America’s secret UFO research unit revealed

X-files: The Pentagon where the unit was based (left), and (right) a recent image of a UFO.

Just how wacky is it to believe in UFOs? The US government has spent millions investigating sightings. Now previously secret footage reveals a dramatic encounter with possible aliens.

Strange hovering objects, floating balls of light, and supersonic flying disks. These are just some of the other-worldly encounters reported in declassified files from a UFO investigation unit previously run by the Pentagon.

In an interview with The New York Times this weekend, former pilot David Fravor gave his testimony of one such encounter (see image above, right). What he saw remains unexplained, and it could have been an alien visitor.

One day in 2004 he and another pilot, Jim Slaight, were on a routine mission — soaring over the Pacific ocean in their Super Hornet fighter planes. Suddenly their radios crackled. An operator instructed them to fly to an area where there had been reports of a mysterious unidentified aircraft. Ominously, he also asked if they had any weapons on board. They did not.

When Fravor and Slaight first reached the given coordinates, they saw nothing. Then Fravor looked down. Hovering just above the sea was a white oval shaped aircraft, about 40 feet long. Beneath it the waves were churning violently.

He sprung into action, flying down to get a closer look. But suddenly the object sped off: “It accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen,” he claimed. He tried to catch up but it escaped.

Fravor returned to base to report to his superiors, admitting he was “pretty weirded out” by what he saw.

This is just one of many incidents investigated by the government programme since 2007. The group was set up by Senator Harry Reid, who remains open minded about the chance of UFOs being signs of alien life: “We have plenty of evidence to support asking the questions,” he suggested.

But others warn people not to get carried away. Astrophysicist Sara Seager points out that in science: “We often have phenomena that remain unexplained.” And just because something is mysterious it does not mean that it came from another world.

So is it silly to believe in UFOs?

Close encounters

"Of course it is possible that UFOs contain aliens,” says renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. Plenty of other eminent voices agree: former US presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan both claimed they saw UFOs. And John F. Kennedy once gave an Air Force One steward this cryptic message: "I'd like to tell the public about the alien situation, but my hands are tied." It is a big universe out there — anything is possible.

But other explanations are far more likely, others respond. From mirages and optical illusions, to weather balloons gone rogue, the truth is often far more mundane — something people find difficult to accept. Often those who believe in alien UFOs just want to see a greater meaning and pattern to the universe. Sadly, their claims are simply not scientific.

You Decide

  1. Have you ever seen a UFO?
  2. Do you think that aliens exist?

Activities

  1. Imagine human beings are about to make contact with real aliens. Draw a sketch of what you think the aliens would look like. Around the image label any special features and characteristics that your alien has.
  2. Do some research into the history of UFO sightings. Choose one example which you think is particularly interesting. List three reasons why the sighting might be an alien UFO and three reasons why it might not. Present your findings to the class and take a vote: who thinks the sighting was an alien, and who thinks it was not?

Some People Say...

“I don't laugh at people any more when they say they've seen UFOs. I've seen one myself.”

Jimmy Carter

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The annual budget of the US Department of Defence is $6 billion — dwarfing the $22 million that was spent on the UFO investigation unit. The US military has been investigating UFO sightings for decades. Between 1947 and 1969 the US Air Force looked into more than 12,000 instances. Most turned out to be stars, clouds, or conventional aircraft. However, 701 sightings remain unexplained.
What do we not know?
In the cases of unexplained phenomena we cannot say for certain that alien life forms were not involved. Equally, while many people believe in the existence of aliens, their beliefs have not been proven.

Word Watch

Declassified
When something previously secret is made open to the public.
UFO
Unidentified Flying Object.
Unit
It had its funding withdrawn in 2012. However, officials reportedly continue to investigate UFO sightings alongside their daily duties. It was officially known as The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Programme.
Pentagon
The headquarters of the United States Department of Defence.
Encounter
To see footage of the sighting click the first link under Become An Expert.
Stephen Hawking
Hawking has also been outspoken on his fears surrounding what would happen if humans made contact with aliens. He said that humanity should be wary of replying to signals from outer space in case aliens wanted to “conquer and colonise” Earth.
Air Force One
The aircraft of the US president.
Mundane
Something that lacks interest and excitement.

Subjects

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