NASA hearing on UFOs disappoints public, frustrates devotees

By Stefano Coledan & Simon Drucker
Government agencies and lawmakers have been calling for a more in-depth understanding of the phenomenon in recent years, referring to it as an issue of national security. File Photo courtesy of NASA
1 of 4 | Government agencies and lawmakers have been calling for a more in-depth understanding of the phenomenon in recent years, referring to it as an issue of national security. File Photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo

May 31 (UPI) -- The long-awaited NASA hearing on unidentified anomalous phenomena Wednesday in Washington lacked any revelations about UFOs, disappointing many viewers on YouTube and frustrating devotees of exploring the unknown.

Moreover, some were left at least one panel member wondering about the quality of space agency's investigative resources.


It was the first time the 16-expert panel discussed the results of its seven-month investigation in public. One obstacle, however, was noted by a scientist who said the space agency may face delays in analyzing information because of unsystematic data gathering.

"NASA studies the universe through the scientific method," said astrophysicist and data scientist Federica Bianco, an associate professor at the University of Delaware. "The application of the scientific method requires that data meet existing standards."

Essentially, she noted, a problem exists with data analysis and management, which could delay a lot of work, especially in terms of machine learning, rather than expediting collection of information.


"The current status of data about UAPs does not meet those standards," Bianco said. "Their collection is inconsistent." And that poses a problem of analysis via automation.

"Data science and machine learning can assist artificial intelligence, but machine learning cannot work unless data meet the FAIR standard."

FAIR is a standardized method established by the scientific community. It stands for or findability, accessibility, interoperability and usability.

NASA last June announced its intent to form the unidentified anomalous phenomena independent study group. But the agency also tempered expectations of science fiction fans however, saying in a statement at the time that "There is no evidence UAPs are extra-terrestrial in origin."

In October, the agency introduced task force members. They include astronomers, computer experts, astrobiologists, physicists and one astronaut, Scott Kelly, who spent a year on the International Space Station.

"Exploring the unknown in space and the atmosphere is at the heart of who we are at NASA," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington said in a statement in October.

NASA defines UAP as "observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena from a scientific perspective."


The study group was formed in part due to the reaction stemming from a 2021 report issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence concluding it did not have enough information to form an explanation for 143 of 144 UAP reports received since 2004.

At the time, that report found a "handful" of those cases did "appear to demonstrate advanced technology."

Public interest and scrutiny from lawmakers has increased since that point.

In a newly unclassified report released this past January, the ODNI said it had received 366 new reports of UAPs since March 2021. The report found UAP reporting "is increasing," giving the government "greater awareness of airspace and increased opportunity to resolve" the incidents.

The Pentagon was able to characterize 163 as "balloon or balloon-like entities," while another 26 were identified as drones, and six others attributed to "birds, weather events or airborne debris like plastic bags."

But a number of them remain without explanation, described by witnesses, including naval aviators as objects moving "at considerable speed, without discernible means of propulsion" and "demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis."

Legislators were shown videos during open House Intelligence Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation Subcommittee meetings recorded during U.S. military encounters with UAPs that remain undefined.


Government agencies and politicians have also been calling for a more in-depth understanding of the phenomenon in recent years, referring to it as an issue of national security.

Earlier this year, the United States shot down four mysterious aerial objects that made their way over U.S. skies including one that was identified as a Chinese surveillance craft.

The Pentagon's Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group was established by the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act and is tasked with detecting, identifying and attributing "objects of interest in special use airspace and to assess and mitigate any associated threats to safety of flight and national security."

The act also requires the Pentagon to regularly issue public and classified reports to oversight committees regarding new UAP incidents. Service members also now feel less stigma when it comes to reporting such incidents now that it is receiving greater public attention.

Wednesday's report and discussion panel was "not a review or assessment of previous unidentifiable observations," NASA said. "The report will inform NASA on what possible data could be collected in the future to shed light on the nature and origin of UAP."

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