My 12 July 2021 blog article titled “NASA and UAP: an updated official statement is available,” drew attention to a 10 June 2021 interview with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, by U.S. media outlet “Politico.”
In the “Politico” article, Nelson revealed that, as a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, he was briefed, on observations of UAP by Naval aviators. So, he had later, once he joined NASA, directed a senior member of staff, Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, to look into the topic.
In my own article, I described then recent statements by NASA personnel about UAP; and the contents of part of NASA’s own website, which presented a then current statement about UAP.
NASA study of UAP
On 9 June 2022 a NASA media release came out titled “NASA to Set Up Independent Study on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.” It read:
“NASA is commissioning a study team to start early in the fall to examine Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs) – that is, observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena – from a scientific perspective. The study will focus on identifying available data, how best to collect future data, and how NASA can use that data to move the scientific understanding of UAPs forward.
The limited number of observations of UAPs currently makes it difficult to draw scientific conclusions about the nature of such events. Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the atmosphere are of interest for both national security and air safety.
Establishing which events are natural provides a key first step to identifying or mitigating such phenomena, which aligns with one of NASA’s goals to ensure the safety of aircraft. There is no evidence UAPs are extraterrestrial in origin.
“NASA believes that the tools of scientific discovery are powerful and apply here also,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for Science at NASA headquarters in Washington. “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.”
The agency is not part of the Department of Defense’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force or its successor the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group. NASA has, however coordinated widely across government regarding how to apply the tools of science to shed light on the nature and origin of Unidentifed Aerial Phenomena.
The agency’s independent study team will be led by astrophysicist David Spergel, who is president of the Simons Foundation in New York City, and previously the chair of the astrophysics department at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. Daniel Evans, the assistant deputy associate administrator for research at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, will serve as the NASA official responsible for orchestrating the study.
“Given the paucity of observations, out first task is simply to gather the most robust set of data that we can,” said Spergel. “We will be identifying what data – from civilians, government, non-profits, companies exists, what else we should try to collect, and how to best analyze it.”
The study is expected to take about nine months to complete. It will secure the counsel of experts in the scientific, aeronautical and data analytics communities to focus on how best to collect new data and improve observations of UAPs.
“Consistent with NASA’s principles of openness, transparency, and scientific integrity, this report will be shared publicly,” said Evans – “All of NASA’s data is available to the public – we take that obligation seriously – and we make it easily accessible for anyone to see and study.”
Although unrelated to this new study, NASA has an active astrobiology program that focuses on the origins, evolution and distribution of life beyond Earth. From studying water on Mars to probing promising “ocean worlds” such as Titan and Europa, NASA’s science missions are working together with a goal to find signs of life beyond Earth.
Furthermore, the agency’s search for life includes using missions such as the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and Hubble Space Telescope , to search for habitable exoplanets, while the James Webb Space Telescope will try to spot biosignatures in atmospheres around other planets – spotting oxygen and carbon dioxide in other atmospheres, for example could sugget that an exoplanet supports plants and animals like ours does. NASA also funds space-based research that focuses on technosignatures – that is signatures of advanced technology in outer space – from other planets…”
Also, on 9 June 2022, a NASA Media Advisory M22-083was issued titled “NASA to discuss New Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Study today.” This read:
“NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT today – Thursday, June 9 – to discuss a new study team the agency is commissioning to examine Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs).
The purpose of the study is to examine UAPs – observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena – from a scientific perspective.
Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the atmosphere are of interest for both national security and air safety. Establishing which events are natural provides a key first step to identifying or mitigating such phenomena, which aligns with one of NASA’s goals to ensure the safety of aircraft. There is no evidence UAPs are extraterrestrial in origin.
Teleconference participants include:
* Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Scientific Mission Directorate (SMD)
* Daniel Evans, SMD assistant deputy associate administrator for research
* David Spergel, study lead and President of the Simons Foundation…
A teleconference with the three named individuals above, and media representatives was held on 10 June 2022. The following are my notes and a partial transcript of that event.
Hosted by Karen Fox of NASA’s communications area, it was opened by Thomas Zurbuchen.
* Part of the task of NASA is to look for life elsewhere. We have astrobiology programs and are looking for technosignatures of intelligent life. The UAP study will start early in the fall.
“The study will focus on identifying available data, how to best collect future data and how NASA can use this data to move the scientific understanding of UAPs forward.
A short way I would talk about that is to take a field which is relatively data poor and make it into a field that is much more data rich and therefore worthy of scientific investigation and analysis.”
* We have access to a broad range of observations of Earth and space
* Using the same tools we always use.
“Unidentified phenomena in the atmosphere are of interest for both, for many reasons frankly. I think there’s new science to be discovered. There’s been many times when something that looked almost magical, turned out to be a new scientific effect. There’s also national security and air safety issues that have been discussed elsewhere. That of course relate to those observations, and establishing, you know, with events, whether they are natural, or whether they are kind of, need to be explained otherwise, is very much aligned with NASA’s goals.
That ensures, of course that we discover the unknown, but also ensures the safety of aircraft that are in that air space that these phenomena occur. The panel and study will be led by astrophysicist David Spergel who is president of the Simons Foundation of New York City and previously has been the chair of the Astrophysics in the Department of Princeton, and the University of Princeton, New Jersey.”
Davis Spergel then spoke:
” To start, this is a really exciting project. One of the most exciting things in science are things that we don’t undertsand. And my starting point, all of our starting points, this is, these phenomena that we don’t understand. Then, how do we start to make progress? We have a very limited set of observations right now with these UAPs. This makes it difficult to draw conclusions. So, we start by trying to figure out what data is out there? And we are going to be working with government, non-profits, companies, civilians and try to identify what data is already there. Then start to think about what data should we collect in the future? And how are we going to analyze it?
We actually have a wealth of data about our atmosphere and we observe it from above and below. Whether it is our air traffic management data, astronomers looking up; satellites looking down. And we want to start with just the synthesizing of the data we have, and see what information we have and what information we need. And our plan is to conduct an open inquiry that we hope will advance our understanding, so that when this is done we will, at least, have a road map of how to move forward in understanding in this area.”
Daniel Evans then spoke:
* Over decades NASA has tackled perplexing mysteries
* NASA is uniquely positioned to address UAP
* Bring the power of data and science to our skies.
“For this study specifically, we plan on bringing together some of the country’s leading scientists, aeronautical experts and data practitioners. We expect the study to kick off in the early fall. It should take about nine moths to complete. And I want to make this point emphatically, very much consistent with out principles of openness, and transparency and scientific integrity, the full report will, be made available to the public. And we expect to hold a public meeting to discuss the study’s findings, and with that I will hand back to Karen Fox.”
Media representatives then posed the following questions:
Q1: Washington Post. Will you go into the study with any hypothesis?
A1: (David) – The only preconceived notion is that what we are looking at has several explanations. I have not looked at all the data.
(Dr Z) – My sense is that we don’t ever underestimate the natural world. Lot to still learn.
Q2: The Birch. The media release today said that UAPs are unlikely to be ET in origin. Is NASA trying to make a connection UAPs are some sort of alien technology?
A2: (Dr Z) – Don’t have any irrefutable evidence for any conclusion. There is an absence of data. Don’t know how close we can get to an answer.
Q3: Space News. What process will be undertaken to pick the team? Cost and source?
A3: (Daniel) – It will be a review panel. Our discretion after wide consultation. Budget – from a few tens of thousands. Certainly, no more than $100K.
Q4: Reuters. Why are you commencing now? What prompted this?
A4: (Dr Z) – The DOD work is clearly there. Because of the science interest and safety issues. Working on this for some time. Need to set it up the right way.
Q5: The Atlantic. Whose idea was it? Administrator Nelson’s? Why will the team be in the Science Directorate?
A5: (Dr Z) – Science is where these questions should be. This approach is mine. Daniel and David give it credence.
(Daniel) – We have consulted with our aeronautical colleagues.
Q6: NBC. Who in NASA has been collecting data before?
A6: (Dr Z) – I am not aware of any systematic or sporadic NASA effort previously. Use AI and ML sifting.
(Daniel) – NASA has not systematically looked into UAP.
Q7: NBC. NASA has thousands of hours of space and ISS video. Are we to understand that you will be reviewing NASA material?
A7: (Daniel) – What data is at hand? Study looking at what data? Not going to analyze it.
(Dr Z) – The final product. What data we should be looking at? Not going to sort through the data. Make a proposal for a research program.
(David) – Here’s the data we have, eg observations from above and below at a certain point. We have experience in tracking anomalous objects; for tracking fast moving objects.
Q8: New York Times. Will NASA get back to SETI work?
A8: (Dr Z) – We have done work looking for technosignatures at the moment.
Q9: Houston Chronicle. The DOD has collected observations from Naval aviators. Have space telescopes been used to look for UAP?
A9: (David) – Not aware of any. No systematic study by ground based telescopes or downward looking satellites.
Q10: Edfield (?) Should UAPs be discussed in the same breath as technosignatures and looking for life on Mars?
A10: (David) – It is a different approach. This is a phenomena we don’t understand. No hypothesis going in.
Q11: Space.Com Do you hope to bring the topic into the mainstream?
A11: (Dr Z) – The science process is a valid process for all problems, including this one.
Q12: Aviation Week. Question for David. Will you have access to classified information, and if not how will that limit the study’s scope?
A12: (David) – Open study. I do not have a security clearance. Others on panel will. Open data. Open processes.
(Daniel) – We acknowledge the DOD work. We use the tools of science.
NASA opens website for its UAP study
“NASA science: For researchers
NASA Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Independent Study
On June 9, 2022, NASA announced that the agency is commissioning a study team to examine Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs) – that is observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena from a scientific perspective. The study will focus on identifying available data, how best to collect future data, and how NASA can use that data to move the scientific understanding of UAPs forward. This webpage is designed as a resource to provide updates on the UAP Independent Study.
Public briefings and presentations
On June 9, 2022 Dr Thomas Zurbuchen presented an update on NASA’s Science program to a joint meeting of the National Academies Space Studies Board and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, which included an outline of NASA’s UAP Independent Study.
NASA leads the world in exploration and is committed to rigorous scientific inquiry. Consistent with NASA’s principle of openness, transparency and scientific integrity, NASA is establishing the UAP Independent Study as means to secure the counsel of community across diverse areas of matters rerlevant to potential methods of study of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. The UAP Independent Study serves as a ommunity based, interdisciplinary forum for soliciting and coordinating community analysis and input and providing advice.
Statement of Task
“The UAP Independent Study should report on the following questions:
1. What type of scientific data currently collected and archived by NASA or other civilian government entities should be synthesized and analyzed to potentially shed light on the nature and origin of unidentified aerial phenomena?
2. What types of scientific data curently collected and held by non-profits and companies should be synthesized and analyzed to potentially shed light on the nature and origin of UAPs?
3. What other types of scientific data should be collected by NASA to enhance the potential for developing an understanding of the nature and origin of UAP?
4. Which scientific analysis techniques currently in production could be employed to assess the nature and origin of UAP? What types of analytical techniques should be developed?
5. In considering the factors above what basic physical constraints can be placed on the nature and origin of UAP?
6. What civilian airspace data related to UAPs have been collected by government agencies and are available for analysis to a) inform efforts to better understand the nature and origin of UAPs and b) determine the risk of UAPs to the national air space?
7. What current reporting protocols and air traffic management (ATM) data acquisition systems can be modified to acquire additional data input on future UAPs?
8. What potential enhancements to future ATM development efforts can be recommended to acquire data concerning future reported UAPs to assist in the effort to better understand the nature and origin of UAPs?
Appointment of members
NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, in consultation with NASA’s Aeronautical Research Mission Directorate will appoint the chair and members of the UAP Independent Study for terms of up to one year. Diversity of thought shall be a factor in determining the composition of the UAP Independent Study. The UAP Independent Study will have approximately eight to twelve members chosen with an appropriately broad range of expertise, experiences; employer types and sizes and individual demographics. The membership will consist of experts drawn from U.S. academic, independents, and commercial institutions. Members of the UAP Independent Study who are not Regular Government Employees (RGE) will be designated Special Government Employees (SGE) or Representatives. A NASA civil servant will be appointed as the Designated Federal Officer and Executive Secretary of the UAP Independent Study…”
1. It is plain to see that this is only a limited look at the topic. There is mention, after the nine months study, of the proposal of a UAP research program. Some commentators on social media have failed to acknowledge this limitation, i.e. that it is an initial study only, and drew attention to the small budget for what was. in their eyes, a large project.
2. The study of UAP “…observations of events in the sky.” So, completely overlooking any object seen on the ground, which takes off, leaving traces, and disappears at hypersonic velocity. It appears the Study’s scope had been defined by the nature of Naval aviators’ observations.
3. “The limited nature of observations of UAPs…” What about the hundreds of thousands of reports in civilian databases such as NUFORC or MUFON? Or former military studies, such as Bluebook and AAWSAP? I realise that many of these have conventional explanations, but that still leaves thousands of unexplained cases.
4. And the big one. “There is no evidence UAPs are extraterrestrial in origin.” Talk about going into the study with an hypothesis that there is no evidence UAPs are extraterrestrial in origin. Shouldn’t they be waiting till the end of the study period before being able to state this? And only then if their evidence supports this conclusion.
This Study announced by NASA is certainly, a very strongly positive sign, in that an entity such as NASA has decided to take a look at UAP research. I don’t think that several years ago, we would have anticipated such an outcome. The agency has now, to conduct the study and produce a report for us all to read.