Les soucoupes volantes sont-elles réelles ?

Hynek, J. A.: Saturday Evening Post, 17 décembre 1966

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Depuis des années l'Air Force les a classés comme canulars, hallucinations ou erreurs d'interprétation. Aujourd'hui le consultant scientifique de l'Air Force sur les objets volants non-identifiés déclare que de nombreuses observations ne peuvent être expliquées aussi facilement.

Le 25 août 1966, un officier de l'Air Force en charge d'une équipe de missile dans le Dakota du Nord a soudain trouvé ses transmissions radio interrompues par de l'électricité statique. A ce moment-là, il était abrité derrière un capsule bétonnée à 60 pieds sous le sol. Alors qu'il tentait de déméler le problème, d'autres membres du personnel de l'Air Force à la surfance rapportèrent l'observation d'un ovni — un objet volant non-identifié dans le ciel. Il possédait une lumière rouge brillante, et semblait monter et descendre alternativement. Au même moment, l'équipe radar au sol repère un ovni à 100 000 pieds.

Ainsi commence un rapport d'ovni réellement intriguant — un qui n'est actuellement pas explicable par des causes connues comme les ballons, avions, satellites ou météores. Lorsque l'ovni monta, l'électricité statique disparu, déclara le rapport effectué par le directeur des opérations de la base. L'ovni commença à swoop et plonger. Plus il sembla atterrir 10 à 15 miles au sud de zone. Le contrôle du site de missiles envoya une équipe [strike] (des gardes de la Force Aérienne bien armés) pour vérifier. Lorsque l'équipe fut à environ 10 miles du site d'atterrissage, static disrupted radio contact with them. 5 à 8 mn plus tard la lueur diminua, et l'ovni décolla. Un autre ovni fut observé visuellement et confirmé par radar. Celui qui fut observé en 1er passa sous le 2nd. Le radar confirma également ceci. Le 1er made for altitude vers le nord, et le 2nd sembla disparaître avec la lueur de rouge.

Cet incident, qui ne fut pas repris par la presse, est typique des cas étranges que j'ai étudié durant les 18 ans que j'ai consacré en tant que consultant scientifique pour Air Force au problème des ovnis. Ce qui rend le rapport particulièrement arresting est le fait qu'un autre incident eut lieu près de la base quelques jours plus tôt. Un officier de police — un homme fiable — vit en plein jour ce qu'il appela un objet sur son bord flottant down le versant d'une colline, vacillant de côté en côté à environ 10 pieds du sol. Lorsqu'il atteint le sol de la vallée, il grimpa à environ 100 pieds, toujours incliné sur son bord, et se déplaça à travers la vallée vers un petit réservoir.

L'objet qui faisait près de 30 pieds de diamètre, sembla ensuite s'applatir, et un petit dôme devint visible au sommet. Il stationna au-dessus de l'eau pendant 1 mn environ, puis se déplaca vers un petit terrain, où il sembla atterrir. Il ne toucha pas le sol, cependant, mais stationna à une hauteur d'environ 10 pieds à quelques 250 pieds du témoin, qui se tenait près de sa voiture de patrouille. L'objet s'inclina alors vers le haut et disparut rapidement dans les nuages. Une histoire fantastique, bien que j'aie interrogé le témoin dans ce cas et suit personnellement satisfait qu'il soit au-dessus de tout reproche.

Au cours des années où j'ai été son consultant, l'Air Force a continuellement déclaré que les ovnis étaient soit des canulars, soit des hallucinations ou des erreurs d'interprétations d'un phénomène naturel. Pour la plupart je serais d'accord avec l'Air Force. En tant qu'astronome professionnel — Je suis président du département d'astronomie de la Northwestern University — je n'ai pas eu de difficulté à expliquer la grande majorité des observations rapportées.

Mais je ne peux toutes les expliquer. Parmi les 15 000 cas qui ont été portés à mon attention, quelques centaines sont intriguants, et certains de ces incidents intriguants, peut-être un sur 25, sont déconcertants. J'ai voulu apprendre plus sur ces cas que je n'ai pu l'obtenir des rapports ou des témoins.

Ces cas spéciaux ont été rapportés par des personnes très respectées et intelligentes qui ont souvent eut un entraînement technique — astronomes, opérateurs de contrôle aérien, anthropologistes, officiers de l'Air Force, membres du FBI, physiciens, météorologues, pilotes, opérateurs radar, pilotes d'essai et professeurs d'université. J'ai indiqué pendant des années au sein de l'Air Force que ces cas inhabituels nécessitaient plus d'étude que ce que nous collections. Aujourd'hui, finalement, l'Air Force a entâmé une étude scientifique sérieuse du phénomène ovni (J.C. The Colorado, Condon Committee).

Le public, j'en suis certain, veut savoir ce qu'il faut croire — ce qui peut être cru — à propos des histoires de "soucoupes volantes" qui semblent continuellement devenir de plus en plus sensationnelles. En toute loyauté avec l'Air Force, et avec une profonde appréciation de ses problèmes, je considère maintenant de mon devoir de discuter le mystère ovni pleinement et en toute honnêteté. Je parle en tant qu'un scientifique disposant d'une expérience unique. Autant que je sache, je suis le seul scientifique ayant passé près de 20 ans à surveiller la situation ovni dans ce pays et d'autres et ayant également lu de nombreux milliers de pages de rapports et personnellement interrogé de nombreux témoins d'ovnis.

Arriver à la vérité des "soucoupes volantes" a été extraordinairement difficile parce que je sujet engendre automatiquement de tels réactions instantanées et des croyances passionnées. Pratiquement tous les collègues scientifiques, je suis désolé de le dire, ont pouffé des rapports d'ovnis comme autant de bêtises, bien que ce fut une réaction plus que non scientifique puisque pratiquement aucun d'entre eux n'avait jamais étudié les éléments. Jusqu'à il y a peu mes amis dans les sciences physiques n'auraient même pas discuté des ovnis avec moi. Le sujet, en fait, venait rarement. Mes amis étaient à l'évidence stupéfaits de savoir comment moi, un scientifique, avait pu me mélanger avec les "soucoupes volantes " en premier lieu. C'était un peu comme si j'avais été un chanteur d'opéra qui s'était soudainement mis en tête de se produire dans un cabaret. Tout cela était trop embarassant pour l'amener dans une conversation polie.

Pendant que les scientifiques se gaussaient des ovnis, un certain nombre de groupes de citoyens zélés disaient au public que les "soucoupes volantes" existaient bien. Les croyants aux ovnis accusaient la Force Aérienne de cacher l'existence des "soucoupes volantes" pour éviter une panique du public. Comme j'étais le consultant de la Force Aérienne, ces groupes m'accusèrent d'être un scientifique vendu, parce que je n'admettais pas que les ovnis existaient. J'étais le faire-valoir de l'Air Force, son astronome docile, un homme plus préoccupé de préserver ses honoraires de consultant que de dévoiler la vérité au public.

Je reçu de nombreuses lettres m'accusant de ne pas attaquer l'Air Force. Un correspondant typique avanca qu'en tant que scientifique ma première allégeance était au "fait". Il continua pour indiquer : Toute personne ayant suivi de près l'histoire des ovnis sait que de nombreux signalements ont reçu des "explications pour se débarasser" d'une manière qui ne peut qu'être qualifiée de risible.

Une autre lettre typique déclara : Malgré le fait que l'[Air Force] déclare (ou reçoive l'instruction de déclarer) que les ovnis n'existent pas, je pense que le sens commun nous en dit plus qu'ils ne le font. Il y a eut trop de personnes responsables à travers les années qui ont eut des expériences terrifiantes impliquant des ovnis. Je pense que notre Gouvernement insulte l'intelligence de notre peuple en gardant loin d'eux l'information concernant les ovnis.

La question des ovnis s'est développée en une bataille de foi. Un côté, consacré à la position de l'Air Force et renforcé par "l'établissement scientifique" sait que les ovnis n'existent pas ; l'autre côté sait que les ovnis représentent quelque chose de complètement nouveau dans l'expérience humaine. Et enfin nous avons le reste du monde, la grande majorité des gens qui, si jamais ils pensent au sujet, ne savent pas quoi penser.

La question de savoir si les ovnis existent ou non ne devrait pas être un combat de foi. Elle doit être le sujet d'une analyse calme, raisonnée et scientifique.

En 1948, lorsque j'entendis parler des ovnis pour la 1ère fois, je pensais qu'ils étaient un non-sens [sheer], comme tout scientifique l'aurait fait. La plupart des premiers signalements étaient assez vagues : J'arrivais dans la salle de bains pour prendre un verre d'eau et regardais dehors par la fenêtre et vis une lumière brillante dans le ciel. Elle se déplaçait de bas en haut et sur les côtés. Lorsque je regardais à nouveau, elle était partie.

A l'époque, j'étais directeur de l'observatoire à l'Université d'Etat de l'Ohio à Columbus. Un jour j'eu la visite de plusieurs hommes du centre technique de la base aérienne de Wright-Patterson, qui ne se trouvait qu'à 60 miles de Dayton. Avec un embarras évident, les hommes finirent pas en venir au sujet des "soucoupes volantes" et me demandèrent si ça me poserait problème de servir comme consultant pour l'Air Force sur le sujet.

Le travail ne semblait pas devoir prendre trop de temps, et donc j'acceptais. Lorsque je commençais à examiner des cas, je supposais qu'il y avait une explication naturelle pour l'ensemble des observations — ou au moins qu'il y en aurait si l'on pouvait trouver suffisamment de données sur les incidents les plus intriguants. D'une manière générale je souscrivais à la vision de l'Air Force selon laquelle les observations résultaient d'erreurs d'identification, de canulars et d'hallucinations.

Au cours des quelques années suivantes je n'eu pas de problème à expliquer ou écarter la plupart des cas qui m'étaient indiqués, mais quelques uns étaient suffisamment déroutants pour me faire m'interroger — des cas que l'Air Force traiterait plus tard comme "non identifié." Laissez-moi souligner le fait que l'Air Force se faisait sa propre idée sur chaque cas ; je soumettais simplement une opinion. Je m'apercevais bientôt que l'Air Force avait une tendance à améliorer ses explications préliminaires en compilant ses synthèses annuelles ; un avion "possible" devenait souvent un avion "probable". Je me souvins de la légendre grecque de Procrustes, qui tenta de faire tenir tous les hommes dans son seul lit. S'ils étaient trop grands, il les coupaient ; s'ils étaient trop courts, il les étirait.

Public statements to the contrary, the Air Force n'a jamais vraiment consacré suffisamment de moyens ou d'attention au problème des ovnis pour get to the bottom des cas troublants. Le programme d'évaluation des ovnis de l'Air Force, connu comme le "Projet Blue Book," est logé dans une pièce à Wright-Patterson. Pendant la plupart de son histoire le Projet Blue Book a été dirigé par un capitaine. Ce seul fait dira à quiconque est familier des procédures militaires quelle position relative avait le Projet Blue Book dans l'organigramme de l'Air Force. L'équipe, qui consistait généralement en 2 officiers et 1 sergent, has had to try to decide, sur la base de déclarations sketchy, des causes de l'ensemble des observations d'ovnis rapportées à l'Air Force. De 1947 jusqu'à 1965, le Projet Blue Book examian passa en revue 10 147 cas. En utilisant les critères de l'Air Force, le projet en identifia 9501, en laissant plus de 600 qui furent considérés comme non identifiés.

En 1952 mon sentiment que l'Air Force n'enquêtait pas sur les rapports suffisamment sérieusement m'amena à écrire un article suggérant que le sujet méritant une étude plus attentive. En 1953 l'Air Force consacra effectivement plus d'attention aux ovnis, bien que loin de ce qu'il faudrait, de mon point de vue. Un panel de certains des meilleurs scientifiques du pays fut rassemblé sous la direction de Howard P. Robertson, un physicien distingué de Cal Tech. Le panel Robertson discusta des ovnis pendant 4 jours. La plupart des cas, incidemment, n'étaient pas aussi troublants que certains de ceux que nous avons aujourd'hui. De plus, le panel ne reçu que 15 rapports pour étude détaillée sur les plusieurs centaines qui avaient été constitués à cette époque, although it did quickly review many others. C'était comme demander à Mme Curie d'examiner une petite fraction du pitchblende she distilled and still expecting her to come out with radium.

I was listed as an associate member of the panel, but my role was really more that of an observer. After completing its brief survey, the panel concluded that the evidence presented on unidentified flying objects showed no indication that these phenomena constitute a direct physical threat to the national security, and that we firmly believe there is no residuum of cases which indicate phenomena which are attributable to foreign artifacts capable of hostile acts, and that there is no evidence that the phenomena indicated a need for revision of current scientific concepts. It is interesting to note the phrase "we firmly believe," a phrase more appropriate to the cloth than to the scientific fraternity.

The Robertson report immediately because the main justification of the Air Force's position — there is nothing to worry about — and it so remains to this day. I was not asked to sign the report, but I would not have signed if I had been asked. I felt that the question was more complicated than the panel believed and that history might look back someday and say that the panel had acted hastily. The men took just four days to make a judgment upon a perplexing subject that I had studied for more than five years without being able to solve to my satisfaction.

En 1953, the year of the Robertson report, there occurred one of the most puzzling cases that I have studied. It was reported first in Black Hawk, S. Dak., and then in Bismarck, N. Dak., during the night of August 5 and the early morning of August 6. A number of persons in Black Hawk reported seeing several strange objects in the sky. What made these reports particularly significant was the fact that these people were trained observers--they were part of the national network of civilians who were keeping watch for enemy bombers.

At approximately the same time, unidentified blips showed up on the radarscope at Ellsworth Air Force Base, which is near Black Hawk. An airborne F-84 fighter was vectored into the area and reported seeing the UFO's. The pilot radioed that one of the objects appeared to be over Piedmont S. Dak., and was moving twice as fast as his jet fighter. It was brighter than the brightest star he had ever seen. When the pilot gave chase, the light just disappeared. Five civilians on the ground, who had watched the jet chase the light, confirmed the pilot's report.

Later a second F-84 was sent aloft and directed toward the UFO, which still showed on ground radar. After several minutes, the pilot reported seeing an object with a light of varying intensity that alternated from white to green. While the pilot was pursuing the UFO, he noted that his gunsight light had flashed on, indicating that his plane's radar was picking up a target. The object was directly ahead of his aircraft but at a slightly greater altitude. It then climbed very rapidly. When the pilot saw he was hopelessly losing ground, he broke off the chase. Radar operators on the ground tracked the fighter coming back from the chase, while the UFO continued on out of range of the scope.

As the object sped off to the north, Ellsworth Air Force Base notified the spotter's control center in Bismarck, 220 miles to the north, where a sergeant then went out on the roof and saw a UFO. The Air Force had no planes in Bismarck that could be sent after the UFO, which finally disappeared later that night.

I investigated this reported sighting myself and was unable to find a satisfactory explanation. In my report, I noted that the entire incident, in my opinion, has too much of an Alice in Wonderland flavor for comfort.

It was about this time that some firm believers in UFO's became disgusted with the Air Force and decided to take matters into their own hands, much like the vigilantes of the Old West; they organized to do the job the Air Force was mishandling. These groups composed of people with assorted backgrounds, were often the recipients of intriguing reports that never came to the official attention of Project Blue Book. The first group of this kind in the United States was the APRO (Aerial Phenomena Research Organization), founded in 1952 and still going strong, as is NICAP (National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena) which was organized several years later.

As the years went by, I learned more and more about the global nature of UFO sightings. At first I had assumed that it was a purely American phenomenon, like swallowing goldfish. But reports of sightings kept coming in from around the world until 70 countries were on the list. As a scientist, I naturally was interested in correlating all of the data; a zoologist studying red ants in Utah, say, wants to find out about a new species found along the Amazon. But when I suggested to the Air Force that the air attaches abroad be used to gather reports on foreign sightings, I was turned down. No one in a position of authority seemed to want to take up the time of the officers with such an embarrassing subject.

Gradually, I began to accumulate cases that I really couldn't explain, cases reported by reliable, sincere people whom I often interviewed in person. I found that the persons making these reports were often not acquainted with UFO's before their experience, which baffled and thoroughly frightened them. Fearing ridicule, they were often reluctant to report the sighting and did so only out of a sense of duty and a tremendous desire to get a rational explanation for their irrational experience. One typical letter to me concluded with the sentence: Hoping you don't think I'm nuts but not caring if you do, Sincerely, . . .

We had many reports from people of good repute, yet we had no scientifically incontrovertible evidence — authenticated movies, spectrograms of reported lights, "hardware" — on which to make a judgment. There are no properly authenticated photographs to match any of the vivid prose descriptions of visual sightings. Some of the purported "photographs" are patent hoaxes. Others show little detail; they could be anything. Some show a considerable amount of detail, but cannot be substantiated.

The evidence for UFO's, then, was entirely without physical proof. But were all of the responsible citizens who made reports mistaken or victims of hallucinations? It was an intriguing scientific question, yet I couldn't find any scientists to discuss it with.

The general view of the scientists was that UFO's couldn't exist, therefore they didn't exist, therefore let's laugh off the idea. This, of course, is a violation of scientific principles, but the history of science is filled with such instances. Some scientists refused to look through Galileo's telescope at sunspots, explaining that since the sun was perfect, it couldn't have spots, and therefore it was no use looking for them. Other scientists refused to believe in the existence of meteorites; who would be foolish enough to think that a stone could fall from the sky?

From time to time I would urge the Air Force to make a more thorough study of the phenomenon, but nothing ever came of it. I began to feel a very real sense of frustration. As the years went by, I continued to find cases that puzzled me while I examined reports for Project Blue Book. People who were afraid that the Air Force would scoff at their reports began sending me letters that were often detailed and well written about their experiences. The Air Force never attempted to influence my view on any case, but occasionally the service would disregard my evaluations. What was more, I was not consulted on some key cases. (One of the most recent was the well-publicized incident involving two policemen in Ravenna, Ohio, last spring.)

Then, from 1958 through 1963, the UFO reports began to diminish in quality as well as quantity, and I felt that perhaps the "flying-saucer" era was at last on the wane and would soon vanish. But since 1964 there has been a sharp rally in the number of puzzling sightings. The more impressive cases seem to fit into a pattern. The UFO's had a bright red glow. They hovered a few feet off the ground, emitting a high-pitched whine. Animals in the vicinity were terrified, often before the UFO's became visible to the people who later reported the incident. When the objects at last began to disappear, they vanished in a matter of seconds.

A very real paradox was now beginning to develop. As the Air Force's consultant, I was acquiring a reputation in the public eye of being a debunker of UFO's. Yet, privately, I was becoming more and more concerned over the fact that people with good reputations, who had no possible hope of gain from reporting a UFO, continued to describe "out-of-this-world" incidents.

En Juillet 1965, I wrote a letter to the Air Force calling again for a systematic study of the phenomenon. I feel it is my responsibility to point out, I said, that enough puzzling sightings have been reported by intelligent and often technically competent people to warrant closer attention than Project Blue Book can possible encompass at the present time.

Then, in March of this year, came the reports of the now-celebrated "swamp-gas" sightings in Michigan. On two separate nights, at spots separated by 63 miles, nearly 100 people reported seeing red, yellow, and green lights glowing over swampy areas. When I received the first accounts of the UFO's, I recognized at once that my files held far better, more coherent and more articulate reports than these. Even so, the incident was receiving such great attention in the press that I went to Michigan with the hope that here was a case that I could use to focus scientific attention on the UFO problem. I wanted the scientists to consider the phenomenon.

But when I arrived in Michigan, I soon discovered that the situation was so charged with emotion that it was impossible for me to do any really serious investigation. The Air Force left me almost completely on my own, which meant that I sometimes had to fight my way through the clusters of reporters who were surrounding the key witnesses whom I had to interview.

The entire region was gripped with near-hysteria. One night at midnight I found myself in a police car racing toward a reported sighting. We had radio contact with other squad cars in the area. I see it from one car, there it is from another, it's east of the river near Dexter from a third. Occasionally even I thought I glimpsed it.

Finally several squad cars met at an intersection. Men spilled out and pointed excitedly at the sky. See--there it is! It's moving!

But it wasn't moving. "It" was the star Arcturus, undeniably identified by its position in relation to the handle of the Big Dipper. A sobering demonstration for me.

In the midst of this confusion, I got a message from the Air Force: There would be a press conference, and I would issue a statement about the cause of the sightings. It did me no good to protest, to say that as yet I had no real idea what had caused the reported sightings in the swamps. I was to have a press conference, ready or not.

Searching for a justifiable explanation of the sightings, I remembered a phone call from a botanist at the University of Michigan, who called to my attention the phenomenon of burning "swamp gas." This gas, caused by decaying vegetation, has been known to ignite spontaneously and to cast a flickering light. The glow is well-known in song and story as "jack-o'-lantern," "fox fire," and "wil-o'-the-wisp." After learning more about swamp gas from other Michigan scientists, I decided that it was a "possible" explanation that I would offer to the reporters.

The press conference, however, turned out to be no place for scholarly discussion: it was a circus. The TV cameramen wanted me in one spot, the newspaper men wanted me in another, and for a while both groups were actually tugging at me. Everyone was clamoring for a single, spectacular explanation of the sightings. They wanted little green men. When I handed out a statement that discussed swamp gas, many of the men simply ignored the fact that I said it was a "possible" reason. I watched with horror as one reported scanned the page, found the phrase "swamp gas," underlined it, and rushed for a telephone.

Too many of the stories the next day not only said that swamp gas was definitely the cause of the Michigan lights but implied that it was the cause of other UFO sightings as well. I got out of town as quickly and as quietly as I could.

I supposed that the swamp-gas incident, which has become a subject fro cartoons that I greatly enjoy, was the low point of my association with UFO's. The experience was very obvious proof that public excitement had mounted to the point that it was ridiculous to expect one professor, working alone in the field, to conduct a scholarly investigation. We had quite clearly reached a new state in the UFO problem.

Three weeks after the Michigan incident I appeared before a hearing into UFO's that was conducted by the House Committee on Armed Services. I pointed out to the committee that I had a dossier of "twenty particularly well-reported UFO cases which, despite the character, technical competence and number of witnesses, I have not been able to explain. Ten of these reports were made by scientists or by highly trained individuals, five were made by members of the armed services or police, and five were made by other reliable people. The committee urged the Air Force to give continued attention to the subject and was assured by Air Secretary Dr. Harold Brown that it would.

A serious inquiry into the nature of UFO's would be justified, in my opinion, just on the basis of the puzzling cases that have been reported during the last two years. It seems to me that there are now four possible explanations for the phenomena:

First, they are utter nonsense, the result of hoaxes or hallucinations. This, of course, is the view that a number of my scientific colleagues have taken. I think that enough evidence has piled up to shift the burden of proof to the critics who cry fraud. And if the UFO's are merely hallucinations, they still deserve intensive study; we need to learn how the minds of so many men so widely separated can be so deluded over so many years.

Second, the UFO's are some kind of military weapon being tested in secret. This theory is easily dispensed with. Secret devices are usually tested in very limited geographical areas. Why should the United States, or any other country, test them in scores of nations? The problem of preventing a security leak would be impossible.

Third, the UFO's are really from outer space. I agree with the Air Force. There is no incontrovertible evidence, as far as I can see, to say that we have strange visitors. But it would be foolish to rule out the possibility absolutely.

Solely for the sake of argument, let me state the case in its most favorable light. We all suffer from cosmic provincialism--the notion that we on this earth are somehow unique. Why should our sun be the only star in the universe to support intelligent life, when the number of stars is a 1 followed by twenty zeros?

Stars are born, grow old and die, and it now seems that the formation of planetary systems is part of this evolutionary process. You would expect to find planets around a star just as you find kittens around a cat or acorns around an oak. Suppose that only one star in 10 is circled by a planetary system that has life; that means that the number of life-supporting stars in the universe would be a 1 followed by 19 zeros.

We also know that some stars are many millions of year older than our sun, which means that life elsewhere in the universe may have evolved many millions of years beyond our present state. That could mean that other planets in other solar systems may have solved the problem of aging, which we are beginning to grapple with even now. If a life span reached 10,000 years, let us say, a space journey of 200 to 300 years would be relatively short. In that time it would be possible to get from some distant planetary systems to ours.

A highly advanced civilization, such as the one I am postulating, would naturally keep an eye on the progress of life elsewhere in its galaxy. Any signs of unusual scientific progress might be reason enough to send a reconnaissance vehicle to find out what was going on. It so happens that in recent years we have made a very important advance of this kind; the development of the use of nuclear energy.

This is still "science fiction," of course, but let me take the story a step further. Some skeptics who scoff at reported UFO sightings often ask why the "flying saucers" don't try to communicate with us. One answer might be; Why should they? We wouldn't try to communicate with a new species of kangaroo we might find in Australia; we would just observe the animals.

Is there any connection between the reported UFO sightings and the scientific probability of life elsewhere in our galaxy? I don't know. I find no compelling evidence for it, but I don't rule it out automatically.

The fourth possible explanation of UFO's is that we are dealing with some kind of natural phenomenon that we as yet cannot explain or even conceive of. Think how our knowledge of the universe has changed in 100 years. In 1866 we not only knew nothing about nuclear energy, we didn't even know that the atom had a nucleus. Who would have dreamed 100 years ago that television would be invented? Who can say what startling facts we will learn about our world in the next 100 years?

All of these possibilities deserve serious consideration and now, at long last, they will get it. In October the Air Force announced that a thorough investigation of UFO's will be conducted at the University of Colorado by a team of distinguished scientists, headed by Dr. Edward Condon, the former director of the National Bureau of Standards.

I cannot help but feel a small sense of personal triumph and vindication. The night the appointment was announced, my wife and I went out and had a few drinks to celebrate.

I am particularly pleased that the Condon committee will have time to work into the problem because I cannot consider anyone qualified to speak authoritatively on the total UFO phenomenon unless he has read at least a few thousand original (not summarized) reports, and is thoroughly acquainted with the global nature of reported UFO sightings. The truly puzzling and outstanding UFO reports are few in number compared to the welter of poor reports.

Recently I had dinner with several members of the Condon committee. What a pleasure it was to sit down with men who were open-minded about UFO's, who did not look at me as though I were a Martian myself. For the first time other scientists, who apparently have been wondering all along, have openly talked about the reports. One leading scientist wrote me the other day: For some time now I have been convinced of the reality of this phenomenon based on reports in the general news media. It has seemed to me that even with a heavy discount there is a core of reliable observations which we cannot shrug off. Twice in recent weeks I have stated my views on the subject in small conversational groups of respectable, scholarly friends, and found that they were amazed that I should take these matters seriously. So I know that it took some courage for you to speak out.

I would like to suggest two more steps to help solve the UFO problem:

Now after a delay of 18 years, the Air Force and American science are about to try for the first time, really, to discover what, if anything we can believe about "flying saucers."

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