Still a great mystery
Bond's World by Anita Bond As I mentioned last week, the controversy about unidentified flying objects (UFOs) has been somewhat quiet of late. The mystery of UFOs seems to have flared up and is still burning brightly with the occurrence of the Roswell Incident. And still today, this ‘incident’ has no real answers for those who insist on the truth, which is supposedly ‘out there’.
Suspicions surrounding the top-secret air base in New Mexico show no signs of receding; and still, many years later, the enigma of Area 51 lives on. Area 51 lies in a remote part of Nevada around 230km north of Las Vegas. It is the most notorious – and most heavilyguarded – patch of scrubland on Earth.
Officially named Air Force Flight Test Center Detachment 3, it has been the home of such top-secret development programmes as the F-117A Stealth aircraft and the SR-71 spy-plane.
However, some UFO conspiracy theorists believe it is also the last resting place of several aliens and their wrecked craft. This all started on 2nd July 1947, when a bright disc-shaped object was allegedly sighted over Area 51. The following day wreckage was reportedly discovered – and according to some, alien bodies.
In 1989, a technician named Bob Lazar claimed to have seen nine alien spacecraft in storage at a site near Area 51, and a glimpse of an alien body. Lazar became a celebrity as a result of his claims, which may have been the point, but intriguingly, he did claim to know something about the propulsion system used by the craft.
While much of his account is scientific nonsense, some aspects of it – such as the use of space-time warps to get from place to place – are reminiscent of concepts that have since appeared in mainstream physics research journals.
Sightings of rare occurrences in the sky have been going on for many, many years. In 600BC The Old Testament priest and prophet Ezekiel, describes bizarre ‘wheel-like’ objects with marking and behaviour reminiscent of UFOs.
At sunrise on 14th April 1561, groups of cylindrical UFOs reportedly appeared in the sky over Nuremberg, Germany, and fought one another.
In the early hours of 25th February 1942, a fleet of UFOs appeared over Los Angeles, and was fired on by anti-aircraft batteries.
And then there was Roswell: in 1947, private pilot Kenneth Arnold’s description of a UFO moving – ‘like a saucer if you skip it across the water’ coins the term ‘flying saucer’.
In July of the same year, a rancher working near Roswell, New Mexico, finds mysterious debris, prompting reports of a captured UFO and its occupants.
In 1951, US Air Force begins Project Blue Book, extending early attempts to collate UFO reports scientifically. Mounting scepticism leads to its closure in 1969.
A year later, George Adamski claims to have had a ‘close encounter’ with a human-like alien from Venus, who tells of concern about the use of atomic weapons.
Now, with so many satellites, meteorites and other unidentified debris floating around in space, it is hard to tell if any type of alien spaceship could be spying on us. But the mystery of UFOs still goes on. The truth about the Roswell Incident is still debated to this day.
What is not in doubt is that the resulting claims and counterclaims gave the UFO controversy a reputation for shaky facts and even shakier explanations that have dogged it ever since. It is a reputation, which revived a boost in 1968, with the publication of a review of over 20 years’ worth of UFO reports collected by the US Air Force as part of so-called Project Blue Book.
Also known as the Condon Report, after the distinguished American physicist who directed the study, it concluded there was nothing of scientific value in the reports, and therefore, no point in pursuing the UFO issue. When this was endorsed by the prestigious US National Academy of Sciences, the scientific community had every reason for dismissing the UFO controversy as out of hand.
That remains the attitude of many, if not most, scientist to this day, and their scepticism has hardly been undermined by the controversies over incidents like Rendlesham Forest, and the alleged existence of a top-secret US committee called MJ-12.
Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, England, was the scene of a controversial close encounter: named as Britain’s most notorious incident, it took place on 27th December 1980. Around 3am that night, two US security patrolmen from Woodbridge NATO air base saw unusual lights outside the back gate, and a three-man search party was sent out.
They allegedly saw a two-metrehigh triangular metallic object illuminating the surrounding trees, with a pulsating red light on top and a row of blue lights underneath. As the patrolmen approached it, the object shifted away from the trees and vanished. The following day three shallow holes were supposedly found where the object had been sighted, along with burn-marks in trees and anomalous radiation readings.
The Ministry of Defence denied any knowledge of the incident, but ufologists used the US Freedom of Information Act to obtain copies of the deputy base commander’s report, which broadly confirmed the story. It also emerged that an object had been tracked on radar, disappearing into the forest.)
Serious debate of the UFO issue has continued in academic circles – and the result cast serious doubt on some of the standard arguments levelled against the idea that UFOs are craft from other worlds.
But, as Mulder used to say, the truth is out there...