Skhlovskii also speculated on another idea: that the second moon of Mars, Phobos, was an artificial satellite. He based this on flawed measurements of the moon’s acceleration, which seemed to indicate that Phobos was so light it had to be hollow and therefore artificial. Correct measurements, taken in 1969, showed this not to be the case. Phobos is, in fact, a natural object, though porous; however, the spaces within the moon are very, very small—most are less than a meter in diameter.
But the artificiality claim for Phobos set other Soviet scientists to thinking. Felix Zeigel (sometimes transliterated as Feliz), a Soviet cosmologist, took to Soviet television in 1967 to argue the case for UFOs, wrote a famous article about the subject, and pressured the Soviet government to investigate the UFO phenomenon. The Soviet government denied this request in 1968 (authorizing a debunking article in a major publication) and began moving away from the extraterrestrial craze at the very same time that Erich von Däniken and Peter Kolosimo were reviving it in the West, largely on the back of Soviet research.
Despite the change in Soviet attitudes toward aliens, researchers Mikhail Vasin and Alexander Shcherbakov published a new speculation in Sputnik magazine (not in a Soviet science journal), the same magazine that famously published Vyacheslav Saizev’s lengthy ancient astronaut article (the one data-mined endlessly by Western ancient astronaut writers) in 1967. This new speculation claimed that the moon was hollow and therefore an extraterrestrial spaceship.
…what we have here is a very ancient spaceship, the interior of which was filled with fuel for the engines, materials and appliances for repair work, navigation, instruments, observation equipment and all manner of machinery... in other words, everything necessary to enable this "caravelle of the Universe" to serve as a kind of Noah’s Ark of intelligence, perhaps even as the home of a whole civilization envisaging a prolonged (thousands of millions of years) existence and long wanderings through space (thousands of millions of miles).
Vasin and Shcherbakov explicitly state that Shklovskii—who would very shortly be known to have been wrong about Phobos—was their inspiration for their speculation. Like Shklovskii, they relied on bad data; both seismic data and inertia observations yield calculations showing a solid moon, one perhaps even denser than the earth itself.
Even though Vasin and Shcherbakov were members of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, their hypothesis did not find particular favor. That same year, the Soviet Academy of Physics denounced the UFO/ancient astronaut claims of Felix Zeigel as “fables,” signaling that the shift in Soviet attitudes that began in 1968 was complete. The Soviet government would no longer provide official support for fraudulent claims of extraterrestrial beings. After all, if the West—now in thrall to Erich von Däniken and the New Age—was turning to ancient astronauts and un-reason as a way of “saving” the “truth” of religious texts, then the secular, atheist Soviet Union would now take the opposite position. There would be no more Soviet ancient astronauts, lunar spaceships, or artificial Martian moons. Those were the now to be but the fantasies of the decadent West.
The clock struck thirteen, and they had always been at war with East Asia.