３月２４日のエントリーで取り上げたフランス国立宇宙研究センター（CNES＝“クネス”）のUFO現象を調査研究する専門部署であるGEIPAN（＝“ジェイパン”）による情報公開について、今夜放送したJAM THE WORLDの「15 MIN.」というコーナーで特集した。
この件について、誰に話を聞くべきかと悩んだあげく、結局CNESに直接コンタクトするのがベストだろうということで、友人のフランス人、Olivier Voisinのコネクションを使ってフランス大使館の中にあるCNESの東京事務所の代表、Mathieu Grialou氏にインタビューを敢行した。
CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) フランス国立宇宙研究センターについて
Public organisation created in 1961 (昭和36年) to propose and implement France’s space policy, according to the needs of the users’ community and of the government.
One of the major actor in Europe (with Germany, Italy and UK) for space development. Fields of activity : access to space (launchers), sustainable development (Earth observation satellites), scientific missions, telecommunications, defense, etc. International cooperations: mainly with Europe (through the European Space Agency), but also with the other “space powers” (USA, Russia, Japan, India, China) and the other countries. Staff of 2 400 persons on 4 locations (Paris, Evry, Toulouse and Kourou in South America).
CNES Office in Tokyo: created in 1999 to increase the cooperation with the japanese space agencies (now JAXA), and the space community in Japan.
NASA and CNES are the only space agencies with a dedicated office in Japan. Missions: information exchange, promotion of cooperations, logistical support to the missions of French delegations in Japan, etc.
Response to the release of the archives: wide coverage from the french media, because the topic is a passionate one, on which most of the population has a belief or a position.
Strong reaction of the public (the website was unable to accept such a huge traffic and the server went down a few hours after the release. Now stable). However, for the UFOlogists, there were no really “new” cases ...ositionons is topic. pic. But m
No pressure from the USA, as far as I know. The files deal with cases that happened on the french ground only, and we are not speaking about Roswell ... No comments from UK as far as I know, but I am based in Japan, so it is far away ...
A necessary explanation of the vocabulary:
In English UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) is the usual term. It relates to OVNI in french, which has the same meaning (Objet Volant Non Identifie). However, in most cases, we have only optical or atmospheric phenomenons (and no physical object !), so GEIPAN uses the noun PAN (Phenomenes Aerospatiaux Non-identifies), which in english would be Unidentified Aerospace Phenomenons (UAP, but the noun is probably not spread among the english-speaking countries), and in japanese the noun would be 大気圏・宇宙空間 非確認現象.
Usually they do a less impressive work than the Men in Black or the officers of the X-Files ... More seriously, GEIPAN is only a small office (1 person with part-time workers in standard configuration).
The group is in charge of collecting telephone calls of cases (usually from the “Gendarmerie” (Military Police) network, or from the French Air Force.
Usually 50 new cases per year. The action is then to cross-check the information with other sources: meteorology (sounding balloons activities with Meteo-France, special atmospheric phenomenons) air traffic status, radar traces (need to act quickly because the files are not kept more than a few days due to lack of archiving space), military activities (were they exercice operation that could be mistaken with something else?), astronomy (is the sky in a specific configuration that could create bad interpretation of natural phenomenons? Moon and Venus can sometimes create illusions when they are low on the horizon ...), space activities (known activity of re-entry bodies ? contact with NORAD and ESA), ground activity (is there a special event ? fireworks ? a concert ? a new discotheque with spectacular laser effects ?).
The work is then mainly data filing and archiving. But on some cases including a large number of witnesses (or with evidence on the ground), GEIPAN can join the MP to take part in investigations on the spot and a psychological interview of the witnesses.
With all this information, GEIPAN can activate a network of several scientific experts (in all the fields) and try to find explanations for the phenomenon. It then archives the case with a ranking from A to D (which is shown on the website):
A/ case closed. Everything explained.
B/ no evidence, but the experts are intimately convinced by a natural explanation.
C/ not able to investigate because lack of information/source.
D/ lot of information (often detailed) but no explanation.
Then, a great time will be now dedicated to the information (the “I” of GEIPAN). Publishing files, scanning documents, etc. GEIPAN is also trying to inform the potential viewers on how to be accurate when describing what they might see: brochures on “how to describe” (distance, angular distance, timing, ...) will be distributed to the Amateur Astronomical Associations, or to the military pilots, the civil pilots or private pilots, all being people who are often looking at the sky ...
To answer that, a brief history of the Group is necessary:
In 1977 CNES created GEPAN, to investigate PANs, under the control of a scientific committee designated by the President of CNES. In 1988 GEPAN was terminated. It was then soon followed by the SEPRA (Service d’Etudes des Phenomenes de Rentree Atmospherique / Service for the Study of Atmospheric Re-entry Phenomenons), but without the scientific committee.
SEPRA was then in a position where it was not able to publish on its works, due to a lack of scientific support. Other factor: it was not possible to publish the investigation files, because there was no such agreement with the Military Police. Hence almost 20 years of silence, with the frustration of the ufologists community, and also on a smaller scale from the tax-payers (CNES budget is a public budget).
Moreover, the former director of SEPRA became biased, favouring the ET hypothesis and then reducing the credibility of the Agency. SEPRA was then terminated in 2005 and replaced by GEIPAN, adding a “I” to the missions of the group and beginning a process of transparent work.
- waiting for CNES answer on this question – I know that you can ask case-by-case in the USA, but CNES is the first agency to realize such an operation.
- if you know for Japan, please let me know ...
Basically, not really, because the approach of GEIPAN is a scientific one. There is no will to demonstrate an alien presence.
GEIPAN is just here to try to give explanations to unknown phenomenons, one of the roles of Science (for example, until the beginning of the 19th century scientists didn’t believe stones could fall from the sky ; today we know there are 20 000 tons/year of meteorites (mostly dust) ...).
Most of the case find very rational explanations indeed. The credibility of CNES is not a stake as long as GEIPAN keeps this rational approach.
CNES was deemed the most appropriate agency in France to host this group, mainly because of 3 reasons: it is a civil agency (no pressure due to “defense secrets”), it is a space agency (and most of the phenomenons occur in “space” (i.e. the atmosphere), it is a public agency (not financial interest or pressures, and respect of ethics like the privacy of the witnesses).
Not as far as I know.
This matter is beyond the role of GEIPAN ... But a personnal answer is proposed in Q-10.
There are a lot of unexplained phenomenons, not only in the sky, and it is in the Human Nature to try to explain them.
However, UFOlogist very often use a false method, where you start from the conclusion and you try to demonstrate it. That is mainly the reason why the topic is extremely sensitive among the scientific community, and because experts do not want to be associated with this work.
Maybe the approach of GEIPAN will contribute to rally this doutbful scientific community and have the experts contribute to explain those phenomenons.
This is very much linked to a “bigger” question which is “Are we alone in the Universe ?”. And this question is a very serious one, with most of the space agencies dedicating big budgets to explore for example Mars, or later Titan around Saturn, or later the satellites of Jupiter, and to try to see if those bodies could have harboured life or are at present ... Most of the future space exploration missions will try to answer this question.
We don’t think only about our solar system, but also beyond, with for example the launching of the satellite “COROT” by CNES last year, dedicated to find “exoplanets” in other solar systems.
This is a fundamental question, and now a large majority of scientists believe there is Life elsewhere in the Universe, and it is just a matter of time before we find it.
The theory of “Panspermia”, with life travelling onboard asteroids and “pollinating” planets is also a theory that emerged recently.
The SETI program is also a famous example of this interest of the scientific community. We understand that the conditions of the emergence of Life are very unprobable, but this surely is compensated by the huge number of stars in the Universe.
Personnaly, I believe we started to believe the Earth was the center of the Universe, but we know it’s not the case ... so if you look at the probabilities, there is no reason the Earth should be the center of Life ... For those interested in this topic, there is at present (and until July) an exhibition in Paris (Cite des Sciences de La Villette) (in french and in english).
The question of UFOs, is just a small extension of the first one: what is the probability that an “intelligent” life form may have found us and is trying to contact us?
Personnaly, I have the feeling that the probability of finding a life form with a roughly similar stage of development than ours is very limited (Too primitive = can’t communicate ; too advanced = don’t want to communicate). But unfortunately we don’t have enough matter to lead a scientific demonstration of this.
GEIPAN has archived between 1988 and 2005 almost 1600 cases (with 6000 witnesses). Most of the cases are explained (A cases), whether by false declarations (but astonishingly very scarce) or by natural phenomenons (lightnings, clouds, “human” space bodies (like the re-entry of the 3rd stage of a Proton rocket in 1990, with 800 witnesses), or other explanations (german WW2 small artillery self-propelled shell that was consumed several years later in the sky after spending most of its time in the ground ...)).
There are also natural phenomenons that are not fully explained as of today: for example “ball lighting” that produces balls of fire capable of sustension during several seconds ...
There is however almost one quarter, or 20% depending on how you count, of the cases that have detailed information but no explanations. The witnesses have been judged not mentally insane by psychological review. Some of the confusing cases are the following:
- Cussac in 1967 (昭和42年): two children mentionned having seen a small round spacecraft with little black humanoids in a field. The ball took off rapidly in the sky. Traces were found on the ground.
- Trans-en-provence in 1981 (昭和56年): a man observed during 30 seconds a sphere that had landed in his garden. Traces on the ground were analysed.
- Nancy in 1982 (昭和57年): landing of a cigar-shaped object (1,5 m of diameter) on the ground. The landing had an influence on the plants close to the site, that were analysed later.
- Air France Flight Nice-London in 1994 （平成6年）: the pilots observed a very large shape (1000m x 100m) in the air. The observation was seen also by a military radar on the ground.
GEIPAN would like to extend its work and go back further in the past to publish the cases located between 1954 and 1977, but we have very few documentation on those cases. Generally speaking GEIPAN is working with 100% transparency and no raw information is hidden.