Most mainstream scientists don't like to consider the possibility that intelligent extraterrestrial life might find us first. They prefer to equate UFOs with silly ideas about "little green men," and dismiss all claims of human/alien encounter here on earth as hoaxes or flights of fancy. However, opinion polls consistently show that about half of all adults in America think it is possible that earth has been visited, or will be visited, by technically advanced extraterrestrials. Of course, some people are sure they have already met extraterrestrials -- some even say they have been "abducted" against their will by aliens in a UFO. While such claims may sound crazy, a growing number of researchers and mental health professionals are starting to take them seriously.

A "UFO" can be anything from a fuzzy light in the sky to a solid flying machine in your backyard. Lights in the sky are the most common kind of UFO report, and most of them probably have a "normal" explanation. But what about solid looking objects that are close enough to describe in detail? There are many such reports -- and some of them come from military officers, police officers, or reputable scientists. They represent serious evidence of "unexplained technology" here on earth. And, of course, sometimes these reports include "aliens" as well.

Some people think there really is "unexplained technology" all right, but they say it comes from secret government projects, not aliens. There is no question that the U.S. government, as well as the Russians, British, French and some other governments, are working on advanced flying machines that might look "out of this world" to an uninformed observer. Possibly these human aircraft account for some UFO reports.

Advanced Flying Machines

Area 51, a super-secret airbase at Groom Dry Lake in central Nevada, has long been a testing site for America's most advanced aircraft, including some that officially don't exist. Perhaps for this reason, Area 51 is also a hotspot for UFO sightings. Years before the strange-looking F-117a Stealth Fighter was publicly shown, it was spotted by ranchers and UFO-watchers in the high desert. Flying almost silently and looking like something fit for Darth Vader, there can be no doubt that this bizarre plane provoked some perfectly sincere UFO reports. And why not? If a person saw it swoop by and then called the Air Force, they would have been told that no such thing exists. If it doesn't exist, it can't very well be identified -- and that makes it an unidentified flying object, or UFO.

Similar reports were generated by the weird, bat-shaped B-2 Stealth Bomber, another plane that officially did not exist during its testing phase some years ago. Is it possible that other strange aircraft, still top-secret, are being tested today? Most civilian analysts say yes. The most-often named example is the so-called Aurora, which is thought to be a super-secret, super-fast replacement for the SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft. Two of the most authoritative aerospace magazines -- Aviation Week & Space Technology, and Jane's Defence Weekly -- have both declared that the Aurora does exist and is flying. Yet, the U.S. government insists there is no such aircraft. When will we know the truth? That's hard to say. Meanwhile, if anyone actually sees the Aurora, it qualifies as a human-built UFO.

Some UFOs are seen flying over secure military bases and are reported by military personnel, suggesting that even the military units involved cannot recognize what they are seeing. These reports are harder to dismiss as human aircraft. In several instances, "flying saucers" have entered the airspace over nuclear weapons sites and caused great alarm. One such incident happened in Russia, at a place called Kapustin Yar in the Astrakhan region, on the night of July 28-29, 1989. Seven officers and soldiers at a missile base clearly saw a "flying disc" with a dome on top flying and hovering over the base for nearly two hours. At times it shined a bright beam of light down on some of the building, including the rocket weapons depot. Reports and *illustrations* of this incident were provided by the witnesses.

Similarly, during 1989 and 1990, thousands of people in the nation of Belgium saw large triangular shaped UFOs in the sky. The sightings were often captured on film and video; and many witnesses made *drawings.* The Belgian military sent jet fighters to c hase some of the UFOs. In at least one instance, a military jet locked radar on one of the UFOs at the same time as it was being tracked by a ground-based radar. Both radars measured the UFO doing maneuvers that would be considered impossible for a human aircraft; and because of the two separate radar readings, these findings are considered highly reliable. Finally a Belgian military spokesman went on TV to say that he could not explain what was happening.

Belgium is not the only country to report large triangle-shaped UFOs. Similar sightings happened in the Hudson Valley of New York during the mid-1980s. And many such sightings have happened in England in recent years. In March of 1993, for instance, a hug e, silent black triangle-shaped *UFO flew over two air force bases in England.* Military personnel immediately reported to the British Ministry of Defense, which then tried but failed to explain what had been seen. Nick Pope, who headed the UFO investigat ion for the Ministry of Defense, later said he believed that this incident involved an aircraft of non-human origin.

If even a few UFOs are real aircraft not built by humans, as many investigators think, then we must consider the possibility that they represent "alien" technology. Could this mean we're being invaded from outer space? Today, many popular movies and telev ision shows depict terrible encounters with aliens, such as the 1996 film "Independence Day," or the TV show "Dark Skies." Of course, there are positive images as well, such as the film "E.T." or the interesting TV series "Alien Nation," where the aliens look very similar to humans and learn to fit in to human society.

If extraterrestrials are visiting the earth, it might not be easy to decide if they're friendly or dangerous. First of all, if they're really here, they aren't being very obvious (at least not to most of us), so we would tend to consider them elusive and inscrutable. Does that mean they could be up to something? Or are they simply trying to study us without scaring us to death? If it turns out that they are very strange looking, we might automatically be afraid of them -- and once afraid, we might have a hard time judging if they are friendly or not. This could lead to dangerous confrontation. So, getting to know our "alien" neighbors might be somewhat difficult, even if they mean us no harm.

There are many well-documented encounters with UFOs and "alien" beings that have never been explained. Here are just a few of the best cases:

April 1964: A police officer named Lonnie Zamora in Socorro, New Mexico, saw a *strange machine on the ground,* along with two small "people." He saw the people get into the machine, and he saw the machine take off and fly away. It was broad daylight, and he was only a few hundred feet away. There was a lot of physical evidence left behind, such as landing marks, footprints and burned vegetation. Official investigators from the FBI, NASA and the military tried but failed to explain this encounter.

October 1973: Four Army reservists were flying a helicopter near Mansfield, Ohio at about 11 pm when they saw a large, *cigar-shaped UFO* very close to their own aircraft. The UFO shined a green light on the helicopter, after which the helicopter's radios , compass and controls stopped working. This lasted for several minutes. Then the UFO turned off the light and flew away. All four men on the helicopter reported the same thing. Five people on the ground also saw the whole event.

November 1975: Lumberjack Travis Walton and six other men saw a "flying saucer" hovering in a clearing in the woods near the town of Snowflake, Arizona. Travis got out of their truck for a closer look, but was struck by a beam of blue light and fell down. His friends drove away in fear, but soon came back to find that Travis was gone. He stayed missing for five days, then turned up on a road near town. He said he had been on board the spacecraft and saw *two kinds of aliens.* He and all his friends passed lie detector tests. This is a well-documented case of "alien abduction."

Do UFO "close encounters" prove that aliens are visiting the earth? Not necessarily. But some UFO cases, including those described in this program, simply have not been explained, and more UFO sightings keep happening all over the world.

The year 1996 was a particularly big year for UFO sightings and close encounters all over the world. Among the nations that reported high levels of UFO activity were: Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Israel, Mexico and South Korea. There was also a gre at deal of UFO activity in various parts of the United States. Major UFO events happened over many capital cities around the world, including Pretoria (South Africa), Seoul (South Korea), Brasilia (Brazil), Amman (Jordan) and Tel Aviv (Israel).

Though many people simply do not believe that UFO events warrant serious attention, a growing number of scientists, military officers, astronauts and other professional people are calling for government action to resolve the UFO controversy once and for a ll. If that happens, what will we learn? Is it possible that the earth really is being visited by beings from somewhere else? Perhaps so. Time will tell.

In any case, we hope this Camp Internet program has convinced you that there are many ways to explore for life "out there," and the chances of eventually finding such life are very high indeed. Happy hunting!

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