NASA launches real study of UFOs

NASA launches real study of UFOs

NASA launches real study of UFOs

NASA has flown UFOs for over 60 years. Any spacecraft that has ever visited the moon, landed on Mars, zoomed through Jupiter, orbited Saturn or explored Pluto would be a decidedly unidentified flying object to any extraterrestrial intelligence it might encounter. There may be no such intelligence beyond Earth in our solar system. But in interstellar space? That’s another question. That’s why the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes, which left the solar system in 2012 and 2018 respectively, have gold plates on their sides etched with coded sounds and images of Earth — a message in a bottle to each. civilization that one day the ships and want to know more about the curious species that have launched them.

UFOs – or UAPs (unidentified aerial phenomena), as they are better known today – have been in the news a lot lately. As I reported last month, the House Intelligence Committee’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation has held public hearings on more than 140 sightings by military pilots over the past 20 years of UAPs flying in all sorts of inexplicable ways: bob, weave, hover. , dive, change direction at dizzying speed that would produce potentially deadly g-forces for any living thing – or at least any living thing human are in.

“Look at that thing, dude!” shouted a pilot in a released recording taken during a sighting in 2015. “Oh my god. There’s a whole fleet of them. They’re going upwind! The wind is 120 knots [135 mph] West!”

A version of this story first appeared in the TIME SPACE newsletter. To sign up, click here.

The Congressional hearing followed the release last year of a similar Department of Defense investigation into UAPs, and both Congress and the Pentagon came to the same conclusion, which was basically: hits me. The objects may be natural phenomena misinterpreted by the pilots and their equipment; they can be new technology developed by Russia, China or some other high-tech power; and yes, they could, at least in theory, be of extraterrestrial origin.

“UAPs are inexplicable, that’s true,” Congressman and Committee Chair Andre Carson (D., Ind.) said in his opening statement at the House hearings. “But they are real.”

Now there’s a third government agency getting involved in the effort to explain UAPs: NASA itself. As the space agency announced this week, it is launching its own investigation, beginning in the fall, to get to the bottom of the UAP mystery. The effort will be led by astrophysicist David Spergel, former chair of the department of astrophysics at Princeton University. With a budget of just $100,000, the investigation will last nine months, analyze first-hand all available video data and accounts collected to date, and consult both military and civilian experts for their analysis of the evidence. The space agency is open to all interpretations of the data, although it sets a high bar for at least one.

“There is no evidence,” NASA said in its release, “[that] UAPs are of extraterrestrial origin.”

But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, of course, and NASA officials recognize that anything is possible and will follow the findings wherever they point.

“NASA believes its tools for scientific discovery are powerful and applicable here as well,” associate administrator Thomas 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 definition of what science is. That is what we do.”

Indeed, that’s what NASA is doing — and it’s high time it brought those skills to the UAP mystery. After six decades of building and flying machines it may explain a lot, the space agency will finally turn its eye on those the world can’t.

More must-read stories from TIME

write to Jeffrey Kluger at