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TL; DR: Aliens are not previously known. An alien spaceship suddenly crashes in full view of thousands of people. All members of the crew are dead. How can we expect governments and scientific bodies to react in the short/ medium term, in the broadest sense?

Ok. We start in today's modern world, and all is well. Space agencies are perhaps preparing to send the next crew up to the ISS, the intelligence services are all happy spying on each other over boring stuff like nuclear proliferation, and the media is buzzing with the latest celebrity scandal.

Suddenly, some scientist or government astronomer detects a new near earth object decelerating to a orbital injection trajectory. The object seems to have come out of nowhere. Over the next few hours, the object's orbit decays and it enters the Earth's atmosphere in what is later considered a 'vaguely controlled manner.' As it descends, Radar makes it clear that it survived reentry, which is shortly after confirmed by social media being plastered in pictures of an object in the sky trailing smoke and brightly colored gasses.

What appears to be an escape pod is ejected from the craft and crashes in location A - To make things more interesting, let's assume this is a different country from the main, far larger, ship. When investigated, the pod is found with a sealed door and three dead (presumed members of the) crew inside.

Meanwhile, the main spacecraft is shedding parts and narrowly avoids crashing into a major city, before ditching into a river/ ocean in sight of at least a few hundred thousand people. Presumably a small handful of humans are killed in the crash, either by falling parts or a direct collision, but loss of life is minimal. Some property damage occurs.

When/ If the craft is searched by divers, another member of the crew is found dead, presumed to have drowned.

So, what I would like some opinions on, is how would our world in general, particularly governments and their agencies, scientific bodies, and civil authorities, react and handle the incident in the short and medium term?

Of more specific interest to my plot: which agency/ body would likely be able to secure control of the crash site in each time frame, and what would their intentions be?

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi @Vera and welcome to Worldbuilding.SE. I like your question, but I can find some points for improvement. Maybe add a "Too long, didn't read"-section (commonly known as TL;DR). I like the way you set up the story, but it is quite some text. You can definitely leave it as is though, just a minor improvement. Another point: You're question is really broad. If you don't narrow it down, expect some Too-broad-flags. Change your question to narrow it down."What are the immediate social impacts on residents near the crash-site(s)?" is an example that immediatly comes to my mind.Have a nice time $\endgroup$ – J_F_B_M Feb 4 '16 at 9:13
  • $\begingroup$ Related. $\endgroup$ – Trang Oul Feb 4 '16 at 9:14
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, @J_F_B_M. I've taken that into consideration in my latest edit. $\endgroup$ – Vera F W C Feb 4 '16 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ Related $\endgroup$ – Pavel Janicek Feb 4 '16 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ While the aliens aren't dead, look into Alien Nation and District 9. $\endgroup$ – Schwern Feb 5 '16 at 4:45
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Well... you should be aware of the huge differences that will occur when such a craft crashes down to earth with a huge load of civil observers either in country A and in country B. And it will be completely different in country C.

So while the most common place for alien-actions (the USA) may have a plan for stuff like this happen, many other nations are not prepared for this. For example in Germany a spaceship that parks itself in front of the Bundestag (where our chancellor is dwelling around) will most likely receive a traffic ticket for not owning license plate, dangerous intervention into air traffic, parking at a disabled parking location and piloting a not TÜV-approved (TÜV forbid you to use your car if its a piece of rubbish) vehicle without a flight license. Further, the aliens may get a lawsuit for illegal immigration and running around naked in public.

But in your case you claimed that this was a crash. And its clear that everyone who did observe this did notice. So the case may develop different for they following major cases:

  • industrial nations: Will deploy police and fire fighters and other emergency agencies, lock off the place of happening and trying to determine whats wrong with that stange plane. As soon as they notice that its extraterrestrial maybe their army will try to grab all the pieces and lock em away. Most likely, some time after this mutual allies, that will got news from all the civillian spectators, will be allowed to participate in scientific research of this. Meanwhile, the whole world can watch dozens of videos of the crash on youtube.

  • emerging nations: May act in the same way, if the crash site is not in a desert, rain forest or tundra. In these cases some military spotter will go out and you can skip directly to "grabbing whats left", but without "sharing with allies" maybe. Civil reporting will drop sharply when you hit an area with low internet access at all.

  • poor nations: A local spectacle, where a bigger nation may approach and offer "technical help", in case news travel far enough. Maybe all who did observe think it was a sign of god or something like this and carefully avoid interfering with that thing any more. When you hit a "rouge nation" chances are good that they will get the leftovers and being able to profit from this in a way that makes them a global player after some years. Don't expect any footage beside some wild shaking ones.

So... these are vague estimates. Like said before, it depends where that space ship (and the pod) did land at the end. If you want an agency to pop up and take things in their hands, you should crash that ship somewhere you know a superior intelligence service is working and a big budget is available to spend to such agencies. Russia, China and the USA of course, Europe, India, Japan, British Commonwealth as secondaries...

A global working group... oh dear, just claim Illuminates are active again. At all, they even made it into Deus Ex as a group of global rich people, so just throw together some of the more influential companies which may share a common goal and give them a Joint-Venture private security force. And for some goodwill, all your crash-events did happen close to one of their companies. Or better: right on the parking spots for their employees.

But if you are after a government agency that may get in charge of the crash-site anywhere, UN and NATO may be your group of choice. Otherwise you will spend most time doing diplomacy, which can get pretty boring.

If I could choose the landing-sites... I would place the pod at Antarctica and the UFO somewhere halfway between Europe and the USA - maybe at Iceland (which is not halfway, but... well) - so that every big player get the chance to be there first, while the local authorities are unlikely to be prepared for such a happening. Some of the Oceania-Islands (Java!) may be a good spot too: quite big cities available and most big players within two hours recon-plane-range.

At the end... when no evidence of dead alien creatures from the inside made it to the internet, a country or company will try to claim that this is in fact an earth-bound plane which happens to... well, they shouldn't have updated their flight-computer to windows 10. Otherwise it will be a matter of hours before to much evidence is around to conceal this any more. Just take group of students with smartphones and a nearby 4G Phone Transmitter Station...

I feel like I did miss something, but maybe it pop up in my mind later... or somebody else does name it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good answer in dissecting the different responses of different-world countries. $\endgroup$ – Nikola Radevic Feb 4 '16 at 13:47
  • $\begingroup$ Did you mean illuminati in your second paragraph after the bullet list? $\endgroup$ – cobaltduck Feb 4 '16 at 20:33
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed? Oh dear, I was fooled by my un- trustworthy autocorrect into "Illuminates" being the correct writing. Still, the way it is it will avoid any violation of name ownerships ;) $\endgroup$ – Confused Merlin Feb 5 '16 at 7:32
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If it doesn't crash in a public place, if it's out in the desert or the jungle somewhere, the government of whatever country it's in might try to keep it secret so that they can take advantage of it. But this will fail, as other countries have seen it on radar and know something happened, and in any case governments are notoriously bad at keeping secrets for a long time. (Somehow the subject of UFO conspiracy theories once came up at work, and one of my co-workers said, "If I believed that the government was capable of keeping a secret like this for 50 years, with all the people who would have to be involved, it would make me proud to be an American.")

We'd have to wonder what the civilization that built this ship is doing. Are they sending a rescue party? I've seen lots of movies where aliens land and people promptly take them prisoner, maybe even kill them so they can dissect the bodies. This would be incredibly stupid. You KNOW that these aliens have technology well beyond our own -- they can travel between stars. Who knows what weapons they have. Would you really want to make enemies of them? Not to say that people don't do stupid things, but, etc. I'd be very careful about doing anything to the corpses or the crash sight until I know whether these aliens have friends coming after them, and what they consider acceptable treatment of their property and especially of their dead. Maybe they, like us, have religious or cultural rules about the treatment of dead bodies. Maybe they want to salvage the ship and would be mad if we took it apart. Maybe they don't want primitive societies like ours stealing their technology. Etc. If I was in charge, my recommendation would be to quarantine the site until the aliens' friends arrive.

Assuming we don't care about any of that or the aliens indicate they don't care about the wreckage, people could study the wreckage and maybe learn advanced technology. It's hard to say what you could figure out. If they're too far ahead of us, it may be incomprehensible. If you dropped a modern computer on a society with 1960s technology, smart people would study it and probably figure it out. Drop a modern computer on a society with 1860s or 1760s technology, and, well, I think it's an interesting question how much they'd figure out.

There'd be people saying how this totally changes our view of the universe and how society will never be the same and so on. But unless it leads to interstellar travel -- we figure it out from studying the wreckage or the aliens' friends come and give us access to their ships or technology -- then I think in the long run most people wouldn't much care. It would be big news for a few months, until it was overtaken by the latest celebrity sex scandal or whatever. It wouldn't change most people's daily lives. Compare it to the Moon landings. I remember at the time lots of people said how the fact that men had walked on the Moon changed our view of the universe, etc. But in practice, how does this change your life? How often do you even think about it? And anyone reading this is likely someone interested in such subjects. To most people, "Wow, there is alien life! How interesting! And did you see that football game last night?! ..."

Atheists would say that this proves all religions to be false. (I say that confidently because I've often heard atheists say that when we meet aliens, this will disprove religion, though the reason why has never clear to me.) Some religious people would have to adjust their beliefs and theories, While some people say that they doubt the existence of aliens on religious grounds, no major religion holds non-existence of aliens as a doctrinal point, so it's unlikely to shake anyone's faith seriously.

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Let's give this a stab by starting to appeal to all the conspiracy theorists and consider the first possible time frame "Ground Zero".

Along with the black suit syndrome, we don't know the unknown people (organisation X) who would be at G0 seconds before the projectiles (pod and ship) hit their likely calculated impact points (Let's say X has abundant resources and power to remain hidden from us common folk - be as creative as you need ie. able to intercept satellite/government/intelligence etc. to mislead their predictions of the orbital entry or crash).

Case X - A: Assume that X somehow had prior knowledge of the existence of the newcomers. If relations were diplomatic -> a search/rescue/recovery and cleanup of evidence would take place (Lots of question about media footage with no answers still preferable to spilled beans). If relations were hostile (ship was possibly compromised by X to begin with) -> cleanup of survivors + evidence.

Case X - B: X is just caught off guard like the rest of the world but they still want the information first, and if need be contained. They would likely undergo recon with risk assessment, capture/detain/eliminate hostile survivors. And attempt to clean up the scene.

Entering slightly more realistic ground and say X doesn't exist or is otherwise occupied with more pressing concerns. Considering there was ample coverage and warning (uncompromised by X) of the craft's approach, countries or areas expecting the crash in their yard will likely have prepared a military/scientific/media resource at the site. Likely in that order. To first secure the situation and ensure the craft or its passengers pose no immediate aggressive threat. Followed by an investigation into the specifics of the craft/passengers/crash and the environmental threats they could pose. Concluded lastly by allowing/or not the media to disclose details of the event.

As to what happens afterwards and who gets custody of the evidence, it's unlikely that a single government could cover up or lay claim to such an event (A claims crash site, B claims orbital entry into their skies, C claims debris, D claims death of civilians... etc.).

I suspect a panel/convention/union of countries would be formed with regards to which decisions will be taken. Most likely these decisions will lead to scientific investigation for the most of the foreseeable future. Information released would most likely be that deemed safe enough to release to the public, or that necessary to control and keep the public calm.

On a global scale there could be religious turmoil or similar such which would claim to explain the existence of the ship.

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