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Alien country: Earthlings welcome

By Mike Fink
CNN Headline News

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Space Exploration
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
New Mexico

(CNN) -- When pictures from NASA's Mars rovers were beamed back to Earth, many were disappointed by the absence of images of alien life. For those of us who support the search for E.T., our attention must continue to focus here on our home planet.

Roswell, New Mexico, is considered by many to be the "mothership" of alien adventure; one of the most famous UFO "crashes" occurred here in 1947. Since then a whole culture of alien-awareness has grown. But the city hardly holds a monopoly on extraterrestrial excitement. In fact, there are several alternatives to this mainstream alien hot spot.

One of them is Dreamy Draw, a recreation area near Phoenix, Arizona. As the story goes, a UFO crashed there in 1947, just three months after the Roswell incident. The remains of two 4-1/2-foot passengers were reportedly taken from the crash site and kept in a local's freezer until the military took them away. True believers say that shortly after the crash, the Army Corps of Engineers built a dam at the site to cover up the evidence. According to the city of Phoenix, the dam wasn't built until 1973. Decide for yourself.

If you'd like the opportunity to see a UFO, head out to the "UFO Watchtower" in Hooper, Colorado. Judy Messoline, a former cattle rancher, opened the observatory in 2000. Since then, she has played host to thousands of visitors and claims to have documented numerous sightings.

A cemetery in Aurora, Texas, supposedly features an alien pilot's burial site. A nearby state historical marker tells the legend of a spacecraft that crashed there in 1897. However, the exact location of the pilot's grave is unknown. If you can't make it out to the cemetery, rent "Aurora Encounter," about the alien's visit.

Aliens must like Wisconsin. It's home to three UFO "Capitals of the World." First there's Dundee, where every summer believers and nonbelievers alike gather to celebrate extraterrestrial visitations. They call it UFO Daze. Coincidentally, several UFOs have been reportedly sighted on nearby Highway 67.

Wisconsin's second "UFO Capital of the World" is Elmwood. UFOs allegedly started visiting the area in the mid-70s. Since then, residents claim to have seen anywhere from 30 to 50 strange-looking objects in the sky. Every year the town holds a festival that includes a group "UFO Watch."

And then there's Belleville, which holds its annual UFO celebration the last Saturday in October.

In the movie "Contact," the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in New Mexico received alien messages. Located near Socorro, 27 radio antennas search the skies for intergalactic data. Each antenna is 82 feet in diameter and weighs 230 tons. Free guided tours are available. Even if the observatory hasn't recently made contact with alien life, there's something eerie about seeing all of those dishes pointed toward the heavens.

NASA's rovers are continuing their exploration of Mars. President Bush has announced plans to launch a manned mission there, but that won't happen until after 2030. So if you can't wait that long for interplanetary interaction, keep searching -- even if it's here on Earth.

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