Recent unsatisfying Congressional hearings on unidentified flying objects stirred up way more questions than answers for the American people, but there seemed to be some movement Thursday towards a deeper, scientific investigation of UFOs now that the National Aeronautics and Space Agency is joining the hunt.
NASA announced yesterday it would be diving into the question of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (which is what the government is calling UFOs to avoid sounding like a bunch of Fox Mulders and Dana Skullys.) It’s kind of surprising it took this long, considering space is NASA general bailiwick. But UFOs, it turns out, don’t exactly have a good reputation as a legitimate field of study, from the Washington Post:
The space agency would bring a scientific perspective to efforts already underway by the Pentagon and intelligence agencies to make sense of dozens of such sightings, Thomas Zurbuchen, the head of NASA’s science mission directorate, said during a speech before 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 if it is a controversial field of study.
NASA is not coordinating with the Department of Defense’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force or its successor, the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group. NASA doesn’t do national defense (that’s why we have that lame-ass Space Force after all) but scientific inquiry. As such, their first step will be to gather data—a difficult task, considering UAPs aren’t a predictable phenomena.
NASA is commissioning a study team to start early in the fall to examine unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) – that is, observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena – from a scientific perspective. The study will focus on identifying available data, how best to collect future data, and how NASA can use that data to move the scientific understanding of UAPs forward.
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. There is no evidence UAPs are extra-terrestrial in origin.
“NASA believes that the tools of scientific discovery are powerful and apply here also,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We have access to a broad range of observations of Earth from space – and that is the lifeblood of scientific inquiry. We have the tools and team who can help us improve our understanding of the unknown. That’s the very definition of what science is. That’s what we do.”
The Department of Defense testified earlier this year that there were 140 such UAP incidents, mostly reported by Naval personnel, that had no explanation though both the DOD and NASA insist there is no evidence of extraterrestrial involvement. While it would be a whole lot cooler if it did, the involvement of a non-defense agency means at least some of these UAPs aren’t just Chinese or Russian drones, but something potentially out of this world.