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Suppose extraterrestrial beings are actually sending out signals to Earth and we finally hear them. Who in the federal government (or elsewhere) is designated to form an official response?
"I don't think that there's anybody designated to be in charge," says Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the California-based SETI (as in, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute. In an interview with MSNBC, Shostak said not much planning has been done at any level to deal with the ramifications of an alien encounter. He also repeated a prediction that the ongoing SETI effort to comb the universe for signs of communication from aliens will pay off by 2025 or 2030.
A poll conducted in connection with a new National Geographic Channel show on UFOs shows that 77 percent of Americans think there's evidence that aliens already have visited Earth. More than a third of respondents said they were convinced that UFOs were out there.
So who should be in charge if one or more of those UFOs reveals itself to more than this group of of hardcore believers and actually displays hostile intentions? Well, 65 percent of those surveyed said President Obama would do a better job than GOP challenger Mitt Romney of handling an alien invasion.
Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.
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