Project Serpo is the name given to what is said to have been a top-secret exchange between the United States government and an alien planet nicknamed Serpo. Details of the exchange and what it was supposed to have entailed have appeared in several UFO conspiracy stories over the last 30 years, including one incident in 1983 in which a man identifying himself as USAF Sergeant Richard C. Doty contacted investigative journalist Linda Moulton Howe claiming to be able to supply her Air Force records of the exchange for her HBO documentary ''The ET Factor''; only to pull out without providing any evidence to substantiate his story, and one incident in 2005 when a series of emails were sent to a UFO discussion group run by Victor claiming that the project was real.
Some variations on the conspiracy story state that the name Serpo is the nickname of the extrasolar planet. Other versions state that it is a mispronunciation of either Serponia or Seinu by US authorities involved in the project.
The first mention of a 'Project Serpo' was in a UFO email list maintained by enthusiast Victor Martinez. Various versions of the conspiracy theory circulated, and were later detailed on a website (www.serpo.info).
According to the most common version of the story, an alien survived a crash near Roswell in the later 1940s (see Roswell UFO incident). This alien was detained but treated well by American military forces, contacted its home planet and eventually repatriated. The story continues by claiming that this led to the establishment of some sort of relationship between the American government and the people of its home world – said to be a planet of the binary star system Zeta Reticuli. Zeta Reticuli has a history in ufology, having been claimed as the home system of an alien race called the Greys. The story finally claims that twelve American military personnel visited the planet between 1965 and 1978 and that all of the party have since died, from 'after effects of high radiation levels from the two suns'.
One criticism of Project Serpo stems from the lack of veracity of one of its alleged witnesses, Sergeant Richard Doty. Doty has been involved in other alleged UFO-related activities (see Majestic 12 and Paul Bennewitz), and this makes the Project Serpo allegations automatically suspect. Additionally, there is no physical evidence in the public domain supporting the project's existence. According to Tim Swartz of Mysteries Magazine, Doty, who promised evidence to Moulton Howe before backing out, has been involved in circulating several other UFO conspiracy stories. Swartz also expressed that the details of Project Serpo have varied considerably with different accounts.
Further criticisms of the story include the usual arguments against conspiracy theories, UFOs, and faster-than-light travel, as well as astronomical knowledge of the Zeta Reticuli system. There is currently no evidence of technological life in the system and also no evidence of planets. Because the stars are widely separated (several thousand astronomical units), claims of excess radiation as a result of the presence of a second star are nonsensical.
On a more fundamental level, it is entirely possible that the messages originating the story were deliberate hoaxes. The postings were to Internet forums that cover conspiracy theories and UFOs, and a cursory examination of such forums shows that hoaxes are not uncommon. Some ufologists have even claimed that the messages were a hoax perpetrated by the American military and intelligence communities to protect real, related, activities.