For JD: Tell Me About Roswell

>> Thursday, July 30, 2009

JD asked: On the topic of conspiracy theories, I have a question. What's your take on the whole Area 51 story? Do you think aliens really crashed in Roswell, NM? Is the government's party line that details are classified for security purposes a rational explanation -- or proof that something is DEFINITELY going on.

Ah, Roswell. You may find this hard to believe, but I’ve never heard anyone at NASA talk about this, discuss it, etc. Apparently, we either don’t give it much credence (which I find most likely) or were part of the coverup, though not myself personally. Hell, I wasn’t even born back then. So, for that reason, I didn’t know much about it. But I do love to learn.

So, I checked it out. Here’s my nutshell summary. Some farmer found some lightweight debris, rubber sticks, tape and foil, about 5 pounds worth, 30 miles outside Roswell (per the description he gave the newspaper after he’d reported it to the Sheriff). Debris descriptions were in keeping with a lightweight flyer attached to a balloon that disintegrated. 1-3 weeks later, he mentioned it to the local Sheriff who called the local AF Base who came and collected the debris. The description generally jibes with those of the farmer’s children as well. The Air Force described the data at the time as a “flying disc” and then a weather balloon. Air Force position is that it was residue from a top secret high altitude balloon project from Project Mogul and that it represented residue from a hexagonal disc suspended from a weather balloon made with reflective material. This would explain not only the quick collection of debris but the immediate description.

No one, apparently at the time, saw any lights or UFOs (in the Roswell area) and, after these brief mentions in the news, nothing more was said on this topic for 33 years, when one individual (former Air Force flunky) came forward with a different story – that changed multiple times, I might add – and then a selection of other stories cropped up over the next decade. Somehow, that original five pounds of debris transformed into a crashed vehicle capable of sustaining life support (and multiple aliens).


I can look at this multiple ways. First is Occam’s Razor which tells me the simplest explanation is most likely to be true. Which means some rancher found some stuff on his property from a top secret military operation and they came and took the debris and told him not to talk about it. This impression is reinforced by the long stretch of time before anyone came in with a different story, the lack of first-hand and credible witnesses with a different story.

The burden of proof, in my opinion, is on those promoting a very unlikely scenario on many different levels. This goes for documents that have since surfaced with unknown provenance that can be demonstrably proven to be younger than their ostensible dates (MJ12 documents). I’ve included a debris photo for the crashed Soyuz 1 (where Cosmonaut Komorov was lost during reentry) as an example of a single person vehicle crash so you can see how challenging it is for me to envision the original description (or even the much later descriptions) as a crash of a crewed vessel. Even with the worst case crash site debris field description (about 1 square mile), it doesn’t hold a candle to even the debris field of Columbia (~2500 square miles per the CAIB report). One fact is all you need to disprove something, folks. Especially if we’re supposed to be describing a vehicle that has theoretically interplanetary if not interstellar capabilities.

And, what possible incentive would the USAF or the US Government have to cover up alien encounters? If we had proof of ET, what an incentive to beef up our space defenses like no one’s business, yet, ten years later, when Air Force, Army and Navy were duking it out to see who was going to lead man’s trek into space, the government chose to hand off to a civilian agency. I find it hard to imagine that our space programs would have been truncated and cut off as frequently and painfully as they have been if our government had any real appreciable evidence of extra terrestrials. Truth is, if we knew about aliens, the government could have likely frightened us into doing whatever and spending whatever they wanted.

But I have no problem understanding the motivations of those that might be embellishing, exaggerating or even making up stuff from the past. The need to be famous or get your name in a book, even off-handedly, can be compelling. And, since we had people with an agenda doing the “research,” their results which happen to jibe with their notions ahead of time are no surprise. Bet they made a pretty penny on it, too.

Now, does that mean all the UFO sightings are nonsense? No, I don’t take it that that follows. I’d have to see the evidence involved in each one before I’d make up my mind. There are some pretty crazy things that happen that are hard to explain.

Do I believe in extraterrestrial life? You bet. For two reasons.

First, I’m a scientist and it’s inconceivable to me that, given all the stars and galaxies that exist in the known universe, all the planets and worlds that must exist, I find it incredibly unlikely that only this planet has had the correct formula that allows and fosters life.

Secondly, I believe in the possibility of a higher power (or more than one) and it’s inconceivable to me that the rest of the universe exists just for our astronomical pleasure. Nature lets nothing go to waste and I see no reason to assume, if a deity exists, that he would do leave a universe of possibilities unexplored.

PS, check out here on the lowdown on that UFO picture, an actual NASA picture from Apollo 16.


  • flit

    wow.... this is a fascinating article!

  • Roy

    The Roswell mythology has always cracked me up. Given the 33 year gap, you know the story had to be told with an eye toward the news media. Somebody was obviously grabbing for their 15 minutes of fame.

    Good post, Steph.

  • JD at I Do Things

    Awesome! Thank you, Stephanie!

    I'm disappointed that NASA doesn't talk about this much -- or DO they and you just can't tell us? ;-)

    You really put the rumor to rest with your example of the crash site photo. That does it for me. As well as the fact that, hell, yes! Government would use this information in about a million different ways, so why hide it?

    Fascinating. I'm off to check out the links. Thanks for answering my question!

  • Stephanie B

    If you think it through, the "evidence" is not very compelling. Most people are tittilated by the notion but aren't really thinking it through - and usually don't take the trouble to do the research.

    That's what I'm here for.

  • Bob Johnson

    Great post Stephanie. I believe their are other life forms in our universe for the same reasons you state, but I believe also that we have been visited which is what separates me from most of the scientific community, just too many reports and an experience I had a while back which I won't get into , but it didn't include fancy lights or anal probes,lol. As far as Roswell I don't think it was a cover up or an actual craft but it did set off the whole UFO thing which I find very interesting.

  • Stephanie B

    Bob, I don't discount the possibility that we've been visited, but I'm not convinced either. I've not read of an event where I could find no other explanation, which doesn't mean it hasn't happened.

    On the other hand, it's not an area I've pursued.

  • The Mother

    Being married to a pseudo-conspiracy theorist, we actually stopped in Roswell and toured the museum. It's not terribly impressive--in fact, even hubby was laughing mightily by the second or third exhibit. The signs all say "artist recreation", since, of course, everything real was confiscated.

    But people have to have something to believe in. Stupid alien conspiracies are just one of those things. Shows like "X-files" have just riled it all up.

    I, too, believe that we'll eventually find extra-terrestrial life (well, we probably already have--the bacteria on Mars is pretty convincing). I just think it'll be big news, not swept under the rug. Sort of like on Dr Who, where the alien spaceship just took up residence over London and smashed through Big Ben when it crashed.

    Not too easy to "disappear."

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