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Here’s a 1966 interview with Carl Sagan, hosted by Walter Cronkite, discussing UFOs and the possibility of contacting alien civilisations. Also interviewed is Thornton Page, who was a member of the CIA’s 1952 ‘Robertson Panel‘ investigating UFOs. As usual, Sagan’s manner is somewhat sniffy when it comes to the idea of alien craft buzzing planet Earth, though not so much on the idea that there is life elsewhere:

It may be worth noting that the (at-the-time secret) Robertson Panel that Page was a part of concluded that an ‘education’ campaign should be initiated to lessen the public’s interest in UFOs (along with other dandy ideas like surveillance of civilian UFO groups and their members):

The Panel’s concept of a broad educational program integrating efforts of all concerned agencies was that it should have two major aims: training and “debunking.” The training aim would result in proper recognition of unusually illuminated objects (e.g., balloons, aircraft reflections) as well as natural phenomena (meteors, fireballs, mirages, noctilucent clouds). Both visual and radar recognition are concerned. There would be many levels in such education from enlisted personnel to command and research personnel. Relative emphasis and degree of explanation of different programs would correspond to the categories of duty (e.g., radar operators; pilots; control tower operators; Ground Observer Corps personnel; and officers and enlisted men in other categories). This training should result in a marked reduction in reports caused by misidentification and resultant confusion.

The “debunking” aim would result in reduction in public interest in “flying saucers” which today evokes a strong psychological reaction. This education could be accomplished by mass media such as television, motion pictures, and popular articles. Basis of such education would be actual case histories which had been puzzling at first but later explained. As in the case of conjuring tricks, there is much less stimulation if the “secret” is known. Such a program should tend to reduce the current gullibility of the public and consequently their susceptibility to clever hostile propaganda.

Also worth noting is that at this time, Sagan was a member of the Ad Hoc Committee to Review Project Blue Book, which concluded that Blue Book had a number of scientific flaws and recommended another panel (the Condon Committee, headed by Sagan’s former teacher) to scrutinise the study and give its ‘independent’ conclusion on the validity of the UFO phenomenon.