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History Channel’s ‘Project Blue Book’ returns with the pop culture sensation, Roswell

Though the real Blue Book had nothing to do with it.

Like a bad penny, History Channel’s dramatized Project Blue Book series, based (but not really) on an 18-year-long U.S. Air Force study of UFOs, is back. Tonight is part 2 of season 2’s opening salvo, titled “The Roswell Incident.” You might think they’re finally getting to the good stuff, but it really seems like the creators are running out of ideas.

Because not only did the real Project Blue Book have nothing to do with Roswell at all, the supposed crash of a flying saucer in the New Mexico desert in July of 1947 was forgotten by just about everyone until the late ’70s, nearly a decade after the program concluded.

Yeeeah not so much

In 1980, Charles Berlitz and William Moore published their book The Roswell Incident, after pumping out works on quintessentially ’70s legends like the Philadelphia Experiment and the Bermuda Triangle, for which they claimed to have interviewed over 90 witnesses. That included the son of rancher Mac Brazel, AKA “Mike Connors” on Project Blue Book, who first found the debris. This weird, patchwork account of an alien spacecraft destroyed by earthly lightning would set the pace for how the occurrence would be viewed by the American public.

And believe it or not, Blue Book pretty much got that right. The “debris field” shown on screen matches fairly closely with the first reported descriptions; i.e. a bunch of stuff that looked like crumpled up aluminum foil and some small lengths of what resembled tiny I-beams. Not exactly the majestic, galaxy-spanning mothership a lot of people imagine.

THAT part of the story wouldn’t get added until the ’90s, when a one-two punch of Kevin Randle and Donald Schmitt’s 1991 UFO Crash at Roswell, and Stanton Friedman’s 1992 Crash at Corona, hit the stands. Together they doubled the number of crash sites, made one much more stereotypically saucery, and added more alien bodies, plus two LIVING ones. The Roswell media juggernaut would go on to bring us the alien autopsy film and, as recently as 2012, the “Roswell slides,” which included what would  definitively be shown to be a human mummy, not a dead alien.

Which was AFTER the Air Force came out in 1994 and admitted that, yeah, that whole “weather balloon” story was a cover-up — mostly. Yes, the Roswell crash happened, but the balsa wood and foil debris fits the description of Project Mogul, a high altitude, then-top secret balloon used to listen for Soviet nuclear tests. A lot better of an explanation than a vehicle capable of withstanding the micrometeorite and cosmic ray barrage of interstellar space somehow crumpling once it reached our atmosphere. Of course that didn’t change the minds of a lot of true believers, but lead a horse to water and all that.

“This is my cover-up stance.”

Nevertheless, after an inexplicable, decades-late stay in the pop culture zeitgeist, a lot of the bloom has come off the Roswell rose. Even Randle, now, isn’t so sure something out of the ordinary happened there, more than 70 years ago. If this is the best season 2 of Project Blue Book can bring, maybe they should have been done in one.

As February’s SKEPTICISM MONTH is almost here again, we here at AIPT Science will persevere and continue to bring you the best information on each episode’s topic as they come — including the Hopkinsville Goblins and the Men in Black!

AIPT Science is co-presented by AIPT and the New York City Skeptics.

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