Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization

First Edition

© 1975-1979, 2008 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization, First Edition, Xenology Research Institute, Sacramento, CA, 1979; http://www.xenology.info/Xeno.htm


26.1.2  Direct Contact

Direct Contact can perhaps be viewed as a Remote Contact with a promise of physical contact to come, at our behest. Possible scenarios include radio contact (on some frequency we’re already using) with an Earth-based station, an orbital station or habitat, with a settlement or scientific outpost located on Luna, Mars, or some other body in our Solar System, or with one of our probes with which we still have radio contact (Pioneer, Voyager, Viking, etc.). Another example of Direct Contact with Earth might entail the detection of passive data markers in space or on moons or planets by humans in habitats or on exploratory missions -- that is, we find evidence of them, rather than vice versa. (As in the science fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, by following the directions we may, by our own choice, then enter into direct physical contact with Them.) Yet another possibility is that the ETs may send their machines -- these may be information-interactive, like the concept of the Bracewell probe,80 or they may be informational- and physical-interactive, as in the concept of what the author calls the "Green probe," a starprobe that human space travelers must rendezvous with, activate manually, and pilot into an Earth-capture orbit after reading and understanding the generalized instructions.3152

Clearly the avenues of possible contact are far more numerous than in the Remote Contact situation. Initiating messages in Direct Contact could be received by military personnel, astronauts, research astronomers, satellite monitoring crews, space colonists, commercial broadcasting companies, or even ham radio operators. Chances that the news will be made public are significantly increased. Nevertheless, the possibility still exists that the government(s) of the receiving nation(s) could still be able to suppress the fact that a contact had occurred, perhaps by cajoling and threatening the media in a variety of ways. But would they want to do this?

In a Direct Contact scenario, besides information there is the promise of physical artifacts. Rather than mere hints or suggestions of novel devices of extraterrestrial manufacture, there is the chance to lay hands on actual working models of alien contraptions -- advanced laser or ?-wave systems, powerful new fuels and explosives, or maybe an improved spacecraft with tremendous versatility and hairpin maneuverability. As Dr. Bruce A. Rogers, member of the NICAP Board of Governors, once said:. "It could make a nation master of the world. ... Possession of this knowledge could greatly influence the future of the United States and perhaps determine our survival."1623 Once word of the contact began to circulate within the global intelligence community, the rush would be on. Says Arthur C. Clarke:

We can be sure that under the cover of normalcy there would be heroic attempts by all the secret services and intelligence agencies to establish contact with the aliens -- for the exclusive benefit of their respective countries. Every astronomical observatory in the Free World would be pelted with largesse from the CIA.81

There is also the question of ET motivations. The military is believed to serve a legitimate security function for nations and, in the context of a first contact, for all of humanity. The military establishment will be greatly concerned that Earth might be laid open to hostile aggression and attack by superior extraterrestrial beings. Of course, in a practical sense there may be very little we can do about it if we are attacked from space. Such interstellar warriors must of necessity hail from at least a Type II civilization, and thus should have no trouble whatsoever dusting the biological rust from the surface of the Earth if this is their intention. What government would want to inform its people that it is faced with an unknown alien intelligence and possible aggressor against whom there is little or no defense?814 It is entirely possible that uncontrolled, uninformed, sensational publicity about the receipt of an alien message or the upcoming arrival of ETs "in the flesh" could psychologically rip humanity apart. A widespread fear or tone of negativism could spell disaster for the stock market, banks, and other financial institutions, and might create "a field day for every, doom-laden, end-of-the-world fanatic, rapist, arsonist, and mugger."2709

Actual physical contact, if carried out in secret, could have extremely serious implications for world peace if news of this were ever leaked to the press. At that point it will do no good for the government to hand over all the information it has collected, because other nations will suspect that vital information is still being withheld. If the contactee country hands the aliens over to some international supervisory agency only after secretive investigations, it will be suspected of concealing a whole group of ETs -- presumably the most useful minority. All of this may lead to a nuclear confrontation between major world powers:

If Nation A believes Nation B is gaining an overwhelming advantage, it must strike before Nation B achieves invulnerability, and therefore Nation B must strike first in hopes to avoid the worst of the exchange. This is the basic fallacy of deterrence, which politicians are growing reluctant to call a "defense." If either side achieves a major breakthrough in weapons science, the balance of terror which previously prevented war then demands war before the new system can be deployed.1001

Probably the best course of action for the host country would be to alert the major nuclear powers of the contact, in secret. Representatives of all such nations should be invited to participate in every phase of the operation, especially at the site of the first landing. The public could then be informed in a suitable manner determined by all governments concerned, at a time when the situation was deemed manageable.

Such is similar to the course of action adopted by the nations of the world during the Cosmos 954 mishap in early 1978 when a Soviet nuclear-powered spy satellite crashed to earth. The incident bears repeating, since it may provide xenologists with valuable insight as to the most probable behavior of human governments in a Direct Contact scenario.

Cosmos 954, a 9-meter-long, 2-meter-wide, 5-ton satellite, was boosted into a 240-km orbit on 18 September 1977.3541 Designed to detect and to track thermal emissions from American submarines, the spysat was powered by a 500-kg nuclear reactor containing 50 kg of highly radioactive uranium-235. On December 19 the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), headquartered half a mile beneath Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain, detected on its space radar system that Cosmos 954 had begun to drop in its orbit. About 10 days later, the spysat’s orbit had decayed to about 160 km and failed to respond to ground commands to reignite its engines and fire to a higher altitude. Its fate was sealed. By early January, NORAD was predicting the most probable impact somewhere in North America.

Warnings were flashed at once to countries like Denmark and Canada, which lay beneath the satellite’s track.3544 All of this was kept secret from the public because, in the words of one White House security advisor: "We were trying to head off a re-creation of Mercury Theater [the 1938 'martian invasion broadcast' hysteria]." Another Presidential advisor said that secrecy was maintained because some governments that had been informed, particularly West Germany, feared that if word leaked out about the satellite and its reactor "the public would develop the mistaken idea that there was a chance that a nuclear device was in danger of falling on them."3543

About January 19, National Security Advisor Brzezinski issued a National Security Council Directive alerting the CIA, NASA, the Department of Defense, and the State Department to the probable and imminent re-entry of Cosmos 954. Special Air Force teams trained in radiation detection and techniques of decontamination were also placed on alert status, and were made ready to fly to any impact site around the world. Then, on 25 January 1978, at 6:54 AM (EST), Cosmos 954 crashed in a relative wilderness area in northern Canada. Operation Morning Light was swiftly lauched. The U.S. and Canada dispatched 4 teams of specialists: A high-flying U2 airplane from Beale AFB with radiation sensors and a large instrumented KC-135 from McClellan AFB, similarly equipped to detect high-altitude radiation, and a 44-man search party of U.S. military technicians from Andrews AFB and Nellis AFB to assist a 22-man Canadian nuclear-accident team, equipped with radiation-proof suits and debris collection gear.

Only then, after the major crisis had passed, was the public informed what had happened. The gravity of the need for absolute secrecy,* agreed upon by the governments of the world in this case, is illustrated by the following fact: American space scientists later admitted that if the satellite had failed only one pass later in its decaying orbit, it would have plunged to earth near New York City at the height of the morning rush hour. In. such important matters as crashing nuclear satellites and, presumably, Direct Contacts with alien beings, governmental and military authorities appear quite willing and able to keep controversial news under wraps.


* Apparently, European ham operators who regularly monitor Soviet space transmissions knew something was up, but for some reason the information was not publicized until after January 25.3542


Last updated on 6 December 2008