NASA joins UFO hunt

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NASA is joining the hunt for UFOs, a senior space agency official said Thursday, forming a team that would review “sightings of events that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena.”

The space agency would bring scientific perspective to efforts already underway by the Pentagon and intelligence agencies to make sense of dozens of these sightings, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s chief science mission director, said during a briefing. 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 though it is a controversial area of ​​study.

The announcement comes just weeks after a rare and historic hearing before Congress on sightings of what the Department of Defense calls unidentified aerial phenomena, more commonly known as UFOs, and a report released last year by the Director national intelligence which has listed more than 140 flying objects. that officials were unable to identify.

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

The nine-page report and congressional hearing, however, lacked detail and reached no definitive conclusions about what the flying objects were, many of which were spotted by naval aviators. Officials said they found no evidence the objects were any kind of advanced aerospace technology developed by China, Russia or other countries. There was also no evidence that they came from extraterrestrial sources.

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

Still, NASA has said it wants to apply scientific rigor to a thorny issue that’s been a fixation for generations. Studying UAPs is part of the agency’s mission to search for signs of life beyond Earth, from studying water on Mars to exploring the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, the agency said.

“NASA believes the tools of 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. This is the very definition of what science is. This is what we do.”

The NASA effort will be led by David Spergel, president of the Simons Foundation in New York and formerly chair of the department of astrophysics at Princeton University, and Daniel Evans, deputy associate associate administrator for research at the directorate of NASA science missions. The study will last about nine months, NASA said, and will be independent of Pentagon efforts.

“There is potential for national security and counter-intelligence [impacts], that’s not what we do for a living. And we’re not going to get into that at NASA,” Zurbuchen said. But the agency studies the atmosphere and aeronautics, he said, and there are concerns that “airspace is becoming increasingly crowded with many types of aerial vehicles”.

The report released by the Director of National Intelligence found that “some UAPs appeared to hover in winds aloft, move upwind, maneuver sharply, or move at considerable speed, with no perceptible means of propulsion,” the report said. . “In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems have processed radio frequency (RF) energy associated with UAP observations.”

Testifying before the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation last month, Ronald S. Moultrie, the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security, said said the Pentagon was collecting eyewitness accounts of mysterious flying objects that appear to defy the laws of physics.

“We know that our military has encountered unidentified aerial phenomena,” he told the bipartisan panel. “We are engaged in an effort to determine their origins.”

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

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