The U.S. government's now-defunct Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) spent millions of taxpayer dollars to research bizarre, experimental technologies such as invisibility cloaks, antigravity devices, traversable wormholes, and a proposal to tunnel through the moon with nuclear explosives, according to dozens of documents obtained by Vice.com (opens in new tab).
The documents, which include nearly 1,600 pages of reports, proposals, contracts and meeting notes, reveal some of the stranger priorities of AATIP — a secretive Department of Defense program that ran from 2007 to 2012, but only became known to the public in 2017, when the program's former director resigned from the Pentagon.
That year, AATIP became synonymous with UFOs, thanks to several now-infamous videos of an unidentified aircraft moving in seemingly impossible ways (opens in new tab) that former director Luis Elizondo leaked to the press after his resignation.
But the new documents suggest AATIP was up to more than just investigating reported UFO encounters. The entire cache of 51 documents, obtained by Vice via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed four years ago, can be read here.
Related: 9 things we learned about aliens in 2021 (opens in new tab)
Perhaps most intriguing among the documents are the several dozen Defense Intelligence Reference Documents (DIRDs), which discuss the viability of various "advanced technolog[ies]." This collection includes reports on "traversable wormholes, stargates, and negative energy," "high-frequency gravitational wave communications," "warp drive, dark energy, and the manipulation of extra dimensions," and many other topics that will sound familiar to fans of science fiction.
Many of the reports stress the impracticalities of implementing advanced technologies. In the DIRD report on invisibility cloaking (opens in new tab), for example, the authors (whose names have been redacted in all of the reports) write that, "perfect cloaking devices are impossible because they require materials where the speed of light approaches infinity." However, cloaking devices that make objects invisible to microwave-based sensors, such as radars and motion detectors, are "definitely within reach of the present technology," the report authors wrote.
Other reports do not shy away from bold, sometimes outlandish proposals for realizing advanced technologies. In a report on "negative mass propulsion," the authors propose a plan (opens in new tab) to look for extremely lightweight metals in the center of the moon that may be "100,000 times lighter than steel, but still [have] the strength of steel." To reach the center of the moon, the authors suggest blasting a tunnel through the lunar crust and mantle using thermonuclear explosives.
Of course, the U.S. has not nuked the moon and shows no immediate intention to; NASA's upcoming Artemis missions plan to return humans to the moon for the first time since the Apollo era, with the ultimate goal of establishing a sustainable human presence there. Rattling the moon with nuclear explosions would likely prove contrary to this mission.
Whether these DIRD documents ever led to any long-term investments in advanced technologies is unclear. According to Vice, much of AATIP's agenda relied on contract research from a private company called Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS). The company — run by Robert Bigelow, a personal friend of late Sen. Harry Reid, who was responsible for the creation of AATIP — was awarded a $10 million contract for their first year of research for the program, Vice reported.
This latest FOIA document dump arrives just three weeks after British tabloid The Sun obtained more than 1,500 pages of documents related to alleged UFO encounters (opens in new tab) cataloged by the AATIP. Included among the documents was a report on the alleged biological effects of UFO encounters on humans. The report listed paralysis, "apparent abduction" and "unaccounted for pregnancy" as reported side effects of alleged UFO encounters, Live Science previously reported (opens in new tab).
Vice reporters will be delving into their newly acquired database of AATIP documents in detail over the coming weeks. Follow their coverage here (opens in new tab).