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December 17, 1969 - Closing Project Blue Book

Posted December 17, 2009 2:38 PM by Steve Melito

On this day in engineering history, the Secretary of the United States Air Force announced the closing of Project Blue Book, a 17-year study of unidentified flying objects (UFOs). Dr. Robert C. Seamans, Jr., a former NASA Deputy Administrator and MIT professor who served as Air Force Secretary from 1968 to 1973, explained that additional funding for the military program "cannot be justified either on the grounds of national security or in the interest of science." Seamans, the holder of both a master's degree and a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), would later serve as president of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Opening Chapters

Project Bluebook was the third in a series of Air Force studies about UFOs. Project Sign, a response to Kenneth Arnold's widely-publicized sighting of nine disc-like objects near Mount Rainier, Washington in 1947, concluded that "flying saucers" were unidentified aircraft – and probably extraterrestrial in origin. Project Sign stopped in the summer of 1948, but was soon succeeded by Project Grudge. This second study sought to debunk Project Sign's more controversial claims, concluding that although 23% of UFO reports remained unexplained, all such sightings were explainable in terms of known aircraft or natural phenomena.

Project Blue Book Begins

In 1952, the Air Force opened a new UFO study – Project Blue Book. Named after the blue booklets used in testing at colleges and universities, Project Blue Book was to be treated with the importance of a final exam. At each Air Force base, a Blue Book officer collected UFO reports and submitted them to Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, a decorated World War II airman who held a degree in aeronautical engineering. Under Ruppelt's direction, Blue Book authorized the Battelle Memorial Institute, an applied science and technology organization from Ohio, to develop a standard UFO witness questionnaire and computerize the data. Using IBM punch cards, the Columbus-based think tank concluded that nearly 70% of reports were known or identified.

The Robertson Panel

Project Blue Book continued during the 1950s and 1960s under the direction of Ruppelt and other Air Force personnel. Meanwhile, additional UFO investigations were launched. Led by Dr. H.P. Robertson, a physicist from the California Institution of Technology, the Robertson Panel was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) effort that ultimately advised the Air Force to minimize UFO investigations. UFO reports, the Robertson Panel warned, threatened to overwhelm intelligence channels that were needed for America's Cold War with the Soviet Union and its allies.

The Condon Committee

During the 1960s, another UFO investigation was started under the direction of Edward U. Condon, a distinguished nuclear physicist who had worked briefly on the Manhattan Project. Like the Robertson Panel, the Condon Committee was staffed by scientists who concluded that a vast majority of UFO sightings could be readily explained. Soon after the Condon Committee announced its conclusions, Air Force Secretary Seamans ordered an end to Project Blue Book.

Mass Hysteria

Ultimately, Project Blue Book concluded that UFO sightings were the product of "a mild form of mass hysteria, individuals who fabricate such reports to perpetrate a hoax or seek publicity, psychopathological persons, and misidentification of various conventional objects". According to the U.S. Air Force, of the 12,618 sightings that were reported to Project Blue Book, some 701 remain "unidentified".








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Re: December 17, 1969 - Closing Project Blue Book

12/17/2009 6:54 PM

Difficult to trust the Air Force's closing of Blue Book. Creditability has suffered over the years in the Air Force's position on this matter.

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Re: December 17, 1969 - Closing Project Blue Book

12/19/2009 8:12 PM

Loss of credibility with whom?

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Re: December 17, 1969 - Closing Project Blue Book

12/20/2009 5:28 AM

They have failed to report on expermental remote controlled spy aircraft power by nuke materials.

Several of us were having out late night dinner break on top of the Super Structure of a oil tanker being built at Newport News Shipbuilding where a small aircraft was spotted moving down the James River up and over the Natural Gas tanker tied to the docks and then it moved into the drydock and up and over the ship we were on.

This small aircraft the size of a football had a lens and fans. I can only assume it was transmitting video signals because film and radiation do not mix well . We did not think it was a UFO but it sire was a nice design from what we saw with out small flashlight about 20ft over our heads.

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Re: December 17, 1969 - Closing Project Blue Book

12/20/2009 6:28 PM

USAF's Project Blue Book was a joke......and the American public for the most part knows it too.......and BTW, they still investigate UFO sightings, encounters, and landings "unofficially"......ditto with US Army Intelligence.

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Re: December 17, 1969 - Closing Project Blue Book

01/07/2010 4:17 PM

My astronomy professor, J. Allen Hynek, was a consultant on the Blue Book project. Originally a hard-nosed skeptic, he became more & more intrigued by those few cases that resisted explanation. I was in his class when the Condon Report closed the project. The professor was outraged! While the vast majority of the reports were easily disproved, the remaining unsolved cases cried out for serious investigation. He started his own research group, published a book (The UFO Experience), and continued doing careful, scientific studies until his death.

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