Thinking Critically About UFOs

The mother ship model used for the 1977 film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Even before the much-debated incident at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, in which a supposed alien craft was allegedly recovered by the military, people have wondered and speculated about aliens and UFOs (unidentified flying objects).  In recent years, debate about UFOs has flourished online and been reflected in American popular culture.  Why have these stories of aliens landing in foreign craft on Earth taken hold so strongly?  What do these conspiracies reveal about our collective fears, rooted in a particular historical time and place?

Curators Roger Launius and Margaret Weitekamp discuss UFOs in “fact” and fiction.  How has the debate about UFOs flourished in American culture, on television, in films, and online?  In a wide-ranging discussion, the curators will address topics including everything from “the Roswell incident” to the “X-Files” and a host of alien/UFO movies.  Most important, the curators examine the social, cultural, political, and technological contexts that have fostered interest in UFOs and aliens.

Are there little green men coming to Earth in flying saucers?  Probably not, but the fact that this question has been asked repeatedly and persistently offers us a rich topic for discussing critical thinking skills and historical context.

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