NASA starts study on UFOs despite “reputational risk”

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA is launching a study of UFOs as part of a new push toward high-risk, high-impact science.

The space agency announced Thursday that it is setting up an independent team to see how much information is publicly available on the subject and how much more is needed to understand it unexplained sightings. The experts will also consider how best to use all this information in the future.

NASA’s science mission chief Thomas Zurbuchen acknowledged that the traditional scientific community might view NASA as “kind of a sell-out” by embarking on the controversial subject, but he strongly disagrees.

“We don’t shy away from reputational risk,” Zurbuchen said during a National Academy of Sciences webcast. “We strongly believe that the main challenge with these phenomena is that it is a data-poor field.”


NASA considers this a first step in trying to explain mysterious sightings in the sky known as UAPs or unidentified aerial phenomena.

The study will begin this fall and will last nine months and cost no more than $100,000. It will be completely open without using secret military data.

NASA said the team will be led by astrophysicist David Spergel, president of the Simons Foundation for the Advancement of Scientific Research. In a press conference, Spergel said the only preconceived notion going into the study is that the UAPs will likely have multiple explanations.

“We must approach all of these issues with a sense of humility,” Spergel said. “I have spent most of my career as a cosmologist. I can tell you that we don’t know what makes up 95% of the universe, things we don’t understand.”


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Sarah Y. Kim

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