The first congressional hearing on UFOs in 50 years shows America’s interest in aliens will never fade

On Tuesday, May 17, Members of the United States Congress gathered with military personnel for a public discussion on a rather unusual topic: UFOs. Or, as the US military now calls them to avoid the stigma of that name, unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP.

While this is Congress’ first hearing on the subject in more than half a century, it’s not entirely new airspace for Congress (so to speak). And for all the curiosity of elected officials sifting through military intelligence on something academia usually doesn’t take very seriously, the subject highlights a mundane question: Is it possible? Can you look up at the sky and determine, with certainty, every vehicle — any completely mundane plane or man-made drone — going up there?

The answer is almost certainly no.

“There is no illusion that we will be able to 100% perfect surveillance,” said Andrew Weinert, a member of the Air Traffic Control and Homeland Security Division at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. “It would be great if we could do it.”

It is true that Tuesday’s event was the first congressional public hearing on UFOs since 1966, when a swarm of sightings emerged from southern Michigan. Investigators concluded that the sightings were caused by pranks, swamp gas, or misidentified celestial bodies. But future president Gerald Ford, who later sat in Congress representing a regional constituency, was not satisfied with that explanation. (Incidentally, Ford’s future presidential successor, Jimmy Carter, reported the UFO sighting not long after.)

In the 1960s, as now, the US military expressed great interest in UFOs. In 1947, not long after a civilian pilot named Kenneth Arnold described strange objects he saw in the air as “flying saucers,” the Air Force launched its first investigation. That led to Project Blue Book, which studied more than 12,000 UFO sightings.

Just as nothing special comes from Ford’s efforts, the conclusions of those projects are well-founded. They found that most sightings had an explanation being analyzed. At least publicly, the project says there is “no evidence” that UFOs represent aliens or advanced technology. When the Green Book Project closed in 1969, only 701 sightings remained unidentified.

But that’s not the end of the military’s obsession with UFOs. Military pilots have repeatedly reported sightings of unidentified objects, including a 2004 incident when US Navy personnel saw what they believed to be a reflective capsule-shaped object. Projection of the jet’s motion.

Around that time, a number of other senators — most notably Harry Reid of Nevada, backed by billionaire founder NASA contractor Bigelow Aerospace — began pushing for a new Department of Defense effort. United States to investigate these phenomena. Quietly, in 2007 their efforts led to the creation of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP).

AATIP lasted until 2012, after which it was the successor of others, the latest being called Aerial Object Recognition and Management Synchronization Group. They are not technically classified, but their existence remained in the spotlight until 2017, when AATIP’s director, Luis Elizondo, felt that UFOs represented cutting-edge technology and his endeavors. and unscrupulous colleagues, released details to the press – including videos from the pilots.

The leak sparked a new wave of public interest in a topic that has never really faded from the American mind for decades. In June 2021, the Pentagon accepted public pressure and released a report on AATIP’s preliminary findings. More recently, in April of this year, about 1500 pages of AATIP work were declassified.

Certainly, some see these spectacles as representative of some kind of advanced science. AATIP taps researchers to probe fundamental topics such as “vacuum engineering”, “gravitational wave communications” and “manipulating extra dimensions”.

US lawmakers are paranoid that, whatever they are, they are a threat to their country’s security. “Many of the threats they make need to be investigated,” Democrat André Carson said at this week’s hearing. “The intelligence community has a serious duty… to prevent potential adversaries like China and Russia from surprising us with unforeseen new technologies,” Republican Rick Crawford said at the hearing. recently.

Far from being aliens or superweapon, it’s entirely possible that sightings could have explanations that are relatively confusing, if elusive. Outside observers have indicated that a 2004 sighting by Navy pilots, for example, could be a software glitch.

However, for some in the aerospace community, the hearings revolved around a rather mundane topic: Can we look up at the sky and know where and where every object flies? ?

In fact, we can’t. Doing that would be too costly and completely impractical.

“You can go with your small general aviation plane today and take off,” says Weinert. “You don’t need to equip a transponder. You do not need to broadcast your information. In some places, you can just go by plane.”

Weinert believes the incident highlights a double standard between ground traffic and air vehicles. Although very few people expect cars on the road to be subject to any form of constant surveillance, many still expect airplanes, he said.

Importantly, UFO analysis is not meant to automatically assume aliens or space travelers. And with renewed interest in the subject, these hearings could lead to some more lasting changes in the way officials discuss the subject of unspecified craft, regardless of whether they what.

The challenge “is to resolve the disparity between what the public expects and what the reality of the situation is,” says Weinert. The first congressional hearing on UFOs in 50 years shows America’s interest in aliens will never fade

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