Astronomy

UFO Contact are we Ready



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"UFO Contact are we Ready"
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On July 16, 1969, five days before the historic landing of the Apollo 11 mission on the Moon, Title 14 of Section 1211 of the Code of Federal Regulations of the United States was enacted, making it illegal, under penalty of up to one year in prison and/or a fine of $5,000, for any member of the public to come into contact with "...personnel, spacecraft and other property returning to the [earth] after landing on or coming within the atmospheric envelope of a celestial body..." This regulation, which is part of the NASA mandate, was widely interpreted to include UFOs and their extraterrestrial occupants, although that was not the intent, nor was that ever stated or implied in the regulation. Presumably, however, it could have been made to apply in the event of a "close encounter" if the government had wished to do so.

In any case, that is a moot point today; Section 1211 was quietly withdrawn in 1991 as no longer being necessary. It is, however, still an interesting illustration of the lack of knowledge we have, and the potential hysteria the great unknown is capable of causing. The real purpose of the Section 1211 regulation was to safeguard people and the environment from possible contamination from space. We were, after all, just about to set foot on the Moon, and had a very incomplete picture of just what we would find there; the regulation was the best way the government had of expressing the "better safe than sorry" manner of doing things.

The Section 1211 regulation sparked an uproar among UFO researchers and enthusiasts, who saw it as another way the government "hides the truth" about UFOs. Dozens of websites still refer to the regulation, apparently unaware that it no longer exists. This illustrates how difficult it would be to develop a "policy" detailing how an open contact with an extraterrestrial civilization should be handled. The government, of course, would have its own priorities, starting with national security. The academic and scientific community would have their own priorities, as would the different religious communities. The news media, given the biggest story of all time, would have their priorities. Bringing these interests together to develop any sort of agreement would not just have to happen in the United States, but in every other country around the world. And then all the countries, each having developed their own policies, would have to find some agreement. It could be argued that an international agreement on how to greet our alien visitors might not be necessary, but consider this: would the American people be comfortable letting the Iranians handle things if that was the first place a UFO decided to land? Would the Chinese be content to let Taiwan deliver Earth's welcome? Probably not.

So it would seem that humanity is definitely not ready for extraterrestrial contact, since we can't seem to get along with ourselves. The most sobering thought is that the choice most likely won't be ours to make. After all, we are not the ones traveling interstellar distances. As we learn more about our universe, we are also learning that first contact may just be a matter of time. When it happens, it will change our world. Change is often very difficult; all the same, I hope I'm still around to see it.

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More about this author: Ben Kritz

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