NASA announces new investigation of unidentified aerial phenomena

After several decades In the dark, in recent years the US government has stepped up its efforts to investigate a third rail research area: unidentified aerial phenomena (aka UFOs). On Thursday, June 9, NASA announced that it was also throwing its hat in the ring. Importantly, at this time, NASA positions the study as prospective for a larger-scale investigation based on any initial findings.

The space agency will study existing data from its own observatories in the sky and on the ground looking for anomalies that cannot be easily explained by existing scientific knowledge.

“The outcome of this particular study is not filtering all the data and doing all this research, it’s making a proposal for a research program that we can implement based on the influence of the principles that are there,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for the Board of Science Missions, said at a June 9 press conference.

What’s new – The announcement comes on the back of US Congressional hearings on a report published last year on military-documented UFO sightings.

The study will be led by David Spergel, president of the Simons Foundation and astrophysicist. NASA expects the study to take nine months, flagging archival research from NASA observatories and the National Science Foundation, but not addressing individual anomalies. Daniel Evans, deputy deputy deputy administrator for the Science Mission Directorate for research at NASA, said at the press conference that the agency will spend “no more than $100,000” on initial research.

After all, this is just the base.

Just don’t call it an alien hunt

“Frankly, I think there is new science to be discovered,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, said at a June 9 press conference.

“There were many times when something that seemed almost magical became a new scientific effect,” he adds.

Bill Nelson, a former United States Senator who became NASA Administrator under President Joe Biden, made comments in October 2021 indicating NASA’s interest in investigating reports of these unidentified phenomena. Nothing official was announced at the time – but this study, according to the folks at NASA, will lay the groundwork for moving forward.

“What I hope the final product looks like is really addressing the related questions, what is the data that we should analyze, how should we do that, (and) is there data that we should get that is not currently there? ” said Zurbuchen.

“NASA is uniquely positioned to handle UAP.”

Here’s the background – In case you haven’t heard, the once fringe idea of ​​UFOs has returned to the public consciousness. The trigger for the general interest was a 2017 investigation by O New York Times, which revealed the existence of a Pentagon-led reporting effort called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. The program was made to analyze military reports of objects in the sky seemingly beyond explanation.

Some military videos of these objects – dubbed the Tic-Tac, Gimbal and GOFAST videos – also floated to the surface. In turn, it was unclear whether or not these leaks were classified. (The Pentagon maintained that they were not.)

In 2020, a Congressional appropriations bill included an amendment directing the Pentagon to investigate unidentified aerial phenomena, with a preliminary report released in mid-2021. After the report dropped, the US Congress convened hearings on UAPs this year. .

Investigating the Unknown

“NASA is uniquely positioned to address the UAP because who besides us can use the power of data and science to discover what is happening in our skies,” Evans said.

“We have the tools and teams that can help us improve our understanding of the unknown,” Spergel said at the press conference.

“We are prepared to use these powerful scientific discovery tools in this case … using the same kind of approach that we have always used.”

Spergel’s ultimate ambition for the study?

“Take a relatively data-poor field and turn it into a field that is much more data-rich and therefore worthy of scientific investigation and analysis.”

Zurbuchen repeatedly alluded to natural but unexplained phenomena at the press conference, but it’s worth noting that NASA is now looking intelligent life in the universe after years of delays. In the 1990s, Nevada Senator Richard Bryan called off an expansive NASA search for an extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) program. Only in recent years has NASA opened up again to help in the search for technological signatures – signs of intelligent alien technology.

“We are looking at a number of different phenomena.”

The agency is also looking for life in the Solar System, such as ancient alien microbes on Mars and potential life on icy moons like Europa and Titan (the subject of upcoming NASA missions). Another tempting target is Saturn’s tiny moon Enceladus, which harbors a large ocean beneath its surface.

What is the next – Understanding the wide variety of phenomena in the sky – including the three-letter acronym that is almost a four-letter word – can help scientists better understand our own planet. We can learn about new and exotic climates or energetic phenomena – these are the kinds of things that NASA hopes to find long before it starts to suggest the idea of ​​“aliens”.

“It’s clear that in a traditional kind of scientific environment, talking about some of these issues can be considered selling or talking about things that aren’t real science,” says Zurbuchen.

“I really am vehemently opposed to it. I truly believe that the quality of science is not only measured by the results that come from behind it, but also by the questions we are willing to tackle with science.”

As such, Spergel is keeping an open mind.

“The only preconceived notion I have for this is the idea that we’re looking at a lot of different phenomena,” says Spergel.

Spergel, once he has a fully assembled team, will begin work in the fall of 2022.

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