“One of the rare books on the topic that manages to be both entertaining and factually grounded.” —The Wall Street Journal
From the bestselling author of Raven Rock, The Only Plane in the Sky, and Watergate (finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history) comes the first comprehensive and eye-opening exploration of our government’s decades-long quest to solve one of humanity’s greatest mysteries: Are we alone in the universe?
For as long as we have looked to the skies, the question of whether life on earth is the only life to exist has been at the core of the human experience, driving scientific debate and discovery, shaping spiritual belief, and prompting existential thought across borders and generations. It’s one of our culture’s favorite conversations, and yet, the idea of extraterrestrial intelligence has been largely banished to the realm of fantasy and conspiracy. Now, for the first time, the full story of our national obsession with UFOs—and the covert search by scientists, the United States military, and the CIA for proof of alien life—is told by bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Garrett M. Graff in a deeply reported and researched history.
It begins in 1947, when two headline-making sightings of strange flying objects prompt the US Air Force’s newly formed Department of Defense to create a series of secret programs to determine how unidentified phenomena may pose a threat to national security. Over the next half-century, as the atomic age gives way to the space race and the Cold War, the mission continues, bringing together an unexpected group of astronomers, military officials, civilian contactees, and true believers who bring us closer, then further, then closer again, to answering one of our most enduring questions: What exactly is out there?
Drawing from original archival research, declassified documents, and interviews with senior intelligence and military officials, Graff brings readers a story that’s “Loads of fun…[a] fascinating deep dive down the rabbit hole” (Publishers Weekly).