NASA embraces high-risk, high-reward research with UAP study – SpaceNews

WASHINGTON — NASA will commission a small, independent study of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), a move the agency says is part of its desire to support risky research that has the potential to be highly profitable.

The agency announced on June 9 that it would establish an independent team of researchers who, beginning in early fall, will spend approximately nine months reviewing available data on NAPs and making recommendations on the data. to collect to better understand the phenomenon. A final report will be made public at the end of the study.

PAN sightings have attracted considerable attention in recent years, including studies by two groups established by the Department of Defense. However, there is no consensus to explain such sightings, mostly by military aviators, with justifications ranging from advanced weapons and extraterrestrial objects to natural phenomena or miscellaneous objects, such as balloons.

The goal of the study, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, said on a call with reporters, is to “take a relatively data-poor area and make it a much more data-poor area.” rich in data and therefore worthy of scientific study”. investigation and analysis.

The study will be chaired by David Spergel, an astrophysicist who is president of the Simons Foundation. “Our plan is to conduct an open investigation which we hope will advance our understanding so that when this is done, we at least have a roadmap of how to move forward.” he said on the call.

He later said that the only preconception he had about the UAPs entering the study is that the data can be explained by several different phenomena. NASA, in its statement on the study, stressed that there was “no evidence that UAPs are of extraterrestrial origin.”

“Never underestimate what nature can do,” Zurbuchen said. “Sometimes we have this statement that we understand the natural world and anything that’s not explained with the laws of nature that we have right now is somehow unnatural. I really believe that it there is still a lot to learn.

Dan Evans, deputy deputy associate administrator for research at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said the study team will include scientists, aeronautical experts and “data practitioners”. The study, he said, will be set up like the committees NASA regularly establishes to review grant proposals, and will have a similar budget that he said is unlikely to exceed $100,000.

With this limited budget and timeline, Evans said the focus will be on identifying existing data and data gaps, rather than finding one or more explanations for the UAPs. “The first step in any scientific inquiry is to determine what data is available,” he said. “We’re not really going to, in this budget, analyze that data directly. That’s just the first step: what data is available that could be used to solve the problem?”

Earlier today, Zurbuchen announced the UAP study at a meeting of the Space Studies Board (SSB) of National Academies. He held it up as an example of “high-risk, high-impact” research that he thought the agency should be doing more of.

“Risk-taking is necessary to foster innovation and leadership,” he told the meeting. “We affirm that failure, in fact, can be an option. We think about failure all the time, and we’re comfortable with that.

He told the meeting that in discussions with scientists, 8 out of 10 told him the agency was not doing enough high-risk/high-impact research. Reviewers of grant proposals found that 3% of these proposals fell into the high-risk/high-impact category. “My instinct is that it should be bigger.”

During the SSB meeting and call with reporters, Zurbuchen acknowledged the “reputational risk” associated with studying NAPs. “In a traditional-type science environment, talking about some of these issues may or may not be considered selling real science,” he said on the call. “I vehemently oppose it. I truly believe that the quality of science is not measured by the results behind it, but also by the questions we are willing to address with science.”

SSB members showed little overt interest in the UAP study it announced, using a question-and-answer session to instead address issues such as research funding and demographics as well. as the status of specific missions and programs.

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