People interested in UFOs are typically stereotyped as young nerdy Star Trek fans, but the truth is altogether different. I had this same expectation when I attended my first UFO meeting. I lived near the headquarters of the largest UFO research organization in the country, the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), and the first time I walked into a meeting, to my surprise, I found mostly retirees. The man in charge was a retired engineer, John Schuessler, who spent years working at Johnson Space Center, beginning with NASA's first manned space missions.
Among the attendees were engineers, retired law enforcement and retired military personnel, who for one reason or other took the issue of UFOs very seriously. Schuessler's interest was that some of the craft described by credible witnesses were highly advanced, and that if we could glean some of this technology from the characteristics described in UFO sightings, it could be utilized to enhance our space program. He became aware of the UFO phenomenon when he found out first hand that astronauts had been seeing things in space they couldn't explain.
Astronaut Gordon Cooper, one of the first men in space, went public with his extraordinary UFO encounters. He says in 1951 he and other Air Force jet pilots saw a group of "metallic, saucer-shaped vehicles". He also says in 1957 a camera crew he supervised filmed a saucer like craft land in the desert at Edwards Air Force base. He was ordered to give the film to a courier and never saw it again. Another astronaut, Edgar Mitchell, says he knows UFOs are real from speaking with his colleagues. He also grew up in Roswell, New Mexico, where he says an extraterrestrial craft really did crash in 1947.
These gentlemen weren't the only men of science to be interested in the subject, in fact modern UFO studies were started by scientists. One of the first and most important, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, was an astronomer who researched UFOs as a consultant for the Air Force. He disagreed with the Air Force's stance that there was nothing to the issue and started the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS).
Another early UFO organization, whose members were mostly military, was the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) founded by renowned physicist Thomas Townsend Brown in 1956. Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter was one of NICAP's more prominent advisors. In a letter to congress in 1960, he wrote: "Behind the scenes, high-ranking Air Force officers are soberly concerned about UFOs. But through official secrecy and ridicule, many citizens are led to believe the unknown flying objects are nonsense."
Democrat Bill Clinton had an interest in UFOs and Hillary was the president's liaison with Laurence Rockefeller, who was petitioning the White House to begin official investigations into the matter. John Podesta, Clinton's Chief of Staff and co-chair of the Obama-Biden Transition Project, called for an end to UFO secrecy at the Washington Press Club in 2002. Jimmy Carter said he had a UFO sighting, so did Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich.
More recently, a book titled, UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record, has shed light on some of the more credible evidence. The foreword is written by John Podesta and it has been endorsed by well-known physicist, Michio Kaku and astronomer Derrick Pitts. Kaku has been writing and talking about UFOs and the importance of taking the phenomena serious for years. Pitts was convinced of the phenomenon's importance by the book, stating: "I am not saying that UFOs are ET spacecraft. I am saying [that] here, there is some mystery, and we should be able to address it scientifically, without all the stigma involved."
This is just a brief sample of some of the accomplished people interested in the subject. Polls typically show that anywhere between 30 to 50 percent of the population take UFOs seriously. The results from a Gallup poll in 1966 showed that college and high school graduates were nearly 20 percent more likely to believe the issue was "something real" than people with only a grade school education.
I was inspired to write this blog entry when a friend of mine lost his battle with cancer and passed away last week. Gary Huffman was a retired senior engineer from the Rocky Flats nuclear facility outside of Denver, Colorado. Literally a rocket scientist, who started frequenting UFO lectures after he had his own extraordinary sighting. He was one of the smartest, most honest and forthright people I knew. Thinking of him made me contemplate the long list of other impressive people who have studied this enigmatic mystery.