It’s been quite a year so far for UFO conspiracy theorists.

This month, former NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who walked on the Moon in 1971 as part of the Apollo 14 mission, stated publicly that we are not alone. During a speaking engagement at the National Press Club following the Fifth Annual X-Conference, Mitchell, who is 77 years old and grew up in Roswell, NM, told the audience that a UFO definitely crashed in Roswell in 1947 and that the government has been covering it up ever since. How does he know that? The people of Roswell told him. “They wanted to tell somebody reliable,” he explained, “and being a local boy and having been to the Moon, they considered me reliable enough to whisper in my ear.”

Mitchell went on to claim that about 10 years ago he met with an admiral who worked for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and promised to get to the bottom of things. According to Mitchell, after confirming that the UFO crash did occur, the unnamed admiral was suddenly denied further access to information and now even denies the whole story. Bet you couldn’t see that one coming.

“I urge those who are doubtful to read the books, read the lore, start to understand what has been going on,” Mitchell concluded, “because there really is no doubt we are being visited.”

Funny he should mention books, because exactly one month before he made his comments, a new book called The Thinking Person’s UFO Book by Gordon Chism came out. The Thinking Person’s UFO Book is basically a well-written attempt by Chism to build a case for the existence of both UFOs and a massive government cover-up allegedly designed to hide that existence.

Unlike Mitchell, Chism at least claims to have seen – and chased – a UFO many years ago while on a hunting expedition with some high school friends near Stillwater, NV. That experience, he claims, is what inspired his quest for the truth. To bolster his case Chism presents 60 years worth of circumstantial evidence, rehashing every well-known UFO story from the Roswell crash and the Socorro, New Mexico landing to the Phoenix Lights. He also talks about things like crop circles and swamp gas; details as best he can the government’s UFO investigation efforts over the years; and mixes in a healthy dose of amateur psychology to explain mankind’s proclivity for denying that which we cannot rationally explain (okay, I’ll give him that one). Despite the fact that he states, “sixty years worth of videotapes, photographs, radar returns and trace evidence verify [UFO] sightings,” the book does not contain a single image. In the end, it makes for entertaining reading, but like Mitchell’s claims, proves nothing.

It doesn’t end there, however. Just to keep the debate balanced, I suppose, in mid-April several former employees of Area 51, that top-secret military base in the Nevada desert that has long been the focus of UFO conspiracy theorists, suddenly decided to “go public” with what they claim to know. Air Force Colonel Hugh “Slip” Slater, 87, who was Area 51’s commander in the 1960s, and engineer Thornton “T.D.” Barnes, 72, both claim that most of the UFO sightings around Area 51 were actually glimpses of a top-secret Lockheed spy plane called the A-12 Oxcart. The A-12 Oxcart program was reportedly phased out in June 1968, roughly a year-and-a-half before Project Blue Book got terminated, but that’s probably a whole different conspiracy theory.

So, what have we learned from all of this? That in the last 60 years, intelligent life here hasn’t made a whole lot of progress finding intelligent life out there. And it’s all the government’s fault!