Nasa is launching a study of unidentified flying objects (UFO) or unidentified air phenomena (UAP), as part of a new push towards high-risk science with great impact.
The space agency announced that it is setting up an independent team to see how much information is publicly available on the matter and how much more is needed to understand unexplained sightings.
Experts will also consider how best to use all the information in the future.
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The head of Nasa’s scientific mission, Thomas Zurbuchen, acknowledged that the traditional scientific community could see Nasa as a “kind of sell-off” by tackling the issue, but he strongly disagreed.
“We are not afraid of reputational risk,” Zurbuchen said during a webcast of the National Academy of Sciences. “Our strong belief is that the biggest challenge to these phenomena is that this is a poor data field.”
Zurbuchen said Nasa believes that the tools of scientific discovery are powerful and apply here also.
“We have access to a broad range of observations of Earth from space – and that is the lifeblood of scientific inquiry. We have the tools and team who can help us improve our understanding of the unknown. That’s the very definition of what science is. That’s what we do.”
Nasa said the team will be led by astrophysicist David Spergel, president of the Simons Foundation for advancing scientific research.
In a news conference, Spergel said the only preconceived notion going into the study is that the UAPs will likely have multiple explanations.
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“We have to approach all these questions with a sense of humility. I spent most of my career as a cosmologist. I can tell you we don’t know what makes up 95% of the universe. So there are things we don’t understand.”
The study is expected to take about nine months to complete.
It will secure the counsel of experts in the scientific, aeronautics, and data analytics communities to focus on how best to collect new data and improve observations of UFO’s.
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