NASA has announced the formation of a study team dedicated to UFOs — or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs), as they’ve rebranded some of their stigma from aluminum foil. But don’t expect an “X-Files” team to prove the existence of aliens.
Starting this fall, researchers in the study will identify what UAP data already exists, determine how best to collect UAP data in the future, and develop methods to study the nature of UAPs, for both scientific and aviation reasons. and space travel. The team will be led by astrophysicist David Spergel, president of the Simons Foundation in New York City, alongside Daniel Evans, the assistant deputy assistant administrator for research at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
“Over the decades, NASA has heeded the call to tackle some of the most perplexing mysteries we know, and this one is no different,” Evans said in a press call. “I do want to underline that NASA is uniquely positioned to tackle UAPs, because who else but us can use the power of data and science to look at what’s happening in our skies? And honestly, this is why we do what we do.”
This is not the first program devoted to UAP research. Between 1952 and 1969, the United States Air Force (USAF) studied UAPs under Project Blue Book. More recently, in 2017, The New York Times unveiled a clandestine Pentagon UAP research program called Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), which ended in 2012 due to lack of funding. That report sparked increased public interest in UAPs. Subsequently, the Department of Defense (DoD) formed the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF), dedicated to investigating UAP reports, and its successor, the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group (AOIMSG).
So far, these programs have failed to explain most UAP sightings. Notably, they have not provided concrete evidence that UAPs are extraterrestrial, as evidenced by the DoD’s declassified UAP report from June 2021 and a congressional hearing on UAPs in May 2022.
NASA was also already aware that UAPs are probably not alien spacecraft. “There is no evidence that UAPs are of extraterrestrial origin,” the agency said in a press release. But that’s not to say that aliens are completely out of the question.
“Part of our job at NASA given to us by Congress is not just to do basic airborne research and so on, but as part of that to find life elsewhere,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA. “And so we’ve built astrobiology programs across many disciplines in this overview field that look at both extinct life on Mars, but also the patterns of life elsewhere, maybe in Europe or maybe in Enceladus.”
Zurbuchen also acknowledged NASA’s current research into “technosignatures,” or signs of alien technology that may have been created by intelligent life.
But in this study, NASA will not seek explanations for UAPs, extraterrestrial or otherwise. This is more of an intelligence-gathering mission — one whose results will be shared publicly, unlike many of the DoD’s findings — that could open the door for further UAP research and analysis. “We will hopefully outline at least part of the roadmap of how we can move forward in the future,” Spergel said in the press call.
Given NASA’s focus on methodical, scientific UAP research, we think Special Agent Dana Scully would be proud.