DENVER, Colorado – With so much planet-hunting and -spotting going on, we are in a showdown to see whether the universe is perhaps chock-full of extraterrestrial life.
Distantstarfolk is one thing. Having ET stopovers here on Earth, via UFOs, isanother. And that was just the topic du jour here at the 38th AnnualInternational UFO Symposium, subtitled An Estimate of the Situation: The ETHypothesis, held August 10-12 and sponsored by the Denver-based Mutual UFONetwork, Inc., or MUFON for short.
As a yearlyaffair, the symposium provides a platform for specialists and investigatorsthat delve into UFOs, purported military cover-ups and denials, physicalevidence surrounding UFOs, as well as those "high strangeness"encounters with alien visitors.
The MUFONsummit brought together more than 500 people – a true gabfest for the flyingsaucer devotee.
Passionfor the truth
JamesCarrion, MUFON's International Director, said the organization is fervent aboutresolving the scientific enigma known as unidentifiedflying objects.
"Tome, it's all about the truth. I have a passion for the truth," Carriontold SPACE.com.
Still,after decades of pursuing "the truth" behind UFOs, Carrion admittedthat the quest is befuddling. "Why is it always within out of reach?kindof there, but it's not there?"
A newMUFON initiative being implemented this year is outreach to engage mainstreamscientists, Carrion said, to assist in taking a more detailed look at the data.An open letter to the professional scientific community is now being drafted,to be issued before year's end, he said.
"Wehave to gain respectability here ? so we're trying to kick-start intellectualcuriosity out there," Carrion added. "We know that there are folks inacademia who have an interest, but they don't know what to do with it."
The MUFONstrategy initially centers on the hypothesis that UFOs are human-manufacturedand then evaluate the data amassed to date against that premise, Carrionadvised. "If this triggers your intellectual curiosity ? help us out,"he said.
Carrionsaid that MUFON is also forming two research teams: One to dive into thehistory of "UFOlogy" and government archives, the other to probe intothe abduction encounters.
"I'ma skeptical believer," Carrion pointed out. "I've never seen a UFO.But I've read enough of our own evidence. There's something real to this. Tome, it's an issue of what is it?"
Tell itlike it is
Fornuclear physicist Stanton Friedman, there is no doubt that some UFOs are alienspacecraft. Moreover, the subject of flying saucers, in his view, represents a "CosmicWatergate" ? a colossal government cover-up.
Friedmanis a globe-trotting lecturer on UFOs and is the original civilian investigatorof the celebrated UFO crash case in Roswell, New Mexico. That out-of-the-blue happening supposedly occurred some 60 yearsago, in 1947, involving no less than two crashed saucers, strewn debris andrecovered alien bodies, he reported at the MUFON meeting.
"Icome on very, very strong. I'm not an apologist UFOlogist?I tell it like it is,"Friedman told SPACE.com. He senses that a "big sea change" istaking place on several fronts.
"Myoverall impression is that people are more ready to accept [UFO visitation]because the world has changed?space travel being an important part of that,"Friedman noted. "What I'm saying is that the notion that most people don'tbelieve in UFOs isn't true."
Also, themedia is giving UFO sightings a much fairer shake than in the past, Friedmansuggested, citing not only Roswell coverage, but the reporting of UFO sightingsmade at O'Hare Airport late last year and more revelation concerning the Phoenix lights saga of March 1997.
"Idon't look for advocacy?I want fairness," Friedman added. "I feel theworld is ready. I'm outspoken, yes. But I try to make it a rule: Fact in handbefore mouth in gear."
UFOs asvisitors from afar would be a simple, easy-to-grasp explanation, suggested GeorgeKnapp, an investigative reporter for KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, Nevada. But hewonders if there isn't a mind-bending finding waiting at the bottom of the UFObarrel.
"Itseems to stay one or two steps ahead of what we can do?from airships to thesaucers, to giant flying triangles?almost teasing, taunting, or inspiring,"Knapp told SPACE.com. Given cutting-edge physics, talk of themulti-verse and parallel universes, along with threshold biological andcomputer work, there are fundamental paradigm shifts ahead, he said.
"Althoughwe can't figure out a way to get there?doesn't mean they can't figure out a wayto get here," Knapp said. Involved in UFO reporting for some two decades,Knapp said he's committed to the journalistic credo that the public has a rightto know.
"Butyou know what? Maybe not! It goes against everything in my professional lifethat I believe. What if it's not something we should know? That the truth is sounsettling that our social institutions would, in fact, crumble," Knappconfided.
Knappunderscored the prospect that perhaps we Earthlings live in the middle of someother kind of intelligence. Perhaps our planet is nothing more than a cosmicdrive-in theater, he added, and UFOs skim in and out of our skies just to watchgoofy movies.
"Andif it's something else ? like they live here among us and everything we do islike being in a glass shower ? people are going to go crazy. So maybe there isa reason for keeping this secret?and a need for government cover-up which Ibelieve there is," Knapp said.
Knapp'son-air investigative work focuses primarily on government corruption and organizedcrime. But asked about the angle that his next investigative piece on the UFO phenomenonwill take, he quickly responded. "Nothing I'm going to tell you about."
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Leonard David is an award-winning space journalist who has been reporting on space activities for more than 50 years. Currently writing as Space.com's Space Insider Columnist among his other projects, Leonard has authored numerous books on space exploration, Mars missions and more, with his latest being "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published in 2019 by National Geographic. He also wrote "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet" released in 2016 by National Geographic. Leonard has served as a correspondent for SpaceNews, Scientific American and Aerospace America for the AIAA. He was received many awards, including the first Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History in 2015 at the AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium. You can find out Leonard's latest project at his website and on Twitter.