Are we alone in the universe? This question resurfaces very frequently in the United States, where a committee of the US Congress heard, Wednesday, July 26, a former intelligence officer of the Air Force who ensures for several months that his country has collected the remains of a UFO (unidentified flying object) crashed, and hides it from the public.

While David Grusch – who now defines himself as a "whistleblower" – says he relies on testimonies from high-ranking officers who would have provided him with photographs, official documents and testimonies covered by secrecy, he does not really present tangible evidence, saying that this information remains classified.

Nevertheless, the House Oversight Committee (the main investigative committee of the US House of Representatives) had announced the holding of a special hearing on what the US government prefers to call "unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP)".

At the beginning of the year, a document from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) took stock of UFO reports collected in recent years, and reported a record number of reports. Some 366 UFO reports have been transmitted within the military since the beginning of 2021 (compared to 144 from 2003 to 2021), according to the ODNI.

Ryan Graves, former Navy pilot, David Grusch, former intelligence officer, and David Fravor, former Navy commander, during a UFO hearing, July 26, 2023, at the Capitol, Washington. © Nathan Howard, AP

Lifting the veil of secrecy

We are not alone in the universe, and the authorities are hiding evidence of the existence of extraterrestrials, including the debris of an unidentified object, said Wednesday David Grusch, assuring to be "absolutely" convinced that the United States is in possession of a UFO.

"In the course of my duties, I learned that there was a program (...) to recover the remains of an unidentified device and analyze it", to understand how it works. "I took the decision, based on the data I collected, to share it with my superiors and several members of the general inspectorate and to become a whistleblower."

Former US intelligence official David Grusch says under oath that the US government is in possession of UFOs and non-human bodies

— Latest in space (@latestinspace) July 26, 2023

At his side, two other men were summoned to the hearing: David Fravor, former commander of the navy and Ryan Graves, former Navy pilot who shared multiple "encounters" experienced by several pilots during training flights. "If [UFOs] are foreign drones, it's an urgent national security issue; If it's something else, it's a problem for science," he said. "In both cases, unidentified objects are a concern for flight safety."

In April, Sean Kirkpatrick, the head of the Pentagon department responsible for investigating these phenomena and the risks they pose to national security, had assured that no signs of extraterrestrial activity had been identified.

The bureau "did not detect any credible evidence of extraterrestrial activity, non-terrestrial technology or objects defying the laws of physics," he said.

The US government, however, takes these phenomena seriously and NASA has recently called for more efforts to study them scientifically, as has the Pentagon, which is concerned about possible Chinese espionage activities.

"You're telling me that a million humans are in flight at any given time – with cell phones that can take pictures and capture videos – and none of us got clearer images of these supposed alien spacecraft?" said astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, interviewed last February by the American media Voice of America.

Decades of observation, including military

Historically, it is because they are a source of concern for U.S. national security that UFOs – the first, in its contemporary form, was observed in 1947 by pilot Kenneth Arnold – are investigated and studied.

Between 1947 and 1969, more than 12,600 UFO sightings were recorded by the US Air Force as part of Project Blue Book.

The project, which identified unexplained signals reported by military and civilian pilots, was stopped after a study conducted by the University of Colorado concluded that there was no evidence that UFOs came from other planets and that most sightings could be explained by natural phenomena.

But the study did not put an end to the interest aroused by UFOs. In 1995, the privately funded National Institute for Discovery Science was established by businessman Robert Bigelow to discuss the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

A number of confusing cases

Until 2017, reports and investigations were done on the sly of the general public who finally entered the arena when the existence of the Pentagon's "UFO Program" was revealed by the New York Times.

In July 2020, scientist Ravi Kopparapu and astrobiologist Jacob Haqq-Misra, both working for NASA, wrote in Scientific American magazine about the need to revisit the findings of the report that ended Project Blue Book, saying that "beyond military aircraft and strange weather formations, there are still a number of truly confusing cases [of unidentified anomalous phenomena] that might be worth investigating."

In June 2021, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence published its "preliminary assessment" of UFO sightings from 2004 to 2021. The report suggested that unidentified anomalous phenomena could fall into five likely categories: air traffic, natural phenomena, aerospace development programs, foreign craft, and a "catch-all category" called "other."

A year later, NASA announced that it was setting up an independent study program to cover the issue from a scientific perspective and identify, from data in the possession of civilians, government, companies and other organizations, information that could be analyzed.

In a DNI report from June 2023, the number of 510 additional UFO sightings is mentioned, of which 171 remained unexplained. It was around this time that David Grusch came forward with a whistleblower report claiming that the US government was in possession of "intact and partially intact vehicles", as well as (non-human) remains of its operators. But without providing evidence.

"I urge us to put aside the stigma and address the safety and security issue that this topic represents," Graves said at his hearing Wednesday. "The American people deserve to know what's going on in our skies. It's long overdue."

With AFP

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