Voice 1: What’s that up there in the sky? It’s moving! Could it be a UFO? Are aliens from another planet finally coming to land on Earth? Every year thousands of UFO sightings are reported to official authorities all over the world, but not many countries take these seriously or are willing to investigate further.
Voice 2: So what should you do if you are convinced you’ve seen an Unidentified Flying Object in the sky? Who do you call?
Voice 1: UFO sightings are no problem if you live in France. It is one of the few countries in the world to have an official government department dedicated to investigating Unidentified Flying Objects. It’s only a small department - only four paid employees - but it is paid for by the French tax payer and it is kept very, very busy.
Voice 2: You will find the UFO investigating department under ‘GEIPAN’ in French government listings. This is an abbreviation of the first lettes of the French words meaning STUDY AND INFORMATION GROUP ON NON-IDENTIFIED AEROSPACE PHENOMENON. The department’s brief is to investigate all reports of strange sightings in the skies over France.
Voice 1: The official paid team of four staff is supplemented by a number of unpaid volunteers who work for GEIPAN merely out of interest. Each report headquarters received is followed up, and decisions taken how much further investigation should be undertaken. On average, reports of two possible UFO sightings come into the team every day.
Voice 2: Once a report is received, GEIPAN issues an eleven page questionnaire for the UFO spotter to fill in. Photographs are requested, whenever possible. The large number of details asked for help the team decide whether to proceed with an investigation or not. It also weeds out jokers and time- wasters.
Voice 1: When someone reports something strange in the sky, the first thing the GEIPAN team does is go online to check if details of the sighting match with the flight path of a plane. The team’s computer systems can trace commercial air traffic with specialist software. GEIPAN also has access to military flight paths and French Air Force records.
Voice 2: Over the years that GEIPAN has been operating, the team has amassed an amazing collection of photographs of strange lights and circular shapes in the skies over France. But, after investigation, most of the sightings are explained away as being nothing out of the ordinary.
Voice 1: In fact, the team at GEIPAN almost always finds a normal explanation for the UFO sightings that are reported. Many end up being sightings of nothing more sinister than Chinese lanterns sent up at night during parties.
Voice 2: Balloons and escaped kites often get mistaken for alien spaceships, and space debris and falling meteorites giving off strange lights are other common explanations behind hopeful UFO sightings.
Voice 1: But GEIPAN has more than four hundred unexplained sightings on its record books. Back in 1981, several witnesses saw a strange object land near the town of Aix-en-province in the South of France. Investigators even found evidence that something had landed in the area where the sighting was reported. But then the trail went dead.
Voice 2: Is an agency like GEIPAN a complete waste of tax-payers’ money? That depends on where you stand on the question of life on other planets. Are we alone or are there other life-forms out there? And if there are, are they watching us? And if there are little green men out there, why would they want to come to Earth? An interesting question to ponder the next time you look up into the night sky. Is someone looking back?