SAN FRANCISCO -- What, exactly, are UFOs and what does the military know about them? That's the question a congressional committee took up Tuesday in a hearing unlike anything seen in over 50 years.
"I do not have an explanation for what this specific object is," said Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray, watching one of the clips played in Washington, DC.
"It's very significant," Ruben Uriarte, State Director for the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) said of the day's events. "It's been 50 years since our last UFO hearing. It's about time."
For Uriarte, Tuesday was a very big deal. By the afternoon, he had already watched the hearing twice. He says, if nothing else, the government is again on record as saying there are plenty of incidents that they simply cannot explain.
"We want to know what's out there as much as you want to know what's out there," Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Ronald Moultrie said Tuesday.
"We told you so," Uriarte said of the forthrightness from the testimony. "Yes. It's a historical moment. Hopefully, people will accept that we are dealing with something, something that is very real."
"You know, I deal with it every day," said Dr. Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute. "Every day, I get emails and phone calls from people who believe they've seen aliens."
Shostak has made a career of looking for extraterrestrial intelligence.
"I don't think we are being visited, no," he said when asked about the congressional hearings. "I've never thought that.
Shostak thinks the hearing looked a lot like the 1950's, the last time the military said it was looking for something.
"They weren't doing that because they thought 'Hey, we are finally in touch with extraterrestrials,' Shostak says of the Cold War-era UFO scares. "They were thinking 'Maybe we are in touch with some new Soviet craft.' And I think that is the fundamental interest of the Navy these days. They just want to know what these things are because it could be something that significant. I doubt it, personally. But it could be."
So no bombshell evidence, or any real answers today. But for longtime believers, the hearing was a small victory just to see Congress asking questions.
"The stigma is going to change," Uriarte said. "People are going to take this more seriously."
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