Today, UFO sightings are taken seriously with millions of people around the world believing in extra-terrestrial life andNASA recently launching the most determined alien hunt in world history– but this hasn’t always been the case.
In fact, it wasn’t until after World War Two that much of the public began to see the possibility of alien life as more than a nutters' conspiracy.
The unexplained case of an Air Force aircraft plummeting to the ground after engaging with a mysterious object in the air marked the point when people began to take notice of the potential of life beyond the Earth.
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Veteran pilot Captain Thomas F. Mantell had been sent to investigate reports of an unidentified object floating near a Kentucky farm and after climbing to 15,000 feet had described seeing an object "metallic and tremendous in size”.
But after climbing higher to assess it further, he lost visual and radio contact before rescue teams found the battered remains of his airplane scattered around on the ground.
The UFO had completely disappeared by the time his body was recovered from the wreckage.
It has since been credited with forcing Airforce Intelligence specialists to take notice of sightings as several rumours circulated about what the object was.
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“The death of an accomplished pilot and decorated World War Two veteran changed how America perceived UFOs,” writes specialist military website military.com.
“It marked the first time the public began to think that UFOs were not only real, but also that extra-terrestrials might not be friendly.”
In the midst of a media frenzy following the tragedy, the Air Force told reporters Mantell had died while chasing the planet Venus.
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It was the brightest object in the sky at the time, but these claims were later rubbished as falsehoods.
Others reckoned the object was a top-secret US Navy project dubbed Skyhook balloon, a high-altitude device used to collect data in the atmosphere.
But this has never been confirmed and indisputable evidence for the unexplainable crash remains to be found, while Mantell’s death stands as a defining moment in how the human race sees extra-terrestrial life.
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