Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Mars Science Laboratory

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) mission with the aim to land and operate a rover namedCuriosity on the surface of Mars. Currently in transit to Mars, it was launched November 26, 2011, at 10:02 EST and is scheduled to land on Mars at Gale Crater on August 6, 2012 (about 10pm in the evening of August 5 PDT, the time used by the mission controllers in Pasadena, California).If MSL arrives at Mars, it will attempt a more precise landing than attempted previously and then help assess Mars's habitability. A primary mission objective is to determine whether Mars is or has ever been an environment able to support life, though it will not look for any specific type of life. Rather, it is intended to chemically analyze samples in various ways, including scooping up soil, drill rocks, and with a laser and sensor system.
Curiosity rover is five times larger than Spirit or Opportunity Mars Exploration Rovers and carries more than ten times the mass of scientific instruments of that design. MSL was launched by an Atlas V 541 rocket and after its journey to Mars and then landing, is designed to explore for at least 687 Earth days (1 Martian year) over a range of 5-20 km (3-12 miles).
Mars Science Laboratory mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of Mars, and the project is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of California Institute of Technology for NASA. Doug McCuistion of NASA's Planetary Science Division is the Director of the Mars Exploration Program. The total cost of the MSL project is about US$2.5 billion.


Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover.jpg
2011 concept artwork
Major contractorsBoeing
Lockheed Martin
Mission typeRover
Launch dateNovember 26, 2011 15:02:00.211 UTC (10:02 EST)
Launch vehicleAtlas V 541 (AV-028)
Launch siteCape Canaveral LC-41
Mission duration668 Martian sols (686 Earth days)
HomepageMars Science Laboratory
Mass900 kg (2,000 lb)
PowerRadioisotope Thermoelectric Generator(RTG)
Mars landing
DateAugust 5*, 2012 (planned)*note: landing is evening of August 5 PDT,which is morning of August 6 UT.
CoordinatesGale Crater, 4° 36′ 0″ S, 137° 12′ 0″ E (planned landing site)
References: [2][8][9][10]

Schematic diagram of the rover.

[edit]Goals and objectives

The MSL mission has four scientific goals:
  1. Determine whether Mars could ever have supported life
  2. Study the climate of Mars
  3. Study the geology of Mars
  4. Plan for a human mission to Mars
To contribute to these goals, MSL has six main scientific objectives:
  1. Determine the mineralogical composition of the Martian surface and near-surface geological materials.
  2. Attempt to detect chemical building blocks of life (biosignatures).
  3. Interpret the processes that have formed and modified rocks and soils.
  4. Assess long-timescale (i.e., 4-billion-year) Martian atmospheric evolution processes.
  5. Determine present state, distribution, and cycling of water and carbon dioxide.
  6. Characterize the broad spectrum of surface radiation, including galactic radiationcosmic radiationsolar proton events and secondary neutrons.


Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers test and assemble Curiosity in a large clean-room on June 29, 2010 in preparation for a late 2011 launch
In April 2008, it was reported that the project was $235 million, or 24%, over budget and that the money to compensate this overrun might have to come from other NASA Mars missions. By October 2008 MSL was getting closer to a 30% cost overrun. As of November 2008 development was essentially finished, with much of the MSL hardware and software complete and testing ongoing. On December 3, 2008, NASA announced that the MSL launch would be delayed until the fall of 2011 because of inadequate test time. The technical and budgetary reasons behind the delay were explained to the Planetary Science Community in a January 2009 meeting at NASA Headquarters.
Between March 23–29, 2009, the general public had an opportunity to rank nine finalist names through a public poll on the NASA website as additional input for judges to consider when choosing the name of the MSL rover. On May 27, 2009 the winning name, Curiosity was selected. It was submitted by a sixth-grader, Clara Ma, from Kansas, in an essay contest.

Unidentified flying object

Photograph of alleged UFO, New Jersey, July 31, 1952
A term originally coined by the military, an unidentified flying object (usually abbreviated toUFO or U.F.O.) is an unusual apparent anomaly in the sky that is not readily identifiable to the observer as any known object. While a small percentage remain unexplained, the majority of UFO sightings are often later identified as any number of various natural phenomenon or man-made objects.[citation needed]



Extraterrestrial hypothesis

While technically a UFO refers to any unidentified flying object, in modern popular culture the term UFO has generally become synonymous with alien spacecraft. Proponents argue that because these objects appear to be technological and not natural phenomenon, and are alleged to display flight characteristics or have shapes seemingly unknown to conventional technology, the conclusion is then that they must not be from Earth.Though UFO sightings have occurred throughout recorded history, modern interest in them dates from World War II (seefoo fighter), further fueled in the late 1940s by Kenneth Arnold's coining of the term flying saucer and the Roswell UFO Incident. Since then governments have investigated UFO reports, often from a military perspective- and UFO researchers have investigated, written about, and created organizations devoted to the subject. One such investigation, The UK's Project Condign report, notes that Russian, Former Soviet Republics, and Chinese authorities have made a co-ordinated effort to understand the UFO topic and that State military organizations, particularly in Russia, have done "considerably more work (than is evident from open sources)" on military applications which have stemmed from their UFO research. The report also noted that "several aircraft have been destroyed and at least four pilots have been killed 'chasing UFOs'.

Official White House Position

In November 2011, the White House released an official response to two petitions asking the U.S. government to acknowledge formally that aliens have visited Earth and to disclose any intentional withholding of government interactions with extraterrestrial beings. According to the response, "The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race. Also, according to the response, there is "no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public's eye. The response further noted that efforts, like SETI, the Kepler space telescope and the NASA Mars rover, continue looking for signs of life. The response noted "odds are pretty high" that there may be life on other planets but "the odds of us making contact with any of them—especially any intelligent ones—are extremely small, given the distances involved."


Studies have established that the majority of UFO observations are misidentified conventional objects or natural phenomena—most commonly aircraft, balloons, noctilucent cloudsnacreous clouds, or astronomical objects such as meteors or bright planets with a small percentage even being hoaxes. After excluding incorrect reports, however, it is acknowledged that between 5% and 20% of reported sightings remain unexplained, and as such can be classified as unidentified in the strictest sense. Many reports have been made by trained observers such as pilots, police, and the military; some involve radar traces, so not all reports are visual. Proponents of the extraterrestrial hypothesis believe that these unidentified reports are of alien spacecraft, though various other hypotheses have been proposed.
While UFOs have been the subject of extensive investigation by various governments, and some scientists support the extraterrestrial hypothesis, few scientific papers about UFOs have been published in peer-reviewed journals. There has been some debate in the scientific community about whether any scientific investigation into UFO sightings is warranted.
The void left by the lack of institutional scientific study has given rise to independent researchers and groups, most notably MUFON (Mutual UFO Network)  and CUFOS (Center for UFO Studies). The term "Ufology" is used to describe the collective efforts of those who study reports and associated evidence of unidentified flying objects. According to MUFON, as of 2011 the number of UFO reports to their worldwide offices has increased by 67% from the previous 3 years, which now average around 500 reported sightings per month.
UFOs have become a relevant theme in modern culture, and the social phenomena have been the subject of academic research in sociology and psychology.


The first publicized sightings were usually referred to using the term mystery airships, which were commonly seen and described as such during the latter part of the 19th century and the early 20th.
The term foo fighters was used by American fighter pilots during World War II to refer to UFOs.
The first widely publicized U.S. sighting, reported by private pilot Kenneth Arnold in June 1947, gave rise to the popular terms "flying saucer" and "flying disc", of which the former is still sometimes used, even though Arnold said the most of the objects he saw were not totally circular and one was crescent-shaped (see Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting for details). In addition, the infamous Roswell UFO Incident occurred at about the same time, which only served to further fuel public interest in the topic.
The term "UFO" was first suggested in 1952 by Cpt. Edward J. Ruppelt, who headed Project Blue Book, then the USAF's official investigation of UFOs. Ruppelt felt that "flying saucer" did not reflect the diversity of the sightings. He suggested that UFO should be pronounced as a word – you-foe. However it is now usually pronounced by forming each letter: U.F.O. His term was quickly adopted by the United States Air Force, which also briefly used "UFOB". The Air Force initially defined UFOs as those objects that remain unidentified after scrutiny by expert investigators, though today the term UFO is often used for any unexplained sighting regardless of whether it has been investigated.
Because the term UFO is ambiguous – referring either to any unidentified sighting, or in popular usage to alien spacecraft – and the public and media ridicule sometimes associated with the topic, some investigators now prefer to use other terms such as unidentified aerial phenomenon (or UAP).
The equivalent acronym for UFO in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian is OVNI (Objeto Volador No IdentificadoObjeto Voador Não IdentificadoObjet volant non identifié or Oggetto Volante Non Identificato), a term that is pronounced as one word (ov-nee).

Early history

Unexplained aerial observations have been reported throughout history. Some were undoubtedly astronomical in nature: comets, brightmeteors, one or more of the five planets that can be seen with the naked eye, planetary conjunctions, or atmospheric optical phenomenasuch as parhelia and lenticular clouds. An example is Halley's Comet, which was recorded first by Chinese astronomers in 240 B.C. and possibly as early as 467 B.C. Such sightings throughout history were often treated as supernatural portents, angels, or other religiousomens. Some current-day UFO researchers have noticed similarities between some religious symbols in medieval paintings and UFO reports though the canonical and symbolic character of such images is documented by art historians placing more conventional religious interpretations on such images.
  • On January 25, 1878, The Denison Daily News wrote that local farmer John Martin had reported seeing a large, dark, circular flying object resembling a balloon flying "at wonderful speed." Martin also said it appeared to be about the size of a saucer, the first known use of the word "saucer" in association with a UFO.
  • On February 28, 1904, there was a sighting by three crew members on the USS Supply 300 miles west of San Francisco, reported by Lt. Frank Schofield, later to become Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Battle Fleet. Schofield wrote of three bright red egg-shaped and circular objects flying in echelon formation that approached beneath the cloud layer, then changed course and "soared" above the clouds, departing directly away from the earth after two to three minutes. The largest had an apparent size of about six suns.
  • 1916 and 1926: The three oldest known pilot UFO sightings, of 1305 cataloged by NARCAP. On January 31, 1916, a UK pilot nearRochford reported a row of lights, like lighted windows on a railway carriage, that rose and disappeared. In January 1926, a pilot reported six "flying manhole covers" between Wichita, Kansas and Colorado Springs, Colorado. In late September 1926, an airmail pilot overNevada was forced to land by a huge, wingless cylindrical object.
  • On August 5, 1926, while traveling in the Humboldt Mountains of Tibet's Kokonor region, Nicholas Roerich reported that members of his expedition saw "something big and shiny reflecting the sun, like a huge oval moving at great speed. Crossing our camp the thing changed in its direction from south to southwest. And we saw how it disappeared in the intense blue sky. We even had time to take our field glasses and saw quite distinctly an oval form with shiny surface, one side of which was brilliant from the sun.”Another description by Roerich was, "...A shiny body flying from north to south. Field glasses are at hand. It is a huge body. One side glows in the sun. It is oval in shape. Then it somehow turns in another direction and disappears in the southwest."
  • In the Pacific and European theatres during World War II, "Foo-fighters" (metallic spheres, balls of light and other shapes that followed aircraft) were reported and on occasion photographed by Allied and Axis pilots. Some proposed Allied explanations at the time includedSt. Elmo's Fire, the planet Venus, hallucinations from oxygen deprivation, or German secret weapons.
  • On February 25, 1942, U.S. Army observers reported unidentified aircraft both visually and on radar over the Los Angeles, California region. Antiaircraft artillery was fired at what was presumed to be Japanese planes. No readily apparent explanation was offered, though some officials dismissed the reports of aircraft as being triggered by anxieties over expected Japanese air attacks on California. However, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall and Secretary of War Henry Stimson insisted real aircraft were involved. The incident later became known as the Battle of Los Angeles, or the West coast air raid.
  • In 1946, there were over 2000 reports, collected primarily by the Swedish military, of unidentified aerial objects in the Scandinavian nations, along with isolated reports from France, Portugal, Italy and Greece, then referred to as "Russian hail", and later as "ghost rockets", because it was thought that these mysterious objects were possibly Russian tests of captured German V1 or V2 rockets. Although most were thought to be natural phenomena like meteors, over 200 were tracked on radar and deemed to be "real physical objects" by the Swedish military. In a 1948 top secret document, the Swedish military told the USAF Europe in 1948 that some of their investigators believed them to be extraterrestrial in origin.

The Kenneth Arnold sightings

This shows the report Kenneth Arnold filed in 1947 about his UFO sighting.
The post World War II UFO phase in the United States began with a famous sighting by American businessman Kenneth Arnold on June 24, 1947 while flying his private plane near Mount Rainier,Washington. He reported seeing nine brilliantly bright objects flying across the face of Rainier.
Although there were other 1947 U.S. sightings of similar objects that preceded this, it was Arnold's sighting that first received significant media attention and captured the public's imagination. Arnold described what he saw as being "flat like a pie pan", "shaped like saucers and were so thin I could barely see them… ", "half-moon shaped, oval in front and convex in the rear. … they looked like a big flat disk" (see Arnold's drawing at right), and flew "like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water". (One of the objects, however, he would describe later as crescent-shaped, as shown in illustration at left.) Arnold’s descriptions were widely reported and within a few days gave rise to the terms flying saucer and flying disk. Arnold’s sighting was followed in the next few weeks by hundreds of other reported sightings, mostly in the U.S., but in other countries as well. After reports of the Arnold sighting hit the media, other cases began to be reported in increasing numbers. In one instance a United Airlines crew sighting of nine more disc-like objects over Idahoon the evening of July 4. At the time, this sighting was even more widely reported than Arnold’s and lent considerable credence to Arnold’s report.
American UFO researcher Ted Bloecher, in his comprehensive review of newspaper reports (including cases that preceded Arnold's), found a sudden surge upwards in sightings on July 4, peaking on July 6–8. Bloecher noted that for the next few days most American newspapers were filled with front-page stories of the new "flying saucers" or "flying discs". Speculation as to what the flying saucers were was rampant in the newspapers. Theories ranged from hallucinations, mass hysteriaoptical illusions, hoaxes, reflections off airplanes, unusual atmospheric conditions, and weather balloons to byproducts of atomic testing or U.S./Russian secret weapons, to even more esoteric interdimensional or interplanetary visitors. Reports began to rapidly tail off after July 8,when officials began issuing press statements on the Roswell UFO incident, in which they explained debris found on the ground by a rancher as being that of a weather balloon.
Over several years in the 1960s, Bloecher (aided by physicist James E. McDonald) discovered 853 flying disc sightings that year from 140 newspapers from Canada, Washington D.C, and every U.S. state except Montana.


UFOs have been subject to investigations over the years that vary widely in scope and scientific rigor. Governments or independent academics in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Peru, France, Belgium, Sweden, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Mexico, Spain, and the Soviet Union are known to have investigated UFO reports at various times. These official reports refer to the UFO of military term, and not, to the supposed alien crafts. It does not mean that the above-mentioned governments recognized supposed human contact with alien civilization.
Among the best known government studies are the ghost rockets investigation by the Swedish military (1946–1947), Project Blue Book, previously Project Sign and Project Grudge, conducted by the United States Air Force from 1947 until 1969, the secret U.S. Army/Air Force Project Twinkle investigation into green fireballs (1948–1951), the secret USAF Project Blue Book Special Report #14 by the Battelle Memorial Institute, and Brazilian Air Force Operation Saucer (1977). France has had an ongoing investigation (GEPAN/SEPRA/GEIPAN) within its space agency CNES since 1977, as has Uruguay since 1989.

Project Sign

Project Sign in 1948 wrote a highly classified opinion (see Estimate of the Situation) that the best UFO reports probably had an extraterrestrial explanation, as did the private but high-level French COMETA study of 1999. A top secret Swedish military opinion given to the USAF in 1948 stated that some of their analysts believed the 1946 ghost rockets and later flying saucers had extraterrestrial origins. (seeGhost rockets for document). In 1954, German rocket scientist Hermann Oberth revealed an internal West German government investigation, which he headed, that arrived at an extraterrestrial conclusion, but this study was never made public.

Project Magnet

Classified, internal reports by the Canadian Project Magnet in 1952 and 1953 also assigned high probability to extraterrestrial origins. Publicly, however, Project Magnet, nor later Canadian defense studies, ever stated such a conclusion.

Project Grudge

Project Sign was dismantled and became Project Grudge at the end of 1948. Angered by the low quality of investigations by Grudge, the Air Force Director of Intelligence reorganized it as Project Blue Book in late 1951, placing Ruppelt in charge. Blue Book closed down in 1970, using the Condon Commission's negative conclusion as a rationale, ending the official Air Force UFO investigations. However, a 1969 USAF document, known as the Bolender memo, plus later government documents revealed that nonpublic U.S. government UFO investigations continued after 1970. The Bollender memo first stated that "reports of unidentified flying objects that could affect national security… are not part of the Blue Book system," indicating that more serious UFO incidents were already handled outside of the public Blue Book investigation. The memo then added, "reports of UFOs which could affect national security would continue to be handled through the standard Air Force procedures designed for this purpose." In addition, in the late 1960s, there was a chapter on UFOs at the U.S. Air Force Academy in their Space Sciences course, giving serious consideration to possible extraterrestrial origins. When word of the curriculum became public, the Air Force in 1970 put out a statement the book was outdated and that cadets were now being informed of Condon's negative conclusion instead.

USAF Regulation 200-2

The initially classified USAF Regulation 200-2, first issued in 1953 after the Robertson Panel, which first defined UFOs and how information was to be collected, stated explicitly that the two reasons for studying the unexplained cases were for national security reasons and for possible technical aspects involved, implying physical reality and concern about national defense, but without opinion as to origins. (For example, such information would also be considered important if UFOs had a foreign or domestic origin.) The first two known classified USAF studies in 1947 also concluded real physical aircraft were involved, but gave no opinion as to origins. (See American investigations immediately below) These early studies led to the creation of the USAF's Project Sign at the end of 1947, the first semi-public USAF study.
Air Force Regulation 200-2, issued in 1953 and 1954, defined an Unidentified Flying Object ("UFOB") as "any airborne object which by performance, aerodynamic characteristics, or unusual features, does not conform to any presently known aircraft or missile type, or which cannot be positively identified as a familiar object." The regulation also said UFOBs were to be investigated as a "possible threat to the security of the United States" and "to determine technical aspects involved." As to what the public was to be told, "it is permissible to inform news media representatives on UFOB's when the object is positively identified as a familiar object," but "For those objects which are not explainable, only the fact that ATIC [Air Technical Intelligence Center] will analyze the data is worthy of release, due to many unknowns involved.

Project Bluebook

Allen Hynek was a trained astronomer who participated in Project Bluebook after doing research as a federal government employee. He formed the opinion that some UFO reports could not be scientifically explained. Through his founding of the Center for UFO Studies and participation at CUFOs he spent the rest of his life researching and documenting UFOs. The movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind had a character loosely based on Hynek. Another group studying UFOs is Mutual UFO Network. MUFON is a grass roots based organization known for publishing one of the first UFO investigators handbooks. This handbook went into great detail on how to document alleged UFO sightings.
Jacques Vallée, a scientist and prominent UFO researcher, has argued that most UFO research is scientifically deficient, including many government studies such as Project Blue Book, and that mythology and cultism are frequently associated with the phenomenon. Vallée states that self-styled scientists often fill the vacuum left by the lack of attention paid to the UFO phenomenon by official science, but also notes that several hundred professional scientists continue to study UFOs in private, what he terms the "invisible college". He also argues that much could be learned from rigorous scientific study, but that little such work has been done.

Scientific studies

There has been little mainstream scientific study of UFOs, and the topic has received little serious attention or support in mainstream scientific literature. Official studies ended in the U.S. in December 1969, subsequent to the statement by Edward Condon that the study of UFOs probably could not be justified in the expectation that science would be advanced. The Condon report and these conclusions were endorsed by the National Academy of Scientists, of which Condon was a member. However, a scientific review by the UFO subcommittee of the AIAA disagreed with Condon's conclusion, noting that at least 30% of the cases studied remained unexplained, and that scientific benefit might be gained by continued study.
It has been claimed that all UFO cases are anecdotal and that all can be explained as prosaic natural phenomena. On the other hand, it has been argued that there is limited awareness among scientists of observational data, other than what is reported in the popular press.
No official government investigation has ever publicly concluded that UFOs are indisputably real, physical objects, extraterrestrial in origin, or of concern to national defense. These same negative conclusions also have been found in studies that were highly classified for many years, such as the UK's Flying Saucer Working PartyProject Condign, the US CIA-sponsored Robertson Panel, the US military investigation into the green fireballs from 1948 to 1951, and the Battelle Memorial Institute study for the USAF from 1952 to 1955 (Project Blue Book Special Report #14).
Some public government conclusions have indicated physical reality but stopped short of concluding extraterrestrial origins, though not dismissing the possibility. Examples are the Belgian military investigation into large triangles over their airspace in 1989–1991 and the recent 2009 Uruguay Air Force study conclusion (see below).
Some private studies have been neutral in their conclusions, but argued the inexplicable core cases called for continued scientific study. Examples are the Sturrock Panel study of 1998 and the 1970 AIAA review of the Condon Report.

United States

US investigations into UFOs include:
Thousands of documents released under FOIA also indicate that many U.S. intelligence agencies collected (and still collect) information on UFOs, including the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), FBICIANational Security Agency (NSA), as well as military intelligence agencies of the Army and Navy, in addition to the Air Force.
The investigation of UFOs has also attracted many civilians, who in the U.S formed research groups such as National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena (NICAP, active 1956–1980), Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO, 1952–1988), Mutual UFO Network (MUFON, 1969–), and Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS, 1973–).

After 1947 sightings

Following the large U.S. surge in sightings in June and early July 1947, on July 9, 1947, Army Air Force (AAF) intelligence, in cooperation with the FBI, began a formal investigation into selected best sightings with characteristics that could not be immediately rationalized, which included Kenneth Arnold’s and that of the United Airlines crew. The AAF used "all of its top scientists" to determine whether or not "such a phenomenon could, in fact, occur". The research was "being conducted with the thought that the flying objects might be a celestial phenomenon," or that "they might be a foreign body mechanically devised and controlled." Three weeks later in a preliminary defense estimate, the air force investigation decided that, "This ‘flying saucer’ situation is not all imaginary or seeing too much in some natural phenomenon. Something is really flying around."
A further review by the intelligence and technical divisions of the Air Materiel Command at Wright Field reached the same conclusion, that "the phenomenon is something real and not visionary or fictitious," that there were objects in the shape of a disc, metallic in appearance, and as big as man-made aircraft. They were characterized by "extreme rates of climb [and] maneuverability," general lack of noise, absence of trail, occasional formation flying, and "evasive" behavior "when sighted or contacted by friendly aircraft and radar," suggesting a controlled craft. It was thus recommended in late September 1947 that an official Air Force investigation be set up to investigate the phenomenon. It was also recommended that other government agencies should assist in the investigation.

Project Sign

This led to the creation of the Air Force’s Project Sign at the end of 1947, one of the earliest government studies to come to a secret extraterrestrial conclusion. In August 1948, Sign investigators wrote a top-secret intelligence estimate to that effect. The Air Force Chief of Staff Hoyt Vandenberg ordered it destroyed. The existence of this suppressed report was revealed by several insiders who had read it, such as astronomer and USAF consultant J. Allen Hynek and Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt, the first head of the USAF's Project Blue Book.
Another highly classified U.S. study was conducted by the CIA's Office of Scientific Investigation (OS/I) in the latter half of 1952 after being directed to do so by the National Security Council (NSC). They concluded UFOs were real physical objects of potential threat to national security. One OS/I memo to the CIA Director (DCI) in December read, "...the reports of incidents convince us that there is something going on that must have immediate attention... Sightings of unexplained objects at great altitudes and traveling at high speeds in the vicinity of major U.S. defense installations are of such a nature that they are not attributable to natural phenomena or any known types of aerial vehicles." The matter was considered so urgent, that OS/I drafted a memorandum from the DCI to the NSC proposing that the NSC establish an investigation of UFOs as a priority project throughout the intelligence and the defense research and development community. They also urged the DCI to establish an external research project of top-level scientists to study the problem of UFOs, now known as the Robertson Panel, to further analyze the matter. The OS/I investigation was called off after the Robertson Panel's negative conclusions in January 1953.

Condon Committee

A public research effort conducted by the Condon Committee for the USAF, which arrived at a negative conclusion in 1968, marked the end of the US government's official investigation of UFOs, though documents indicate various government intelligence agencies continue unofficially to investigate or monitor the situation.
Controversy has surrounded the Condon report, both before and after it was released. It has been claimed that the report was "harshly criticized by numerous scientists, particularly at the powerful AIAA … [who] recommended moderate, but continuous scientific work on UFOs". In an address made to the AAASJames E. McDonald stated that he believed science had failed to mount adequate studies of the problem, criticizing the Condon report and prior studies by the US Air Force for being scientifically deficient. He also questioned the basis for Condon's conclusions and argued that the reports of UFOs have been "laughed out of scientific court." J. Allen Hynek, an astronomer whose position as USAF consultant from 1948 made him perhaps the most knowledgeable scientist connected with the subject, sharply criticized the report of the Condon Committee and later wrote two nontechnical books that set forth the case for investigating seemingly baffling UFO reports.
Ruppelt recounted his experiences with Project Blue Book in his memoir, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects (1956).

Notable cases

  • The Roswell Incident (1947) involved New Mexico residents, local law enforcement officers, and the US military, the latter of whom allegedly collected physical evidence from the UFO crash site.
  • In the Kecksburg Incident, Pennsylvania (1965), residents reported seeing a bell shaped object crash in the area. Police officers, and possibly military personnel, were sent to investigate.
  • The Travis Walton abduction case (1975): The movie Fire in the Sky was based on this event, but embellished greatly the original account.


In Canada, the Department of National Defence has dealt with reports, sightings and investigations of UFOs across Canada. In addition to conducting investigations into crop circles in Duhamel, Alberta, it still considers "unsolved" the Falcon Lake incident in Manitoba and theShag Harbour incident in Nova Scotia.
Early Canadian studies included Project Magnet (1950–1954) and Project Second Story (1952–1954), supported by the Defence Research Board. These studies were headed by Canadian Department of Transport radio engineer Wilbert B. Smith, who later publicly supported extraterrestrial origins.
In the Shag Harbour incident, a large object sequentially flashing lights was seen and heard to dive into the water by multiple witnesses. TheRoyal Canadian Mounted Police and many local residents also witnessed a light floating on the water immediately afterward, and a large patch of unusual yellow foam when a water search was initiated. Multiple government agencies were eventually involved in trying to identify the crashed object and searching for it. Canadian naval divers later purportedly found no wreckage. In official documents, the object was called a "UFO" because no conventional explanation for the crashed object was discovered. Around the same time, both the Canadian and US military were involved in another UFO-related search at Shelburne, Nova Scotia, approximately 30 miles from Shag Harbour.


On March 2007, the French Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) published an archive of UFO sightings and other phenomena online.
French studies include GEPAN/SEPRA/GEIPAN (1977–), within the French space agency CNES, the longest ongoing government-sponsored investigation. About 14% of some 6000 cases studied remained unexplained. The official opinion of GEPAN/SEPRA/GEIPAN has been neutral or negative, but the three heads of the studies have gone on record in stating that UFOs were real physical flying machines beyond our knowledge or that the best explanation for the most inexplicable cases was an extraterrestrial one.
The French COMETA panel (1996–1999) was a private study undertaken mostly by aerospace scientists and engineers affiliated with CNES and high-level French Air Force military intelligence analysts, with ultimate distribution of their study intended for high government officials. The COMETA panel likewise concluded the best explanation for the inexplicable cases was the extraterrestrial hypothesis and went further in accusing the United States government of a massive cover-up.

United Kingdom

The UK's Flying Saucer Working Party published its final report in 1951, which remained secret for over 50 years. The Working Party concluded that all UFO sightings could be explained as misidentifications of ordinary objects or phenomena, optical illusions, psychological misperceptions/aberrations, or hoaxes. The report stated: "We accordingly recommend very strongly that no further investigation of reported mysterious aerial phenomena be undertaken, unless and until some material evidence becomes available."
Eight file collections on UFO sightings, dating from 1978 to 1987, were first released on May 14, 2008, to the UK National Archives by theMinistry of Defence. Although kept secret from the public for many years, most of the files have low levels of classification and none are classified Top Secret. 200 files are set to be made public by 2012. The files are correspondence from the public sent to government officials, such as the MoD and Margaret Thatcher. The MoD released the files under the Freedom of Information Act due to requests from researchers.These files include, but are not limited to, UFOs over Liverpool and the Waterloo Bridge in London.
On October 20, 2008 more UFO files were released. One case released detailed that in 1991 an Alitalia passenger aircraft was approachingHeathrow Airport when the pilots saw what they described as a "cruise missile" fly extremely close to the cockpit. The pilots believed that a collision was imminent. UFO expert David Clarke says that this is one of the most convincing cases for a UFO he has come across.
A secret study of UFOs was undertaken for the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) between 1996 and 2000 and was code-named Project Condign. The resulting report, titled "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the UK Defence Region", was publicly released in 2006, but the identity and credentials of whomever constituted Project Condign remains classified. The report confirmed earlier findings that the main causes of UFO sightings are misidentification of man-made and natural objects. The report noted: "No artefacts of unknown or unexplained origin have been reported or handed to the UK authorities, despite thousands of UAP reports. There are no SIGINTELINT or radiation measurements and little useful video or still IMINT." It concluded: "There is no evidence that any UAP, seen in the UKADR [UK Air Defence Region], are incursions by air-objects of any intelligent (extraterrestrial or foreign) origin, or that they represent any hostile intent." A little-discussed conclusion of the report was that novel meteorological plasma phenomenon akin to Ball Lightning are responsible for "the majority, if not all" of otherwise inexplicable sightings, especially reports of Black Triangle UFOs.
In August 2009 The Black Vault internet archive announced the release by the British government of more than 4,000 pages of declassified records.The records include information on the Rendlesham Forest incidentcrop circles, a UFO attack on a cemetery and even reports of alien abduction claims.
On December 1, 2009, the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) quietly closed down its UFO investigations unit. The unit's hotline and email address were suspended by the Ministry of Defense on that date. The MoD said there was no value in continuing to receive and investigate sightings in a release, stating
"... in over fifty years, no UFO report has revealed any evidence of a potential threat to the United Kingdom. The MoD has no specific capability for identifying the nature of such sightings. There is no Defence benefit in such investigation and it would be an inappropriate use of defence resources. Furthermore, responding to reported UFO sightings diverts MoD resources from tasks that are relevant to Defence."
The Guardian reported that the MoD claimed the closure would save the Ministry around £50,000 a year. The MoD said that it would continue to release UFO files to the public through the National Archives.