Although the most dogmatic UFO skeptics hold it in high esteem, an article written by the astronomer Carl Sagan in 1962 points out that, in the past, the Earth was visited by extraterrestrials every 10,000 years, the legends of the Sumerian gods being an example of this.
The ancient astronaut hypothesis gained popularity after Swiss author Erich von Däniken published his famous work Memories of the Future ( Erinnerungen an die Zukunft ) in 1968. However, several years earlier, a young Carl Sagan had already raised the idea in a scientific article titled Direct Contact between Galactic Civilizations through Relativistic Interstellar Space Flight, which was published in the journal Planetary and Space Science.
In this little-known text, Sagan performed a statistical analysis of the likelihood that intelligent, technologically advanced life existed in our galaxy and the likelihood that Earth had been visited by extraterrestrials. One of his conclusions was that “other civilizations, eons more advanced than ours, must be crossing the spaces between the stars today.”
The astronomer stated that, starting a couple of million years ago, the Earth would have been periodically visited and monitored; but when the last ice age subsided, (paleo) contact would have increased markedly due to alien interest in human development.
His final statistical analysis contained this astonishing sentence:
“Statistics presented earlier in this paper suggest that Earth has been visited by various galactic civilizations many times (possibly ~10^4) during geological time.”
That’s 10,000 visits! It suggested that the visitors could have been seen as gods and that ancient stories, such as the Babylonian story about the origin of the Sumerian civilization through the Apkallu – representatives of an advanced, non-human, and possibly extraterrestrial society – were a sample of it.
“It is not out of the question that artifacts from these visits still exist, or even that some type of base is maintained (possibly automatically) within the solar system to ensure the continuity of successive expeditions,” Sagan wrote.
“Given erosion and the possibility of detection and interference by Earth’s inhabitants, it would be preferable not to establish such a base on the Earth’s surface. The Moon seems like a reasonable alternative. An upcoming high-resolution spaceborne photographic exploration of the Moon, especially its dark side, could take these possibilities into account. Other places in the solar system could be of interest in this context. Contact with such a base would, of course, provide the most direct verification of the conclusions of this document,” he added.
The skeptical Carl Sagan
Paradoxically, Sagan is remembered for having later expressed that the modern phenomenon was not of extraterrestrial origin. A turning point to generate this apparent contradiction may have been in 1966 when he participated as a member of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Review of Project Blue Book, promoted by the US Air Force to investigate waves of UFOs.
A couple of years later, in 1968, Harvard would deny him tenure under the pretext that he had scientific interests that covered too broad areas—like UFOs perhaps?—.
From that moment on, the astronomer would dedicate his efforts to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence far from our planet, becoming a fervent defender of the SETI program. In addition, he would collaborate with Dr. Frank Drake in the preparation of the Arecibo message, a radio transmission directed into space that was emitted from the already destroyed radio telescope in Puerto Rico on November 16, 1974, to report on the existence from Earth to possible extraterrestrial civilizations.
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