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judge from their public statements–perceive the study of this phenomenon not only as unproductive but also as not respectable. An editorial in Science (Abelson, 1974) refers to unidentified flying objects in a discussion of “pseudoscience,” which is termed an “intellectual poison.” On the other hand, a survey of members of the American Astronomical Society, which permitted members to express opinions under the cloak of anonymity, indicates that scientists are probably more interested in and more open-minded towards this subject than one would judge from their public statements (Sturrock, 1977).
The history of the UFO phenomenon in the United States is long and complex. Jacobs (1975) has given a comprehensive account of this history up to 1973 in his book UFO Controversy in America. This book presents a detailed account of the origin of the Colorado UFO Project, of which the following is a very brief encapsulation.
The United States Air Force carried out three consecutive studies of the UFO phenomenon over a 22-year period: Project Sign, from 1947 to 1948; Project Grudge from 1948 to 1952; and Project Blue Book from 1952 to 1969. Although these studies and their reports were initially classified, it appears that all reports (except Blue Book Special Report No. 13, if it ever existed) have now been declassified and are publicly available. The Air Force organized an “Ad Hoc Committee to Review Project Blue Book,” and this committee met in February 1966. Its members were Brian O’Brien (chairman), Launor Carter, Jesse Orlansky, Richard Porter, Carl Sagan, and Willis A. Ware. This committee recommended that the Air Force negotiate contracts “with a few selected universities to provide selected teams to investigate promptly and in depth certain selected sightings of UFOs.” This recommendation led eventually (in October 1966) to an Air Force contract to the University of Colorado. The director was Professor Edward U. Condon, a very distinguished physicist and a man of strong and independent character.
Work on this contract was carried out over a two-year period with a substantial scientific staff. Since this study is the only unclassified investigation1 of the UFO phenomenon carried out by an established scientific organization under contract to a U.S. federal agency, the report of this study (Condon & Gillmor 1968; usually referred to as the “Condon Report”) constitutes a landmark in the study of the UFO phenomenon, to which all later work must be referred. For instance, any review of the UFO phenomenon to be published in one of the mainstream scientific journals must begin with a discussion of the Condon Report (CR) explaining where and why the author disagrees with the findings of that report. Even more important, any proposal to the Air Force or any other federal agency, requesting funds for UFO research, must begin by explaining why the Condon Report is not to be accepted as the last word on the problem.