.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com