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NASA launches team to study UFOs

The study, which began on Monday, includes 16 researchers

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An unexplained object is seen at center as it is tracked as it soars high along the clouds, traveling against the wind. 

An unexplained object is seen at center as it is tracked as it soars high along the clouds, traveling against the wind in this photo provided by the Department of Defense.

Department of Defense, Associated Press

On Monday, NASA launched an independent study team to investigate unidentified aerial phenomena, which pose a national security risk, and release the findings to the public in 2023.

The study, which began on Monday, includes 16 researchers who will decide how to analyze the data made available by the government as well as private entities, which will create the groundwork for tracking unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAPs, according to a press release.

“Exploring the unknown in space and the atmosphere is at the heart of who we are at NASA,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“Data is the language of scientists and makes the unexplainable, explainable,” he added, per the release.

The study is chaired by David Spergel, the president of the Simons Foundation. The group of researchers “includes professors, scientists, an oceanographer and others who study space,” which includes Scott Kelly, a former NASA astronaut, and Nadia Drake, a science journalist, per NPR.

The space agency announced this initiative back in June 2021. But weeks later, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence released a report with 144 documented UAP sightings referenced.

This report had no mention of aliens or UFOs — instead, it stated that most of the encounters “probably do represent physical objects given that a majority of UAP were registered across multiple sensors, to include radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers and visual observation,” as Art Raymond reported for the Deseret News.

According to USA Today, these unidentified objects are still being monitored by federal officials.

Here’s a list of those involved with the study, per the release.

  • David Spergel, the chairman of the study and the founding director of Simons Foundation’s Flatiron Institute for Computational Astrophysics.
  • Anamaria Berea, a computational and data science associate professor at George Mason University.
  • Federica Bianco, a physics and astrophysics professor at the University of Delaware, the Biden School of Public Policy and Administration and senior scientist at the Multi-city Urban Observatory.
  • Paula Bontempi, a biological oceanographer and dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. 
  • Reggie Brothers, an operating partner at AE Industrial Partners and former undersecretary for Science and Technology at the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Jen Buss, the CEO of the Potomac Institute of Policy Studies.
  • Nadia Drake is a freelance science journalist and contributing writer at National Geographic.
  • Mike Gold, the executive vice president of civil space and external affairs at aerospace manufacturer Redwire.
  • David Grinspoon, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute.
  • Scott Kelly, a former NASA astronaut, test pilot, fighter pilot and retired U.S. Navy captain.
  • Matt Mountain, the president of The Association of Universities for Research and Astronomy.
  • Warren Randolph, the deputy executive director of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Accident Investigation and Prevention for Aviation Safety department.
  • Walter Scott, the executive vice president and chief technology officer of space technology company Maxar.
  • Joshua Semeter, an electrical and computer engineering professor and the director of the Center for Space Physics at Boston University.
  • Karlin Toner, the acting executive director of the FAA’s Office of Aviation Policy and Plans.
  • Shelley Wright, associate professor of physics at the UC San Diego’s Center for Astrophysics and Space Studies.