Like religion and politics, UFOs stir passions. It’s been more than 60 years since the Roswell Army Air Field in New Mexico became the alleged final resting place for alien life forms. These supposed intergalactic travelers crashed in the desert, terrestrial navigation apparently not their strong suit. In the years since neither believers nor skeptics have managed to dominate the debate. An ABC poll in 2000 found that nearly half of all Americans and millions more globally believe we’re not alone. Among UFO believers are these 10 famous people.
10. President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan, who played many cowboys during his Hollywood career, once tried to lasso a UFO. In 1974 when Reagan was governor of California, he saw a bright white light zigzagging alongside the Cessna in which he was flying. A shocked Reagan asked the pilot for an explanation. When the pilot couldn’t explain, Reagan told him, “Let’s follow it!” The pilot did so for several minutes until in Reagan’s words, “all of a sudden to our utter amazement it went straight up into the heavens!” Reagan never abandoned his belief in UFOs. In an April 2009 interview with Charlie Rose, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev revealed a secret conversation with Reagan about a mutual defense against a possible alien attack.
9. Dr. Josef Allen Hynek
Josef Hynek, a respected astronomer, was initially a UFO skeptic. The U.S. Air Force appointed him science consultant to the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book to be their official UFO debunker. After serving in that capacity from 1952 to 1969 and personally investigating hundreds of phenomena for which he could find no scientific explanation, Hynek’s skepticism eroded. In a Nov. 27, 1978, speech before a U.N. committee Hynek stated, “It is my considered opinion, as a scientist who has devoted many years to its study, that the UFO phenomenon is real and not the creation of disturbed minds.” Hynek’s greatest contribution is the Center for UFO Studies that he established and which is now a major scientific repository for UFO reports.
8. Voters in Denver, Colorado
They may not be famous individually, but 31,108 voters made history in Colorado’s Nov. 2, 2010, election when they voted to establish the world’s first Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission. Operating within Denver’s city government, the commission would provide city residents a web portal on which to get information about UFOs and report sightings. More provocatively, the commission would “evaluate potential risks and benefits of interacting with extraterrestrial visitors.” The ballot initiative failed — this time. But the voters who favored the commission sent a clear signal to ETs hovering above the Rockies that Denver is, in the words of Kelly Brough, Denver Chamber of Commerce, “Open to business — to all other planets.”
7. Dr. Hermann Oberth
Hermann Oberth, “The Father of Space Travel,” was persuaded of alien visitors by the sheer weight of observations, well over 10,000 by 1953. The German rocket scientist was particularly impressed by the dozens of modern sightings by Air Force officers trained in visual recognition. Oberth himself recounted stories of strange flying objects during World War II that the Allies thought was a secret German weapon. In an Oct. 24, 1954, article in American Weekly, Oberth said, “I think that they (UFOs) possibly are manned by intelligent observers who are members of a race that may have been investigating our earth for centuries.”
6. Edgar Mitchell
Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to prance across the Moon, believes alien incursions to Earth are being covered up by the U.S. government. In a Discovery Channel radio interview Mitchell explained he was living in Roswell at the time of the famous “incident.” His personal knowledge of alien spacecraft and bodies came from what Mitchell calls, “the old-timers, people who were at Roswell and subsequent who wanted to clear the things up.” Mitchell says with unshakable certitude, “There was a UFO crash. There was an alien spacecraft.”
5. Monsignor Corrado Balducci
The members of the Curia, the Vatican’s centuries-old bureaucracy, are not known for being gullible. So when Balducci, a Vatican theologian and friend of the late Pope John Paul II, expresses his strong belief in extraterrestrials, he turns heads. In an Oct. 8, 1995, interview on Italian TV, Msgr. Balducci was asked whether UFOs were real. The Vatican cleric answered with startling certainty, “We can not longer think is it true, is it not true…there are already many considerations which makes the existence of these beings into a certainty. We cannot doubt.”
4. Paul Hellyer
Paul Hellyer, the former minister of national defense in Canada, not only believes in extra-terrestrials; like some others, he’s absolutely convinced the U.S. government does too and is covering it up. In his 1988 book, Light at the End of the Tunnel: A Survival Plan for the Human Species, Hellyer claims the U.S. military is in possession of alien technology. Where are the feds hiding it? In Roswell and Nevada’s Area 51, of course. When asked why as Canadian defense minister he did not make these accusations public, Hellyer admitted, “I might get fired for it.”
3. Gordon Cooper
“Gordo” Cooper, the Mercury and Gemini astronaut, recounted several instances in which he saw UFOs up close. In the 1950s in Germany Cooper saw a number of “radiant flying discs” over several days. The UFOs flew – if that’s the right word — high above his own jet but did not approach. Cooper’s belief in UFOs is set out clearly in his famous letter to the U.N. Ambassador from Grenada urging the United Nations to form a project to study UFO phenomenon. In his letter dated Nov. 9, 1978, Cooper wrote, “I believe that these extra-terrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets.”
2. President Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter is the only man attacked by both a “killer rabbit” and a UFO. On the evening of Jan. 6, 1969, Carter was chatting outdoors with members of a Lion’s Club near his hometown of Plains, Georgia. Looking up, Carter was startled by something moving in his direction at great speed. “As bright as the moon,” Carter said. Because there was no moon or exterior club lights, Carter called it “self-luminous.” The bright object stopped, reversed direction, repeated the maneuver several times and then vanished. Carter promised as president to release all UFO files. It didn’t happen.
1. Professor Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking is not exactly rolling out the welcome mat for a real ET. In an April 2010 Discovery Channel documentary, Stephen Hawking’s Universe, the British astrophysicist called alien contact “risky.” Hawking explained that if beings from a superior civilization came to earth, “the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.” Hawking warned, “Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize.”