A Pentagon report on UFOs will be presented this month in Congress. The US Army says it has no evidence that UFOs are in fact extraterrestrial aircraft. Nor can it claim they aren’t. The army simply doesn’t know what these “unidentified aerial phenomena” are.
The report was drafted after factoring in 120 sightings of such phenomena reported in the last 20 years. In most of the cases, people who “ran into” UFOs were pilots of the US Navy, one of the best trained and equipped air forces in the world. These not just a bunch of amateurs who can mistake a weather balloon or a civilian aircraft seen at an angle for a spacecraft, but first-rate pilots operating state-of-the-art technology, both onboard their aircraft as well as on the ground. And they speak of objects capable of reaching hypersonic speeds, accelerating and changing direction faster than any other known aircraft, and even capable of submerging.
The New York Times released the first information about the contents of the report. It’s the same publication that brought the UFO phenomenon in the limelight by publishing an article on its front page, titled “Glowing auras and “black money”: the Pentagon’s mysterious U.F.O. Program”. The article revealed the existence of a Pentagon secret program that studied UFO sightings and contained testimonies about the program and specific incidents, such as images recorded by a military aircraft. Such information is by no means new. UFOs have long been a topic of fascination. Thousands of books and articles have been written on their account. Discovery made documentaries. Conferences debated their existence worldwide, and thousands of documents presented as evidence were debated – eye-witness accounts, photos, videos. Add to that the sci-fi fiction and cinema that have been both fueling and feeding on this UFO mania, since the topic is a bestseller, and there will always be legions of people who believe in them, or at least want to. It’s also the kind of topic that raises a few eyebrows or brings out a few smiles, even in the most “serious” of men. Officials have denied their existence. Scientists have studied them, but only to point out there is a rational explanation about each of these incidents, and that none of the evidence proves we are dealing with actual alien ships. Reliable media have steered clear of the topic, in order to keep their readers’ confidence.
New York Times is one of the best known and reputed publications in the world. The December 2017 article also attracted some criticism, but UFOs could no longer be held in derision, and have started becoming a serious topic. In the last few weeks alone, the topic was tackled during one of the most important and long-lasting news magazines in the United States, “60 Minutes”, broadcast by CBS. Witnesses on the show spoke about the scope of the phenomenon, claiming that UFOs are regularly crossing into US restricted airspace, hovering over national security sites. Former president Barrack Obama himself also commented on the topic, confirming that UFO sightings have been documented and that there are recorded images. UFOs are now an official concern for NASA as well.
UFOs are also being researched by a special unit with the American navy intelligence. It is the last in a series of army or intelligence structures that have been dealing with UFOs ever since the end of the 40s, when the “flying saucer” craze first hit the American media. Each of these institutions kept a low profile. They were rather skeptical in their approach. They easily discarded a number of sightings – over 700 in the Blue Book project, which started in the 50s and ran until 1969 – which they failed to explain. Each was ultimately abandoned. Every time, more and more sightings determined the US military to take UFOs seriously. The reason they did so is not necessarily linked to belief in the existence of alien life: ever since the UFO madness started, it has also bred the fear that these unidentified objects might be the property of foreign powers – the USSR at the time, China or Russia today. Both countries have been experimenting with hypersonic technology, but so far research has confirmed only missiles have the capacity of reaching these speeds, apart from which they have nothing in common with UFOs. Whereas American research leaves some room for doubt, a group of French scientists and generals concluded in 1978, following an inquiry commissioned by the French Government, that no country holds that technology, and that its origin has to be alien.
Like many others, I too have my doubts about the existence of aliens on Earth. I don’t think they have been monitoring us or interacting with us over the course of history, or that evidence of this interaction can be found in pyramid-shaped structures surfacing the world over, Nazca lines or Bible fragments speaking of peculiar clouds or the flight of Saint Elijah. It’s hard for me to think people were actually abducted by aliens – these are at most cases of sleep paralysis, a condition affecting people since times immemorial, inducing hallucinations of demons trying to suffocate the immobilized sleepers.
What I can say, for the sake of speculation, is that maybe it is not random that for two generations we have been bombarded by an infodemic of rumors and falsehoods about the existence of alien life forms. It’s as if someone was trying to make their actual existence sink in bit by bit, because had they told us that 70, 50 or 20 years ago, the world as we know it would have crumbled at our feet.
“The truth is out there” is perhaps the best-known phrase tied to the UFO question. It’s the motto of X-files, a series about imaginary investigations into something that many of us assume is itself an imaginary phenomenon. No one knows or dares say what this truth is. But now we know for certain that something really is out there.