Nasa launches scientific study into UFOs
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Despite “reputational risk”, Nasa is launching a study of UFOs as part of a new push toward high-risk, high-impact science.
The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has commissioned a study into unidentified flying objects (UFOs), also known as UAPs (unidentified aerial phenomena).
The investigation will analyse all the information publicly available on these events from a scientific perspective, as well as look into how Nasa can best make use of this data to understand the unexplained sightings.
“We are not shying away from reputational risk,” said Nasa’s science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, acknowledging that this decision might be perceived as if the organisation is “selling out”, by giving credit to the phenomena.
“Our strong belief is that the biggest challenge of these phenomena is that it’s a data-poor field,” he added.
The study will begin later this year and last nine months, with an expected cost of $100,000 (£80,000). It will be entirely open, with no classified military data used, and it will secure the counsel of experts in the scientific, aeronautics, and data analytics communities to focus on how best to collect new data and improve observations of UAPs.
Nasa said the team will be led by astrophysicist David Spergel, president of the Simons Foundation. In a news conference, he stressed the team’s main mission is to gather as much data as possible, in order to develop possible explanations for the sightings, approaching the topic without preconceived notions.
“We have to approach all these questions with a sense of humility,” Spergel said. “I spent most of my career as a cosmologist. I can tell you we don’t know what makes up 95 per cent of the universe. So there are things we don’t understand.”
According to Nasa, there is currently no evidence of UAPs being extra-terrestrial in origin. However, the agency stresses the importance of having a better understanding of these phenomena in order to address national security and air safety concerns.
In 2021, the US Department of Defence (DoD) created a new group to keep track of UFOs in restricted air space, known as the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronisation Group (AOIMSG). Nasa is not part of this organisation, but it has, in the past, supported US government efforts to track and identify these flying objects.
Historically, the vast majority of sightings have been easily debunked with logical explanations ranging from atmospheric phenomena to aircraft obscured by cloud cover. Nonetheless, the DoD has stated in the past that it still investigates “each one” of the UAP sighting reports.
A 2021 Pentagon report revealed that there have been 144 reports of UFOs since 2004, whilst a UK national survey of the same year revealed that 11 per cent of the British public think they have actually seen a UFO, 26 per cent believe that aliens exist and more than half agree that intelligent life exists somewhere else in the universe.
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