Jimmy Carter’s Letter To E.T.


A copy of the record on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Washington Dulles International Airport

On a cold evening in 1969, a peanut farmer was standing outside a Georgia restaurant when he noticed a mysterious pulsating light in the western sky. He was game enough to report it.

“It was the darndest thing I’ve ever seen,” he recalled seven years later, during his successful presidential campaign. “One thing’s for sure, I’ll never make fun of people who say they’ve seen unidentified objects in the sky. If I become President, I’ll make every piece of information this country has about UFO sightings available to the public.” Indeed, Carter filed his own report of the incident with the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma City (read it here).

Even though Carter later came to believe that what he called “space people” hadn’t paid Earth a visit, there’s still a possibility that his words might visit them. In the summer of 1977, he penned a three-paragraph letter to accompany the Voyager spacecraft. Today, that letter is travelling beyond our Solar System at speeds of eleven miles a second. It is the first letter in history to reach extrasolar space.

Carter was not the only human to send a message on Voyager—the “Golden Record” stowed onboard contained greetings in languages ranging from Sumerian to Welsh, as well as short speeches from UN delegates interwoven with whale sounds. (“My dear friends in outer space,” one delegate intones over a collage of cetacean murmurs, “as you probably know, my country is situated on the west coast of the continent of Africa, a land mass more or less in the shape of a question mark.”)

Carter letter

Yet Carter’s letter was the longest message sent by any earthling, and the one that most fully evoked the utopian mission of Voyager. “We are a community of 240 million human beings among the more than 4 billion who inhabit the planet Earth,” he wrote. “We hope someday, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of galactic civilizations.” Carter was quite possibly inspired to this flight of fancy by the theatrical release of Star Wars three weeks earlier. But perhaps he was simply waxing idealistic, touched by the thought of writing the first interstellar letter in human history. Source: Slate

Did Jimmy Carter Really See a UFO?


In a report filed with the Center for UFO Studies in Evanston, Illinois, Carter claimed to have seen his UFO in October, 1969, when he was running (unsuccessfully, at that point) for governor of Georgia. Being a shrewd politician even then, he didn’t file his report until September, 1973–hell, look what happened to Eagleton.

It was around 7:15, shortly after dark, when Carter and a group of about 10 or 12 people spotted the alleged UFO over the countryside near Leary, Georgia. The object stood still in the sky for a period of ten or twelve minutes, slowly changing its color, size, and brightness, and then gradually retreated into the distance, disappearing from view. Carter estimated that the object, at its closest, was some 300 to 1,000 yards away.

In 1973 Carter said (Sheaffer 1998:20–21)

“There were about twenty of us standing outside of a little restaurant, I believe, a high school lunch room, and a kind of green light appeared in the western sky. This was right after sundown. It got brighter and brighter. And then it eventually disappeared. It didn’t have any solid substance to it, it was just a very peculiar-looking light. None of us could understand what it was.”

Speaking in a 2005 interview, Carter states:

“all of a sudden, one of the men looked up and said, ‘Look, over in the west!’ And there was a bright light in the sky. We all saw it. And then the light, it got closer and closer to us. And then it stopped, I don’t know how far away, but it stopped beyond the pine trees. And all of a sudden it changed color to blue, and then it changed to red, then back to white. And we were trying to figure out what in the world it could be, and then it receded into the distance.”

Later research, however, has cast doubts on the Big Peanut’s credibility. Robert Sheaffer, a volunteer researcher for the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, reported in an issue of Zetetic magazine that what Carter actually saw on that fateful October eve was not a flying saucer, but the planet Venus, a notorious trickster in these matters.

Nor was the fateful eve in October–apparently, during the four year gap between the incident and Carter’s report, the President confused his dates. By checking the files of the Lion’s Club chapter that Carter was scheduled to address that evening, Sheaffer discovered that the actual date was January 6, 1969–a night on which the planet would be sitting in precisely the spot where Carter saw his spaceship. “Either an extraterrestrial space vehicle was covering up Venus,” Sheaffer concludes drily, “or Mr. Carter was looking at the planet.” Straight Dope

Footnote: The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast #105 in a 2007 interview with Jimmy Carter. In the interview Carter stated that he did not believe the object was Venus, explaining that he was an amateur astronomer and knew what Venus looked like. He also said that as a scientist he did not believe it was an alien craft and at the time assumed it was probably a military aircraft from a nearby base.

However, he said that the object did not make any sound like a helicopter would do. Carter also said that he did not believe that any extraterrestrials have visited Earth. He also stated he knows of no government cover-up of extraterrestrial visits and that the rumors that the CIA refused to give him information about UFOs are not true.

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