Arthur C. Clarke on UFOs

In 1971, the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey asked, why AREN’T there any visitors from space?

Arthur C. Clarke

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The recent news that U.S. military has confirmed encounters with UFOs prompted us to search our archives for articles on the subject of visitors from space.

In June of 1971, the newly revitalized Saturday Evening Post featured an essay by science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, who looked at the current state of finding life on other planets. He pointed out that with all of the scientists, amateur astronomers, and military surveillance systems, it was unlikely that space invaders would go undiscovered.

That led him – and other scientists, no doubt, to the inevitable next question:

At the very moment when we are starting to understand the many strange apparitions in the skies, and no longer rush to explain them as visitors from space, scientists are asking in tones of increasing perplexity, “Well — why aren’t there any visitors from space? Where is everybody?”

Clarke urged patience:

The truth is that we simply don’t know, but we may be able to make some intelligent guesses when our first deep-space probes start reporting back. Let us wait patiently until then, rather than get involved in any more of the half- and wholly-baked speculations which, for the last fifteen years, have hindered the serious scientific approach to the most important question that man can ask of the Universe.

Fifty years later, we’re still waiting…

The one page essay by Arthur C. Clarke
Read “What Ever Happened to Flying Saucers?” from the June 1, 1971, issue of The Saturday Evening Post. CLICK TO ENLARGE. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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  1. Thanks so much for making the 1971 article by Mr. Clarke available, above. I read the whole thing and it’s still timely now. If he were still with us, he’d undoubtedly appreciate all the recent progress too, but also frustrated why it’s taken/taking so long.

    Who knows? Maybe it was meant to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the revitalized Saturday Evening Post. CONGRATULATIONS on an important anniversary year within the larger 200th. The Post is in a new Golden Age right now. I say raise your glasses of Martinelli’s sparkling cider and toast yourselves–even if it’s on Zoom!


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