Hearings in the US Congress on the alleged storage by the Pentagon of the wreckage of alien ships stirred up public interest in the topic of aliens. While astronomers claim they see no evidence extraterrestrial intelligence, the authorities create agencies to collect data on UFOs, and people in uniform under oath declare captured “flying saucers”. The Insider has followed how the American government has been trying to deal with flying saucers for almost 70 years, and the pseudoscience of ufology has turned into respectable nafology.
UFOs and earthlings: first contacts
“I believe – I do not believe”: ufology vs. SETI
The Truth Is Out There: Nafology in the Service of the Pentagon
David Grush, Afghan War Veteran former An employee of the Pentagon’s geospatial intelligence unit and an employee of the department for collecting data on unidentified atmospheric objects accused the US military of hiding physical evidence of the presence of intelligent aliens on Earth. At special hearings in the US Congress, under oath, he stated that the Pentagon was hiding the wreckage of extraterrestrial spacecraft and the “biological materials” found in them. According to him, several US citizens were killed in order to hide this important information.
These events could well have become the plot of an action-packed Hollywood movie, but at the end of July, the US Congress really gathered to listen to the veteran and discuss his words. However, the more he spoke, the less exciting the plot became. Grush did not see anything of the statements with his own eyes, and all his statements were only a retelling of the statements of other people, whose names he refused to name for their safety. As a result, no new information about aliens or revelations of a government conspiracy came out, but the hearings themselves confirmed high-level attention to the problem and fueled a new wave of interest in unidentified phenomena in the sky.
David Grush (center) with like-minded people, takes the oath before the hearingUFOs and earthlings: first contacts
Since ancient times, people have observed phenomena inexplicable to them overhead, but the first alleged UFO sighting that gained fame occurred in 1947. Civilian pilot Kenneth Arnold told the media about what he saw strange aircraft, “flying like a saucer.” After the publication of his interview, mass hysteria began in the country. From all over the world, similar reports of day or night sightings of “flying saucers” rained down. There were so many of them and they were taken so seriously that the ambassador of the Soviet Union officially declared that the USSR was not involved in these objects, and the US Air Force began the Sign project to collect information about UFOs.
However, at that time in the public sphere the idea of the extraterrestrial origin of “flying saucers” was not dominant, in addition to the USSR, the public also suspected the American military.
Soon the special term “UFO” (Unidentified Flying Objects, UFO) and the concept of “flying saucers” appeared. In 1953, one of the most popular books in America was “Flying Saucers from Space” by Donald Keyhow, on the pages of which the author used the abbreviation UFO.
The main question about UFOs for the US government was to assess their potential danger to the state. In order to study the problem and determine the degree of threat in the United States at the state level, several research projects were established at different times: “Sign”, “Discontent”, “Blue Book” … All of them came to the conclusion that most UFO sightings have a completely earthly explanation: natural phenomena, airplanes, balloons, birds, etc. However, even a minority of unexplained events also do not directly pose a threat to national security and have no evidence of extraterrestrial origin. But indirect threats were identified: the possibility of spreading mass panic and hysteria, and “contaminating the air” with erroneous statements about violating US airspace, which can hide a real violation. These two factors led to the fact that reports of UFOs and programs for their study remained classified, and officials came forward primarily with ordinary explanations: “light of Venus”, “cloud”, “airplane”, etc.
Aliens and “flying saucers” have become a prominent part of American culture, and through the efforts of Hollywood and science fiction writers – and the world. Since 1947, the stereotypical image of an interstellar spacecraft – a “flying saucer”, and “gray” (Grey) – an alien pilot, has managed to form. They have taken their place among such creations of popular culture as zombies, vampires and comic book superheroes.
At the same time, the American government was taking real steps to accumulate and study testimonies about encounters with UFOs and their inhabitants. Such work most often took place along the lines of intelligence and the military, and were classified. The secrecy only stimulated public interest, and gave rise to additional conspiracy theories about government links with alien civilizations, or at least about hiding evidence of the existence of such.
The American government took real steps to study the testimony of the encounters with UFOs “I believe – I do not believe”: ufology vs. SETI
In 1966-68. the US military attempted to scientifically evaluate all the accumulated data on UFOs and convened the so-called “Condon Committee” at the University of Colorado. Scientists came to the same conclusions: no danger and no aliens. An additional conclusion was the determination that the study of UFOs did not promise any scientific discoveries. The decision became a verdict for “ufology” – the “science of UFOs” – finally turning it into pseudoscience, despite the many reputable experts and even astronauts who were fond of it. Scientists involved in ufology became outcasts of the scientific world, lost credibility and experienced the collapse of their careers. Even the term “UFO” itself has become so compromised by the semantic connection with aliens that, in order to continue research on such phenomena, the United States came up with a different definition: UAF (UAP) – “unidentified atmospheric phenomenon”, and later “unidentified anomalous phenomenon”.
In parallel, open scientific programs are being developed in the United States to search for extraterrestrial intelligence and alien life. The activities of the international program SETI (Search for extraterrestrial intelligence, “Search for extraterrestrial intelligence”), which started in 1959, are widely known, during which the data of radio astronomical observations are analyzed for the reasonable origin of some signals. The operation of this program is well-popularized in the 1997 film Contact. SETI’s most notable success is the “loud” WOW radio signal picked up in 1977, which has yet to be convincingly explained.
The WOW radio signal received from space in 1977 has not yet received a convincing explanation.
NASA also funds several scientific programs to search for extraterrestrial life. Starting in 1976 in the Viking program, and up to the present time in the Perseverance program, Martian automatic interplanetary stations have been searching for signs of present or past life on the neighboring Red Planet. The Kepler space telescope observed the stars of our Galaxy in an attempt to detect Earth-like planets around sun-like stars, i.e. those that are potentially suitable for known life forms, and could become the cradle for human-like civilizations. Some scientists hope that the new James Webb Space Telescope also has the potential to detect intelligent activity around nearby stars, or at least detect habitable planets.
The Truth Is Out There: Nafology in the Service of the Pentagon
In the 21st century, a gradual demarginalization of UFO research (more precisely, NAF) began. In 2011, the White House published an official response to a public request to disclose secret information about aliens. The answer contained a generally scientific consensus on this issue: “there are no signs of aliens and did not appear, we are not hiding anything.” A decade later, the Pentagon officially released several videos with unknown objects. This was followed by a public report on NAF sightings by the US military and intelligence from 2004 to 2021. Although the report itself did not reveal any new arguments in favor of the alien origin of unexplained phenomena, but it contributed to a freer public discussion on this topic. “Flying saucers” again became the subject of serious discussion in scientific and political circles.
The Pentagon officially released several videos with unknown objects
In the spring of 2022, for the first time in more than 50 years, discussions on NAF were held in the US Congress. As in the past, national security interests were put first, and the need to collect intelligence from a broader range of sources other than the US military was emphasized. In the summer of that year, the Pentagon established the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO). The AARO’s mission is to collect information, verify, and study NAF sightings on land, at sea, in the air, and in space, and prepare quarterly reports to the US Congress. In the fall, NASA already assembled an independent research group, which should develop a specific protocol for studying “unidentified anomalous phenomena.”
Almost all of these actions were criticized by unofficial ufologists, since not a single state initiative has provided evidence of the extraterrestrial origin of the NAF, no matter how much ufologists would like it. However, it can be recognized that in 2022 there was a major breakthrough that stimulates further research at the official and academic level – “nafology” has a chance to become a full-fledged science, unlike ufology. If NASA is involved in this, if the Pentagon considers it a potential source of danger, if Congress allocates funds for the study of this phenomenon, then at least it exists. Nevertheless, if all these studies, using modern technology, do not bring any practical result or new knowledge, then the fate of the NAF may repeat the fate of UFOs – to be outside the interests of science and the state.