Remembering Roswell

Rancher W.W. "Mack" Brazel woke-up early one morning after a night of intense storms to check-on his ranch, about 70 miles North of Roswell, NM, and clean-up some debris. What he found started more than 60 years of intense discussion. Conspiracy or cover-up, the debate continues.

We all know the story: Mack couldn’t explain the debris, called the local Sheriff but didn’t make too much of the incident. He told the Roswell Daily Record that he and his son saw a "large area of bright wreckage made up of rubber strips, tinfoil, a rather tough paper and sticks." The Sheriff called the local Air Field who sent military officers. The U.S. military first said it was a flying saucer, then backtracked and said it was a weather balloon. Was this flip-flop a cover-up or simply a communications blunder?

A crowd, mostly of the "cover-up" opinion, will gather in Roswell in early July to "celebrate" (if that’s the right word) the 60th anniversary of this landmark event in UFO history. City officials expect the Roswell Festival could attract 50,000 people to the area, which has developed into a sort-of theme park for flying saucers and aliens, complete with a museum, gift shop, "Alien Zone," and, soon, a roller-coaster.

While the UFO theories didn’t resonate in the reality-based population until Roswell (1947), people were writing about flying saucers much earlier in the century. From claims of "Deros," a race of freaks living under the Earth’s crust, to stories of spaceship kidnappings, pseudo-Science journals tapped into the imaginations of thousands of Americans, from creative teenagers to paranoid-schizophrenics. For many, Roswell confirmed their dreams/conspiracies/nightmares.

No, I do not believe aliens are stalking humans or that the Roswell debris was anything but a downed weather balloon. But I still appreciate what the Roswell incident contributed to American culture. Without sounding too cheesy, it forced all Americans (not just the Paranoid) to consider the limits of our planet and space. It forced Americans to think big, to explore our solar system, to look up at the stars and consider our possibilities. Perhaps—just maybe—we wouldn’t have had the will to land on the moon had it not been for the collective imagination brought on by Roswell. I have little doubt that Roswell spawned generations of space-enthusiasts, scientists, and astronomers that continue to innovate and explore—much of which we discuss here on ReallyRocketScience.