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Is the truth out there? NASA’s UFO investigation moving forward at ‘full force’

Federal panel will search for explanations of ‘unidentified aerial phenomena.’

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Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray points to a video display of a UAP.

Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray points to a video display of a UAP during a hearing of the House Intelligence, Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation Subcommittee hearing on “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,” on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Washington.

Alex Brandon, Associated Press

Back in June 2021, the street cred for UFOs was dramatically elevated after NASA announced it was gearing up to convene a panel of experts to dig into exactly what might be behind the mysterious and unidentified flying objects witnessed by numerous airline pilots, military personnel and average citizens over recent years and captured on video, radar and other sensing devices.

The space agency embraced a new moniker for “unidentified flying objects” switching to the more loosely defined “unidentified aerial phenomena” and noting one of the main goals of a formal investigation was ensuring safe overhead airspace for the hectic commercial airline industry. It also sidestepped any speculation about ET-piloted spacecraft, highlighting in its announcement that “there is no evidence UAPs are extraterrestrial in origin.”

At a meeting this week, NASA said it’s sticking to its schedule of having that special panel assembled this fall to begin an expected nine months of work to come up with an explanation, or theory, about the flying phenomena and a new system to track and assess UAP sightings and encounters.

What’s driving the news: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate convened a meeting on Aug. 17 to discuss the various projects it’s currently involved in, including the UAP investigation.

According to a report from Space.com, Daniel Evans, assistant deputy associate administrator for research at the directorate, said his agency was “going full force” on preparations for the UAP study.

“This is really important to us, and we’re placing a high priority on it,” Evans said at the meeting.

Evans said the panel will consist of 15 to 17 people including “some of the world’s leading scientists, data practitioners, artificial intelligence practitioners, aerospace safety experts, all with a specific charge, which is to tell us how to apply the full focus of science and data to UAP.”

Evans said he hoped to have the panel in place by October, pending approval from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

Inexplicably weird: A hair-raising report from the office of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, released just weeks after NASA announced its investigative effort, references 144 documented UAP “incidents” from 2004 to 2021. No mention of aliens or extraterrestrial life is made anywhere in the report, and all but one of the happenings, mostly captured by advanced equipment on jets flown by military pilots, are described by government officials as still unexplained.

The report states that most of the UAP encounters included in the analysis “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.”

U.S. intelligence officials say the activities, overall, are so variable that no single explanation of the phenomena is likely. But analysts also believe there is a trend among some of the recorded incidents in which flight movements may be evidence of advanced systems and say they are “conducting further analysis to determine if breakthrough technologies were demonstrated.”

“In 18 incidents, described in 21 reports, observers reported unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics,” the report reads. “Some UAP appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly or move at considerable speed, without discernible means of propulsion.

“In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency energy associated with UAP sightings.”

Intelligence analysts wrote that there are “probably multiple types of UAP requiring different explanations based on the range of appearances and behaviors described in the available reporting” and even suggested a few potential explanations, but left themselves plenty of latitude with a “catchall” category. The other possible sources of the unexplained flying objects, according to the report, include airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, U.S. government or U.S. industry developmental programs and/or foreign adversary systems.

We are not alone — unless we are. When it comes to what it all might mean, a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll conducted last year showed that residents of Utah — a state that some purport to have a long history of unexplained sightings — are somewhat more skeptical than the average American when it comes to their collective beliefs that we are not alone in this universe.

To the question, “Recently, government reports have come to light concerning sightings of UFOs, what is your opinion on the subject?” 57% of respondents said there was a logical but not yet known explanation for the phenomena. Extraterrestrial life was the answer for 22% of those polled, but 21% believed in more conspiratorial origins. Of that group, 12% said the sightings were likely related to a top secret U.S government project, 6% said it was another country’s secret project and 3% think it could be evidence of a secret technology from a nongovernment source.

The findings are from a survey conducted by independent pollster Scott Rasmussen of 1,000 registered Utah voters from June 18 to June 26, 2021. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1%.

national survey from Pew Research Center, released last June, found that Americans, in general, were more willing to accept the possibility of extraterrestrial life than were Utah residents.

In work conducted just before the release of the government UAP assessment, Pew found that about two-thirds of Americans, 65%, said their best guess is that intelligent life exists on other planets. And the national survey found that a smaller but still sizable share of the public, 51%, said that UFOs reported by people in the military are likely evidence of intelligent life outside earth.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney also weighed-in on the UFO/UAP hoopla last summer.

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, just days after the National Intelligence report became public, Romney said he didn’t consider the sightings to be evidence of any quantum leap in technical capabilities by a terrestrial state actor.

“I don’t believe they’re coming from foreign adversaries,” Romney said. “If they were, that would suggest they have a technology which is in a whole different sphere than anything we understand and, frankly, China and Russia just aren’t there, and neither are we by the way.

“I’m not worried about it from a national security standpoint.”