But ... Tumblr, you know: it may suddenly take off three months from now. In the meantime, it's not exorcised from my mind yet, so I'm posting it here, now (slightly edited to mesh with Dreamwidth's format).What if we really have had contact with extraterrestrial aliens, already?
Roswell, New Mexico.
Okay, okay. I know
But hear me out. Besides, I’m offering this as a “What if--” a story prompt, if you will -- not a revelation of some nefarious conspiracy, nor a claim that I’ve figured out the Truth that They don’t want anyone to know.
If there is
a single “Big Truth” out there, a) I don’t think anyone can know for sure what it is, and b) if we ever do find out, I don’t think it would be anything terrible or scary, after all (maybe a little sad).Anyway --
On July 3, 2017, the BBC World Service rebroadcast an interview with the son of one of the men who found the remnants of the “alien craft” (Major Jesse Marcel).
I won’t link to it here, because website itself is inaccessible (audio with no transcript). But if you want to look it up, the keywords I used just now were “BBC World Service,” “Witness” (the name of the program), and “Roswell.”
Jesse Jr. was 11 at the time, and at the time of the interview (in 2010), he came across as sincerely convinced that the bits and pieces his father brought home to the kitchen table were: a) actually alien, and b) not at all like the scraps of weather balloon that were revealed to the public shortly after.
[Caveat] He was 11 at the time, and his father woke him up in the middle of the night to show him what he’d found. It could very well be that he was convinced by his father’s enthusiasm, and that his father was motivated by his desire
to find something alien, so that neither of them were seeing these artifacts clearly. And over the years, Jr. could have doubled down on his belief in order to defend his father’s honor. [/Caveat]
Two details of the interview made my ears perk up, and take the idea that there really was some kind of “alien incident” at Roswell, 70 years ago a little more seriously:
- Jesse Marcel Jr. insisted that his father made no mention of any alien bodies at the crash site -- and that the first mention of the Pentagon hiding “specimens” didn’t crop up until the 1970s.
- When asked by the interviewer: “But why Roswell?” Mr. Marcel answered that the site was radioactive, because of all the nuclear testing, and surely, the aliens would want to investigate that. When the interviewer asked: “But why haven’t they been back?” he answered that he didn’t know.
But, as all our most serious-minded scientists (even the ones who are imagining life outside our solar system, and puzzling through ways to test for it) will tell you: Real-world interstellar travel takes a very, very, long time
So: here’s what I’m imagining might have happened:
Around the time that predynastic Egyptians were domesticating the donkey, astronomers living on the planet that we
are now calling “Kepler-425b” turned their telescopes to the sky, wondering if there were intelligent life on other planets like theirs.
Around the time that Alexander the Great was trying to establish an empire, their technology has advanced enough to send forth a ship in our star’s direction, carrying an unmanned probe
, which has been programed with instructions to home in on any signs of proof of life -- especially
The ship is capable of traveling at incredible speeds -- almost half
the Speed of Light -- but even so, those idealistic astronomers know they won’t live to receive any answers that that little probe may discover. It’s all for their future generations, if they are still around, to reap.
That little probe finally makes it to its destination 3,000 (Earth years) after it set out
: a little, rocky planet third out from its star -- a medium-sized star just like the one it set out from. And as it gets closer, the signs of life are unmistakable. And closer still: the signature of enriched Uranium, and Plutonium! Exactly what it was sent to find. It comes in closer, maneuvering with the planet’s gravitational pull, preparing to send its message back home.
Except it crashes. It never gets to send that message. It gets dismantled; its parts get hidden away, and only those Earthlings that are thought to be delusional by others of their species believe it ever existed at all.
But the descendants of the civilization that sent it forth have no idea of its fate. They won’t even start looking
for its message to arrive for another 1,400 years.
But (I hear you say)! Isn’t there another star with seven Earth-like planets, that’s much, much closer?
Yes, there is: a star we call “Trappist-1.” But it’s a dwarf star. The planets in its
habitable zone are very likely tidally locked. This means that there’s a good chance the civilizations that arose on them have no concept of “Distant Stars,” much less develop the desire and the tech to venture among them (because the habitable zone on their home planet's surface is bathed in continual twilight, so they never see distant stars).
But I could be wrong about that. Still, if the scenario I outlined for the astronomers of Kepler-435b had played out on one of Trappist-One’s planets, instead:
For a probe traveling at almost half the speed of light to arrive in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, it would have had to leave its home while we Earthling Americans were engaged in our Civil War -- killing each other over whether some of us have the right to own others of us.
Those astronomers would’ve started listening for a return signal from their unmanned probe around the time Ronald Reagan was threatening to bomb the Russians with that same purified uranium. That signal was that was fated never to arrive.
Those astronomers might’ve shrugged their equivalent of shoulders, and wrote it off as a valiant, but failed, attempt.
If, however, they were determined to find us, and make contact, because they’re even more
optimistic and friendly than we are, and allowing time to build a second probe to send it chasing after the first one...
That second “message in a bottle” wouldn’t arrive here until almost 2100
If they already had a second probe ready to go, and their tech advanced in the meantime, and they manage the miraculous traveling speed of three-quarters Light Speed
-- we might get a second chance to say “Hello. Sorry about the misunderstanding,” in 2042-ish.
...Assuming we don’t destroy our ecosystem and die off, thanks to global warming, by then.
So maybe this story’s ending is more than a little sad.
(I think I've glimpsed the singularity of the Fermi Paradox ... And it is us)
Oh, and most of the time I spent writing this was looking up names of stars, and crosschecking the timeline of human civilization.