Project Blue Book premieres on Tuesday, January 8 at 10/9c on the History channel, and is based on true, top-secret investigations into Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) conducted by the United States Air Force from 1952 to 1969.
Project Blue Book is inspired by the personal experiences of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a brilliant college professor recruited by the Air Force to spearhead research into UFO’s and related phenomena, with more than 700 cases and reported sightings remaining unsolved to this day. Each episode draws from the actual case files blending UFO theories with authentic historical events from one of the most mysterious eras in U.S. history.
The show features Aidan Gillen (known for his portrayal of Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish on Game of Thrones) and Michael Malarkey (Vampire Diaries, The Oath) as well as a slew of well-known supporting cast, including Neal McDonough, Michael Harney, Laura Mennell and Ksenia Solo.
Hynek was a 37-year-old director at Ohio State University’s McMillin Observatory when he was first asked to spearhead an operation called “Project Blue Book.” According to History.com, Hynek had worked for the government during the second World War, developing new defense technologies like the first radio-controlled fuse, so he already had a high security clearance. When a rash of reports about mysterious objects in the skies put the public on edge, it was up to the military to put together a team to study the reports of UFOs and extraterrestrial activity pouring in, which kickstarted Project Blue Book.
“One day I had a visit from several men from the technical center at Wright-Patterson Air Force base, which was only 60 miles away in Dayton,” Hynek wrote, according to History.com. “With some obvious embarrassment, the men eventually brought up the subject of ‘flying saucers’ and asked me if I would care to serve as consultant to the Air Force on the matter… The job didn’t seem as though it would take too much time, so I agreed.”
Hynek was initially skeptical of flying saucers and UFOs, as most scientists were at the time, and many still remain today. However, after examining hundreds of UFO reports by credible witnesses, he became convinced UFOs were “worthy of serious study,” according to the Center for UFO Studies website. During the 1950’s and 60’s, Hynek’s responsibility was to determine whether there was an astronomical explanation for a UFO sighting. He studied UFO reports and decided if its description of the UFO suggested a known astronomical object, or if there were alternative explanations for the object itself, such as balloons, birds, rockets or flares.
Once Project Blue Book wrapped up in 1969, Hynek decided to create a “private, scientific UFO organization composed of scientists and other highly-trained technical experts, who would work together to solve the UFO enigma,” which led to Hynek open the Center for UFO Studies. Check out a description from the CUFOS site below:
In 1972, Hynek published his classic book, The UFO Experience: A Scientific Study, in which he presented his categories for grouping UFO sightings and coined the phrase, “Close Encounters.” In 1973, he started the Center for UFO Studies and served as its scientific director until his death in 1986. Before he died, Dr. Hynek appointed Mark Rodeghier to succeed him as scientific director. The Center for UFO Studies continues to honor Hynek’s legacy through its serious study and examination of the UFO phenomenon.
Now, Hynek’s life and work will be featured on Project Blue Book, which is based around his experience and research during his time with the actual project. The series “delves into such themes as trust, instinct, real news vs. fake news and government cover-up,” according to History. “The series straddles the world of science and the exploration of the unknown.”
Gillen, who is portraying Hynek’s character on the show, told Entertainment Tonight that he is looking forward to the change in characters, from his cold and manipulative character Littlefinger on Game of Thrones to playing an ambitious and curious scientist on Project Blue Book.
“So many people saw Game of Thrones and a character that’s cold and manipulative,” he told Entertainment Tonight of his role as Littlefinger. “It’d be nice to be known, hopefully, for not as a scheming evildoer.”
Gillen is also a believer in Hynek’s work, which helps him to slide into character easily when filming his role. “I think it’s extremely unlikely that we, on our planet, are the only intelligent life in the universe. I think that’s bordering on ridiculous thinking,” Gillen expressed.
Tune in Tuesday, January 8 at 10/9c on the History channel for the series premiere of Project Blue Book.