This weekend marked 72 years since the U.S. first started seriously worrying there might be something "out there."
But was it the truth or just fantasy?
It started back on July 7, 1947, when a man named William Brazel had something to get off his chest
He worked as a ranch foreman and had been out in the desert a couple of weeks back when he came upon something strange. Something out of place.
It was a lot of debris. Wreckage of some sort. Sticks and tinfoil. Paper and rubber.
The stuff didn't much concern him at first. But then he began hearing stories. Stories about strange lights in the sky.
Brazel drove to town that day nearly seven decades ago to talk to the sheriff. He told him about finding the wreckage. And he told him that the debris might not be of earthly origin.
The town, as you might have guessed, was Roswell, N.M.
Most are familiar with what happened next. Sheriff George Wilcox got in touch with Major Jesse Marcel at the Roswell Army Air Field and they went to investigate the wreckage. The next day Col. William Blanchard of the 509th Bomb Group at RAAF issued a press release saying the remnants of a crashed "flying disc"—as UFOs were popularly known at the time—had been recovered.
The news made headlines across the country. And that's when things started to get complicated.
The Eighth Air Force in Fort Worth took control of the investigation and the story. It took just a few hours before a new press release was issued, saying it had all been a mistake. The material found was from a weather balloon.
Since then, the story has been taken apart, debated and challenged. Millions of Americans believe in UFOs. And many of them believe that something from another planet crashed out in the desert not far from Roswell back in 1947. Some even claim the U.S. government has kept hidden alien bodies taken from the crash all these years.
So what really happened in Roswell nearly seven decades ago? The government later admitted there was more to the story—but nothing out of this world. The crash was hushed up because the weather balloon was part of Project Mogul, a top-secret operation targeting Soviet nuclear tests.
But many skeptics don't buy that explanation. Nor will they consider anything but a UFO scenario.
What really happened in Roswell was the birth of a phenomenon. There had been sightings of UFOs before, but the Roswell incident sparked a wave of sightings, news stories, magazine features, books, movies and TV shows. The country went mad for flying saucers.
The craze has died down considerably over the years, but there are still true believers who keep watch on the skies. Including, most recently, the U.S. Navy, which has renewed investigations into the UFO phenonemon.
And who knows? Maybe one day they will find what they are looking for.