Who knew that Harry Reid was so concerned about UFOs? As reported in Politico this week, he secured twenty million dollars in appropriations for the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP) in 2009. The program conducted pilot interviews and gathered flight recordings until 2011.
So here’s the question: why was the AATIP kept secret? National security? Or perhaps national embarrassment? Whatever one thinks about UFOs — are they natural phenomena, military aircraft, mass hysteria, or alien visitors? — we can agree that they are freighted with a lot of meaning. Everyone has an opinion.
How did this come to be? In 1946, Swedish and Finnish observers reported “ghost rockets” flying over Scandinavia. In the United States, they became known as “flying saucers.” This is the starting point for historian Greg Eghigian who discusses the science and culture of UFOs in the twentieth century. Eghigian is professor of history at Penn State University. He also holds the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.