University of Nevada, Las Vegas analyzed samples for BAASS

(Thanks to Keith Basterfield for his background research on this topic.)

In November 2018 Keith Basterfield posted an article titled « Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas » about a possible cooperation between BAASS and UNLV. Twitter user @Jay09784691 had previously located a 2010 newsletter from the Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies at UNLV that referred to an agreement between the university and BAASS.

"The Nuclear Materials Group (lead: Dr Thomas Hartmann) has established a formal collaboration with the Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS). The collaboration provides analytical assistance to BAASS for characterizing solid phases and precipitates."

HRC eNews — 2010 Spring : News release about the BAASS/UNLV cooperation (Available at :

Based in Las Vegas, BAASS was the sole contractor for the 22-million dollar Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program (AAWSAP), sponsored by the Defense Intelligence Agency. It is now established that BAASS did investigate UFO sightings, and evidence suggest that the company probably did so on behalf on the US Government. But according to official DoD statements, what AAWSAP produced through its only contractor, BAASS, was a couple of technical reports known as Defense Intelligence Reference Documents (DIRD) about possible advanced aerospace concepts.

List of the DIRD

In July 2018, a list of those 38 DIRD was released by George Knapp and KLAS. Then, in January 2019, Nick Pope posted a 2018 letter from the DIA to Senator John McCain that listed those same 38 DIRD and referred to them as "all products produced under the AATIP contract". According to many sources, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) began as the Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Application Program (AAWSAP) in 2008. No definitive history of both programs has been publicly released to this day, and it is not clear how they overlapped or how AATIP evolved from AAWSAP. Those 38 technical papers were, according to the DIA, the only thing that was requested from the AAWSAP/AATIP contractor, Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies. It was public knowledge that Dr. William Culbreth, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, authored 2 of those 38 Defense Intelligence Reference Documents (DIRD).

I reached out to Dr. William Culbreth who confirmed that he indeed was a consultant and wrote those 2 reports "that were required in a fairly short time period". Those reports were proprietary to BAASS, ended up as 2 of the 38 DIRD. Thanks to Keith Basterfield's research, I had prior knowledge of several BAASS employees who were former students of the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Dr. Culbreth confirmed that two of his former students had worked for BAASS in 2009 and 2010.

I submitted several public records requests with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to retrieve any documents, e.mails or contracts that may link BAASS to UNLV, but the Public Affairs Office could not identify any relevant records, nor did they find any trace of a formal contract between BAASS and UNLV.

UNLV analyzes samples

In April 2020, I wrote to Dr. Thomas HARTMANN, whose name appeared in the 2010 UNLV Harry Reid Center newsletter. He served as lead of the Nuclear Materials Group. Three weeks later, Dr. Hartmann, who no longer works at UNLV besides pro bono work as an Associate Professor, answered via e.mail to a list of questions about his cooperation with BAASS.

"I was looking through my data and noticed that we have indeed analyzed samples for BAASS represented by Colm Kelleher." Dr. Hartmann explained. "However, this sample analysis was never framed into a formal collaboration between BAASS and UNLV by a contract administered through the UNLV office of sponsored programs. However, we performed solid phase analysis and elemental analysis of about a dozen samples including a 50-page report, as a teaser project and in hope for a formal collaboration in the future. In the science world those kinds of pro bono work is not unusual, which I used to train students on analytical equipment without applying QA [quality assurance] protocols."

I asked Dr. Hartmann what kind of samples his UNLV group was provided with, and also asked for a copy of this 50-page report. "I was looking for the report already and it must be on one of my older systems. I have some backup data and will look through them. But the basic idea of Colm Kelleher was to identify traces of Alien life in Nevada. I agree that this is not much scientific."

A few days later, Dr. Hartmann replied. "I was not able to retrieve the final report, but some sub-reports and an overview on samples and the requested analysis."

Unfortunately, the final 50-page report is probably lost, but Dr. Hartmann was kind enough to send me a list of the different samples his team analyzed for BAASS, and 4 sub-reports. He also provided some additional comments : "Mr. Kelleher’s intent was to trace alien live in Nevada. So he provided us with some spheres which turned out to be ion exchange beads. Or a rock sample with traces of hydraulic fluid... which didn’t turned out alien as well. Further we analyzed some brown liquid in a plastic bottle which did not contain poison but was just muddy water. I hope this provides some ideas about the level of research Mr. Kelleher was addressing us with."
(Note : Dr. Hartmann probably meant "life" instead of "live" in his statement. It is likely a typo.) 

Hydraulic fluid and burnt wood...

Here are a few screenshots of the sub-reports, and the list of samples sent by Kelleher to Dr. Hartmann's team. It is worth noting that one sample is listed as "Rock taken from Utah Mesa", which is likely some rock from the infamous Skinwalker Ranch. The Ranch was owned by Robert Bigelow till 2016, and was an alleged hotspot of paranormal activity in the Unintah Basin, Utah.

A questionable approach

BAASS interest in physical evidence was already covered by Keith Basterfield and myself in a May 2020 article. While investigating BAASS operations in South America, we had already discovered that BAASS was trying to obtain samples and physical evidence from Ufologists in Brazil. It is no surprise that they also collected samples on US soil. It is worth noting that qualified scientists such as Dr. Hartmann cast doubt on the level of scientific rigor shown by BAASS managers. It is not the first time that we hear about BAASS amateurish and dubious approach. During the course of our investigation of BAASS activities in Brazil, Keith Basterfield and I were surprised to hear about BAASS people's lack of knowledge in UFO history and the naive questions they asked to Brazilian UFO organizations about UFO propulsion systems. In addition, some of the 38 DIRD ordered by BAASS to subcontractors rely on "dubious projects based on more questionable science", and "borderline fringe science", as experts told The Drive journalists in a January 2019 article.

Extraordinary materials... or pieces of junk ?

The 2017 New York Times article "Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program" reported that "the company [BAASS] modified buildings in Las Vegas for the storage of metal alloys and other materials that Mr. Elizondo and program contractors said had been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena." As it turns out, those materials could actually only be pieces of burnt wood and junk, and not metal alloys with extraordinary properties. In conclusion, the more we learn about this program and BAASS, the more dubious and amateurish the whole operation looks. After all, maybe it was just Bob Bigelow's own UFO research project funded by government money, using fringe science and dubious methods...



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