December 26, 1969
With almost as much attentiveness as it gives to the comings and goings of its own planes, the U.S. Air Force has carefully logged every unidentified flying object that has been reported in the American skies during the past 22 years. During that time, Project Blue Book, as the operation was called, looked into a total of 12,618 UFO sightings. Yet lately, the flying-saucer business has fallen on hard times. Only 146 UFO sightings have been reported to the Air Force so far this year v. a peak of 1,501 in 1952. The decline is due partly to the Condon report,* which last January decisively debunked flying saucers and urged the Air Force to call off all UFO investigations.
Heeding that advice, the Air Force last week finally wrote finis to Project Blue Book. The program, explained Air Force Secretary Robert C. Seamans Jr., "cannot be justified either on the ground of national security or in the interest of science."
Oddly enough, even flying-saucer buffs were pleased. "UFOs can now be given the serious scientific attention they require, free from military considerations," said Stuart Nixon, spokesman for a group of saucer activists who call themselves NICAP (for National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena). Nixon proposed continuation of the probe by a joint federal-private agency, but the suggestion is not likely to be entertained seriously in Washington or academic quarters. In a year when man has assured himself that there are no moonmen or Martians, UFOs seem more than ever to be a product of terrestrial imaginations.
* Issued by a committee headed by Physicist Edward Condon, who later said he was "sorry I ever got involved in such foolishness."