NASA joins the hunt for UFOs

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NASA joins the hunt for UFOs, a senior space official said Thursday, forming a team that will investigate “observations of events that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena.”

The space agency will bring a scientific perspective to the efforts already underway by the Pentagon and intelligence agencies to understand dozens of such observations, said Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s science mission directorate, during a speech to the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. He said it was “high-risk, high-impact” research that the space agency should not shy away from, even though it is a controversial field of study.

The announcement comes just weeks after a rare and historic hearing before Congress on observations of what the Department of Defense calls the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, better known as UFOs, and a report issued last year by the director of national intelligence that cataloged more than 140 flying objects that officials were not in. able to identify.

On May 17, Congress held a hearing on UAP (Uidentified Aerial Phenomena), better known as UFOs. Here’s why. (Video: Monica Rodman, Sarah Hashemi / The Washington Post)

However, the nine-page report and congressional hearing were brief in detail and did not draw definitive conclusions about what the flying objects were, many of which were discovered by naval pilots. Officials said they found no evidence that the objects were a kind of advanced space technology developed by China, Russia or other nations. There was also no evidence that they came from extraterrestrial sources.

The limited number of such observations makes it difficult “to draw scientific conclusions about the nature of such events,” NASA said in a statement. The agency said it was not only concerned about national security, but also the safety of flying in the air. It also said: “There is no evidence that UAPs are extraterrestrial in origin.”

Nevertheless, NASA said they want to apply scientific rigor to an annoying problem that has been a fix for generations. Studying UAPs fits into the agency’s mission to look for signs of life off Earth, from studying water on Mars to exploring the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, the agency said.

“NASA believes that the tools for scientific discovery are powerful and apply here as well,” Zurbuchen said in a statement. “We have the tools and the team that can help us improve our understanding of the unknown. That is the very definition of what science is. That’s what we do. “

At a post-speech briefing for journalists, Zurbuchen said he wanted to pressure NASA to take on risky projects, even though they may not be considered mainstream by the scientific community.

“It is clear that in a traditional type of science environment, talking about any of these issues can be considered a kind of sale, or a kind of talk about things that are not actually science,” he said. “I am just very strongly against it. I really believe that the quality of science is not only measured by the results that come behind it, but also the questions we are willing to deal with science.”

NASA’s efforts will be led by David Spergel, President of the Simons Foundation in New York City and former Head of the Astrophysics Department at Princeton University, and Daniel Evans, Assistant Assistant Director of Research at NASA’s Science Assignment Directorate. The study, to begin in the fall, will last for about nine months and cost no more than $ 100,000, NASA said. Zurbuchen said it would be independent of Pentagon efforts.

“There is potential national security and counter-intelligence [impacts], that it is not what we live by. “We are not going to go into that at NASA,” said Zurbuchen. “But the agency is studying the atmosphere and aviation,” he said, “and there is a concern that” the airspace is becoming increasingly crowded with many different types of aircraft. “

Spergel said that it is not a working hypothesis that goes into the study that can explain the UAPs. “I would say that the only preconceived notion I have come into this is that you should be open to the idea that we are looking at several different phenomena,” he said. “There is a wide range of what can explain these events.”

He added: “This is a phenomenon we do not understand. And we want to collect more data about the phenomenon.”

The report released by the Director of National Intelligence found that “some UAPs appeared to remain stationary in the wind up, moving against the wind, maneuvering abruptly or moving at significant speeds, with no noticeable means of propulsion,” the report found. “In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency energy (RF) associated with UAP observations.”

Ronald S. Moultrie, the deputy secretary of defense for intelligence and security, a witness for the House Intelligence subcommittee on counter-terrorism, counter-intelligence and counter-proliferation last month, said the Pentagon collects eyewitness accounts of mysterious flying objects that appear to defy the laws of physics.

“We know that our service members have encountered unidentified air phenomena,” he told the two-party panel. “We are committed to trying to determine their origin.”

In an interview with The Washington Post last year, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said he had seen the classified UAP report while serving in the Senate. “The hair stood on the back of my neck,” he said.

Shane Harris contributed to this report.