The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification program was a government project started over 10 years ago at the instigation of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidAfter the loss of three giants of conservation, Biden must pick up the mantle Photos of the Week: Voting rights, former Sen. Harry Reid and snowy owls Black Democrats hammer Manchin for backing filibuster on voting rights MORE, a Democrat of Nevada, to study the truth about UFOs. Much of the money was directed to a constituent of Reid, Robert Bigelow, a hotel magnate who also is the owner of an aerospace company that builds inflatable modules for NASA. Even though Bigelow is a believer in the notion that aliens have been regularly visiting Earth, the results of the study were inconclusive at best.
Now, Motherboard reports that alien visitations were not the only area of study for the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.
“On Wednesday (Jan 16), the Defense Intelligence Agency released a list of 38 research titles pursued by the program in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy.”
The areas of research that were being funded by the program seemed to be things out of “Star Trek.” One grant was for the study of “Traversable Wormholes, Stargates, and Negative Energy” conducted by Eric W. Davis of EarthTech International Inc. Another grant was for the study of “Invisibility Cloaking” by German scientist Ulf Leonhardt, at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Yet another area of study was “Warp Drive, Dark Energy, and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions” conducted by Richard Obousy, a theoretical physicist and director of the nonprofit Icarus Interstellar.
No one has revealed how or why these studies were given grants under the AATI program. Since only $22 million is reported to have been spent through the known life of the program, it could not have been a lot of money. Nor are the results of the study publically known. Possibly the criteria is that warp drives and stargates would be technologies that would be useful for aliens traversing interstellar distances to visit Earth.
Aftergood is not amused that such seemingly esoteric fields of study had received government funding. The grant recipients are lucky that William Proxmire, a Democratic senator from Wisconsin, is no longer alive. Proxmire regularly handed out his “Golden Fleece Award” to science projects he didn’t like. He had a special ire in his heart for anything that seemed too much like science fiction. The senator was instrumental in ending government funding for the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), a project to listen for signals from alien civilizations.
On the other hand, none of the fields of study could be considered crackpottery, at least according to our current understanding of physics. All of the people who received grants were legitimate scientists. According to Futurism, NASA has conducted low-level warp drive studies for the past couple of decades. Technologies like those the Advance Aerospace Threat Identification program funded are theoretically possible. However, the current state of engineering means that their reality is many decades, perhaps centuries, in the future.
Should the United States government even be spending money on possible technologies that are unlikely to become reality during current human lifetimes? The problems of travel to Mars, not to speak of Alpha Centauri, have not yet been solved.
Still, studies into such subjects as warp drives, stargates, and manipulation of extra dimensions would possibly lead to further insights into the nature of the universe. Knowledge is better than ignorance and can, in turn, lead to unforeseen practical applications that perhaps don’t involve interstellar travel.
Besides, when a real-life Zefram Cochrane is ready to build the first warp drive, he will have a solid basis of theoretical work to inform his history-making project. Just as the art of rocketry dating back to ancient China led to the Apollo missions to the moon, people today working in scattered labs across the planet could lead to that “Star Trek” future that has captured the imagination of generations of TV and film audiences.