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United Nations to appoint official for First Contact with extraterrestrial life

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Michael E. Salla, Ph.D.

Dr Mazlan Othman, Director or the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs. Photo: UN/IISD

The United Nations is set to appoint the head of its Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) as the first official responsible for representing humanity in the case of contact with extraterrestrial life. At an upcoming Royal Society (of London) conference scheduled from October 4-5, Dr Mazlan Othman will explain how the UN plans to implement changes that will result in her being given responsibility as part of her current position as the director of UNOOSA. Othman says the need for such a responsibility is due to the discovery of exoplanets that makes it more likely than ever that humanity will eventually discover extraterrestrial life. She has said that the UN is now actively planning a coordinated response for ‘First Contact’ .

Othman is a respected figure in the astrophysics and Outer Space Affairs community. She was the first female to graduate with a Ph.D in astrophysics from the University of Otago New Zealand (1981) and became Malaysia’s first astrophysicist. She was nominated by Kofi Annan to head UNOOSA from 1999 to 2002, before being summoned back to Malaysia to head the Malaysian National Space Agency from 2002-2007. She was responsible for the training and flight of Malaysia’s first astronaut Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, and was re-appointed head of UNOOSA by the current UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in 2007. As far as Othman’s scientific expertise is concerned, Professor Richard Crowther, a space law expert at the United Kingdom’s space agency said: “Othman is absolutely the nearest thing we have to a ‘take me to your leader’ person”.

In a recent talk Othman said:

The continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustains the hope that some day human kind will receive signals from extraterrestrials. When we do, we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The UN is a ready-made mechanism for such coordination.

At the October 4-5 Royal Society conference, Othman will go into detail in the process the UN plans to undertake to appoint her as humanity’s first representative for First Contact. The Conference is titled “Towards a scientific and societal agenda on extra-terrestrial life,” and its webpage explains the need for political processes to accommodate scientific study of extraterrestrial life:

Even more than the scientific agenda, a corresponding complementary societal agenda needs to be debated. With a mix of invited talks and panel debates, we particularly look into the detection of life, the communication with potential extra-terrestrial civilizations, the implications for the future of humanity, and the political processes that are required.”

Othman will present at a panel discussion titled: “Extra-terrestrial life and arising political issues for the UN agenda.”

Othman’s position shows that the United Nations is closely monitoring scientific developments concerning the discovery of exoplanets and the growing likelihood that life can be found throughout the universe. Recently, renowned astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking caused a furor when he said that extraterrestrial life is almost certain to exist, but we should be careful since they are likely to be predatory in nature. Hawking’s exopolitical speculations has stimulated wide ranging debate over the motivations of advanced extraterrestrial life. As a member of the Royal Society, Hawking’s views very likely played a role in influencing the agenda of the upcoming Royal Society conference.

The upcoming UN announcement of a First Contact official comes at a convenient time for a grass roots effort to get the City of Denver to pass an Ordinance, Initiative 300, that will create an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission. Initiative 300 is on the ballot for the November mid-term elections and deals with some of the same “First Contact” issues that Othman will be given responsibility for at the UN. For example, the proposed Ordinance asks:

Shall the voters for the City and County of Denver adopt an Initiated Ordinance to require the creation of an extraterrestrial affairs commission to help ensure the health, safety, and cultural awareness of Denver residents and visitors in relation to potential encounters or interactions with extraterrestrial intelligent beings or their vehicles, and fund such commission from grants, gifts and donations?

It will certainly be difficult to dismiss the importance of Denver’s proposed Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission if the UN moves forward with its plans to appoint Othman as the official responsible for First Contact, and the Royal Society endorses political processes to deal with the detection of extraterrestrial life.

The upcoming appointment of a UN official to be in charge of a future First Contact scenario is a welcome step forward in legitimating discussion about the social and political implications of extraterrestrial life. Such a political discussion – popularly known as exopolitics – is the explicit focus of the upcoming Royal Society Conference. Uthman’s upcoming responsibility makes it more important than ever that the academic/scientific community discusses the social and political implications of the discovery of extraterrestrial life, and the growing likelihood of First Contact.
Further Reading

Princeton University astrobiology certificate explores potential for extraterrestrial life

Galaxy is rich in small Earth-like planets

Stephen Hawking launches exopolitics debate

Is 2010 the year of discovery for extraterrestrial life

Princeton University astrobiology certificate explores potential for extraterrestrial life

© Copyright 2010. Michael E. Salla. Exopolitics.org
Permission is granted to include extracts of this article on websites and email lists with a link to the original. This article is copyright © and should not be added in its entirety on other websites or email lists without author’s permission. For permission please contact: drsalla@exopolitics.org

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Princeton University astrobiology certificate explores potential for extraterrestrial life

Michael E. Salla, Ph.D.

A Montage of Life Born in the Astronomical Context. Graphic by Keren E. Fedida: Planets and Life Certificate

Princeton University has just announced a “Planets and Life” Certificate program in astrobiology that offers students an interdisciplinary approach to the possibility of extraterrestrial life existing throughout the universe. Astrobiology, or ‘exobiology’ as it first developed, is a scientific discipline that by definition is interested in the biology of life beyond our planet. Astrobiology is attracting growing student and scientific attention due to the ongoing discovery of exoplanets. A recent announcement from scientists working on the Kepler Space Telescope that rocky earth-like planets are more prevalent than gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn, has fueled scientific speculation that suitable life-bearing conditions are far more common than previously thought. This has led to the realization that due to the advanced age of some solar systems, older and more advanced intelligent life very likely can be found elsewhere in the galaxy. Astrobiology conferences organized by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Science in November 2009, and the Royal Society of London in January 2010 began the task of exploring the implications of extraterrestrial life found elsewhere in the galaxy. According to the Planets and Life Certificate program Director, Astrophysics Professor Adam Burrows, “Biology is experiencing a great renaissance … there are a lot of people making this the focus of their scientific work … It’s the fastest growing field in astronomy.”

The student body at Princeton, a private university that relies on student tuition for operational expenses, was a key factor in the development of the Life and Planets astrobiology program. It was students who had earlier completed one of the courses taught by evolutionary biology professor Laura Landweber, that formed an Astrobiology Club and pushed for the creation of the certificate program. Professor Landweber’s course, AST 255 “is an introduction to astrobiology and explores topics like the origin of life on Earth and the possibility of extraterrestrial life on Mars and Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.” Clearly, the question of life on Mars and elsewhere in our solar system is something that continues to inspire keen student interest.

A key aspect of the new astrobiology program is that it will be interdisciplinary. According to the Princeton University News Release, the program allows “students to take cognate courses in nine departments: astrophysics, chemistry, ecology and evolutionary biology, geosciences, molecular biology, mechanical and aerospace engineering, electrical engineering, chemical and biological engineering, and computer science.” Noticeably missing from the list of departments are the social sciences of political science and sociology.

Most recently, Professor Stephen Hawking, a member of the Royal Society of London that sponsored the January 2010 astrobiology conference, took scientific speculation on extraterrestrial life to its logical conclusion by introducing political and sociological questions. He asked what would they be like in terms of their motivations, and would their political agenda involve resource acquisition to the degree that they might threaten the earth? Hawking’s introduction of political and sociological questions to the study of extraterrestrial life is part of the nascent field of exopolitics which has yet to be formally acknowledged by Princeton or any other university. While Princeton’s astrobiology certificate for the moment emphasizes the natural sciences in its interdisciplinary program, it’s hard to justify the exclusion of exopolitical questions when the world’s foremost astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking, is explicitly raising such questions. Princeton University is to be congratulated for creating a pioneering interdisciplinary certificate program in the growing field of astrobiology. With time, however, the program will need to expand its certificate program in order to systematically address exopolitical questions, that cannot and should not be excluded from an interdisciplinary study of extraterrestrial life in the Galaxy.

[Special Notice: The author teaches a course in the Exopolitics Institute’s Certification Program titled: The Science, Spirituality and Politics of Extraterrestrial Life. Fall Semester clases have just begun. More info here.] Further Reading

Galaxy is rich in small Earth-like planets

Stephen Hawking launches exopolitics debate

Is 2010 the year of discovery for extraterrestrial life

© Copyright 2010. Michael E. Salla. Exopolitics.org
Permission is granted to include extracts of this article on websites and email lists with a link to the original. This article is copyright © and should not be added in its entirity on other websites or email lists without author’s permission. For permission please contact: drsalla@exopolitics.org

Hiding the truth in plain sight – Hollywood’s coverage of extraterrestrial visitation

On Monday night, September 20, NBC premieres its new show – The Event. The Event is a high powered television mini-series that shows a black U.S. President who is given possession of a highly classified file about a program that he officially had not been made aware by his national security officials. In the NBC trailer (see below), he has a confrontation with his CIA Director, who informs the President that only those with a need-to-know were informed about the classified program. The President declares to the CIA Director that by virtue of the office of the President, he has need-to-know. The President learns that the program involves 97 prisoners or mysterious ‘others’ being held in a secure facility in Alaska. He travels there to meet them and their leader. He then announces a major Press Conference and a failed assassination attempt then ensues. While the NBC trailer of The Event does not explicitly mention the ‘others’ as extraterrestrials, the context does point firmly in that direction.

A number of UFO researchers claim inside knowledge of who the ‘others’ being held in Alaska are. Larry Lowe, a veteran UFO researcher, claims: “I can assure you that the viewer will be treated to the unprecedented visualization of the President of the United States finally admitting to the public that ET exists—and that some of them look a lot like us and are here on the planet already.” We will have to watch the series to learn who the ‘others’ are and what The Event is all about. If it is about an officially sanctioned UFO cover-up, the Event would be the latest in a long line of Hollywood productions that hides the truth about extraterrestrial visitation in plain sight. Putting the truth out in the open through various movies and television series makes the public aware of a possible official cover-up of extraterrestrial life while simultaneously making it appear to be science fiction.

Hiding the truth in plain sight is not limited to Hollywood and the entertainment industry putting out movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek, The Day the Earth Stood Still; or television series such as X-Files, Stargate SG-1, Battlestar Galactica, and most recently V. There has been a decades long series of testimonies by whistleblowers from the government, military and corporate sectors; and leaked official documents that all point to secret government and corporate involvement with an extraterrestrial presence. Such testimonies and documents typically suffer from the same mix of a lack of supporting hard evidence, inconsistencies in whistleblower testimonies, and even character flaws making it all hard to accept. This is despite the obvious sincerity of those disseminating the information who are typically convinced of its earth shaking significance. Many of these testimonies and documents ultimately find their way to a Hollywood scriptwriter who puts out another compelling movie/TV series that many believe must be close to the truth, but which skeptics can easily dismiss as science fiction. If an observer from another world visited our planet, they would be intrigued at how well the truth about extraterrestrial visitation is hidden in plain sight.

Unraveling the truth about extraterrestrial visitation, government, military and corporate cover-ups, and the extent to which Hollywood and the entertainment industry is involved is no easy task. Fortunately, some do specialize in exposing the link between Hollywood and extraterrestrial visitation. Paola Harris holds a Master’s Degree in Education and has been researching UFOs for over 30 years. She has written a series of books detailing the testimonies of many of the hundreds of whistleblowers and witnesses she has personally interviewed. Some of their testimonies reveal the very important role played by Hollywood in hiding the truth in plain sight. In an online course titled “The Role of Hollywood and the Media in the Disclosure Process,” Ms Harris reveals how Hollywood and the entertainment industry is gradually preparing the public for the truth about extraterrestrial life. If you want to learn more about how Hollywood is part of a gradual disclosure process, then you’re in luck since her Fall Semester class has just begun.

If you want to learn what The Event is and who are the mysterious ‘others’ held secretly in Alaska, then tune in to NBC on Monday at 9 pm EDT. If The Event does indeed feature a black President officially announcing the existence of extraterrestrial visitors that look just like us, then Hollywood may finally go a step beyond hiding the truth in plain sight, and be actually preparing us for an impending government disclosure of the truth.

© Michael E. Salla, Ph.D.

[Further info: Hollywood and the Media in the Disclosure Process or here for related article]

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