NASA Administrator Bill Nelson speaks during a NASA briefing on Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP) at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC, on September 14, 2023. NASA held its first public meeting on UAPs in May, calling for a more rigorous scientific approach to clarify the origin of hundreds of mysterious sightings. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

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An independent report found that NASA could play a crucial role in collecting more data on UFOs — or what are officially known as unidentified anomalous phenomena, the space agency announced Thursday.

The report comes from an independent group of experts and scientists who set out in 2022 to create a road map for NASA to begin aiding research into UAP, sifting through data to determine whether and how the mysterious phenomena can be studied scientifically. The team found no hard evidence that the unexplained occurrences come from intelligent alien life.

Ultimately, the group determined that NASA should be using satellites and other instruments to seek more information about the phenomena. In response to the findings, the space agency also announced Thursday it is appointing its first director of UAP research.

“This is the first time that NASA has taken concrete action to seriously look into UAP,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during a news conference. “We start this without any preconceived notions but understanding that we’re in a world of discovery.”

Diving deeper

The 33-page report, which relied on unclassified data so that it could be discussed publicly, is careful to make clear that aliens are not the only — or even a likely — explanation for UAP, but the search for definitive answers is ongoing.

“Recently, many credible witnesses, often military aviators, have reported seeing objects they did not recognize over U.S. airspace,” the report reads. “Most of these events have since been explained, but a small handful cannot be immediately identified as known humanmade or natural phenomena.”

NASA can expand its efforts to seek answers using existing technology, the report suggests. Nelson also mentioned the possible use of artificial intelligence to mine vast data troves for answers, allowing scientists to cross-reference information collected by various instruments to provide a clearer picture of what is happening at the time these unexplained events occur.

The report also emphasizes a need to combat biases and “preconceived skepticism” that may be preventing UAP witnesses from discussing what they’ve seen.

“Science is a process that reveals reality rather than sculpts it — no matter how unsatisfying or confusing that reality might be,” the report says.

At the same time, however, the report authors acknowledge that eyewitness accounts can often be unreliable and difficult to corroborate.

“Thus, to understand UAP, a rigorous, evidence-based, data-driven scientific framework is essential,” the report says.

The report drives home the need for scientific process and invokes Thomas Jefferson, quoting the third US president’s thoughts on as-yet-understood concepts: “A thousand phenomena present themselves daily which we cannot explain, but where facts are suggested, bearing no analogy with the laws of nature as yet known to us, their verity needs proofs proportioned to their difficulty.”

In short, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” the report says.

Dan Evans, NASA’s assistant deputy associate administrator for research, said during a Thursday panel that the space agency would not be publicly releasing the name of NASA’s new UAP research director in part because of the potential for harassment.

Evans said that already, those involved in the independent study faced harassment and abuse online that he described as “beyond the pale.”

All about aliens

In his remarks, Nelson emphasized that searching for extraterrestrial life is already a core tenet at NASA. The agency has been engaged in such research for decades and continues to use advanced telescopes to search the cosmos for planets that lie in habitable zones and could be similarly hospitable to Earth, he said.

“Do I believe there’s life in a universe that is so vast that it’s hard for me to comprehend how big it is? My personal answer is yes,” Nelson said.

Still, that does not mean that UAP are evidence of such life, he said. If intelligent life does exist, it would likely need to travel many millions if not billions of light-years to reach Earth and remain largely undetected.

“We want to shift the conversation about UAP from sensationalism to science,” Nelson said.