If you were anything like me growing up in the 90’s, then you were probably terrified and captivated in equal measure by stories of alien abductions and UFOs. Maybe you had your own telescope or binoculars at home, and spent nights when the sky was clear watching the stars in case you might catch a glimpse of a comet or flying saucer.
Maybe you tuned into FOX every week to watch the X-Files with religious devotion. Maybe you’d seen Close Encounters of The Third Kind, and imagined what it would be like to be the first human being in recorded history to have contact with an extraterrestrial race.
Unfortunately, despite all our hopes, the chances of us ever having any kind of exposure to intelligent alien life is depressingly remote. When you take into account the sheer size and age of the universe, coupled with the mind-boggling, physics-defying logistics of interstellar space travel, the idea of meeting a genuine alien seems very unlikely.
But if anyone has any authority on whether aliens really exist or not, it’s our NASA astronauts. After all, you can spend all the hours you want on forums watching grainy footage of lights over the horizon or supposed-autopsies of little green martians, but someone who has actually been into space is almost certainly better qualified to speak on the subject. So with that in mind, here are eight astronauts who are convinced that aliens really do exist:
1. Edgar Mitchell
Astronaut Edgar Mitchell was the sixth person to walk on the moon in 1971, after voyaging there on the NASA mission Apollo 14. Since then Mitchell has devoted his life to proving the existence of alien life and firmly believes that the government has covered up evidence of extraterrestrial interference in rocketry and nuclear warheads. “The reason for the denial is they didn’t know if they [the aliens] were hostile and they didn’t want the Soviets to know so they devised to lie about it and cover it up,” he stated.
2. Gordon Cooper
Cooper was one of seven astronauts involved in “Project Mercury” – NASA’s first manned spaceflight. Since then he has claimed to have seen a UFO flying over Germany in 1951, and the bodies of aliens at an experimental US airbase during his time with NASA. In 1984 he told the United Nations: “I believe that these extraterrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets, which are a little more technically advanced than we are on Earth. We may first have to show them that we have learned how to resolve our problems by peaceful means rather than warfare, before we are accepted as fully qualified universal team members.”
3. Deke Slayton
Dennis ‘Deke’ Slayton was assigned as the docking module pilot of the 1975 Apollo–Soyuz Test Project, becoming the oldest person to fly in space at the time at the age of 51. In a 1951 interview he recalled an experience from his time in the air force: “I was testing a P-51 fighter in Minneapolis when I spotted this object. I was at about 10,000 feet on a nice, bright, sunny afternoon … As I got closer it looked like a weather balloon, grey and about three feet in diameter. But as soon as I got behind the darn thing it didn’t look like a balloon anymore. It looked like a saucer, a disk. About the same time, I realised that it was suddenly going way from me-and there I was, running at about 300 miles per hour. I tracked it for a little way, and then all of a sudden the damn thing just took off. It pulled about a 45 degree climbing turn and accelerated and just flat disappeared.”
4. Brian O’Leary
Brian O’Leary was selected for a proposed NASA mission to visit Mars back in 1967, but the programme was cancelled a year later in favour of the moon landing. Afterwards, when he taught at Princeton University, a near-death experienced changed his perspective, O’Leary became convinced that alien life was all too real, stating: “There is abundant evidence that we are being contacted. Civilisations have been monitoring us for a very long time and that their appearance is bizarre from any type of traditional materialistic western point of view.”
5. Eugene Cernan
Eugene Cernan was the eleventh man to walk on the moon on the Apollo 17 mission, and is currently the last person to have set foot there. Discussing the subject of UFOs he stated: “I’ve been asked about UFOs and I’ve said publicly I thought they were somebody else, some other civilisation.”
6. Scott Carpenter
Scott Carpenter was another astronaut selected to participate in Project Mercury, and later became the second American (after John Glenn) to orbit the Earth and the fourth American in space. Carpenter worked for NASA until 1967, after a medically grounding injury to his left arm in a motorbike accident left him incapacitated. Carpenter claimed that aliens had been constantly monitoring human transit in space, “At no time, when the astronauts were in space were they alone: there was a constant surveillance by UFOs.”
7. Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, needs no introduction. Yet Aldrin has maintained that there was UFO activity during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969; “In Apollo 11, en route to the Moon, I observed a light out the window that appeared to be moving alongside us.” In a later interview he stated “There may be aliens in our Milky Way galaxy, and there are billions of other galaxies. The probability is almost certain that there is life somewhere in space. It was not that remarkable, that special, that unusual, that life here on earth evolved gradually, slowly, to where we are today.”
8. Viktor Afanasyev
Afanasyev was a Soviet test cosmonaut working from the Yu. A. Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre. In 1979, en route to dock with the Soviet Solyut 6 space station, he observed an unidentified object from the console of his spacecraft: “It followed us during half of our orbit. We observed it on the light side, and when we entered the shadow side, it disappeared completely. It was an engineering structure, made from some type of metal, approximately 40 meters long with inner hulls. The object was narrow here and wider here, and inside there were openings. Some places had projections like small wings. The object stayed very close to us. We photographed it, and our photos showed it to be 23 to 28 meters away.”
These personal accounts certainly give one food for thought, but there are those who claim that NASA is still covering up alien activity to this day.