COLORADO (KRDO) -- An eye-opening government report released this year brought newfound attention to one of America’s most popular controversial topics: Unidentified Flying Objects or UFOs.
In June, the Department of Defense unveiled a report to Congress pertaining to what they call Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP). The report found that out of 144 UAP sightings since 2004, the government can’t definitively say what's going on in the vast majority of the incidents.
13 Investigates is taking a closer look at the recent government report, and previous UFO studies right here in Colorado, trying to figure out if the government researching flying objects is a worthwhile endeavor or a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Rocky Mountain Sky
There have been 128 alleged UFO sightings were reported in the past 12 months in Colorado, according to data from the National UFO Reporting Center.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) directs private citizens to the UFO Reporting Center for alleged sightings. The center says they get people directed to their site from law enforcement agencies all across the country.
According to the UFO Reporting Center’s numbers, Colorado currently ranks 13th in the country for most reported UFO sightings. Since they started gathering reports in 1995, Colorado Springs has had 270 alleged UFO sightings, while Pueblo and Pueblo West share a combined 106.
The UFO Reporting Center is unaware of any follow-up investigations into any of these alleged sightings.
But there's one place in Colorado where you can hear plenty of stories about them.
“Look up! That’s all you got to do is look up,” said Judy Messoline, the owner of Colorado’s lone UFO Watchtower nestled in the San Luis Valley near Hooper.
Messoline says UFO enthusiasts make a pilgrimage from all over the world to her tower to quench their curiosity.
“They want to see something,” said Messoline. “Some do. Some don’t. We’ve had 282 sightings from here.”
The overseer of Saguache County’s UFO watchtower records all of the area’s alleged UFO sightings - whether they occurred at her tower or not.
Since the beginning of November 2020, only one UFO sighting from Hooper has been reported to the National UFO Reporting Center.
Judy says she isn’t just searching for UFOs at her watchtower, but answers as well. She isn’t alone.
UAP videos confirmed real
In April of 2020, the Pentagon released three videos. All three videos are captured by Navy Aviators.
The Pentagon says the video shows Unidentified Aerial Phenomena spotted by their aircraft.
“The Department of Defense has authorized the release of three unclassified Navy videos, one taken in November 2004 and the other two in January 2015, which have been circulating in the public domain after unauthorized releases in 2007 and 2017,” said the Department of Defense in a press release after unsealing the videos.
“The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as "unidentified."
The incident in 2004 is now commonly referred to as the ‘Tic-Tac’ UFO.
According to a summary of the incident originally released in 2018 by KLAS in Las Vegas, the USS Princeton detected multiple Anomalous Aerial Vehicles (AAVs) off the Western Coast of the United States for weeks.
“The AAVs would descend ‘very rapidly’ from approximately 600 feet down to approximately 50 feet in a matter of seconds,” said the report.
Two navy aviators said the object’s shape was an "elongated egg," "a white candy-coated shell, like a Tic-Tac." After spotting the object the pilot said, "it ascended quickly … at a supersonic speed."
"It accelerated, or it almost didn't accelerate it sort of jumped around from spot to spot,” said Former Navy aviator Alex Dietrich to CNN's Anderson Cooper in 2021.
"[The object] tumbled around in a way that was unpredictable. Then it just disappeared. It zoomed out of the picture so fast.
The whole time we are on the radio just losing our minds."
UAP Task Force report released
In August of 2020, the Deputy Sec. of Defense, David L. Norquist, approved the establishment of an Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) Task Force (UAPTF).
“The mission of the task force is to detect, analyze and catalog UAPs that could potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security," said the Pentagon in a press release revealing the
On June 25th of this year, the office of the Director of National Intelligence released the task force’s first nine-page report to congress encompassing 144 incidents of unidentified aerial phenomena from 2004 to 2021.
In their conclusion, the task force found that "that the limited amount of high-quality reporting on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) hampers our ability to draw firm conclusions about the nature or intent of UAP."
Many of these incidents were spotted by Navy personnel. The report says these objects lack a single explanation, but a number of the incidents reviewed by their team display unusual flight characteristics, demonstrate advanced technology, and may pose a threat to national security.
According to the report to Congress, “UAP pose a hazard to safety of flight and could pose a broader danger if some instances represent sophisticated collection against U.S. military activities by a foreign government or demonstrate a breakthrough aerospace technology by a potential adversary.”
The UAPTF is currently working to acquire additional reporting, including from the U.S. Air Force (USAF), and has begun receiving data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Spending money on UFO research in Colorado
The UAP Task Force report isn’t the first time the government has spent taxpayer dollars on UFO research.
Back in the 1960s, the Air Force hired a Physics Professor out of the University of Colorado to investigate hundreds of alleged UFO sightings across the country. The professor's name was Edward Condon, and his commission was tasked with studying hundreds of UFO accounts from 1966 - 1968.
“A youth reported a large glowing object approached his car and accompanied it for more than twenty miles,” read Megan Friedel, the Head of Archives at the University of Colorado, where one of the only finished copies of the government commissioned Condon Report exists today. “It was shaped like an inverted bowl. Flat on top, arched on the bottom. No surface features were visible, only an overall glow that was blue at the top and blended gradually through cream color and orange to bright red at the bottom. That’s really specific -- this is an 18-year old boy at 11 o’clock at April of 1967 in Western Colorado.”
According to Friedel, records show that the Air Force had been gathering data on unidentified flying objects since at least 1948. Many of the accounts within the Condon Report stem from the Air Force.
For instance, Condon studied the alleged sighting captured by a film crew at California’s Vandenburg Air Force Base in 1963. Film crews captured a bright star-like object passing a missile.
Condon later concluded the bright star-like object was Venus.
“By the '60s the government and members of the public were asking whether it was worth funding this research,” said Friedel. “We know the government has been doing this for so long. Is it worth paying taxpayer dollars?”
Twenty years after the Air Force started recording aerial phenomena, the Condon Report said they should stop, concluding that nothing of value has come from the study of UFOs.
More than fifty years later, the government would completely change course.
Finding the truth
Within the report released to Congress, the UAP Task Force not only asks for further funding but greater cooperation amongst all military branches in order to identify and document Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in a more timely manner.
The task force laid out several challenges when it comes to collecting UAP data, including technological disadvantages. However, one of the biggest issues when it comes to identifying these objects today is the social stigma surrounding UFOs.
“Narratives from aviators in the operational community and analysts from the military and Intelligence Community (IC) describe disparagement associated with observing UAP, reporting it, or attempting to discuss it with colleagues,” task force reported to Congress.
However, the task force says these stigmas have lessened amongst the scientific, military, and intelligence communities.
If approved, the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act would replace the current UAP Task Force and create a new office directly under the Secretary of Defense. The office would adopt the same tasks and duties of the current UAP Task Force, however, they would be required to produce annual reports to Congress on UAP activity and research.
With a newfound government interest in UFOs, Messoline says the stigma surrounding studying them may just be fading.
“People aren’t going to be afraid to talk about it,” said Messoline. “Before they were afraid to talk about it cause they didn’t want to be made fun of. Just keep an open mind, and look up at that sky."
"It’s amazing what you’ll see.”