The message comes just weeks after a rare and historic hearing before Congress on observations of what the Department of Defense calls the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, better known as UFOs, and a report from last year by the head of the National Intelligence Service who cataloged more than 140 flying objects that officials could not identify.
The nine-page report and the congressional hearing, however, was short on details and did not draw definitive conclusions about what the flying objects were, many of which were discovered by sea pilots. Officials said they found no evidence that the objects were some kind of advanced space technology developed by China, Russia or other nations. There was also no evidence that they came from extraterrestrial sources.
The limited number of such observations makes it difficult “to draw scientific conclusions about the nature of such events.” NASA says in a statement. The agency said it was not only concerned about national security but also the safety of flying in the air. It also said: “There is no evidence that UAPs are extraterrestrial in origin.”
Still, NASA said it wants to apply scientific rigor to an annoying issue that has been a fixation for generations. Studying UAPs fits into the agency’s mission to look for signs of life beyond the earth, from studying water on Mars to explore the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, the agency said.
“NASA believes that the tools for 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. That’s the very definition of what science is. That’s what we do.”
At a briefing for reporters after the speech, Zurbuchen said he wanted to push NASA to take on risky projects, even though they may not be considered mainstream by the research world.
“It’s obvious that in a traditional type of science environment, talking about some of these issues can be considered a kind of final sale, or kind of talking about things that are not real science,” he said. “I really oppose this. I really believe that the quality of science is not only measured by the results behind it, but also by the issues we are willing to address with science.”
NASA’s efforts will be led by David Spergel, President of the Simons Foundation in New York City and former Chair of the Department of Astrophysics at Princeton University, and Daniel Evans, Deputy Assistant Director of Research at NASA’s Directorate of Science. The study, to begin in the fall, will last for about nine months and cost no more than $ 100,000, NASA said. Zurbuchen said it will be independent of Pentagon efforts.
“There is potential national security and counterintelligence [impacts], that it is not what we do to live. And we will not go into that at NASA, says Zurbuchen. But the agency is studying the atmosphere and aviation technology, he said, and there is concern that “airspace is becoming increasingly crowded with many different types of aircraft.”
Spergel said that there is no working hypothesis that goes into the study that would explain the UAPs. “I would say that the only preconceived notion I have when I get into this is that you should be open to the idea that we are looking at several different phenomena,” he said. “There is a wide range of what could be due to these events.”
He added: “This is a phenomenon we do not understand. And we want to collect more data about the phenomenon.”
The report, released by the head of the National Intelligence Service, found that “some UAPs appeared to remain stationary in the air, moving against the wind, maneuvering abruptly or moving at considerable speed, with no discernible propulsion devices,” the report said. “In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency (RF) energy associated with UAP observations.”
Witnessed before Parliament’s subcommittee on counter-terrorism, counter-espionage and counter-proliferation intelligence last month; Ronald S. MoultrieThe Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security said the Pentagon is collecting eyewitness accounts of mysterious flying objects that appear to defy the laws of physics.
“We know that our officials have encountered unidentified air phenomena,” he told the bipartisan panel. “We are engaged in an attempt to determine their origin.”
In an interview with The Washington Post last year, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said he had seen the secret UAP report while serving in the Senate. “The hair rose on the back of my neck,” he said.
Shane Harris contributed to this report.
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