NASA wants a deeper understanding of the many unexplained, flying objects that appear in the sky. The agency is assembling a study team this fall to observe UFOs, now known as UAPS (unidentified aerial phenomena). While it may be tempting to think of UFOs as the stuff of sci-fi and conspiracy theories, NASA’s announcement states right off the bat that there is “no evidence UAPs are extraterrestrial in origin.” Instead, the focus of the mission appears to be on gathering data and furthering our scientific understanding of UAPs. There’s a practical reason why. Unexplained flying objects — no matter the origin — can pose a threat to flight safety and national security, as military officials have noted.
“The limited number of observations of UAPs currently makes it difficult to draw scientific conclusions about the nature of such events. Unidentified phenomena in the atmosphere are of interest for both national security and air safety. Establishing which events are natural provides a key first step to identifying or mitigating such phenomena, which aligns with one of NASA’s goals to ensure the safety of aircraft,” said the agency in its announcement.
NASA is far from the only US government agency with an interest in UAPs. Last month, Congress held its first hearing on UFOs in over 50 years, where Pentagon officials noted that reports of UAPs are more frequent now than in the past. More than 143 incidents of unidentified flying objects have been reported to the Pentagon since 2004 and remain unexplained, according to a report released last year by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
NASA’s UAP study will be led by astrophysicist David Spergel of the Simons Foundation and NASA’s Daniel Evans, the assistant deputy associate administrator for research at the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. The study will take nine months to complete, and the team will consult with a field of experts in science, aeronautics and data analytics.
Upon the study’s conclusion, NASA promises to make both its findings and all the collected data public. “All of NASA’s data is available to the public – we take that obligation seriously – and we make it easily accessible for anyone to see or study,” Evans said in a statement.