|Shostak: They all came from cameras on Navy planes—infrared cameras used to target enemy aircraft. They showed these shapes—round blobs, or blobs that look like peanuts, or blobs resembling Tic Tac mints. Sometimes the things would disappear, swinging out of the field of view at what’s apparently a very high speed. Now, that “apparently” is important, because you can’t judge speed unless you know the distance of these things, but the pilots—whose voices can be heard in the videos—clearly didn’t know what they were.
Vyse: The Times story also described a secret Pentagon program that had investigated UFO reports for many years. What effect did the public revelation of this program have?
Shostak: It appeared that the government had been studying UFOs despite claiming it was done with all that. Ultimately, lawmakers on Capitol Hill decided to spend some money and look into it. In 2020, Congress said U.S. intelligence agencies needed to produce a report on the subject. That came out last summer.
The report had two parts—a public portion and a classified portion. The public portion was really anodyne—really milquetoast. It basically said, We don’t understand a lot of these things. Not one word of it referred to the possibility that these objects might be extraterrestrial crafts. Even so, many in the UFO community thought the classified portion of the report had evidence of extraterrestrials. That’s the thing about conspiratorial arguments—you can’t disprove them.
Vyse: In public debates about UFOs, what are the most common explanations you hear for what they might be?
Shostak: There are three types of explanations put forward for those Navy UFO videos. There are the prosaic explanations—that, for instance, we could be seeing the exhaust of a commercial jet. Another type of explanation is that we could be looking at an aircraft from another country—maybe drones sent to spy on American military exercises—but that strikes me as implausible. Other countries are checking out what the U.S. Navy is doing off the coast of San Diego? It could be, I suppose.
Then, of course, there are the explanations involving extraterrestrial craft having come to Earth to observe the Navy. That idea is totally perplexing to me. Why would aliens, advanced enough to get all the way to Earth, be interested in observing what the U.S. military can do? It would be like going back to Ancient Rome and spending all your time looking at a place where they manufacture swords—it might be interesting, but it’s of no real importance.
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