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American authorities know there's alien life because there's a law against contacting extra-terrestrial beings. So how come they don't tell us about it

01:00 Mon 15th Apr 2002 |

A.Sorry. You've been taken in by an urban myth - but rather a good one. The story says that Title 14 (Section 1211) of the Code of Federal Regulations, implemented on 16 July, 1969, made it illegal for US citizens to have any contact with extra-terrestrials or their vehicles.

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Q.Sounds convincing to me.

A.Allow me to give you some background. The year 1969 was, you will recall, the great year of space exploration. On that day, 16 July, NASA launched Apollo 11, bound for the Moon. Four days later, Man set foot on another celestial body for the first time. There were, however, many worries ...

Q.Like, 'would it work '

A.Apart from that. Scientists were concerned about what would happen if the astronauts brought back unknown micro-organisms from the Moon. The 1969 novel by Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain, painted an appalling picture of what might happen if an unknown disease gripped the Earth.

Q.Um ... I'm not that familiar with it ...

A.Briefly, a rock sample from outer space contains germs that kill everything that comes into touch with it. A plague is averted only with a bit of luck.

Q.And what has this to do with the ban on alien contact

A.The day Apollo 11 was launched from Kennedy Space Center, the United States adopted Title 14, Section 1211 of the Code of Federal Regulations, since known as the Extra-Terrestrial Exposure Law.

Its purpose was not to 'make it illegal for US citizens to have any contact with extra-terrestrials or their vehicles'. Instead, it allowed the government to prevent the possibility of biological contamination from men and objects returning from space by enforcing a quarantine on any people, plant or animal life that had 'touched directly or come within the atmospheric envelope of any other celestial body'.

And if you had not travelled into space yourself but had indirect 'extra-terrestial exposure' through contact with returning astronauts, or anything they had brought back, the government could force you into quarantine.

The law was enforced with a fine of up to $5,000 or up to a year in jail for those who flouted the rules.

Q.And this is still the law

A.No.It was removed from the Code of Federal Regulations in 1991 when NASA said it was 'no longer in keeping with current policy'.

Q.This is all a hush-up of the truth, isn't it

A.No. Get back to your X Files.

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Steve Cunningham

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