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What just happened? NASA last summer announced it was assembling an independent team to study UAP, or unidentified aerial phenomena – previously referred to as UFOs, but now called "unidentified anomalous phenomena." The space agency held the first public meeting involving the commissioned team this week before their report arrives this summer, and it was a dog and pony show from the get go.
Nicola Fox, associate administrator for science at NASA, said the study was commissioned to create a road map on how to use the tools of science to evaluate and categorize the nature of UAPs going forward. This road map, Fox added, will help the government obtain usable data to explain the nature of future UAPs.
"The nature of science is to better understand the unknown and to do that, our scientists need data," Fox said.
Not just any data, mind you, but high quality data. Daniel Evans, assistant deputy associate administrator for science research at NASA, said the team's objective is not to go back and look at grainy footage of UAPs. Presumably, one would want to study the highest quality data available captured using the most sophisticated equipment around.
Such data does exist, but there's one problem: it's classified.
Fox said UAP sightings themselves are not classified, but the sensor platforms used to capture the data are. Imagine if a fighter jet took a photo of the Statue of Liberty. That picture would be classified – not because of the subject but because of the camera system used to capture it. In short, the government wants its data collection capabilities to remain a mystery to other countries.
As such, NASA's team is only analyzing unclassified data from civilian government entities, commercial data, and "data from other sources." If they are intentionally excluding the best evidence, why even bother at all?
"Lack of high quality data makes it impossible to draw scientific conclusions on the nature of UAP." – Nicola Fox, NASA
All of this came within the first 15 minutes of the four-hour meeting.
David Spergel, chair of the NASA team studying UAP, said that after the preliminary data collection stage, they learned that current data collection efforts are unsystematic and fragmented across various agencies. What's more, data is often collected using instruments that are uncalibrated for scientific data collection.
Spergel also touched on the stigma associated with the phenomena, and that it likely leads to many incidents going unreported. NASA wants to help eliminate the stigma, he said, which could lead to the collection of more high quality data.
Unfortunately, those hoping for a smoking gun will have to wait a bit longer. "The origin of UAPs remains unclear," Spergel said.
One could spend a lifetime traversing the UAP rabbit hole and barely scratch the surface. There's been a lot of movement on the subject as of late, leading some to believe that we are in the early stages of public disclosure.
Late last year, President Biden signed into law the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which included an amendment providing protection to whistleblowers who supply information about "any activity or program by a department or agency of the Federal Government or a contractor of such a department or agency relating to unidentified anomalous phenomena, including with respect to material retrieval, material analysis, reverse engineering, research and development, detection and tracking, developmental or operational testing, and security protections and enforcement."
Given the incomprehensible vastness of space, it seems highly improbable that we are alone in the universe. There's no shortage of theories to subscribe to, including the belief that extraterrestrials have been visiting Earth for a long time and that the government knows way more about the subject than we've been led to believe.