Dallas Morning News

When it comes to UFOs, we don’t know the right answer. The truth is still out there.

And it might be out there for a while. A new federal government report on UFOs couldn’t explain 143 of 144 military aviation encounters, which the government, never one to pass up the opportunity to create a clumsy acronym, now calls UAP, short for Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. The one explainable encounter? A large, deflating balloon.

According to a Gallup Poll in 2019, one-third of Americans believe UFOs are alien spacecraft visiting Earth from other planets or galaxies. Still, 60 percent also think these sightings can be explained by human activity or natural phenomena. And while bipartisanship is a mystery in Washington, it isn’t regarding alien encounters. About 30 percent of Republicans and 32 percent of Democrats believe in spacecraft from other planets.

The belief in UFOs plays into the expanse of human imagination. For decades, movies and popular culture spotlighted one of two themes — the friendly extraterrestrial or the fleet of militaristic visitors intent on destroying all humans. Since at least the 1940s, just about any phenomena in the sky has been labeled a “flying saucer,” cultural shorthand for hopes and fears of how earthly mortals fit into a wider universe. With uncertainty comes conspiracies, fantasies and imagining a reality beyond ourselves.

Nonetheless, the possibility life exists elsewhere drives our exploration of space and encourages additional inquiry and interpretation.

Without a doubt, the UAP report erases some of the stigma of aviators talking openly about unexplained radar and visual encounters of the close kind. But will we know for sure anytime soon? Don’t bet on it. Much of our own planet remains a mystery, let alone oddities in the skies. And not having the scientific tools to explain an anomaly only means we’ll have more questions than we have hard evidence.