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James Oberg

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James "Jim" Oberg (1944–) is an American space journalist and historian. He also challenges the popular rhetoric for general UFO believers[1][2] and space conspiracy theorists. He's also a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.[3]

James Oberg is a former NASA contract engineer who is widely recognized as one of the leading Western authorities on the history of the Soviet space program[4] and an expert on orbital rendezvous techniques. He's worked in the trenches at NASA as an engineer (Johnson Space Center in Houston 1975-1997)[5] but he has a talent for bringing his area of expertise to the masses. He's big, friendly, engaging, and surprisingly telegenic for an engineer in his sixties. He speaks English, French, and Russian and has used his language skills and friendly demeanor to gain access to the heart of the Russian and European space establishments. He has given testimony before Congress.[6] He appears on PBS,[7] cable news,[8] and the Discovery Channel. He writes for a wide range of publications about space engineering.

Oberg is probably best known for authoring Red Star in Orbit (ISBN 0394514297), a history of the Soviet space effort up until 1981. In 1991, PBS transformed his book in a documentary series. HBO optioned Red Star in Orbit at some point for some future made-for-TV mini-series.

What's fascinating about Oberg is his involvement as a skeptic in the world of potential UFO researchers. For years he was a regular haunt on newsgroups like alt.alien.visitor. With humor and a vast store of knowledge he takes on the "they're up there" UFO crowd. It's quite a phenomenon to watch the wild eyed UFO enthusiasts accusing Oberg of being a NASA/CIA stooge, falsely attributing quotes to him, and generally just raging at someone who not only doesn't share their point of view but does not share it based on a sound body of historical and technical knowledge they might lack. The man has patience. He seems to able to affirm the truth over the UFO fringe time and time again. It's a joy to behold [Note: requires further research] and he often shows up on places like Youtube actively engaging UFO videos with discernible facts based on his own research as a NASA engineer.[9]

In 2002, after the 2001 Fox special rekindled the moon landing hoax conspiracy theory, NASA's history office offered him a contract and $15,000[10] to write a book debunking it. After some unfavorable news coverage in a politically delicate climate (just before the 2002 Senate and House elections), NASA higher-ups decided to drop the project.


Oberg won the 2014 AAS Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award for his December 2013 Astronomy article, “Torrid Mercury’s Icy Poles.”

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See also[edit]