NASA appoints director to lead UFO research, urges science-based approach

US space agency official says conversation around UFOs must move from ‘sensationalism to science’ to progress.

Workers on scaffolding repaint the NASA logo on the side of a building
Unidentified flying objects have been a source of wonder, fear and mythology for years, something that NASA Administrator Bill Nelson says makes scientific research more difficult [File: John Raoux/Reuters]

The United States space agency says the study of UFOs will require a science-based approach and new techniques as NASA appointed a director to lead research on objects that the US government calls unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP).

The agency has found no evidence that UAP have extraterrestrial origins, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said on Thursday after it released a years-long study.

In a 33-page report, an independent team commissioned by NASA cautioned that the negative perception surrounding UFOs – short for unidentified flying objects – poses an obstacle to collecting data.

But the panel said NASA’s involvement should help reduce the stigma around the issue, and it recommended the agency increase its efforts to gather information on UAP and play a larger role in helping the Pentagon detect them.

“There’s a global fascination with UAP. On my travels, one of the first questions I often get is about these sightings, and much of that fascination is due to the unknown nature of it,” Nelson said.

“If you ask me do I believe there’s life in a universe that’s so vast that it’s hard for me to comprehend how big it is, my personal answer is, ‘Yes,'” he added.

Unidentified flying objects have been a source of wonder, fear and mythology for years, something that Nelson said makes scientific research more difficult.

He said on Thursday that he hoped to shift the conversation about UFOs from “sensationalism to science”.

The US government issued a report in 2021 detailing cases in which UFOs had been observed, often by military personnel.

Congress also held a hearing on UFOs in July as the government took greater interest in what it perceives as a potential national security issue.

At a public meeting this year, the 16-member independent group commissioned to study UFOs also called for the use of AI and machine learning to help identify sightings.

The group was not given access to top-secret files when conducting its work but used unclassified data to better understand sightings, coming to the conclusion that there was no evidence of extraterrestrial origins.

“Despite numerous accounts and visuals, the absence of consistent, detailed, and curated observations means we do not presently have the body of data needed to make definitive, scientific conclusions about UAP,” the report states.

Nelson said NASA’s mission “is to find out the unknown”, and he promised transparency on any discoveries.

“Whatever we find, we’re going to tell you,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies