In a word, no.
Let’s get that out of the way up front: Aliens are not coming to conquer Earth or capture the population despite what some alien enthusiasts may claim. Still, the recent unexplained aerial phenomena (UAPS) report raises some interesting questions about our place in the universe and the possibility that we are not alone.
Our Alien Obsession
Human history is replete with alien interest. As noted by Scientific American, one of the first mentions of extraterrestrial life came from a novel written in 200 AD by Lucian of Samosata called Vera Historia. In it, he describes a journey to the moon that includes strange creatures such as three-headed vultures, birds made of grass and humans who sweat milk instead of water. Comedy is also a popular alien interpretation, with works like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy imagining what would happen if our planet was destroyed — not out of malice, but by aliens building an interstellar bypass.
According to Politico, this fictional fascination with aliens also made its way into the realm of reality. In 1995, real estate magnate Robert Bigelow created the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) — his first meetings in Las Vegas included a few scientists and engineers, a CIA spy, a former army colonel and two Apollo astronauts. Their common characteristic? They all felt government officials weren’t giving enough consideration to potential alien efforts on Earth.
The UAPS Report
To some degree, the modern-day efforts of alien hunters have been successful: On June 25, 2021, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released its preliminary assessment of unidentified aerial phenomena. The report is intended to provide “an overview for policymakers of the challenges associated with characterizing the potential threat posed by UAP while also providing a means to develop relevant processes, policies, technologies, and training for the U.S. military and other U.S. Government (USG) personnel if and when they encounter UAP, so as to enhance the Intelligence Community’s (IC) ability to understand the threat.”
But what does this mean in practice? Put simply, the government cannot confirm or deny the existence of aliens. Still, there are nuggets of fascinating information contained in the report. Here are a few key takeaways.
Not Everything Has an Easy Answer
As a recent CNN piece examining the report noted, the UAP data breaks down sightings into five broad categories: airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, USG or U.S. developmental programs, foreign systems and “other.” It’s the “other” that’s interesting, as it effectively acknowledges that there are unexplainable observations. While it may eventually be determined that these cases are tied to more familiar operations, they open the door to creative analysis in the meantime.
Current Reports Are Credible
The report also notes that many of the incidents reported were observed “firsthand by military aviators and were collected from systems we considered to be reliable.” In other words, these aren’t simply eyes-on observations made by individual citizens; they’re sightings reported by trained military staff and backed by trusted technologies. While this doesn’t necessarily imply that aliens are causing these phenomena, it does suggest a need for further investigation.
Interesting Actions Were Observed
In most cases, sightings could be explained by considering relevant variables, but the report states that “In 18 incidents, described in 21 reports, observers reported unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics. Some UAP appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernible means of propulsion. In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency (RF) energy associated with UAP sightings.”
This means there were instances in which personnel saw objects behaving in ways that weren’t consistent with current aerospace engineering limitations.
Social Stigmas May Have Reduced Total Sightings
There’s also a section of the report that addresses the impact of social stigma around observing, reporting and discussing UAP sightings, which may have kept total sighting numbers artificially low. While more experts are now willing to engage with the subject seriously, the report notes that “reputational risk may keep observers silent, complicating scientific pursuit of the topic.”
Data Clustering Is Common
Sites such as Area 51 have long been suggested as secret alien investigation facilities, but as a recent Nextgov article notes, the report data makes it clear that UFO sightings tend to cluster around military installations. This makes sense, as these bases are often equipped with advanced defensive and sensor technology that makes them far more likely to detect potential visitors.
It’s also worth noting that the declassified report is only part of a larger whole. According to the Nextgov piece, “It’s important to note that the unclassified version of the task force’s report is only a few preliminary pages. The videos, photos and data which I and my colleagues in the Pentagon were privy to were not included.”
Making Sense of UFO Sightings
The fact that the report didn’t provide definitive answers regarding certain UFO sightings hasn’t stopped rampant speculation, which has mostly involved reading between the lines or making incredibly broad assumptions.
For some, the revelation that U.S. defense programs didn’t have standardized detection capabilities until 2019 suggests a deliberate suppression of data designed to keep the public in the dark. Others, such as controversial academic Avi Loeb, have claimed that the report’s findings support the notion that aliens have visited Earth. Loeb argues that the report lends credence to his theory that Oumuamua, the cigar-shaped asteroid that passed through our solar system in 2018, was actually an alien craft, despite the fact that no evidence was found to support this conclusion.
The release of the report and serious consideration of possible extraterrestrial interaction are significant steps forward for the government, which has historically been silent on the topic. From the establishment of standardized sensor networks to the acknowledgment that there are some things people have seen that simply can’t be explained, the report sets the stage for a scientific, rather than speculative, framework to help humankind discover if humans really are alone out here — or if cosmic neighbors are closer than most people realize.
As the UAPS report puts it, “Explaining UAP will require analytic, collection and resource investment.”
Interested in all things related to outer space and exploration? We are too. Take a look at open positions at Northrop Grumman, and consider joining our team.