Since ancient times, humanity has tended to attribute all unexplained phenomena to a divine or supernatural entity. For the Nahuatl, the rain was the work of the god Tlaloc; For the Egyptians, the Sun was the representation of the god Ra, creator of life; According to Hindu mythology, the Earth was supported by four elephants standing on the shell of a tortoise. Over the centuries, science has been responsible for unveiling the mysteries of life and nature, offering a scientific explanation that supplants myth or legend. Rain is caused by the water cycle, sunrises occur due to the rotation of the planet on its own axis, and earthquakes are the product of the movement of tectonic plates.
Ironically, modern society, with all its technological advances and reliance on science, has not entirely abandoned that old habit of explaining the inexplicable with a fantastic theory. For better or for worse, the UFO phenomenon is a clear example of the untamed condition that characterizes the human imagination. True, for many people, the presence of a strange flying object in the distance is still perceived as the manifestation of an angel or an act of witchcraft, but today, the morbid culture has leaned in favor of an explanation based on science itself, or rather, in its speculative-narrative arm, science fiction: “Aliens!”
The alien theory has all the makings of a good mystery story, which is why it has become so ingrained in public conversation. Extraordinary phenomena, low-quality images, classified documents, a military base in the desert, a government that acts stealthily in covert programs, and the central question that has fascinated humanity for as long as it has the use of reason to reflect on the stars: are we alone in the universe? As the only superpower left to us by the atomic age, the US government is often at the center of these debates, investigations, sightings and incidents that have been reported for decades; but the Mexican government has also come to participate in the global controversy, although its role has been more recent.
What happened on March 5, 2004 in Campeche?
Under the influence of the science-fiction stories that everyone has consumed since childhood, we Mexicans have thought we saw flying saucers and extraterrestrial beings, perhaps since “el Santo” frustrated with his own fists an invasion of Martians in a 1967 movie In Mexico, the question of the existence of intelligent life on other planets had been limited to a greater extent to the entertainment industry and to the front pages of yellow tabloids; that is to say, it was not an issue that was addressed seriously by the authorities, which should not be surprising in a public sector that has historically invested the least in science and technology. Perhaps due to this lack of experience on the subject, the Mexican State acted somewhat recklessly when the Mexican Air Force presented its first case of a UFO sighting in national territory.
On March 5, 2004, during a routine patrol, an Air Force plane detected several circular objects on radar flying at an altitude of 3,500 meters above the state of Campeche. The crew was able to capture on infrared video these luminous objects that were flying at high speed and that seemed to defy all laws of aerodynamics due to the way they changed direction so abruptly. Being unable to establish contact with the objects or define their origin, they received the classification of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO). Instead of protecting the evidence for study by experts in the field, the then head of Sedena, General Clemente Vega García, handed over a copy of the video captured by the crew of the C-26A plane to the journalist Jaime Maussan. On May 11 of that same year, that is, two months after the sighting, the images were released by the aforementioned journalist at a press conference, after being broadcast during the News by Joaquin Lopez Doriga.
Faced with the questions raised by the scientific community, the Ministry of National Defense explained that the most likely thing is that the mysterious objects sighted were bubbles of ionized gas known as sparks, a common meteorological phenomenon. “I didn’t see the use of keeping that recorded there, saved,” said General Vega García in an interview with Carlos Loret de Mola about the delivery of classified material to a private individual. “I made the decision that it be given to people who have been working with this all their lives to make good use of it.” For the general secretary, Mr. Maussan fulfilled that profile.
This was the material that was made public then:
From the UFO to… FANI?
In 2022 something peculiar happened in Washington. For the first time in more than 50 years, the US Congress has held a hearing with Pentagon officials on the rise in classified UFO sightings by airline pilots and military personnel. Only now they no longer call them FANI, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP). Being a matter of national security, US authorities have confirmed that the term “UFO” lacks credibility as it is relegated to pop culture.
These “aerial phenomena” are still physical objects, but the emphasis now is on the lack of identification. Faced with the threat of military drones and other unmanned aircraft capable of espionage and mass destruction, the need to identify any flying object detected by US radar becomes urgent. That is why the Department of Defense has enlisted NASA to study these “events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena from a scientific perspective.”
Will we see a similar project in Mexico? It is not entirely uncommon today for people to confuse a drone with a UFO and its videos go viral on social media, but Mexico is far from presenting the same concerns, perhaps paranoia, that afflict the US government in terms of security. What could happen is that the Mexican State takes the scientific community of our country more seriously, so that, in the event that an event such as a UFO sighting arises, there is confidence so that a specialist on the subject is consulted first. .
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Text: Javier Carbajal