WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A NASA panel recommended in a report issued on Thursday that the U.S. space agency increase its efforts to gather information on unidentified objects in the sky - labeled "unidentified anomalous phenomenon," or UAP, by the government - and play a larger role in helping the Pentagon detect them.
The agency, in a statement accompanying the report, said it was evaluating the independent study team's findings and recommendations but nonetheless created a new role, director of UAP research. The NASA panel, comprising experts in scientific fields ranging from physics to astrobiology, issued the report after holding its first public meeting in June.
UAP are better known to the public as unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.
"NASA has a variety of existing and planned Earth- and space-observing assets, together with an extensive archive of historic and current data sets, which should be directly leveraged to understand UAP," the report said.
"Although NASA's fleet of Earth-observing satellites typically lack the spatial resolution to detect relatively small objects such as UAP, their state-of-the-art sensors can be directly utilized to probe the state of the local earth, oceanic, and atmospheric conditions that are spatially and temporally coincident with UAPs initially detected via other methods. Thus, NASA's assets can play a vital role by directly determining whether specific environmental factors are associated with certain reported UAP behaviors or occurrences," the report said.
The U.S. government in the past few years has made several disclosures of information it has gathered regarding a subject that once was met by virtual official silence.
The new report called UAPs "one of our planet's greatest mysteries."
"Observations of objects in our skies that cannot be identified as balloons, aircraft or natural known phenomena have been spotted worldwide, yet there are limited high-quality observations. The nature of science is to explore the unknown, and data is the language scientists use to discover our universe's secrets," the report stated.
"Despite numerous accounts and visuals, the absence of consistent, detailed, and curated observations means we do not presently have the body of data needed to make definitive, scientific conclusions about UAP," it added.
It issued a watershed report in 2021 compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in conjunction with a Navy-led task force encompassing numerous observations - mostly from military personnel of UAP.
The report included some UAP cases that previously came to light in the Pentagon's release of video from naval aviators showing enigmatic aircraft off the U.S. East and West Coasts exhibiting speed and maneuverability exceeding known aviation technologies and lacking any visible means of propulsion or flight-control surfaces. The report said defense and intelligence analysts lacked sufficient data to determine the nature of some of the objects.
An independent NASA panel studying UAPs held its first public meeting in June, comprising experts in scientific fields ranging from physics to astrobiology. Challenges panel members cited to their work included a stigma attached to the subject as well as a dearth of scientifically reliable methods for documenting UFOs.
Two senior U.S. defense intelligence officials told a 2022 congressional hearing that the Pentagon was committed to determining the origins of UAPs. Both officials pledged that the Pentagon would follow the evidence wherever it leads and made clear that the primary interest is addressing possible national security threats.
Both officials in that hearing chose their words carefully including the question of possible extraterrestrial origins. One of the officials, Scott Bray, said during the hearing "we have no material, we have detected no emanations, within the UAP task force that would suggest it is anything non-terrestrial in origin." There had been no open congressional hearing on the subject since the Air Force terminated an inconclusive UFO program code-named Project Blue Book in 1969.
Another congressional hearing was held in July that included testimony from retired military personnel, though no government officials appeared.
(Reporting by Joey Roulette; Editing by Will Dunham)