Department of Flying Saucers
Nick Pope, formerly with the UK's Ministry of Defence, warns that space aliens will be drawn to the Olympic's Closing Ceremonies. Read more about the UK's UFO program—which ran from 1959 to 2009—here.
- By Craig Mellow
- Air & Space magazine, September 2010
(Page 4 of 5)
This and other sightings were reportedly collected in a so-called Blue Folder (not to be confused with the Blue Book), which after the Soviet collapse in 1991 was entrusted to Pavel Popovich, a cosmonaut-turned-UFO-enthusiast. He, in turn, drip-fed files to a wider audience over the next dozen years. (Popovich died last September; it’s not clear what became of the collection of reports in his possession.)
Yuri Andropov did not live long enough for glasnost to compel him to share his thoughts on the Blue Folder’s contents. But his top deputy and successor at the KGB, Vladimir Kryuchkov, remained unimpressed. “The Party Central Committee and Council of Ministers asked me more than once to confirm or deny rumors about unexplained events, especially UFOs and ‘abominable snow men,’ ” he told the Russian newspaper Komsomoslkaya Pravda in 2005. “The conclusion was always fruits of the imagination. Fear has big eyes.”
State-sponsored UFO studies peaked worldwide in the 1970s and 1980s, as the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the Reagan Revolution ratcheted up East-West tensions, and Close Encounters and Star Wars stirred the global imagination. Latin America showed particular enthusiasm.
On May 19, 1986, Brazil had its Night of the UFOs, with five fighters scrambling to chase mystery lights across the country’s southwest for two and a half hours. The air force minister went on TV the next morning to order a full investigation. Declassified only last year, this Brazilian report found: “The phenomenon is solid and reflects intelligence by its capacity to follow and sustain distance from the observers, as well as to fly in formation.”
In the peaceful 1990s, military services in the West found it increasingly hard to justify the reporting of mystery craft. By 1991, when Nick Pope came to the United Kingdom’s UFO desk, resources had shrunk to about one half of one mid-level official’s time, namely his.
After the 1993 serial sightings of “two Concordes joined together,” popularly known in Britain as the Cosford Incident, Pope and his unnamed counterpart at DI55 began quietly lobbying for a fresh look at UFOs. He got his wish for an MoD review of the files that had piled up over the decades, but the results disappointed him.
The study, circulated in 2000, was titled the Condign Report. It started open-mindedly enough—“That [UFOs] exist is indisputable”—but then lowered the rationalist boom. The vast U.K. archives contained no evidence of “incursions by air objects of any intelligent (extraterrestrial or foreign) origin,” nor any “artefacts of unknown or unexplained origin.” Whatever was out there, in short, it looked like no threat to Her Majesty’s security. MoD UFOlogists spent much of the following decade first fending off and then acceding to freedom-of-information requests, finally closing down altogether last December.
That left only the unassuming Yvan Blanc to carry on, as planet Earth’s de facto arbiter of the mysteries mankind just cannot leave alone. The ex-satellite engineer does seem a bit dazed during an hour-long talk on a mild Toulouse winter afternoon, not by evidence of distant civilizations but by the abrupt change in his own life after a quiet career.