It’s Time for Real Talk About Aliens

AP Photo/Roswell Daily Record, Mark Wilson

This December, The New York Times ran a front page story about the Pentagon program that investigated unexplained aerial phenomena. The US military recently had three prominent, documented encounters with unidentified flying objects. And the Chinese just built the world’s largest radar facility to listen for extraterrestrial life. What the hell is going on? I mean, Trump’s presidency seems like a dystopian sci-fi novel, but when did UFOs move from the Art Bell fringe into the mainstream?

At New York Magazine, a group of seven journalists dive deep into the realm of Ufology. Cataloguing the past and Ufology’s key players, they make a case that no time in human history has presented clearer, more compelling evidence that something unexplained is buzzing our skies, missile silos and nuclear facilities, if not aliens, then certainly things we have not yet identified. “In December,” the article says, “the Pentagon confirmed the existence of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.”

The program was co-founded by then–Majority Leader Harry Reid, who tweeted, “We don’t know the answers, but we have plenty of evidence to support asking the questions.” It’s a convincing point. The funding supposedly ended in 2012, but sources say the program is going strong. Some of this information will be familiar to those of us who enjoy reading about unexplained phenomenon. The sense that some of this is just nuts-o is also familiar. What’s new is the Federal government’s transparency and mounting the burden of proof. Here’s the tip of the extraterrestrial iceberg as a teaser:

So much of what the program uncovered remains classified, but what little we know is tantalizing. Based on data it collected, the program identified five observations that showed mysterious objects displaying some level of “advanced physics,” also known as “stuff humans can’t do yet”: The objects would accelerate with g-forces too strong for the human body to withstand, or reach hypersonic speed with no heat trail or sonic boom, or they seemed to resist the effects of Earth’s gravity without any aerodynamic structures to provide thrust or lift. “No one has been able to figure out what these are,” said Luis Elizondo, who ran the program until last October, in a recent interview.

Elizondo has also talked about “metamaterials” that may have been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena and stored in buildings owned by a private aerospace contractor in Las Vegas; they apparently have material compositions that aren’t found naturally on Earth and would be exceptionally expensive to replicate. According to a 2009 Pentagon briefing summarized in the New York Times, “the United States was incapable of defending itself against some of the technologies discovered.” This was a briefing by people trying to get more funding — but still.

Some of the accounts Elizondo and his team analyzed supposedly occurred near nuclear facilities like power plants or battleships. In November 2004, the USS Princeton, a Navy cruiser escorting the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz off the coast of San Diego, ordered two fighter jets to investigate mysterious aircraft the Navy had been tracking for weeks (meaning this was not just a trick of the eye or a momentary failure of perspective, the two things most often blamed for unexplained aerial phenomena). When the jets arrived at the location, one of the pilots, Commander David Fravor, saw a disturbance just below the ocean’s surface causing the water to roil around it. Then, suddenly, he saw a white, 40-foot Tic Tac–shaped craft moving like a Ping-Pong ball above the water. The vehicle began mirroring his plane’s movements, but when Fravor dove directly at the object, the Tic Tac zipped away.

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