/ 16 May 2018

‘Aliens’ could be our non-Earth relatives

Nanosatellites are relatively small
Nanosatellites are relatively small


Between 2007 and 2012, the United States defence department ran the Advanced Aerial Threat Identification Programme (Attip). Former US senator Harry Reid worked with two other senators to allocate $22-million a year to fund this programme. The objective was to identify the advanced aircraft in US airspace, and that appeared to be defying the laws of gravity as we understand them.

This phenomenon was consistently witnessed by US Air Force pilots but there was no official effort to identify who the “advanced aviators” were until Reid allocated the necessary funds to undertake this analysis.

The former director of Attip, Luis Elizondo, concluded that “the phenomenon is real”, a reference to the aircraft that operated in an unearthly manner.

In December last year, the US defence department declassified two videos recorded by US Navy F-18 fighter pilots, which depicted examples of this “unidentified aerial phenomenon”. This story subsequently featured in the December 16 2017 edition of The New York Times, under the headline “2 navy airmen and an object that accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen”.

The article cited Commander David Fravor and Lieutenant Commander Jim Slaight who, in November 2004, during a training mission over the Pacific Ocean, witnessed an object “40 feet long and oval in shape”. Subsequently, Fravor observed that “it accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen” and that he felt “pretty weirded out”. Another video was later released depicting a similar incident.

Christopher Mellon, a former deputy assistant secretary of defence and a former staff director for the US senate intelligence committee, in an article in The Washington Post, on March 9 2018, responding to Fravor’s statement, wondered whether “America had been technologically leap-frogged by Russia or China” or whether the objects observed were “evidence of some alien civilisation”.

In the article, Mellon laments that the US defence department prefers to treat these “incidents as isolated events, rather than as part of a pattern requiring serious attention and investigation”. He proposes that “if these craft really aren’t from Earth, then the need to figure out what they are is even more urgent”. Mellon also recommends that “it is time to set aside taboos regarding ‘UFOs’ and instead to listen to our pilots and radar operators”.

The South African Air Force has not openly reported any similar experiences with such aerial phenomena but, more importantly, citizens and the media have not put the question directly to the department of defence in Pretoria, an inaction that we should immediately address.

If the advanced aerial phenomenon is real it would suggest that either there is a group of people who have developed technology that can bend the laws of physics as we know them, or we have advanced interstellar visitors who are trying to inform us of their presence.

The question is, why they are not pursuing a more direct form of communication, to introduce themselves to us? In addition, if the advanced aircraft are real, then they potentially possess technology that could transform several aspects of our global community.

The suggestion that this phenomenon could be real tends to illicit an internal resistance to the idea. Through negative cultural portrayal, we have become indoctrinated to believe that any non-human encounters should be approached from a “threat” perspective. The US defence department framed Attip to determine whether there were “dangerous” intentions behind these fly-by activities.

As citizens of Africa collaborating with our fellow citizens from around the world, we need to consider the alternative perspective: What if these advanced aerial aviators are our interstellar relatives?

We have closed ourselves to the possibility that humanity is not alone in the universe. Opening up our mindsets will require a significant amount of introspection, unlearning and relearning but we can support each other in beginning to consider the possibility that we are part of a larger family of beings, with whom we have not been in contact for some reason or other.

What would you do if you unexpectedly came across your long-lost relatives? Most people would probably want to find out more about them, where they have been and whether there is a basis for us to reacquaint ourselves with them. If the advanced aerial aviators are real, then we should each take it upon ourselves to work with others to find out more about them. We need to create supportive groups in our schools, places of work and worship, to begin talking about these interstellar visitors, and to prepare ourselves for a peaceful approach, interaction and dialogue with them.

The United Nations General Assembly is the only platform through which people can express their willingness to find out much more about the advanced aerial phenomenon in an inclusive and open manner. Individual member states need to urgently raise the issue and convene a UN working group, comprising researchers and analysts, to gather concrete evidence about this “continuing pattern” of advanced aircraft visiting our planetary skies. This working group should also work to assist the general assembly in developing a protocol of engagement with advanced interstellar aviators.

The UN already has an Office for Outer Space Affairs but it has a limited mandate to facilitate the development of space technology for societal purposes, and is not designed to investigate how to engage advanced interstellar aviators directly.

It is necessary to create citizen platforms to welcome our galactic visitors, linked through social media. Such initiatives have already begun to emerge, raising awareness about their presence.

For all we know, they could be our long-lost interstellar relatives.

Professor Tim Murithi is head of the Peacebuilding Interventions Programme at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town