National Geographic’s New Docuseries Gives Insight Into UFO Sightings
National Geographic’s new docuseries, UFO’s: Investigating the Unknown, examines the United States government’s past and present history with UFO reporting and research. Through five episodes, the series examines how the government collected information about UAP but historically didn’t share that information with members of the US Congress and the American people. It explores both historical and contemporary perspectives efforts of the US Air Force to silence reports and ultimately stigmatize the subject of UFOs.
According to the docuseries producer Riki Stern, the series was inspired by the reporting published in the New York Times and Harry Reid’s admission that the government was indeed funding a program and taking reports from military pilots of UFOs.
“The article reported by Leslie Kean, Helene Cooper and Ralph Blumenthal from the New York Times was the inspiration for the series,” said Stern. “The reporting and vetting that went into the series by Times gave a legitimacy to the subject, bringing a new focus to the subject and opened doors to people who might otherwise not want to speak on the subject.”
Alejandro Rojas, Head of Content and Research at EnigmaLabs – a data and community platform for UAP sightings; and Board Member of the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies, said that a series like this is perfectly timed.
“As members of congress continue to ask for more information about UAP, and the Pentagon continues to confirm it is a valid area of study, those who want serious and credible information will look to outlets like National Geographic,” said Rojas in an email interview. “Because the series is inspired by the work of Leslie Kean, one of the co-authors of the New York Times article, which broke the Elizonodo and Nimitz stories, the interviews and information will be very eye-opening to viewers. This series is an example of the high standard of reporting they expect.”
“UFOs, or UAP, are finally getting the attention they deserve because of the coverage in December 2017 of the claims by former Pentagon official Luis Elizondo that he had run a program investigating military UFO cases,” said Rojas. “Further, he claimed many of the cases were mysterious, the situation threatened national security, and that he retired to share this message with the world because senior intelligence officials were not taking it seriously enough.”
Rojas says that along with Elizondo’s claims, he provided information about a case that occurred off the coast of San Diego in 2004.
“During training exercises, the U.S.S. Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group was getting strange radar returns of multiple objects moving in unfamiliar ways, and during one of these occasions, jet fighters were ordered to take a look and claimed to have seen a 40-foot-long smooth white cylindrical object that they claimed resembled a Tic-Tac,” added Rojas. “One of the jets went in for a closer look, and the object moved in response and took off at a tremendous speed. Since then, several Navy fighter pilots, some of whom witnessed the Nimitz event and some had their encounters, have briefed members of Congress, and now Congress wants answers.”
The National Geographic docuseries produced by Stern shows how the US government and many other countries worldwide have been tracking objects for decades but are just now opening up the door.
“The subject of UFOs has been treated as a joke for the past five decades, since the closing of Project Blue Book, so to see the story of the US government’s involvement being reported on the cover of the New York Times felt like an opportunity to explore UFOs with a fresh lens,” said Stern in an email interview.
Sterns says the series looks at how the government collected information around UAP but historically did not share that information with members of Congress and the American people. “It explores through historical and contemporary perspectives efforts of the US Air Force to silence reports and ultimately stigmatize the subject of UFOs.”
The series features Harvard Astrophysicist Dr. Avi Loeb, who created The Galileo Project at Harvard. “It is among the only, if not the only, mainstream academic lab which seeks to scientifically verify or disprove some UFOs as from civilizations that are extraterrestrial.”
Rojas says all this new attention will lead to more answers about UAPs.
“Congress is asking the Pentagon to investigate sightings and to analyze historical data,” said Rojas. “We had UFO programs from 1947 to 1969, and their files include around 700 highly scrutinized and researched cases that could not be explained. The US Air Force at the time characterized these reports as credible observations of incredible things; interestingly, many of those cases are very similar to the Nimitz incident.
Rojas says the data the Pentagon already has can help shed light on the nature of some UAPs.
“Will this new attention bring revelations about what the government already knows and isn’t sharing?” asked Rojas. “I am not so sure they know a whole lot more. Certainly, they have data on the Nimitz incident and other cases that could be made public, but it might shed less light on the issue than many think it would.”
“We don’t have any proof there has been a UFO crash, or the government has alien bodies, but the other problem the Pentagon has to worry about is how much of this is foreign intelligence, added Rojas. “At least one UAP shot down in the last few days was a Chinese Balloon that the Department of Defense claims was meant for surveillance.”
Rojas says you would only want to share information on potential foreign technology if you were sure it was not anyone else’s. “I am more excited about the increased interest of the scientific community. The open and transparent manner in which science works is a more productive way to tackle the issue,” added Rojas.
Stern says making a series about UFOs has several challenges. Stern had to rely on photographs and video of UFOs culled from the government, scientists and civilian sources.
“The obvious challenge is what do you show to represent the UFO because there is very little documentation that has been verified and released unclassified,” said Stern. “The series shows everything we could get our hands on, and then we created renderings of eye-witness sightings.”
“The UFO sightings recounted by civilians and pilots without visuals were created as artist renderings, combining real photographs of landscapes, airports and naval sites with hand-drawn graphic animation,” added Stern.
“Working with Leslie Kean helped legitimatize the subject and gave me unique access to people who might normally shun speaking publicly about their work on UFOs,” said Stern.
“It is exhilarating that this issue is being taken seriously now, and the work can start to figure this out,” said Rojas. “By allowing service members to report UAP, the Pentagon says out of the hundreds of cases they have received, there is an increasing number they need help explaining.”
“That is the UAP gold we are trying to mine,” adds Rojas. “It’s the data scientists can analyze, and I am confident science will be advanced by the discoveries made.”
“Whether or not aliens are responsible for any of this, the unknown is where discoveries live,” said Rojas.
Ricki Stern is an Emmy-nominated documentary film director, producer and writer. UFO’s: Investigating the Unknown airs on The National Geographic Channel and Hulu.