During an unusual public meeting in Washington, a panel of experts appointed by NASA to look into the delicate question of UFOs hammered Wednesday the need to collect more data to be able to explain these phenomena in the future.
“Existing data, and witness accounts, are insufficient to provide conclusive evidence on the nature and origin of each event,” said David Spergel, astrophysicist in charge of chairing this work. “We need high quality data. »
A report should be published during the summer, which should detail how to get there.
NASA announced the launch of this work on unidentified flying objects last year, and in October appointed no less than 16 experts to carry it out. Among them, eminent scientists, but also officials from the American civil aviation regulator (FAA), or even former astronaut Scott Kelly.
Their purpose is not to review one by one the events observed in the past in an attempt to explain them. It is to make recommendations to NASA on how to study them rigorously in the future.
The subject is very serious, underlined the American space agency: it concerns both national security and that of air traffic.
But it also arouses a strong interest because of the word UFO, very connoted. The official term has also been replaced by “unidentified abnormal phenomena”.
“At this time, we have no explicit data to suggest there is a connection between the unidentified anomalous phenomena and extraterrestrial life,” said David Grinspoon, one of the scientists on the panel.
For David Spergel, the difficulty of tackling this question lies in the fact that some “are convinced of the existence of UFOs”, when at the opposite extreme, others find the subject “ridiculous”.
Nicola Fox, associate administrator at NASA, opened the session by condemning the online harassment of panel members.
Some 800 unidentified aerial phenomena have been collected, said Sean Kirkpatrick, director of the office dedicated to this question within the Ministry of Defense (AARO), on Wednesday. But only “maybe between 2% and 5%” are “really abnormal”, he said.
He screened two videos. A first showed a spherical object seen in the Middle East in 2022, still unexplained to this day.
A second video showed her three dots appearing to move back and forth cryptically. They were actually planes in an air corridor, whose back and forth movements were caused by oscillations of the sensor itself, he explained.
The meeting, which lasted several hours on Wednesday, was broadcast live on the Internet, and a portion was dedicated to questions from the public.
This transparency is highlighted by the American space agency, which underlines the need to “de-stigmatize” the subject.
The panel’s work is based solely on public data, so that it can be freely discussed and accessible to all, said Daniel Evans, in charge of coordinating the study for NASA.
Astrophysicist David Spergel added that classified information – not taken into account here – was often classified not because of the object observed, but rather so as not to reveal certain characteristics of the devices which captured the image (fighter planes …).
In the future, observations will have to be collected by specific, multiple and well-calibrated instruments, he said. However, he ruled out the idea of a dedicated satellite.
However, the recommendations will probably include ways to better integrate public comments. The billions of cell phones on Earth can provide useful data, especially if multiple images are taken simultaneously.
Mike Gold, a former NASA official on the panel, pleaded for the creation of an office dedicated to the question within the space agency.
But in the end, what do we hope to discover? Perhaps new physical phenomena, some experts have argued.
According to David Grinspoon, “if NASA applies the same methodological rigor to the study of anomalous unidentified phenomena as to that of possible extraterrestrial life, then we will be in a position to learn something new and interesting, whatever the final explanation.