Myths and urban legends get people excited. The idea that there could be mermaids swimming in the absolute deepest parts of the ocean, or sasquatches lurking in the thick of North American forests, allows the imagination to go wild. The enigma of the yet-to-be-proven also creates controversy and conspiracy theories.

One popular topic like this that has fascinated the world pretty much forever is… aliens. People love ’em, and so does Hollywood. In fact, the infatuation with extraterrestrials has led to government speculation and thousands of stories about sightings and abductions. Disturbingly, that number keeps going up.

Have you ever seen something in the night sky that seemed a little too oddly shaped to be a plane? Well, a lot of people claim those are UFOs, otherwise known as unidentified flying objects, a phrase that was coined in the 1940s. 

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With a potentially infinite universe, space is kinda big. That makes it really hard for science to factually determine what other life is out there, which makes it really easy for people to claim sightings and create bogus recordings. But UFO sightings aren’t a new phenomenon.

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The first sighting dates back to 1639, when English Puritan lawyer John Winthrop recorded in his diary that he’d seen “a great light in the night sky,” which “ran as swift as an arrow” and traveled back and forth. But lights aren’t the only things people report today.

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The public loves to claim they’ve witnessed flying saucers and/or UFOs; and although a UFO could technically even be a mylar balloon fuzzily floating in the distance, the term is customarily associated with aliens, which is creepy considering the number of sightings is increasing by the minute. This caught one man’s attention in particular.

 Sam Monfort was pretty interested in this acceleration in UFO sightings. Monfort, a statistician and PhD candidate, amassed all of the data from the National UFO Reporting Centre to find pretty interesting statistics in the United States about UFO sightings…

Monfort’s compiled data showed that America has the most sightings recorded by a landslide, at almost 300 times more than the international median. Does this mean that the aliens are targeting America specifically, or could something else be going on? 

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Well, when the number of UFO sightings started increasing in the early 1980s, something else was on the rise, too: drone technology. Just think about how many companies (and individuals) have started flying these little guys! And pop culture played a role, too.

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Ridley Scott’s critically acclaimed Alien franchise was hatched in 1979 and continued to dominate the sci-fi arena for more than two decades. Its success and the rise in sightings seems like less than a coincidence — if you catch our drift. 

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It turns out that the number of sightings hit an all-time high in 2010, reaching approximately 45,000 annually. Logically, if there were that many aliens visiting Earth each year, certainly we would be hearing about it, no? And at least a few of these sightings can be explained…

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In 2010, a slew of UFO sightings throughout Somerset County, New Jersey flooded 9-1-1 operators. Unfortunately for alien conspiracy theorists, Newsweek reported that in 2018, a Reddit thread, called “8 Years ago I caused a UFO panic,” put the mystery to rest. 

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Two New Jerseyan college students decided to create black trash bag “solar balloons” purely out of boredom during the summer of 2010. A lesson from their high school science class inspired this innocent day of arts and crafts.

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The anonymous resident who created the Reddit thread admits he hadn’t seen reporter Stephen Stirling’s NJ.com article that mentioned the UFO panic until years after it was posted. So this was an innocent hoax, but what are the odds that all 45,000 sightings are hoaxes?

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Since NASA reported in 2017 that its Spitzer Space Telescope had discovered seven planets the size of Earth with the possibility of hosting lifeforms, it isn’t super surprising that UFO sightings are still prevalent. Maybe we aren’t alone after all.

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NASA said that out of these seven planets, which revolve around a star, three of them are located in the star’s “habitable zone.” Basically, the habitable zone is the area around said star that is most likely to possess liquid water, and possibly ALIENS. Okay, so NASA didn’t exactly report the aliens part, but with water comes life. 

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Strangely, this discovery had the opposite effect on sightings: the number declined to 55% of 2014’s total. Not to mention, several UFO interest groups shut down, and countless formerly classified government files regarding the topic were opened. But that doesn’t mean sightings aren’t still happening.

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As a matter of fact, in May of 2019, several publications, including HuffPost, reported that U.S. Navy pilots admitted to witnessing “strange objects” in the air over the East Coast between mid-2014 and early 2015. So what is considered strange?

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According to The New York Times, A Super Hornet pilot almost crashed into a UFO during this time. He said it featured a “sphere encasing a cube.” Many pilots told The Times that the seen objects “had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds,” which is beyond unsettling. 

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In Monfort’s findings, UFOs aren’t the only star of the show, as people most often report viewing peculiar lights in the sky, flying saucers being the second most reported sighting. Maybe John Winthrop knew what he was talking about. 

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ABC13 reported that a Texan woman spotted eerie lights in the San Antonio night sky in April of 2019. The video she recorded exhibited three hovering lights slowly forming the shape of a triangle, eventually going out one by one. The woman, utterly shocked, reported it to the Mutual UFO Network. We bet you just got chills. 

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Common folk, celebrities (Anne Heche especially), and government employees alike have shared their stories of bizarre sightings and out of this world experiences with extraterrestrials. But the world collectively snapped its neck when someone claiming to be an alien showed up in Russia.

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Just two weeks after that boy, Boris Kipriyanovich, was born he held his head up without support. From that incredible moment forward, his parents knew he was special — and as he grew, Boris only continued to impress.

Weeks after his 1996 birth date, for instance, the Russian native started speaking, and, at one-and-a-half years old, Boris could read and draw. He earned early admittance into kindergarten at age two where he amazed teachers.

Strangely, though, Boris intimately knew the universe despite having never been taught about space. He knew planets, stars, and constellations. Expert analysis dubbed Boris a child genius, which made a claim he made at age 7 even stranger.

At age 7, Boris spent a weekend camping with his parents and their friends. Wearing a T-shirt and baseball cap, the adolescent asked the adults to quiet down. He had a story to tell.

While some adults ignored the boy at first, eventually, the campsite grew quiet. Boris had everyone’s attention. He told everyone he was from Mars and he’d come to save the world.

More precisely, Boris asserted that, in a previous life, he lived on Mars. Now? He was reborn on Earth along with others who called themselves “Indigo Children.” This might give you pause, but remember…

Boris knew space at a level that baffled experts. As a child. And, in his teens, Boris reaffirmed most of what he said at the campfire in an interview! His story around the fire continued…

According to Boris, Mars residents stop aging at 35 (a benefit of breathing carbon dioxide, he said). They’re also tall, he noted, and have killer technology that led to interstellar travel, which he recalled fondly.

“I remember that time when I was 14 or 15 years old,” Boris said of his previous life. “The Martians were waging wars so I would often have to participate in air raids with a friend of mine…”

“We could travel in time and space flying in round spaceships, but we would observe life on Earth on triangular aircraft. Martian spaceships are very complicated. They are layered, and they can fly all across the Universe.” But these advances led to destruction.

Because of those advanced technologies, Martians wiped themselves out in a nuclear conflict years ago (remember, allegedly a 7-year-old kid told all this to a group of adults). From there, he delivered his warning.

His people, as he referred to those who survived the “catastrophes on Mars,” saw similarities between attitudes on current-Earth and Mars prior to destruction. In other words?

In a world of power-hungry oligarchs and trigger-happy dictators, Earth faced a fate similar to those in Boris’s alleged homeland. But the boy offered some good news to humans, too.

“The human life will change when the Sphinx is opened,” Boris said. “It has an opening mechanism somewhere behind the ear.” He admitted, however, he didn’t know the specifics. Thanks a lot, Boris!

Boris also alleged the Pyramids of Giza hold secrets beyond our wildest dreams. But surely, though, these are just the ramblings of a kid who read some science fiction at an impressionable age, right?

In 2017, a decade and a half after Boris’s campfire story, experts made a startling discovery about the Great Pyramid of Giza using proprietary technology.

Using cosmic-ray based imaging, scientists discovered a 100-foot-long void in the heart of the pyramid, just above the Grand Gallery, below. No one could say for sure what was in the void.

If you asked Boris about the void, however, he might have a creative answer to offer. Who knows. Maybe it’s holding a spaceship capable of intergalactic travel?

Over the years, Boris participated in plenty of interviews. And while plenty of people are still skeptical, others can’t help but be drawn in by his story. Who knows, maybe we’ll get to Mars to see for ourselves, especially if we’re motivated like this girl…

In some ways, 17-year-old Alyssa Carson from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is just like any teenager. She plays soccer with her friends and chess with her dad. But even she wouldn’t go so far as to say she’s a regular teen.

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While kids her age fill out college applications or worry about their lives after high school, Alyssa has her eyes on another kind of application—one with a chance to change not just her life, but the world itself.

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The second she turns 18 in 2019, Alyssa plans on filling out the application for NASA’s astronaut training program. Her hope isn’t to study on the International Space Station or leap on the moon like Neil Armstrong. Her ambitions go even further.

If everything goes according to Alyssa’s plan, she’ll be the first human being ever to step foot on Mars! And this isn’t some silly teenage dream: her dedication to this goal makes even the most committed workaholics’ head spin.

Her interest in space started at just three years old. Little Alyssa watched an episode of the kids’ cartoon Backyardigans where barnyard animals, below, went on a trip to Mars. After the episode, the curious little girl went to her father, Bert.

She asked him if human beings have ever been to Mars. “I explained to her that we’d been to the moon, but not Mars,” Bert said. “But it would be her generation to become the Mars generation.” From that moment on, the Red Planet fascinated her.

“I started watching videos of rovers landing on Mars,” Alyssa says. “I had a gigantic map of Mars in my room I would look at. We started getting telescopes so we could look at space.” At age seven, she had a career breakthrough…

It was then her dad took her to NASA’s space camp in Huntsville, Alabama. “That was the weekend of my life,” she recalls. “I got to learn everything I had been wanting to know and more…I got to see a life-size rocket.” But one trip to space camp wasn’t enough.

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Over the years, she returned to NASA’s camps a whopping 18 times. By age 12 she became the first person in history to attend all of NASA’s space camps located throughout the world in Alabama; Quebec, Canada; and Izmir, Turkey. She was only getting started.

Alyssa undertakes any space-related activity she can get within a finger’s length of. “She’s the youngest to ever graduate from Advanced Space Academy,” her father noted. “She got her rocket license before getting a [driver’s] permit.”

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The teenager also regularly participates in simulated space missions and physical preparedness training; she builds robots and rockets and regularly takes weeks off from her college-level coursework—which she performs in four different languages—for additional training.

“Sometimes coming back to high school can be boring compared to this,” says the girl who’s earning certificates in diving to “build [her] resumé.” But when will her passion and drive actually see the payoff? Are humans even close to going to Mars?

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Well, on March 21st, 2017, United States President Donald Trump gave NASA a mission: get human beings to Mars by the year 2033. Just one week later, the agency released a five-phase plan to make it happen…

Phases zero through three will see rocket testing—which is already underway, below—deep space transportation, and study of deep space living. By 2033, NASA plans on sending humans on the nine-month trip to Mars—hopefully with a then-32-year-old Alyssa included.

With her eyes on such a far-off prize, Alyssa understands the sacrifices she must make in her modern day life. “The idea of having a family,” Alyssa says, “is something NASA would want you to consider once you come back from Mars.” In other words…

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“It’s a place we’ve never been to, and it’s a dangerous mission,” she says. “Having someone you love on earth, that’s a distraction.” Romance, then, is off the table for another 15 years. But potential relationships aren’t the only ones affected by Alyssa’s plans.

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“Every time Alyssa talks about having to go to space,” Camille Taylor, left, Alyssa’s best friend, says, “it makes me sad because I’m saying, ‘oh she’s going to leave me one day.'” Her father echoes that sadness.

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Bert recognizes the dangers of space travel. As former International Space Station commander Chris Hadfield, below, explained in a 2018 interview, right now, “the majority of the astronauts that we [would send on Mars] missions wouldn’t make it.”

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Space travel in cramped quarters could drive a person crazy. Deep-space radiation would bring incredibly high cancer risks. Not to mention, more than one cleared-to-launch rocket has just straight up exploded. Bert, however, considers another factor, too.

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If all goes according to NASA’s plan, Alyssa would spend three years on the Red Planet, growing food and performing experiments, essentially making it livable for colonizing humans. The idea is practically unbearable to the loving dad.

“I still have to look at it as a father,” he said, fighting back tears, “that I’ll have my child for 20 more years and then I may not ever see her again. And that’s hard. But for what she’s wanting to do I have to support her.” Indeed, her mission might be crucial to the survival of mankind.

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Alyssa believes that a “single-planet species will become extinct. Just going to Mars will show people that we can move on from planet Earth”—a planet humans have inarguably done damage to over the millennia.

“Even though there’s a lot of risk in going to Mars, I believe that the rewards are so much greater,” Alyssa says. And her father, sad as the idea of losing his daughter makes him, couldn’t agree more. “This is bigger than the two of us,” he says.

And that’s why Alyssa’s relentless in her pursuit of getting to Mars. NASA is even “more precise about who they want for [the Mars] mission,” Alyssa says. It “motivates me to put in the hard work now to…help me stand out.”

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And in 2015, she added another impressive line on her resume. She was the youngest person ever accepted into PoSSUM Academy—a program “preparing people for space flight.”

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Amazingly—though maybe not so surprisingly by this point—the teenager already has aspirations for her time after Mars: she wants to be a teacher—which she’s already done a bit of!—or president of the United States. No doubt, she shoots far beyond the moon.

Alyssa Carson / Facebook

Chances are, Alyssa Carson will be among the first humans to set foot on Mars. Her secret to success? “I don’t think there’s anything specifically that makes it easier for me or that others can’t do,” she says. “It’s just something I’ve really focused myself on.”