The Pentagon may no longer be investigating decades of UFO reports, but scientists and researchers, inspired by the knowledge that the Department of Justice was still pondering the existence of alien life up until the early 2000s, has given life to a once-lagging field of inquiry.
According to WTOP, UFO researchers had nearly given up on the field of study, largely because the government appeared to also have given up. Prior to a New York Times story that appeared late last year indicating that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) had regularly funded an office within the Department of Justice to handle just these sorts of claims, the last UFO research program ended in the late 1960s — about the time American interest in the space program reached a fever pitch.
But now, UFO researchers and those who question whether there's life beyond our solar system can breathe a little easier. The Pentagon program consumed $22 million between 2007 and 2011, WTOP reports, and although the office shuttered, the men who ran it continued to look into reports of unidentified flying objects — both familiar and alien (though by "alien," they usually just mean "out of the ordinary").
“We know that this program existed, it still exists, and it investigated military cases and very significant cases of pilot encounters with these objects,” one UFO expert told the news organization. “It just establishes a credibility for the topic for people to know that our government takes it seriously enough to have put financial resources into it and to have studied it for all these years.”
Among the stranger cases the Pentagon's investigators handled: a 2004 incident off the coast of San Diego where a craft appeared to move faster than several military aircraft, and which changed location at will. UFO researchers are using what's become available from the program to follow up on that incident and others.
Now that the government was revealed to have been funding the effort, they also feel more confident in their choice of research field.
“Professional people feel like they’re going to be laughed at, and it’s the same problem for scientists and academic institutions and universities and research facilities who want to work on this topic, but they feel that it would be detrimental to their careers. So it continues to be a problem, unfortunately,” one UFO researcher said. “But I really hope it’s changing, and I think it is.”