Hartigan was returning from a low-orbit mission in his capsule Clarabella 7, but he never made it back to its ocean splashdown rendezvous point. The mystery was soon covered up by the U.S. government and the United States Space Administration, who claimed the craft crash-landed after becoming entangled in high-altitude weather balloons. Hartigan himself soon made first contact with the aliens and attempted to calmly explain his mission. His screams can still be heard echoing through a recorded log on the ship. He was placed in cryogenic stasis pod, but complications and pod malfunctions, plus the stress he endured during his alien encounters, caused the colonel to expire. His spacesuit is still functional, however.