4 Real U.S. Government Alien Research Projects Straight Out Of “The X-Files”

Published July 26, 2016
Updated March 25, 2020

Are aliens real? Some people really, really want to believe. Here are the real government initiatives (and one compelling probable hoax) that these believers use in making their case that aliens do exist.

Are Aliens Real


With the Juno spacecraft’s recent and much-celebrated entrance into Jupiter’s orbit, it seems that neither NASA nor its federal government funders have lost interest in exploring the far reaches of the galaxy.

As much as they might have historically attempted to downplay it, that interest absolutely stems to UFOs, which the U.S. government has attempted to study since at least the 1950s — albeit due primarily to fears of Red, not Martian, threats.

According to a few supposedly declassified — and likely apocryphal — project documents, the U.S. government did make contact with alien life. Unlike warm E.T.-esque encounters, these documents allege that alien contact could, pending the U.S. government’s actions, lead to a vital intergalactic alliance or obliterate the world as we know it.

With that in mind, here are four of the most conspiracy-laden yet nevertheless real projects linking the U.S. government to extraterrestrials (plus one fascinating probable hoax), and which could perhaps answer the big question: Are aliens real?


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In 1947, the U.S. government unintentionally crashed what they claimed was a weather balloon into the New Mexican desert, causing a bit of hysteria in an America fearful of Soviet military invasion. In response, the government informed the public that this fallen craft was merely a weather balloon.

Some didn’t buy it from the beginning; others let the story percolate for about 30 years before they started developing theories that the Roswell incident marked not a fallen weather balloon but an actual alien encounter. After all, those who lived near Roswell reported that they had never seen the type of debris associated with the crash before.

In official documents released (well, at least partially) by the FBI, the purported weather balloon was disc-shaped and spanned 20 feet in length. Following the crash, the object was sent to Dayton, Ohio’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for examination. Wright-Patterson was, and remains, one of the country’s largest and most complex bases — and therefore also one of the best at keeping secrets.

Upon completing the examination, the FBI did not initiate any further investigation into the craft and maintained the story that it was simply a downed weather balloon. Still, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover wanted to stay on top of subsequent investigations and projects, and had the National Investigations Committee of Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) keep him apprised of their work.

Whether he took their questions seriously is another matter. When asked if the FBI officially investigated UFO sightings in any way, Hoover replied that the FBI did not investigate, but sent such intel to the Air Force.

UFO theorists were not deterred, however, and soon after Roswell, the government admitted to creating a few projects aimed at investigating unexplained phenomena.

Abby Norman
Abby Norman is a writer based in New England, currently writing a memoir for Nation Books. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Independent, Cosmopolitan, Medium, Seventeen, Romper, Bustle, and Quartz.